Monday, July 29, 2013

Easy Chocolate Granola Bars

This time of year, I'm looking for something easy to make - and nothing is easier than a no-bake treat. And dark chocolate - just what I'm craving.

My nine-year-old daughter has been making these treats for us this summer. The crunchy chocolate bars are just perfect - except that they are too messy to stick in your pocket!

You can adjust these to your liking. Don't like coconut or raisins? Just substitute another granola ingredient. Or let them out and enjoy more chocolate!


Easy Chocolate Granola Bars

1 cup peanut butter
1/2 cup honey
1/2 cup butter or coconut oil
1 1/4 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips (or milk chocolate if you prefer)
2 cups old fashioned oatmeal
1 cup flaked coconut
1 cup raisins
1 cup sunflower seeds or other chopped nuts


Heat peanut butter, honey, and butter until melted. Stir in chocolate chips until melted. Add other ingredients and mix well. Press into a greased 9x13 pan and cool in fridge for one hour. Cut into squares and return to fridge to continue to harden. Enjoy!

Store in the refrigerator.

Friday, July 26, 2013

Revamping a Strawberry Bed

Strawberries are over and the strawberry bed can be forgotten until next spring.

Right?

Wrong.

Now is the time to revamp your strawberry bed for a good crop next year. In fact, what you do now will make a huge difference in your crop next year.

There are different ways to revamp a strawberry bed. I'll show you how we do it, but you may have a method that works better for you.


First weed your strawberry bed. I didn't get a photo of this step so you'll just have to imagine a very weedy strawberry patch! You can see that the plants have all grown together. If we let the patch like this, next year they will be far too crowded, difficult to pick, and susceptible to disease.



After it was weeded, Ed cut it down with the weed-eater. We could have used the lawn mower if we raised the deck so that it didn't cut the strawberry plants too low. We didn't want to cut the crowns.



Then Ed tilled the patch into two rows again.

 

It feels cruel to do this, but it is allowing room for the plants to send out runners for vigorous new plants for next year's crop.



By now the strawberry patch looked rather poorly. You may think you have killed it. To help keep down the weeds, Ed spread some grass clippings in between the rows. We didn't want too thick of a layer because the runners will root out from the main row.

Then give the strawberries a good soak. Thankfully we got an inch of rain a few days later. If we would not have gotten rain, we would have laid down a soaker hose.



A week later the plants are sending up new growth. We will continue to make sure they get adequate rain the rest of the summer. A friend who has grown acres of strawberries for several decades says that the most important time for strawberries to receive moisture is in July and August. The size and number of the berries is dependent upon this summer moisture.

Besides a little weeding, this is all we do to the strawberries for the rest of the summer. In December, we will cover the patch with straw mulch to protect it, but basically our work is over.

How do you revamp your strawberry bed?

Thursday, July 25, 2013

The Best Ice Cream Dessert



This is a recipe I have shared when I first started this blog, but it is worth repeating. I like this recipe for several reasons. The cake part is light enough to be able to cut even when frozen. And the peanut fudge layer is just scrumptious! Best of all, it makes two 9x13 pans. I like to have this in my freezer ready for impromptu summer guests!

And no, this dessert has no redeeming healthful value. It just tastes good! And in the summer, we are running off enough calories to enjoy a serving of rich dessert!

 

Bake the chocolate sponge cake in two 9x13 pans.

 

After the cake cools, open up a box of ice cream and cut it into thin slices and layer on cake. (I had vanilla with a chocolate swirl on hand so used that instead of plain vanilla.)

 

Sprinkle with Oreo cookie crumbs. (The food processor makes crushing cookies a fast job.)



Spread on cooled peanut butter sauce.



Spread cool whip (or real whipped cream!)


The Best Ice Cream Dessert

6 eggs, separated
2 cups sugar, divided
2/3 cup water
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 cup cocoa
1 1/3 cup flour
1 box vanilla ice cream
Oreo cookies, crushed (just enough for a thin layer.)
2 cups peanut butter
1/2 cup butter
1 cup milk
2 cups confectioner' sugar
1 tsp vanilla
Cool Whip

Beat 6 egg whites until foamy, then slowly add 1 cup sugar and beat until stiff. Set aside. Beat egg yolks three minutes. Add 1 cup sugar and beat two minutes. Add water, vanilla, cocoa, and flour. Beat well and then gently fold in beaten egg whites. Pour into two greased 9x13 inch pans. Bake at 350 degrees for 15-20 minutes. Cool.

