Cooking and Food Farm Life

Cinnamon Cucumber Pickles

If you say this sounds gross, I’m with you…but can it for a minute, will ya?

These are SO delicious! And beautiful…they really resemble red cinnamon apple rings, and taste much better! Soaking the cucumber rings in pickling lime is the secret to their apple-like crunchy texture…and a ton of sugar and red hot candies transforms them from cukes to candied temptations that will NOT last long if your family is at all like ours! I’m on day three of my batch right now…

This recipe comes from my sister-in-law, and she got it from Recipezaar…if you know someone with cucumbers galore, or who loves to can, pass this recipe along. It’s a SUREFIRE hit!

Cinnamon Cucumber Pickles

  • 7 lbs cucumbers
  • 1 cup pickling lime (in the canning section at Walmart, don’t confuse it with pickling salt!)
  • 1 gallon water
  • 1 cup vinegar
  • 1 (1 ounce) bottle red food coloring
  • 1 tablespoon alum
  • 2 cups vinegar
  • 2 cups water
  • 12 cups sugar
  • 8 cinnamon sticks
  • 1 (12 ounce) red hot candies (I found these in 7 oz. boxes in the candy aisle at Walmart)
  1. Select large overripe cucumbers.
  2. Peel, core, slice 1/3 inch thick and core out all seeds, leaving the cucumber in a ring.
  3. Soak in lime and 1 gallon water for 24 hours.
  4. Wash.
  5. Soak, covered with ice water for 3 hours.
  6. Mix 2 cup vinegar, food coloring, 1 tablespoon alum and enough water to cover.
  7. Pour over cucumbers and simmer for 2 hours.
  8. Pour off liquid.
  9. Bring to a boil 2 cups vinegar, 2 cups water, 12 cups sugar, cinnamon sticks and red hots.
  10. Pour over cucumbers and let stand for 24 hours.
  11. Pour syrup back into a large pot and bring to a boil.
  12. Put cucumbers in jars and pour hot syrup over cucumbers.
  13. Place 1 of the cinnamon sticks from the mixture in each jar.
  14. Process for 10 minutes in water bath for pints and 15 minutes for quarts.

Two tips for you:

  1. 7 lbs of cucumbers is roughly equivalent to a plastic grocery bag full of long, over-ripe cucumbers. My bagful weighed 14 lbs, and after I’d peeled and cored them, they’d lost half their weight. (The chickens were ecstatic about all those scraps!)
  2. If you have a biscuit/donut cutter with a removable center, take it out and use it to core your cukes. I peeled my cucumbers with a vegetable peeler, sliced them and then used the donut hole cutter for removing the seeds. It left my cucumber slices in pretty rings! If your cucumbers are too small in diameter, you still might need to core them with a knife.

Well, it’s a rainy and cool day here in the mid-west. I’ve been busy this week…processing bing cherries and cukes, for one thing, and organizing junk drawers and closets–one last fling at housekeeping before school starts! Speaking of school starting…we’ll be kicking off our homeschooling year next Thursday the 14th with our annual treasure hunt and craft day. I’ve been getting familiar with our new geography and science curriculums and trying to get six weeks worth of lesson plans written up for each girl.

We’re sad to see summer go, but I think we’re all getting a little excited about school and fall activities starting up again!

How about you? Are you gardening or canning this year? Are you ready for school to start? How about your kids? Don’t forget to build up their immunities before sending them out in the big bad world…

Family Farm Life

Summer Magic at the Lake

We may not have oceans in the mid-west, but we have lakes!

For four years now we’ve been blessed with access to a private lake owned by friends…calling it “access” is actually a pretty laughable understatement…our friends insist on us using their beautiful property for birthday parties, etc, and treat us as if our kids were family. This private lake is flanked by a cabin with a fully-screened front porch, perfect for large gatherings, a lush green lawn watered by an underground sprinkler system, a huge pile of sand for playing at the lake’s edge…and when the hostess is around, the jet ski is purring and the tubes are flying! It all makes for a magically, grand time…

This past Saturday we had our fourth annual birthday bash out there. We always invite both sides of the family, and allow the “birthday girl” to invite one special guest of her own choosing, and their family, of course! We had thirty guests invited, and around 24 were able to come celebrate with us. This is the first year we’ve veered from a “Luau” theme, going with a cowboy/cowgirl theme instead.

