Kids and Mud

I’m sure all of you with kids have let them stomp through mud puddles, but have your kids ever come back inside looking like Winnie the Pooh after hiding from bees in aGood Housekeeping, April 1922 mud puddle?

Wish I had taken a pic of toddler yesterday. (I was more concerned with getting mud out of her mouth) She did a face-down flop, poor thing. If I hadn’t been so upset (it stuck to her entire face–eyelids, nose, mouth–nasty!) it would have been funny. Actually, all four of us girls were laughing at one point, even toddler. (though I freely admit I ranted about never letting them out of my sight around mud puddles again, argh!)

Not fun to clean up after…we’re not talking watery mud, but the thick, gloppy kind.

Anyone else enjoying the spring muds lately?

Fresh Strawberry Bread

StrawberriesThis one’s for you, Bethanie! (Here’s her recipe fyi, she and I are comparing notes…)

My mom says this is the best ever book on bread baking: Bernard Clayton’s New Complete Book of Breads: Revised and Expanded. She doesn’t have this newest edition, but our strawberry bread recipe is in both. Want to get inspired? There’s nothing like baking…and Bernard Clayton covers it all in 752 pages…check it out at your library if nothing else. It’s really reasonably priced if you follow the link above. I’m not sure if sharing the recipe here is ethical? My reasoning is, I have no idea what cookbooks most of my recipes come out of (friends share them, etc) and I may unknowingly post here something without giving credit where credit is due. I’d be interested on other’s thoughts concerning this. For now, I’m posting it.

Fresh Strawberry Bread

  • 1 pint fresh strawberries, washed and hulled
  • 1 3/4 cups bread or all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1/3 cup butter or other shortening
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/3 cup water
  • 1/2 cup chopped walnuts (this is optional, I usually substitute pecans–family preference)
  • Cream cheese, softened (optional–this is for spreading on the finished product)

Baking pan: 1 medium (8 1/2 x 4 1/2) loaf pan, greased or Teflon, long sides and bottom lined with buttered wax paper.

Preheat oven: 350 degrees F.

Prep (5 minutes): Crush enough of the strawberries to fill 1 cup. Pour into small saucepan and heat over a medium flame. Cook for 1 minute, stirring constantly. Cool. Slice remaining strawberries and chill.

By hand (8 minutes): In a medium bowl, combine dry ingredients except sugar. In large mixing bowl, cream the sugar and shortening; then add the eggs and water mixing until light and fluffy. Add the flour mixture to the creamed mixture, mixing well to blend. Stir in crushed strawberries and walnuts. Pour or spoon into prepared pan. Bake for 1 hour or until a pick inserted in center comes out clean. Remove from oven. When loaf has cooled in pan for 10 minutes, turn onto a rack to cool. Slice thin and spread with softened cream cheese and top with chilled strawberries.

Yum. Sometimes I just buy the cartons of strawberry cream cheese and use that instead…what a treat!

Easier Amish Friendship Bread

Exciting news for all the overwhelmed Amish Friendship Bread cooks out there! I’ve been experimenting…and you can make the initial starter recipe without as many ingredients…

In fact, all I did was eliminate two cups flour, two cups sugar and two cups milk from the original recipe. And, my two rules of thumb for maintaining your starter couldn’t be easier…read on.

Amish Friendship Bread–the manageable “family” version!

  • 1 package active dry yeast
  • 1/4 cup warm water (110 degrees F)
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup milk

Day 1~

  1. Dissolve yeast in water. Let stand ten minutes.
  2. In 2 quart glass, ceramic, or plastic container (remember: no metal!) combine 1 cup flour and 1 cup sugar. Mix thoroughly or the flour will lump when milk is added.
  3. Slowly stir in milk and dissolved yeast mixture.
  4. Cover loosely and let stand at room temperature till bubbly.