Cut ice cream into 1/2 inch slabs and place on top of cake. Spread a thin layer of Oreo cookie crumbs.

In saucepan, melt peanut butter, butter, milk, confectioners' sugar and vanilla until almost boiling. Cool. Spread on cakes. Top with Cool Whip. Freeze. Enjoy!

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Rest

 Rest...it is hard to find on these busy summer days with a multitude of projects screaming at me.

 But I was reminded this week that rest isn't just a good nights sleep or all my projects completed. Rest is found in trust.

 I'm going to share an old post from three years ago that shares the words to an hymn that continues to minister to me.

Resting in Life's Chaos

"For as he thinketh in his heart so he is." Proverbs 23:7

This verse has been on my mind a lot recently. I've been trying to deliberately think about what is going through my mind. Often I find a chorus of "I'm so frustrated, or annoyed, or tired, or...." While it all may be true and I may think I have a good excuse for frustrated emotions - listening to the broken record repeat itself in my head sure did nothing to improve my mindset.

I've been deliberately (I'm learning to love that word) choosing to focus my mind on something good. My friend, Paula put it so well in a story she told last night, "choosing to laugh, then finding you want to laugh"!

I'm not talking about some sort of "power of positive thinking". But rather "bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ." (11 Corinthians 10:5)

A very practical step that has helped me is listening to good music. Amazing how a cd of hymns can calm me and spread peace to the rest of the household.

Recently I printed off the words to a hymn I'd like to memorize and posted it by my kitchen sink. I try to sing through the verses at least once a day and find myself humming the tune the rest of the day. I love the words to this hymn and will share them below. I just can't sing about resting in the love of Christ without it affecting my attitude!

I'd love to hear how other busy moms keep their focus on God throughout their day.

Jesus I Am Resting, Resting
by Jean S. Pigott 1876
Jesus, I am resting, resting,
In the joy of what Thou art;
I am finding out the greatness
Of Thy loving heart.
Thou hast bid me gaze upon Thee,
And Thy beauty fills my soul,
For by Thy transforming power,
Thou hast made me whole.

Refrain
Jesus, I am resting, resting,
In the joy of what Thou art;
I am finding out the greatness
Of Thy loving heart.

O, how great Thy loving kindness,
Vaster, broader than the sea!
O, how marvelous Thy goodness,
Lavished all on me!
Yes, I rest in Thee, Belov├Ęd,
Know what wealth of grace is Thine,
Know Thy certainty of promise,
And have made it mine.

Refrain

Simply trusting Thee, Lord Jesus,
I behold Thee as Thou art,
And Thy love, so pure, so changeless,
Satisfies my heart;
Satisfies its deepest longings,
Meets, supplies its every need,
Compasseth me round with blessings:
Thine is love indeed!

Refrain

Ever lift Thy face upon me
As I work and wait for Thee;
Resting ’neath Thy smile, Lord Jesus,
Earth’s dark shadows flee.
Brightness of my Father’s glory,
Sunshine of my Father’s face,
Keep me ever trusting, resting,
Fill me with Thy grace.

Refrain

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

2013 Vegetable Garden

I had grand plans of sharing updates on our garden each months. Successes, failures, challenges, and all.

It is obvious by now that I'm not going to make a monthly update but I do have some photos from each month. So here is an overview of our garden so far this year.

But just a note...photos can be deceiving. These photos make my garden look bigger and more beautiful then it really is. You can't really see how much of that green stuff is weeds. Also, at the beginning of the spring, I had energy. Lots of it. In June my energy level plummeted. And the weeds took advantage of the opportunity. If we had not mulched part of the garden in the spring, it would be a complete disaster by now. As it is, it is only partly a disaster. So don't get any idea looking at these pictures that this is a perfect garden. 

Plans

I began the year rather discouraged. We planned to revamp our vegetable gardens. If you have toured our garden in the past you know that we have several garden areas. In our main garden area, we had three garden sections, one of which was a small children's garden area. We also had several garden patches in the back of our pasture.

The pasture gardens were a disaster. They were too far from the house and the animals and weeds had free reign. We weren't getting anything much out of those gardens anyway because of their neglect so we decided to let that area revert to pasture.