This picture captures several poignant things about our lake times…first, notice that the guys are enjoying some umbrella shade while watching kiddos bobbing waves in the tube. Next, notice the yellow lab, ever-present tennis ball in her mouth, perched with the canine satisfaction of knowing that she’s surrounded by willing arms, ready to racket that ball out to “sea” for her to retrieve–all she has to do is drop the ball at their feet… Then you have to take in the background…the huge pile of freshly delivered sand at the water’s edge…can you see the blue wading pool between the colorful umbrellas? It’s for doggie and toddler enjoyment alike. What you can’t see are all the sprinklers going full bore in the yard, but the people in the cabin are surely enjoying the cold mist that the breeze carries in as it passes through them…

We had guests arrive at one o’clock…breaked at 3 P.M. for Snickerdoodle Cake, birthday cake flavored ice cream and home-made Cinnabuns with vanilla ice cream. The brand new eight year old opened her birthday gifts and handed out goody bags and then it was outside for more swimming! At five o’clock we started grilling burgers and hot dogs, and setting out shredded potato casseroles, candybar apple salad, cukes ‘n onions, burger fixings, chips galore, watermelon, grapes…and Caramel Apple Crisp with vanilla ice cream for dessert! We ended the fun with a horse pinata around 7:30-8 o’clock and finally, the evening air cooled down–just in time to clean everything up!

Here’s the cabin at dusk…and the sunset on the lake as we were cleaning everything up…and the last picture is of me and mine on a 105 degree mid-west day! (See the cowboy/cowgirl decorations in the background? Good old Oriental Trading Company!)

Cooking and Food Family

Snickerdoodle Birthday Cake

My 8 year old browsed the colorful cake picture pages in my Cake Mix Doctor cookbook (by Anne Byrn) and picked this winner for her birthday party cake on Saturday. It’s a first for our family but definitely won’t be the last time we feast on this particular recipe! Since I had two requests for it, I thought I’d post it here as well.

By the way, my 8 year old decorated the cake all by herself! (Except for the writing!) It went along well with her cowboy/cowgirl birthday theme…don’t tell her, but I think the “cowboy hats” look like something Curious George’s friend would have worn on his African safari… (smile)

Snickerdoodle Cake

Preheat oven to 350*F, and generously grease two 9-inch round cake pans with solid vegetable shortening, then dust with flour. Shake out the excess flour. Set the pans aside.

  • 1 package (18.25 oz) plain white cake mix
  • 1 cup whole milk (I used skim and it turned out fine!)
  • 8 TB (1 stick) butter, melted (use REAL butter!)
  • 3 large eggs (whites and yolks, don’t separate!)
  • 1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
  • 2 tsp. ground cinnamon
  • Cinnamon Buttercream Frosting (recipe below)

Place cake mix, milk, melted butter, eggs, vanilla, and cinnamon in a large mixing bowl. Blend with an electric mixer on low speed for one minute. Stop machine and scrape down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula. Increase the mixer speed to medium and beat 2 minutes more, scraping the sides down again if needed. The batter should look well combined. Divide the batter between the prepared pans, smoothing it out with the rubber spatula. Place the pans in the oven side by side.

Bake the cakes until they are golden brown and spring back when lightly pressed with your finger, 27-29 minutes. Remove from oven and place pans on wire racks to cool for ten minutes. Run a dinner knife around the edge of each layer and invert them again onto another rack so that the cakes are right side up. Allow them to cool completely, 30 minutes more. Meanwhile, prepare the Cinnamon Buttercream Frosting. Place one cake layer, right side up, on a serving platter. Spread the top with frosting. Place the second layer, right side up, on top of the first layer and frost the top and sides of the cake with clean, smooth strokes.

Place this cake, uncovered, in the refrigerator until the frosting sets, 20 minutes. Cover the cake with waxed paper and store in the refrigerator for up to 1 week. Or freeze it, wrapped in aluminum foil, for up to 6 months. Thaw the cake overnight in the refrigerator before serving.

Cinnamon Buttercream Frosting

–Makes 3.5 cups, enough to frost a 2 or 3 layer cake

  • 8 TB (1 stick) butter, at room temperature (use REAL butter!)
  • 3 3/4 cups confectioners sugar, sifted (I never sift anything and it turns out fine…)
  • 3-4 TB milk
  • 1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
  • 1 tsp. cinnamon

Place the butter in a large mixing bowl. Blend with an electric mixer on low speed until fluffy, 30 seconds. Stop the machine and add the confectioners’ sugar, 3 TB milk, vanilla and cinnamon. Blend with the mixer on low speed until the sugar is incorporated, 1 minute. Increase the speed to medium and beat until light and fluffy, 1 minute more. Blend in up to 1 TB milk if the frosting seems too stiff.

