Monday, July 25, 2016

My Take on Macaroni Salad

I may have been married fourteen years, but I can still learn new things about Ed.

Ed loves macaroni salad, a fact I've either never known or had forgotten. And on a week like this, with temperatures in the 90's I'm looking for cool summer food like macaroni salad.

I have been intimidated to make macaroni salad in the past. There are some I like and some I truly dislike. When I looked at recipes, I didn't know which ones were good. But after discovering that Ed loves macaroni salad, I figure it is worth the effort to find a recipe that we both love.

I started with a recipe for Amish macaroni salad, which tends to have a sweet creamy dressing, upped the mustard by Ed's request, added more veggies, tweaked a few other ingredients, and the result is a macaroni salad that Ed and I both love.

This recipe is adaptable. If you don't like mustard, decrease it. I don't always have celery or a sweet pepper or dill weed. Use what you have and change as you wish.


Macaroni Salad

1 lb uncooked macaroni pasta
4 hard-boiled eggs, chopped
1 small onion, finely diced
3 celery ribs, diced
1 small sweet pepper, diced
1 carrot, diced

Dressing:
3 cups mayonnaise
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup yellow mustard
3 T. apple  cider vinegar
1 tsp celery seed
1/4 tsp salt
1 T fresh dill weed

Cook macaroni until just barely soft. Rinse in cold water and drain well. Chop all veggies and eggs and mix with macaroni. Mix dressing ingredients until well blended. Stir dressing into macaroni and vegetables. Dressing will soak into macaroni as it sets. Refrigerate for at least one hour, preferably overnight, before serving.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

5 Favorite Zucchini Recipes

It is a good kind of problem. 

My zucchini squash plants are going bonkers. To stay ahead I'm picking zucchinis every day so they are small. I've quit picking the yellow squash all together since I prefer the zucchini squash. 

But there are so many ways to enjoy zucchini that I don't mind finding daily ways to enjoy the abundance.

Here are our favorites.


Zucchini Cheesy Bites - a favorite lunch for several of my children


Calico Squash Casserole - Ed's favorite


Eggs with Summer Veggies- not really a recipe but I could eat this every morning all summer long.


Zucchini Pickles - my son's favorite pickle


Zucchini Crust Pizza - We haven't had this yet this summer but once we have fresh tomatoes I'll likely serve it weekly.

You can find more of my zucchini recipes if you search for zucchini in the search bar on the right. But these are our favorites that we return to many times each summer.

What favorite summer recipe are you enjoying now?

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Fingerprints - Giveaway Winner

Thanks to all who commented on the Fingerprints: Bits and Pieces of Motherhood giveaway. I love hearing from other moms and knowing that I am not alone.

Now I wish I had a copy of Fingerprints to give to each of you but Random.org chose one winner which is Wendy.

Wendy wrote in her comment,

My favorite verse from the Bible for mothering is "If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, who giveth to all men liberally and upbraideth not." It really works, every day! Praise God!

Thanks for the reminder, Wendy. And watch the mail for your book.

You can get your own copy of Fingerprints from Mastoff Press.

Saturday, July 9, 2016

C&O Canal biking

I love living in southern Pennsylvania for many reasons. 

The top reason is that my favorite people in the world live here. But there are other things I like about living in this location such as easy access to so many great historical and recreational spot.

This summer we've enjoyed a number of rides on the C&O Canal towpath. The C&O Canal (stands for Chesapeake and Ohio) has been abandoned by canalers for nearly a century and is now a park open to hikers, bikers, and horseback riders.

Towpath Guide to the C&O Canal

Through the years we have hiked and biked on portions of the 180 mile trail. This year we bought The Towpath Guide to the C&O Canal which has enhanced our canal experience.

One of the nice things about the towpath is that there is so many access points. We are marking on a map the parts of the towpath that we have biked. Since the canal is nearly flat, it is perfect for children. But our progress is slow, especially since we park, ride a few miles, then ride back to the van so we are biking every mile twice.