But since that would severely limit our garden space, we decided to combine two of our other garden areas, plowing up the lawn that was between the two gardens, and making it into a larger garden. That would mean losing the children's garden, but that area was another unproductive weed patch. This still wouldn't give us enough garden space to plant everything we wished so we decided to not plant any peas and instead pick peas at a neighbor's pick-you-own patch.

So that was the plan. I had hoped that the plowing of the new garden area would happen in the fall so that the sod could decompose over winter. But it didn't happen. Then we had a cold March. And we went to Guatemala. By the time we returned in April I was discouraged because our garden looked far from ready to plant anything. I resigned myself to not getting into the garden until May. Or later.

April

But neighbor to the rescue! One Saturday in April, our neighbor brought his small tractor and plow and plowed up the entire garden area.

We were now making some progress but a look at those deep furrows and clumps of sod and I knew that Ed would spend hours with the tiller making that soil ready to plant.

But a few days later, the same neighbor showed up with a large tiller hitched to the back of his tractor. He pulverized those sod clumps and broke down those furrows into a beautiful planting bed! We were ready to plant! (But I didn't get any photos of this step!

 

It was a lovely sunny April day, so I rushed over to the garden center and bought some vegetable plants. The children helped me to rake in some rotted chicken manure and lime, we built some slightly raised beds with a shovel, and planted!

 

What fun to be back in the dirt! We planted potatoes, onions, broccoli, cabbage, and lettuce.

 

Over the next several weeks, we mulched with grass clippings. I covered the plants with milk jugs until I got some more row cover. The plants to the right are garlic that I planted last year.

 



Under the grape vines, we layered card board and grass clippings to hopefully get a handle of this very weedy area.


May

We were hit with a cold snap in May. Our official frost free date is May 15 in our area, but often we don't get frost after May 1.

But this year we were hit with a bad frost, I'd call it more of a freeze, on May 14. Thankfully I had just planted my beans and they were not yet out of the ground. But my poor potatoes. And grapes. They didn't just get nipped by the frost. Every green leaf turned black and mushy. The potato patch that had looked so lovely the day before was now a dismal sight.



one week later, when the photo above was taken, the potatoes had resprouted. It was amazing. The freeze set them back and we didn't have new potatoes nearly as early as usual, but I expect a good crop.

 

Once the potatoes grew about six inches high, we tilled between the rows and hilled them up. We then spread grass clippings in the rows as a mulch. From now until we dig the potatoes, we shouldn't have any more work. (If the potato bugs stay away - and so far - I haven't seen a single potato bug! Do you think it is because we have not grown potatoes in this garden for several years?)



After the weather settled enough that it seemed safe, we planted our tomatoes, peppers, and eggplant. I kept them covered with milk jugs until they outgrew the jugs just for an extra precaution.

 

We planted a later patch of sweet corn at the end of May.

 

My children still enjoy using the planting sticks that Ed made when they were small. Such an easy way for children to help in the garden.

 

We also covered the strawberries with bird netting. It doesn't take long for our large robin population to discover that strawberries are good eating.



May is also when we start enjoying our garden. Asparagus, lettuce, and worm-free broccoli (thanks to row cover!) Nothing is better than freshly picked vegetables!



And the herb garden is just for fun!

June

June was warm. And every time we thought we were getting a little dry, God sent us another shower of rain. That means everything grew like crazy!

 

 I just love the rich shades of green that signal adequate rainfall! (On the photo above you can see the green beans on the left and potatoes on the right.)



In June we harvested strawberries, red beets, sugar peas, and rhubarb. The broccoli plans sent out secondary shoots and gave us many more meals.



I'll try to take a few more photos this month and give you an update at the end of July. And maybe I can find the gumption to do some weeding! You all can be my accountability! In the photo above, see the little weeds on the left. Just imagine what a month of sunshine and rain did for them! It is bad!

How is your garden growing?

Friday, July 12, 2013

Book Review - Instruments in the Redeemer's Hands




I haven't written much recently about the books I have been reading - but not because I haven't found some great ones. This afternoon I was looking at the stack of recent reads and thought I should at least share this one.

Instruments in the Redeemer's Hands by Paul David Tripp is as challenging as it is inspiring. In a world of struggling people, Tripp believes that counseling is not to be left to trained experts but to be the ministry of the body of Christ.