Use to frost the top and sides of the cake of your choice.

Christianity Family Home Schooling

Number One Parenting Tip: Train Your Young Child to Ask Permission

This sleeping beauty is my youngest daughter. She just finished singing “The B-I-B-L-E” to me, wreathed in dimpled smiles. She adores helping around the house, yesterday she even picked up, organized and put away her older sisters’ Horseopoly game (which was left out after they were done playing!) to surprise everyone. She’s a grand little girl!

How can little ones be so perfectly precious one minute and completely naughty and horrible the next? Easy, we’re all born with an old sin nature…and some of us with a stronger will than others! God says in Proverbs 22:6, “Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old, he will not depart from it.” Deuteronomy 6:7 tells us to “teach our children diligently, when you sit in your house, when you walk by the way, when you lay down and when you rise up.”

It’s so important to train them from the outset, and this means spending time with them…they learn so much from osmosis, so to speak. Elizabeth at the Raising Godly Tomatoes site calls this time together “tomato staking”–staking your child to your side, teaching and training all the day long. Follow the tomato staking link for an in-depth explanation of this theory. The point is, you stake them to you while they’re young, so they’ll grow up straight and productive.

Putting this in CAPs because it’s important:

I AM NOT CLAIMING TO BE AN AUTHORITY ON CHILD TRAINING. (On the contrary, that’s why I’m writing this post!)


That said, I am going to share my thoughts candidly, in the hopes that you might be encouraged to stay the course…and maybe learn some practical tips from my mistakes/successes.

What I Did and Didn’t Do

I definitely spent more one on one time with my oldest, as most moms probably do. Her vocabulary as a 10 month old was phenomenal, and by age two we were reading the Little House on The Prairie series–and Stormy of Chincoteague…she couldn’t get enough chapter books. In the car we’d play the “Bible Questions Game”–both of my older girls still love to rattle off their Moses facts (Jochebed–his mom, Amram–his dad, Aaron and Miriam–siblings) and the fact that Jesus, James and Jude were brothers…they begged me for Bible stories and morality tales about Princess Bratty and Lady Loveday.

We tried to be consistent in our training. We set up trial runs that were more about cheering on obedience than punishing for disobedience. We spanked when necessary. We talked about appropriate behavior before things like birthday parties or Christmas gatherings…our approach was more positive with the older girls, because we were more pro-active. With our youngest, we’re so busy correcting all the bad behavior that there’s hardly any time leftover for praising the positive.

She’s not a monster by any means. She loves helping, as I stated in the first paragraph. I’d hate for her to be reading this blog’s archives in a few years and think that mommy had nothing good to say about her, b/c she’s a totally precious little girl unless she doesn’t get her way.

Which Leads Me to My Number One Parenting Tip…

Letting toddlers choose their own way is a surefire path to destruction. They are too young to be left to their own devices (whether it’s time in front of the TV or complete freedom to wreck the house with their toys). There has to be a healthy respect for authority, ie, you want to train them from little bitty to ask your permission for everything! Lol. That sounds OCD again, doesn’t it, but believe me, it’s such a simple step when you start young and don’t let things slide as I have. Because you really don’t want them to run outside into the street whenever they feel like it, right?

Dialog such as:

“May I have the green cup, Mommy?” (**and then being able to handle occasionally getting the blue cup anyway)

“May I have a snack?” (rather than letting them help themselves to anything and everything, whenever and wherever, because this doesn’t teach them healthy eating habits or self-control)

“May I watch a movie?” (don’t let them decide when the TV gets turned on and off)

Every time they ask for permission, you are reinforcing that you are the one looking out for them, you are building trust, and teaching them contentment…while it’s still relatively easy to ingrain! And just THINK of all the temper tantrums you are avoiding!!!

**This doesn’t mean that you are saying “No” to everything…you want to tie heartstrings with your children, it’s a blessing to grant their desires when it’s reasonable, and if it’s not, you can explain why–sometimes. Sometimes they just need to take your word for it and not question your say-so. (Isn’t this a picture of the kind of grace relationship we have with God? And sometimes we don’t understand why He stops us in our tracks when we think we know what’s best for us! Maybe He’s just training us, ya think?)

I fully believe that most of the problems we’re having right now with our four year old stem from her having too many freedoms. Suddenly mommy and daddy are taking away these freedoms (her getting away with bad attitudes, etc) and she, of course, resents it! Doesn’t this sound more like a teenager issue to you? Ding-ding-ding!!! I believe that the teenage years don’t have to be full of rebellion and angst–if the training is done right in the early years.

