Cooking and Food Family Ties

Muffins and Bugs

Table with Muffins and JuiceWell, our Friday morning Bible study luncheon with my parents just ended, they’re on their way home after sharing the morning with us. How special it is to have a Bible teacher in the family, and a mom who can take any food at all and turn it into a gourmet festivity! And Dad is taking my 9 year old on a Walk-Thru-the-Bible, quizzing her each week chapter by chapter through the OT. She’s doing great!

Yesterday my oldest daughter went to work with her daddy. As you all know, he is a cowboy, and since school is out for the summer, she’s been yearning to get in on some horseback riding. So up she got at 6 A.M., donned her jeans, boots and spurs, grabbed her slicker and got in on a full day with dad, which included rounding up calves, working them through the chute (branding, vaccinating) , lunch out with the crew, and then back to the ranch for over three hours of pasture riding. She came home to me sore and sunburned but absolutely glowing. Not a grumpy bone in her body, just deliciously worn out.

Meanwhile, 6 year old and I had been busy. We spent the morning making huge butterflies out of construction paper. I’m decorating my toddler Sunday school classroom with a garden/flower/bug theme…we’ll hang the butterflies from the ceiling. While 6 yo and I crafted, toddler sat happily in her high chair with an almost empty glue stick, paper and a pair of scissors, having a blast.

Then we made muffins for our camping trip–blueberry and apple cinnamon. Kept several out for taste-testing and double-bagged the rest in the freezer…I’ll post the recipe tomorrow. It’s one of those base muffin recipes that you can customize depending on what additions you want to include.

We ended the day in pajamas, tip-toeing into the side yard to follow the progress of five fuzzy-headed baby barn owls swooping from branch to branch and making funny little hissing noises in the process. So cute!

And tonight we have five reserve seats at the local rodeo, courtesy of my husband’s boss…it doesn’t start till 8 P.M. so I’m hoping toddler’s nap gets her good and rested!

Happy June 1st!

Christianity Family Ties Marriage

The Way You Do

All Things Grow with LoveCrazy man of mine…last night I was tippy-toeing, standing on the bottom bunk, reaching up to hug our daughter good-night and before I know it, dh has me sitting on his shoulders and is waltzing me around the room! Scary, me almost 32 and him 35! All I have to say is, it’s a good thing we have 9 foot ceilings!

Then tonight, on the way home from town, we sang Lean On Me and The Way You Do The Things You Do and many other oldies to a tape he made me when we were dating…

He’s so much fun. I’m so glad I married me a laid-back one. Debi Pearl would label him a Mr. Steady. He’s my broom, as I tell our girls, ’cause, of course, as the song says, he swept me off my feet.

On two instances this weekend, I was in conversations in which the wives were sharing how upset their husbands got when asked to do anything. I think we all could find something to share when conversations take these turns…but to what end? Talking about it, only feeds the negativity, the discontentment. And for each of these “so-called” negative attributes, there’s often the flip side to our spouse that is pretty dandy if you ask me. Take my dh’s laid-back personality. Things don’t bother him. (Believe me, this can be a good or bad quality!)

Anyway, I came home after those chats, thinking about how wonderful my husband is. Yes, he’s got his faults (don’t we all?), but 14 years with him as well as observing other marital relationships, have taught me that happiness isn’t about perfect yards, and pristine properties. Nor is it about dwelling on the various truck skeletons we have decorating the premises, or the falling down barn we have yet to finish salvaging.

It’s the knowing that between you, your spouse and God, things are covered. There’s trust, respect, love, and a little bit of fun to keep things sweet. No. Matter. What.

The Best and Most Beautiful Things - Helen Keller

Cooking and Food Family Ties

Aluminum Foil Camping Treats

My mom found some really fun aluminum foil related camp-cooking sites, and I thought I’d share a few ideas here… one of the sites proclaimed aluminum foil as the outdoorsman’s “kitchen in a pocket”! The same site reminds that lining pots and pans with foil when camping makes for easy clean-up! For a list of cooking times for the various “packets” of foods, check out FUNdamentals of Camping.

At Suite 101, a Family Travel article had several great ideas, one I really liked was taking many choices bagged up individually in Ziplocks and letting your children put together their own “meal in a packet”. You could have baggies with potatoes, carrots, onions, browned meat, apples, peaches, sugar, granola, butter…just remember to use non-stick foil, or spray it before hand with cooking spray.

Mmm, an excellent article on “how-to roast potatoes in foil”

For roasted corn on the cob and a Hillbilly Breakfast recipe go here

And here for a great site and some incredible sounding camp breakfasts

And best of all, a wonderful resource with a list of pre-trip must-haves, recipes, plus many other links to sites of this particular interest, go visit The Camping Source’s Outdoor Cooking Tip’s page.