But enjoyment, not completion, is our goal.



Dads who pull children are also glad for flat trails.



This little one has the easy ride but she didn't enjoy our first bike rides this summer and was quite vocal in her displeasure. Our last visit to the trail, she was the perfect traveler and made the experience more enjoyable for everyone.



Sometimes the trail is just too exhausting. Usually the ride home in the van is very quiet as even mom falls to sleep.

The towpath guide lists all the important (and not so important) historical and geological features. I have been reading the guide book to the family on our way to the access point so we know what to look for along the towpath.



The children are always on the lookout for a good place to stop for a picnic.



In May we biked the area around Great Falls for the first time. I was unprepared for the beauty. The Potomac River, which is usually visible from the towpath, is always lovely, but here at Great Falls it is outstanding.



On a recent Saturday we biked the section directly south of the Antietam Battlefield. We veered off the towpath to bike up to the top of the bluff (a serious climb) to Ferry Hill - an old plantation house that is now a visitor's center. We would have never known about Ferry Hill without the towpath guide and we thoroughly enjoyed the park volunteer who filled us in on the history of the area.



The children  loved the collection of dress-up clothes. They could pretend to be a Union commander, a canal mule driver, or a fashionable lady from the 1860's.

Besides the history, there were some amazing caves along this part of the canal. My boys want to come back - but next time bring their flash lights so they can do more exploring.



I love when one activity hits more than one goal. For us, biking the canal towpath has increased our knowledge of local history, given us great family memories, exercised our muscles, and allowed us to enjoy the beauty of God's world.

You can get your own copy of the Towpath Guide to the C&O Canal  at the visitor's centers along the towpath or at the Harper's Ferry website.

What activities do you enjoy with your family at the location where you live? Anyone want to join us on the towpath?

Thursday, July 7, 2016

Book Review and Giveaway - Fingerprints



I'm always eager to find another dose of encouragement from other mothers. Fingerprints: Bits & Pieces of Motherhood is a brand new book of inspiration for mothers.

A few years ago, Lucille Martin rocked her first child and wished for more reading material for her new journey of motherhood. Lucille asked other mom-writers to contribute articles and stories for a book of encouragement for mothers. Fingerprints is the result.

Maybe one reason I enjoyed Fingerprints is that most of the contributors are familiar names of women I either know in real life or have corresponded with by email. I know these are real women with real challenges and joys. Ladies like the three Reginas (Regina Rosenberry, Regina Stauffer, and Regena Weaver) whose articles you have seen here at Home Joys. And speaking of similiar names - two of my favorite email friends, both with the name Stephanie Leinbach, are included in this book.

If I could sum up the message of Fingerprints in one line it would be, "You don't have to be perfect to be a good mom, you just need the Lord." And that is a reminder that I need often.

Fingerprints' authors have a variety of perspectives. Faith Sommers and Sue Hooley are mothers of teenagers. Darletta Martin and Meredith Horst are adoptive mothers. Sarah Martin, Tina Fehr, and Susan Kreider mother in Canada while Crystal Steinhower cuddles her babies in Belize. I enjoyed the poems by Lydia Hess and even Jodi Wise with her large brood found time to scrawl a few poignant lines.

And...well...I'd better stop before I mention every one of the of the over twenty ladies who contributed to this book.

I have an extra copy of Fingerprints to share with one of you. Leave a comment sharing either a word of encouragement for mothers - or why you need encouragement and you'll be entered into the giveaway. (If you read this by email, click over to the blog to leave a comment.) Please leave your email address so I can contact you. Giveaway will be open for one week.

To purchase your own book, go to Mastoff Press. (If you live locally, Fingerprints is available at Country Drygoods.)

Disclaimer: As a contributor to Fingerprints, I received a free copy of this book. But I purchased a copy for the giveaway and I will receive nothing by your purchase of this book. Neither Lucille or Mastoff know that I'm doing this giveaway.