I Have Proof (the mother protests!!!)

Yes every child is different, but in observing my three children, I can see the fruits of good training (and lack of!) so clearly.

When my 10 and 8 year old daughters wait till after Sunday school is over to eat the candy their SS teacher has given them, they are doing so because they want to eat it with my permission. And believe it or not, the self-control that takes is good for them! And here’s the thing: I have never told them they could not eat candy given to them without permission. They have the habit of asking permission deeply ingrained within them from their early years. Yes! My jaw drops when they ask permission for things like this, because they are better trained than *I* am…and their happiness while asking is evidence that it hasn’t hurt them any to wait. (I’ve since told them that they are old enough to enjoy candy in class if everyone else is!) An interesting thing to note, is that they don’t seem to have a sneaky bone in their bodies…and I’ve been radaring their every move!

So when do you start?

We started teaching certain sign language signs to our girls at 8 months of age. Sometimes it didn’t really catch on till later, but many of the signs were wonderful ways to introduce the proper way to get what you want! “Please” and “May I have a drink”, etc. Wow, they became such polite little things! If they didn’t ask nicely, they didn’t get what they wanted. Simple. And at that age, they usually took the quickest route to satisfaction. A painless way to teach a good habit that reaps so many benefits as your child grows older.

Another benefit to this, is your child will be the one standing to the side in a group of mischievous youngsters. They know better, believe me, because their mind has already been processing the fact that if they’d asked permission, it would have been SERIOUSLY denied and for good reason. I’ve noticed that many children act without thinking whatsoever– wrecking people’s property, putting themselves in danger, etc.


Well, hasn’t this turned into a ramble…just give it some thought, and ask God to give you wisdom and strength to train up ALL your children in the way they should go.

They don’t raise themselves. And you don’t get many second chances.


Don’t Slack Off With Younger Children

While eating out at the local diner yesterday, my four year old’s silliness fast became annoying. One minute she’d be poking non-stop tickles at her cousin, the next she’d be noisily clinking her silverware or leaning way over out of her chair, trying to topple her booster seat. Worst of all, daddy had to take her on his lap and give her a stern lecture when she ignored his two attempts to nip these antics in the bud. Depending on your parenting style, this might not seem so terrible…but trust me, it was loud, interruptive and she would not tone it down.

She reacts to correction with tears of self-pity, sometimes saying, “Everyone doesn’t like me, I’m going to run away…” (incidentally, I have no idea where she gets this, unless she’s heard it on some movie?)

Her bad attitude will surface when I least expect it, probably once or twice a day. She can be the sweetest girl in the world–we love her to pieces–but I think, being the baby, that she has royal expectations of her place in our family…

So I’m guilty of slacking off with this third child of ours. And it seems backwards. I should be an old pro at this parenting gig. Right?

I remember how pumped I was when we discovered I was expecting our first born, scratch that and back up further, the anticipation and OCD began in the conception process! I checked out almost a dozen library books on pregnancy and infant-toddler rearing before the pregnancy test even came back positive… I would be the best mom ever. Breastfeeding, scheduling, newborn read-alouds, teaching her sign language, protecting her from television and learning Spanish words for colors and numbers while playing Candyland… Hubby and I took parenting classes for each segment of the growing years, from newborn to toddler to the formative years, etc. And so far, these two oldest girls of ours seem to be on the right course…not so our youngest!


I guess I got lazy. Maybe I didn’t give enough credit to the training we put into our older girls, thinking that, with luck, our youngest would turn out fine on half the effort. I was homeschooling the older two by the time youngest came along…so shoving aside the great training moments became a habit, and before I realized it, we had some major issues to address.

Also, I think we tend to be hardest on ourselves–there’s a ton of pressure to raise our children right and we’re so scared we’ll mess them up forever. So I’m trying to remind myself not to take myself too seriously here, just to roll up my sleeves and try to regain the lost ground.

More Later

Either later this evening or tomorrow I’m going to share some of the easy things we did differently with our older girls and the benefits we’ve seen as a result. Like night and day, the difference training made. It’s sobering to me, to realize that I’ve lost those opportunities (to teach good habits before bad ones are firmly entrenched) with my youngest just because I’ve “relaxed” my parenting style.

I know it’s not too late, it’s just going to take more perseverance on my part now and a lot of God’s grace!

My #1 Parenting Tip coming soon!