And remember:

  • When cooking directly in the campfire coals, place a second layer of foil around the packet to protect from puncture holes allowing dirt in or steam out!
  • Turn packets with long tongs halfway through cooking.
  • Be careful for escaping steam when opening packets

And yes, I know the dangers of cooking with aluminum foil (that it probably causes cancer and Alzheimer’s) but using it in excess this once hopefully won’t kill us off…

Cooking and Food Family Ties

Going On A Camping Trip…

CampingYep, that’s me in the picture at the right there. Me before marriage, that is. You see, I married an outdoors man. And I adjusted. I’ve learned to not focus so much on the mosquitoes and lack of facilities as much as on the breathtaking scenery and that nothing tastes so good as food fixed over a cozy campfire…

Suffice it to say: I want a chuck box! I’d love to have a sturdy wooden box that holds everything we need for a spur of the moment campfire experience. An outdoor kitchen in a nutshell. The box would hold my cooking things and double as a work surface for chopping and assembling foil packets among other things. Don’t worry, I’d make dh use something else to filet fish on…

Here are some of the things I’d keep in it:

  • cast-iron skillet or dutch oven (I have neither, but will borrow one for this trip) and plastic scraper to clean it with
  • potholders/oven mitts
  • matches
  • grill grate
  • sharp knife and cutting board
  • long handled slotted spoon and/or ladle
  • long handled tongs
  • can-opener
  • mixing bowl
  • seasonings
  • aluminum foil
  • garbage bags
  • dish towels, washcloths
  • tablecloth or old quilt
  • paper goods: towels, napkins, plates, utensils, cups

With our upcoming camping trip in the Black Hills of South Dakota (doesn’t that sound more romantic than we-have-to-save-money-by-camping-because-gas-is-so-high), I’m plotting fix-ahead meals and ways to make the whole experience a blast for my family. We’ve only a small tent, hey we bought it as honeymooners, and our Chevy Suburban, but a whole lotta love to go around.

So…what do you all like to grill when camping? I’m taking ingredients for S’mores (of course!) and scrubbed potatoes/ carrots/onions/butter/seasonings for my foil-wrapped side dishes. I’ll probably cook up a beef stew and freeze it then thaw and cook it in a dutch oven or cast-iron skillet on the grill. My friend Jana suggested I brown some ground beef ahead of time to use in tacos…Coffee Pot Steaming over a Campfire

Any breakfast ideas?

Please share your tips! And as I use them, I’ll remember you fondly in between 3-4 nights of biting bugs and pine trees and gurbling streams…

Family Ties

Summertime Plans

I’m feeling the swelling of freedom that summertime possesses…it’s welling up in me, bringing a smile to mySummer Day, Children on the Banks of the Tweed, 1907 heart. How about you?

Last night I went out to eat with two friends from church at this wonderful little Mexican restaurant. We enjoyed authentic fare and great conversation! One last hurrah before one of the friends moves away…afterwards we went to her homey apartment and she blessed me with files upon files of great educational materials leftover from her teaching days! And also some home-grown lettuce…how pretty it was furling up over the numerous pots on her small balcony…we had it with lunch today! (Thanks, Andrea!)

We’ll finish up our homeschooling next Friday, feeling good about this past year’s accomplishments. Moving on to bigger things: my parent’s 50th wedding anniversary in early June (which means lots of family visiting!), a trip to South Dakota for my niece’s wedding the following weekend, VBS and 4H fair in July, and I’m going to be teaching a fabulous curriculum for the toddler summer Sunday School program at our church! Then there are plenty of other little things on the list to keep us busy as well. Like the deck, if we can figure out a way to budget in the remaining lumber we need to finish it up!

What does the summer of 2007 hold for you?

Cooking and Food Family Ties Home Schooling

Q&A: Kids in the Kitchen

In chatting with a friend recently, I shared how my nine-year old pretty much has a free rein in the kitchen as long as she cleans up after herself. Some great dialogue followed so I thought I’d condense it here…

When did you start teaching them to cook?

Really young! As soon as they can stand beside you on a chair and help stir in ingredients. What’s really fun, we’ve done this, is to take them to the fabric store and let them each pick out fabric for an apron (aprons are easy to sew). Also nice is to give them their own mini-rolling pin and several shaped cookie cutters. If you’re near an Amish community, find a country store that carries these…there’s one in Jamesport, Missouri that has a wallful of cookie cutter choices, makes great Christmas gifts/stocking stuffers!