Days 2-4~

  1. Stir starter with a wooden spoon. (no metal!)

Day 5~

  1. Stir in one cup flour, one cup sugar and one cup milk.

Days 6-9~

  1. Stir starter with a wooden spoon. (no metal!)

Day 10~

  1. Stir into the starter: one cup flour, one cup sugar, and one cup milk. Now your starter is ready to bake into bread! *note: at this point you have 6 cups of starter total

Baking Instructions (notice I left out the instant pudding mix, you can put it back in if you want–one small box worth, plus any of your favorite variations, nuts, butterscotch chips, etc.)

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F. Then mix the following well:

  • 1 cup starter
  • 2/3 cup oil or applesauce
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla

In separate bowl combine:

  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon

Combine the wet and dry ingredients thoroughly. Grease two medium sized bread loaf pans well; or one large and two-three miniature pans. If desired, you could mix up some additional cinnamon and sugar and shake it into the greased pans to coat bottom and sides. Pour mix into pans. Again, if desired, shake a little cinnamon-sugar on top. Bake in the 325 degree F oven for 1 hour or till toothpick inserted in center comes out clean, allow less time for the miniature pans. Cool completely before freezing.

Now, you wonder, what about the feeding schedule for my leftover starter? Simple, you can keep it all, or give a cup (or more) away making sure your friend has the recipe and that she/he knows the following info.

Maintaining what’s left: Stir each day (or squish and release the air if necessary if you’re storing it in a zip lock). Once every 8-10 days, feed your starter the requisite one cup each of flour, sugar and milk. At this same time, remove about a third of the starter and either bake bread or freeze it (thaw frozen starter at room temp and start the feed/divide process as though day one was just completed).

The goal is to keep your starter “alive” by feeding and dividing. No need to refrigerate, in fact, refrigeration might mess the process up. I’m not an expert on “refrigerating” my starter. I do know that once you have a healthy starter, you can bake the friendship bread at any point during the ten day process.

I, for one, am thrilled that I found a way to cut this recipe back and save on flour, sugar and milk! If anyone is interested, I doubled up when it was time to bake, using 2 cups of starter, etc and got 1 large loaf and 2 medium loaves of bread as a result.

Hey, anyone want any starter?

Are You Willing?

Jesus was. Let’s check out some more Messianic prophecies. Powerful verses to apply to our own lives. In Isaiah 50:4-9, Jesus says about Himself:

“The Lord God has given Me the tongue of disciples, that I may know how to sustain the weary one with a word. He awakens Me morning by morning, He awakens My ear to listen as a disciple.

The Lord God has opened My ear; and I was not disobedient, nor did I turn back.

I gave My back to those who strike Me, and My cheeks to those who pluck out the beard; I did not cover My face from humiliation and spitting.

For the Lord God helps Me, therefore, I am not disgraced; therefore, I have set My face like flint, and I know that I shall not be ashamed.

He who vindicates Me is near; who will contend with Me? Let us stand up together; who has a case against Me? Let him draw near to Me.

Behold, the Lord God helps Me; who is he who condemns Me? Behold, they will all wear out like a garment; The moth will eat them.” (NASB)

I love reading this, and knowing the difference between God the Father (referred to as Lord God and He who vindicates in the above verses) and God the Son. Knowing that we find our salvation and help from our Father-God, just as Jesus does.

  • Are you letting God’s word sustain you? Are you using your tongue to bring the comfort of God to weary friends? (applying verse 4)
  • Is your ear tuned into the Lord’s will? Are you obedient and not willing to turn against what He’s asked of you? (applying verse 5)
  • Are you willing to die to self? (applying verse 6)
  • Are you truly relying on God’s help to stand firm, no matter what the culture says/accuses? (applying verse 7)
  • You may feel alone, unappreciated, helpless…maybe you need to draw near to His word, to Him, to His strength. (applying verse 8 )
  • What matters? God’s appraisal of my life. Am I doing what He put me here to do? His plans are for eternity. (applying verse 9)

If we’re willing, to die to self for a greater cause, God is able to give us strength just as He enabled Jesus to complete His ministry on earth, and face the cross and all our sins.