Friday, July 1, 2016

Sourdough Ciabatta



I haven't been doing much bread baking. Summer is the time for other activities. But a few days ago I did bake a batch of sourdough bread and it was some of the nicest bread I've ever made. I wonder if sourdough likes this humid weather?

If you have wanted to try sourdough summer might be a good time to begin if you have the time.

Ciabatta is one of my family's favorite breads, but I don't think I've ever shared the recipe with you. I've tried numerous recipes, this sourdough version being our current favorite.

The name ciabatta comes from the Italian word for slipper. The dough is very wet and can't be kneaded or shaped like typical dough.  The goal is a rough shaped rustic loaf, the size a man's shoe with an interior full of large airy holes. Sometimes I make that goal and other times the loaf is more flat, but at my house even flops don't last long.

I doubt any Italian baker would add whole grain flour to their ciabatta but we like this combination of white and whole wheat. Using all white flour should allow you to gain even greater holes in the crumb.

Sourdough Ciabatta

2 cups active starter
2 cups water
1 T oil
2 cups whole wheat flour
2 cups white flour
2 1/2 tsp salt

Mix all ingredients except salt together for two minutes. Allow the dough to rest for 20 minutes (also called the autolysis). Add salt and mix dough for five more minutes at the lowest speed on your mixer. Dough should be sticky, like a thick batter, and you would not be able to knead it by hand.

With a wet spatula, dump the dough into a well oiled bowl, cover, and allow to sit at room temperature for four hours. Every hour, with wet hands, stretch and fold the dough over itself. Pour the dough out onto a VERY well floured surface. Divide the dough into half with a knife or dough blade. Do not knead. You do not want to add more flour to this wet dough or deflate the bubbles that have formed.

Keeping your hands under the dough, stretch it slightly and fold the dough over itself. Now the top and bottom should be well floured. Carefully place the dough onto a well-oiled baking sheet. Do the same for the second loaf and allow both to rise for 1-2 hours or until the loaves are nice and puffy.

Preheat the oven at 450 degrees. Place in loaves hot oven. Place roasting pan lid over bread if desired. Bake for 15 minutes. Turn heat down to 425 degrees, turn loaves around, remove roasting pan lid, and bake for another 10-15 minutes.

Cool and enjoy! My family loves ciabatta with an herb dipping oil.



You can find all my sourdough information, tips, and many more recipes on the sourdough page.

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Painting and Praising

I'm still painting. Which you may notice means I'm not blogging.

My progress is slow, about one room a week. When I'm in the middle of the project with one room empty and stuff sitting in all the other rooms, I wonder if the mess is worth it. Then I put the room back together and am inspired to start another room. Ed says that it was the perfect time to go on a painting binge since Lowe's has Sherman Williams paint half price with a rebate. He picked up two more gallon yesterday since the sale ends next week.

Maybe the best thing about painting a room is that I'm forced to clean a room down to the bones. I won't embarrass myself by admitting in public how long it has been since some of these rooms have been deep cleaned.

Last year I started a cleaning spree - that lasted all of one week when pregnancy fatigue hit. Recently I told Ed that I'm tired at the end of the day. He rolled his eyes. Apparently he thinks that my daily activities combined with getting up once a night with a baby should result in tiredness. And it made me stop and count my blessings.

Despite turning 40 last month, despite two babies in the last two years, I'm in better health than four years ago. I've been off thyroid medicine for several years and my thyroid levels are better than ever. After a short episode this spring, my back has been feeling great. Although I sometimes use the two-year-olds nap time as an excuse to lay down, I think most women keeping up with six children would admit to getting tired.

I know some of you would love to have better health and I don't mean to make you feel worse. I may lose my good health tomorrow but I think that today I should give God praise for my good health. I can't point to a diet or supplement on improving my health. I try to eat reasonably healthy but probably still eat far too much white sugar. Besides iron and prenatal vitamins (which I plan to take as long as I'm nursing) I am not taking any supplements. The only one I can thank is the Lord.

And plan how I can use the strength He has given to honor Him.

And that means doing more than painting walls.


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