When I’m in the kitchen, everyone wants to help. I can’t think straight.

I totally understand! When you have more than one, get the younger ones busy in between “turns helping mommy”. Some ideas:Mother's Love

  • playing in a sinkful of bubbles
  • playing with refrigerator magnets
  • making domino towers
  • playing with a stack of nesting measuring cups
  • sitting in the high chair or at the table and making their own creations with play-dough

What can a toddler cook?

A few ideas:

  • teach them to “make toast”
  • let them help you make fruit salad (Pampered Chef has a child-safe knife perfect for slicing bananas and grapes)
  • let them spoon-spread the sauce on homemade pizza…and kids of every age love adding the toppings, especially pepperoni. Better yet, have them make their own individual-sized pizza.
  • guide them in pouring, whether it’s macaroni into boiling water, or milk into pancake batter.
  • make homemade popsicles together by freezing juice or yogurt (or a combination of the two) in 7 oz paper cups with wooden craft sticks for handles.
  • Make lemonade together: slice a lemon, put it in a quart jar with water and a bit of sugar and have toddler shake it up!

Toddlers love to set the table.

My almost three year old loves counting out five forks, etc. and placing them at their places on the table each night (sometimes upside-down). She’s an old hand at putting napkins out too. These are “her” jobs. My other girls like to fold the napkins “fancy” and keep the vase full of fresh flowers (if we have them). Now if only clearing the table off (of crafts, schoolwork, etc) was as much fun.

As they get around 4-5 years old, play around:

  • funnels are fun! Measure how many cups of water fit in a 2 liter bottle. Count them out.
  • blindfold them and have them use their 5 senses to determine ingredients. Tasting and sight must come last!

Breads and desserts are the best!

  • Make bagels together. This was my favorite bread to bake as a pre-teen because you boil the dough before you bake it! And it’s delicious…just make sure you have some yummy toppings (like flavored cream cheese) on hand!
  • Make pretzels. Shape them in the alphabet letters of your child’s name. Or into numbers.
  • Make coffee cake, kolaches, blueberry buckle ring, cookies, donuts

Lastly, I have to recommend this site with many kid-friendly recipes, and also a great home economics curriculum from Pearables.

If you don’t have kids yet, grab a niece or nephew or one from church and make some memories. And be sure to date and rate the recipe and the occasion in your cookbook. Years from now it will bring a rush of memories…

Family Ties

My Lovely Weekend

The birds woke me Sunday morning. I wish this time of year lasted longer…this Spring-offered “open-window” fillinOpen Windowg of the house with the freshest of air-conditioning would suit me fine year round.

I say that now, knowing full well my personality hums to the cadence of each season’s tempo. Spring is definitely a high note in my year-song…windows open all night letting the cool in, and shuttered down most of the day keeping the heat out.

We spent Saturday at the city lake, and Sunday evening at a private lake. What a difference. You can guess which location I’d go back to every time. *Smile*

Boating, tubing, fishing, grilling. Watching the sun go down behind the soft green hills surrounding the water, in a pasture three thousand acres big. A space full of peace and softly waving grasses. The bugs weren’t even biting which exceeds perfect…I want to live there. Forever.

Mother’s Day morning my girls gave me the most beautiful vase full of home-picked flowers, home-made cards,The Open Window chocolate, bookmarks and coupons for lovely treats…they and DH also got me a western set of dishes (yes a whole set) because the set came with humongous coffee cups that they could not purchase separately! A gorgeous set: cream-colored w/a sprinkling of blue speckles, and horses…a very big spree for my frugal family–I was shocked!

NowWoman in a Garden of Peonies we buckle down to finish up the last two weeks of school, though we did break to water the flowers and filled the wading pool for later…had a picnic lunch…spent an hour at the library, and bought more flowers to plant…

And arrived home to find DH had started the AC.

Farewell to blowing curtains and birdsong. And with that, I’m headed outside!

Family Ties

Happy Mother’s Day

Enjoy these lyrics~absolutely the best Mother’s Day song I’ve heard…and Happy Mother’s Day to theĀ best mom ever, Mother-mine!

Handful of Weeds

by Jeff and Sheri Easter

Four years old, with dirt on my face
I’d been out in the yard
pickin dandelions all day
I burst through the front door
when I’d gathered enough
to give to my mom, to show her my love
when I held out my hands
she looked down at me,she said
I’ve never seen flowers
as beautiful as these

She’s the one
who told me about Jesus
She’s the one
who taught me to sing
She deserves, an armful of roses
She’s satisfied with a handful of weeds

Now that I’m older and out on my own
I wish I could find more time
to make it back home
I couldve done better, I know in my heart
than to scribble a note
on a last minute card

And then she calls on the phone
and the first thing she says
is I’ve read this card over and over again

She’s the one
who told me about Jesus
She’s the one
who taught me to sing
She deserves, an armful of roses
She’s satisfied with a handful of weeds

She’s always known
what true love means
and I want her to know
what she means to me !