It’s a process. If you start applying it at the beginning (vs 4) by committing to reading God’s word, and from His word/prayer learning His will for your life (vs 5), practicing being obedient (vs 5 and 6), getting in the habit of bucking this world system in favor of doing right (vs 7), coming back to God to fill you up because suffering is part of Christianity (vs 8 ), and getting to the point that this process is second nature. All your priorities fall in line because of your continual desire to put God and His ways first (vs 9).

Just start at the beginning with a willing and committed heart. God will work the rest.

Grace For the Weary

In Bible class this morning, I was struck afresh at the Messianic prophecies in Isaiah. What an encouragement, comfort, and hope…for us Christians. Apply their soothing peace to your particular discouragement. Take this one, for instance:

“A bruised reed He (God the Son) will not break, and a dimly burning wick He will not extinguish.” Isaiah 42:3 (parentheses mine)

Our God is a God of grace and mercy. He is a God for the everyday mom who is worn out and struggling. She feels guilty for not always making time for reading the Word, she feels a constant failure in certain areas. I know I’ve felt like a dimly burning wick, haven’t you?

Let’s address homeschool burn-out. It happens. In fact, if you choose to homeschool, it’s something you need to be prepared to face. Right up front, decide why you are homeschooling. Don’t forget that influencer. Hold it like a banner over those times of frustration and failure. Satan is not going to leave you alone, he hates anything good (of God) that has the power to change lives–including homeschooling. And he’s very good at discouraging, and at dangling temptations/lies before our noses. (If I didn’t homeschool, I’d have time for such and such. Or, my kids would be getting a better education elsewhere…or, my children are too challenging to homeschool) I know I’m coming on strong, but believe me, I’m preaching to myself here. (I know there are good reasons some of you cannot homeschool)

Five years ago, dh and I felt convicted that homeschooling is God’s will for our family. I know He calls certain ones to certain things, why not homeschooling? So when I get discouraged about the process, I remember that God thought I could do it. He has His reasons, and it helps me not to bail. ‘Cause this boat is a full load, let me tell you!

“I (God the Father) am the Lord, I have called you (His son Jesus) in righteousness, I will also hold you by the hand and watch over you, and I will appoint you as a covenant to the people, as a light to the nations, to open blind eyes, to bring out prisoners from the dungeon, and those who dwell in darkness from the prison…” Isaiah 42:6-7 (parentheses mine)

Wow! Christ is our promise, our light, our freedom. Hold my hand too, Father, help me to continue in this righteous calling, as your Son was willing, even to the cross. What amazing love!

“He (God the Father) has sent Me (Jesus) to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim liberty to captives, and freedom to prisoners…” portion of Isaiah 61:1 (parentheses mine)

Does your vision (whatever it may be) grip you as it did originally? Are you weary, brokenhearted, not up for the task? Find strength in knowing that God has your back. Over and over in scripture, He used the weak to confound the wise.

In Ecclesiastes 3, Solomon writes of how there is a time for every purpose under heaven (eg: a time to tear down and a time to build up)–and later in verse 10 he writes,

“I have seen the task which God has given the sons of men with which to occupy themselves…”

Verse 14a, “I know that everything God does will remain forever…”

What is your purpose in this life? We only have one to give.

Don’t let your discouragement bind you for a lifetime. Most of all, remember 2 Corinthians 12:9,

“My grace is sufficient for thee: for my strength is made perfect in weakness. Most gladly therefore, I will rather glory in my infirmities, that the power of Christ may rest upon me.”

At the end of the day…

The KitchenI love checking out Jen’s Tackle it Tuesdays, there’s just something about before and after pics, isn’t there? Sorry I don’t have any for you–just be thankful for your own digital camera, and picture me tackling my upstairs-slash-attic with every (unstuck) window in the house full open–blowing fresh air and the scent of baking Amish Friendship Bread in my oven…three loaves!

This morning saw me dragging a bit, coming down from  last week being Spring Break, no doubt. But we girls got a lot done in addition to the routine!

Our upstairs is accessible through only a tiny, steep-staired passageway, hidden behind a door in my kitchen. There are two nice bedrooms up there…beautiful wood floors (can ya hear the echo?) and then a large attic-storage area. We only use the upstairs for storage and company. Well, the storage had kinda taken over to the point that my dear hubby pointed out mildly one day that we had a fire hazard upstairs! Yup…I’d gotten lax about sorting outgrown clothing, schoolwork, crafts, extra toys, um, fabric…books…garage sale stuff, Christmas boxes…just picture a complete mess.