All of us counsel, whether we are encouraging our husband, questioning a child, or talking through a problem with a friend. Tripp shows how to get to know people by asking questions and how to speak truth to them lovingly.

As one who is keenly aware of my own failure, I loved the subtitle "People in Need of Change Helping People in Need of Change." This book challenged me first of all to look in my own life from a Scriptural perspective and accept Jesus Christ's solution for my problems. Then lead others to the same hope.

Instruments in the Redeemer's Hands is a book that I have much underlining and there are a lot of quotes I could share - but I'll just share one since it is my burden that often we don't seek to truly know each other.

"The most personal and important parts of our lives fly under the radar of our typical relationships in the body of Christ. We live frenetically busy lives with activity-based friendships, punctuates only by brief conversations with each other."

Some of you who live local to me are accustomed to me pushing a book in your hands and saying "You've got to read this book." Just so you know, Instruments in the Redeemer's Hands is one book that Ed and I plan to read and reread and eventually find a permanent place for on our bookshelf as a resource - so you will have to buy your own copy! It is well worth the $13.00 that Amazon charges, in my opinion.

What books have challenged you recently?

(This post contains affiliate links.)

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Dutch Oven Gathering - 2013

It is that time of year...



Combine some hot coals, a stack of cast iron pots, and a group of friends and you have a fun evening with good food.



 Last weekend was our annual dutch oven gathering. We invite everyone we know who owns a dutch oven to a cook-off.




As usual, it was a blistering hot day, made even hotter by the hot coals.



 We women left the men slave over their pots while we sat in the shade and chatted.

 

A row of future dutch oven chefs observe!



As usual, the results were worth eating. I'm always amazed at the variety of foods that can be cooked in a dutch oven. Our plates were not big enough but I tried to take a little taste of everything!

This year the options included:

 

sesame chicken,

 

shrimp in a feta cheese sauce,

 

cherry cream cheese cobbler,


meat loaf,

 

sticky buns,

 

pizza,

 

rolled flank steak, and much more.

The vote for the favorite food proclaimed Bill the winner with his seafood chowder!


 

Looking forward to more good time next year!

 To see past Dutch Oven Gatherings -2012, 2011, 2010, 2009

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Blessed...by you

Thank you so much for your well wishes and prayers. I was thinking this afternoon of how much you all have blessed my life. Thank you so much for your friendship and notes of encouragement.

As you all probably guessed, the last month has been a little crazy. Some of it I've already mentioned here, such as my daughter's eye injury. Thankfully she has had complete healing. The last time we visited the eye doctor, her vision was 20/20 - in both eyes! We are so thankful. And I was glad to hear that we didn't need to visit the eye doctor again for a month. I was a little weary of the trip - and the city traffic! There is a possibility that the scar tissue on her eye could some day distort her vision and cause her to need glasses in the future but we are thanking the Lord that it wasn't any worse.

And yes, you all guessed correctly that we are anticipating another baby to join our family. Our children think that January is much too long to wait! This pregnancy is a much anticipated answer to prayer - though I feel a little guilty being so happy - when I know that so many of you would love to have even one child. My relatively short brush with infertility has given me a tender heart toward all of you who look at the expectant bloom of motherhood with your own empty arms. If I could, I wrap all of you in a big hug and cry with you. I'm crying just typing this. I pray that the Lord will give you a special comfort today.

The month of June held several reminders of the preciousness of life and the hope found in Jesus' resurrection power. Our church family experienced three funerals within two weeks. Two were elderly ladies who had run the race of life well and were ready to leave the suffering of their frail bodies to experience the joys of God's presence.

But the other was a tiny baby, only 5 oz., a stillborn who had never experienced any of the joys or sorrows of this world. I stood at her graveside, looking at her tiny little hand prints, my heart breaking for the grief of her parents, and all the other parents who have mourned the fleeting life of their babies. I thought of how God says He knows us by name even when we are being formed in the womb (Is 49:1) and I know that not only can He carry us through our grief, He can care for our babies also. But oh how we ache for the loss of dreams and memories.

So between camping, family trips, picnics, and funerals, with fatigue sapping my energy and stealing my brain cells, I haven't felt much like writing recently. I am thankful I have felt well (I don't know what morning sickness is) but many days I am bone weary. I am hoping for a second wind in the second trimester but I remember how busy, and tiring, summer can be.

Thanks again for your love and concern for our family.

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