She’s the one
who told me about Jesus
She’s the one
who taught me to sing
She deserves, an armful of roses
She’s satisfied with a handful of weeds

She’s more than satisfied, with a handful of weeds.


Family Ties Marriage

It’s a Hard Rock Country Life

My dad likes to say that God intended for man to live the agricultural lifestyle. After all, cities were first mentioned in relation to Cain’s destination after murdering Abel. Right? So I embrace the country life…it’s a healthy, wholesome, back-breaking way of life…

Think of the pioneers, and how they toiled carving the land into their own little chunks of heaven.Early Spring Flowers, Fence Post, TX

My topic today is on post-hole digging, because that’s what hubby and I did yesterday. The main deck stands, built and railed. We’re now ready to start on the “play area” which will extend from the main deck. Starting place? Four more post-holes coming up…wish it were as easy as it sounds.

Digging post holes is hard work, especially in our yard! Dig about nine inches down and you inevitably hit rock. Dh is an old hand at this, in fact, he’s built a T-shaped, taller-than-me, back rock breaker that when heaved high enough and slammed into the ground–rock pieces dent, then puff powder, and eventually break into pieces that you can fish out with what we call “jobbers”. Two or more feet (however much of this you can take)

down into the ground and you can finally set the 4×4″ post, level it, and pour concrete…

We did this for hours. Taking turns with the tools. Seeing who could get their hole the deepest. Marital bonding. Really!

Sore shoulders and back aside, another benefit to country life is that your children grow up unafraid of getting their hands dirty.

Example: My toddler brought an earthworm to me, and while watching it twine around her index finger she said: “Isn’t it so cute, Mommy?”

Yes, it’s the hard rock life for us.

Culture Family Ties

Real Living

By now you know I highly value simplicity…I cherish the dailiness of life-happenings, those moments that busy life and our fast-paced culture so often steal without much notice on our part. If we do notice, we shrug and keep spiraling along, feeling we have little choice in the matter.

I love our shaded corner of country life…and I don’t mind admitting that I protect it fiercely. Sometimes you just can’t cut the grass each weekend, and sometimes you’ve got to let the dust settle inside. Or say no to 4H, as we’re contemplating doing.

These things just can’t compare to:

Lazy summer afternoons spent outside reading together in the hammock or alongside the sandbox while little sister happily builds bucket-castles and moats. Hiking the back hill to the very tip-top of our world and picnicking on the flat slab of limestone there. Pointing out meadowlarks and mosquito hawks, grazing horses at the nearby pond, the small town’s water tower ten miles away…on the way home collecting the perfect rocks for our garden, and wildflowers to press. We upend a rock, capture a baby skink and admire his neon blue tail.

In the fall we splash our four-wheeler down the creek bed, wade around catching salamanders, making miniature rock ledged pools to store them in…an old quart jar becomes home a few minnows…we watch them grow. One day we’ll catch a tadpole and bring him home. Can’t go home without rock-skipping lessons from daddy. We decide it’s time to burn the brush pile and as the flames flicker down we get out the marshmallows and hot dogs…

Winter means Swiss Miss hot chocolate every single day and afternoon tea parties. Pulling out the sleeper sofa, piling it with pillows and blankets and firing the fireplace. Movies and popcorn and Horse-o-poly. Snow ice cream with caramel sauce and peanuts. Making shadow animals on the walls. Playing fox and geese in the three inch snowfall, bodies sweating, noses and fingers burning with cold. Back porch swamped with drying boots, gloves, coveralls, hats and scarves. Kitchen full of red cheeks, huge smiles, and contagious giggles. Kettle whistling on the stove top. Cherry pie cooling on the counter.

Spring scents the air with lilacs and honeysuckle. Farm babies wobble into our hearts, neighbors burn pastures all around us. Fishing poles come out on damp evenings after rainy days. Crickets and toads beckon to us as we trudge our way to the pond, knee-deep bluestem tickling our calves, tackle box banging against my thigh. Night shadows, watercolor sunsets, bug spray. Catching fireflies. Falling into bed bone-tired and gloriously happy.

I’m not envious when I hear my friends going on about all the sports their kids participate in. How cell phones and DVDs enhance their many hours in the car. Busy living the American Dream.

Real life, real noise, time to soak it in. To be silly or serious. That is wealth, that is freedom. To me.