It’s all gone now! Well, what’s left is organized and we made a substantial trip to the thrift store and the dump this afternoon. And my daughters have turned the glorious space up there into a playroom!

One more cute thing about today: my dh just walked in, and told me our girls had left a message written in sidewalk chalk on the barn floor. It said:

“Chores done. 3-26-07”

Made his day. Just as the mini-back rub he gave me just now made mine!

And we’re off to eat tacos… (yes, I know it’s only Monday, but twill be Tuesday soon enough!)

Tackle It Tuesday Meme

Sunday Drive

I love Sunday afternoons!

Are any of you subscribed to the Taste of Home magazine? Our issue arrived yesterday–the cupcake contest issue–and nine year old baked up a batch of the champion recipe: Special Mocha Cupcakes. Mmm–I had to brew the coffee for her, but she did the rest!

This afternoon, unfortunately for us, my hubby got called out to fight fire–second time this month that’s happened on a Sunday afternoon. Dh has been a volunteer fireman since he was in junior high school–he comes by it naturally as his dad is the fire chief. A few years ago, we added a brother-in-law to this same department…so it’s a real family affair. They take a lot of pride in keeping nice rescue equipment…and believe me, these men that volunteer in the small communities volunteer far more often than just responding quickly to actual fire calls. They spend hours each month on truck maintenance and training. And get no compensation for their troubles. Maybe that’s why my MC (main character) in my current WIP is a volunteer fireman. I so admire that selfless community spirit in my hubby!

March-April is pasture burning time in the mid-west. Farmers and ranchers burn off the dead prairie grasses and before a week has gone by, the blackened earth begins sprouting green. I love to see how quickly it renews itself. We attend church in a small town 30 miles away, and our entire commute includes scenic pasture land as far as the eye can see…and at 55 mph it’s easy from week to week to gauge the greening process.

So three questions:

  1. What do you see on your Sunday drive?
  2. Are you a city dweller, or do you live outside city limits?
  3. How many miles away is your church?

I’m the Sander

Hubby is building a computer desk for our daughter’s room! He got today off, so we worked on it all morning. Measuring, cutting, him getting to break in his new router toy!

In these projects I’m his sidekick. Our daughters ran around playing with baby goats and climbing on and off the back of dh’s flatbed truck to watch the action. The “action”? We’re using the flatbed as a worktable!

Besides being his amiable and talkative wife, when it gets to the sanding part, I’m his huckleberry. (Yeah, we use that term a lot in our family!) I can’t tell you how many home improvement jobs I’ve tackled with my handy-dandy Black and Decker sander tool. Every housewife should have one!

I sanded our floors on my knees while 7 months pregnant with dd #1, for instance. I sanded and painted what seemed like miles of tongue-n-groove siding we rescued off an old OLD dilapidated building on our property. It now resides in our bathroom, halfway up the walls, giving a country flair.

I’ve sanded all the woodwork in our house once, some of it twice…that includes our kitchen cabinets, door facings, doors, baseboards, windows…can’t imagine doing it by hand thanks to my electric sander!

Anyway, I’m having a nice computer break while dh and the girls are off getting a couple of horses shod. Desk parts are stained and drying in the shop…

Of course, I can’t hear anything cuz I couldn’t find my earplugs…and who knows what this is doing to my lungs…but progress is progress, right?

Spring!

Good Housekeeping, April 1922First day of spring today! Did you celebrate?

I love Gina’s idea to have the “Easter egg hunting” etc on the first day of Spring, rather than combining it with Easter Sunday.

What do you all think about the Easter bunny?

P.S. Horrendous wind today, but thankfully, no spring rain. However, I just had to post that pic–isn’t it sweet?

P.S. #2 My first item of spring cleaning~today I deleted the old blog! Woo-hoo… so if you haven’t updated me yet, please do!