Saturday, October 31, 2015

Late Fall Gardening Goals

I'm always amused at the difference between spring and fall in the garden.

Or at least in my attitude toward the garden.

In the spring I can't wait to get outside and any day that is reasonably nice weather I find some excuse to be outdoors. I count down the days until it is safe to plant the garden and long for fresh picked vegetables.

In the fall, no longer does it seem urgent to enjoy the sunshine. I don't make the most of my garden opportunity; I'm even guilty of letting some of those wonderful veggies go to waste.

I just don't care.

But I have found that if I ignore the garden in the fall,  I pay the price in the spring. It is no fun to find garden hoses and tomato cages still in the garden in March.

 Two weeks ago we had our first frost. And it wasn't a light frost. It was a hard killing frost - the kind that makes the grass crunchy and hangs ice on the clothes line.

I was glad that the week before we had cleaned up most of the garden, pulling out the tomato cages and harvesting the last peppers and eggplant. I had also planted garlic.

Last week the children helped me several afternoons and we cut down all the old perennial plants such as asparagus, red raspberries, and the perennial flower beds.

It felt like a big job, at least for my pregnant body, and I couldn't have done it without the children's help. But now I can say that my outdoor work is completely finished. I have a few cabbage heads in the garden, but now I'm spending my time indoors, enjoying nesting.

As Ed mows the grass this fall (which hasn't been growing fast with the cooler weather and lack of rain) he chops up the fallen leaves and spreads this mixture of leaves and grass on all the perennial beds.

In some of the beds, such as this very weedy asparagus patch, we put down cardboard beside (not over) the asparagus crowns.

This mulch will be a huge time saver next spring and hopefully curtail some of our weed problems.

I have a few greens (lettuce, spinach, and kale) growing in the cold frame by the basement. I wish this was stuffed full, but the dry fall and my late planting means the growth is rather sparse. Still, we'll enjoy a few fresh salads.

Here is my late fall garden goal list.

1. Plant garlic. (October)

2. Trim off perennial plants.

3. Mulch perennial beds with chopped leaves.

4. Drain garden hoses, pull out tomato cages, clean up tools, and tidy the garden shed for the winter.

5. Write down notes from this year's garden to aid in garden planning next year.

6. Mulch strawberries with straw. (December)

Is anything still growing in your garden?

Friday, October 30, 2015

Cream Cheese Apple Bars

I've made this recipe several times this fall. Even though it has several different layers, it isn't difficult to make.

This recipe has been in my files for a while and I don't remember where I first found it. The original recipe was to be made in a spring-form pan. I prefer making it in a 9x13 pan. The bars are then easier to cut, though they are thinner.

Cream Cheese Apple Bars

1/2 cup soft butter
1/3 cup sugar
1/4 tsp vanilla
1 cup flour

Cream butter and sugar together. Blend in vanilla and flour. Spread in 9x13 pan.

8 oz cream cheese, softened
1/4 cup sugar
1 egg
1/2 tsp vanilla

Combine cream cheese and sugar. Add egg and vanilla and mix well. Spread over unbaked crust.

1/3 cup sugar
1/4 tsp cinnamon
4 cups diced apples
1/3 cup slivered almonds

Toss apples in sugar and cinnamon. Arrange over cream cheese. Sprinkle on almonds.
Bake at 450 degrees for 10 minutes. Reduce heat to 400 degrees and bake for 20-25 minutes. Cool. Cut into squares. Serve.

I cut the squares into triangles for my mom's tea party.

Monday, October 26, 2015

Supplies Week - A Christmas Countdown

This week is Supplies Week. With the lists you made last week, next we will inventory the non-perishable supplies we need for crafting, baking, wrapping, and decorating.

Last week was crazy busy around our house. It is a relief to look at this next week and see nothing much planned.

But last week was successful in finishing up a number of projects, such as cleaning up the flower beds and making applesauce. I'm excited to do some fall projects now - such as organizing the children's winter clothing and sewing.

Here are some links for this week.

Prepare - Supplies Week  - read last year's post for inspiration

Supplies Worksheet  - free printable

What are your goals for the week? Does fall find you enjoying the last day's outdoors or indoor projects?

Friday, October 23, 2015

A Fall Birthday Tea

This week we had the fun of honoring my mom's 60th birthday with a tea party.

In my family, the females are far outnumbered by the menfolk, so it was special get together with just the girls.

The most popular guest was the newborn son of my sister-in-law - even if though he did break the all-girl attendance. Our girlie got some practice in being a big sister.

I'm not an experienced tea party hostess but I picked the brain of my talented friend, Regina, and drafted help from my sisters. My children had fun setting the table. Fall is such a fun time to decorate.

My mom is on the right with her sisters.

My sister made Michelle's wonderful pomegranate pear salad.

We had roasted red pepper soup and garden chowder.

I didn't get a picture of the sandwiches - croissant and foccacia bread with turkey, provolone, and apple slices.

Dessert was a choice of gingersnaps, apple torte, and chocolate coconut bars.

Thanks, mom, for giving us an excuse to enjoy good company and tea.

Monday, October 19, 2015

List Week - Christmas Countdown

Continuing the Christmas Countdown.

This week is List Week.

In this stage of life, I get very good at making lists, not because of Christmas, but because of the pending birth of our baby in January.

Whether it is nesting or just a good excuse to get some extra projects done, I have been making lists of all the things I wish to accomplish the next two or three months. My Christmas plans look small in comparison.

Ed pulls me back to reality by reminding me that there is only one thing that is necessary to do before this baby is born - go to the store and buy a box of diapers.

While I love my lists - and the fulfillment I get from checking things off the list - I do want to hold my lists with hands open. God might have different plans for the next months. I don't want to become so focused on my lists that I ignore the people God has put in my life, or worse, treat those people like projects to be completed and checked off.

Read last year's post to be inspired on your lists - and gain insights from David on how to hold your lists.

Prepare - List Week - last year's Christmas Countdown

List Worksheet - a free printable

Friday, October 16, 2015

Bookmarks: Children's Books on Famous Landmarks

Do you have a son (or daughter) who is enthralled with building projects? 

Here are some favorite pictures books for elementary-age children that will bring to life some of the amazing construction projects in America still standing today. These books all passed, not only my children's attention test, but also their mother's.

Hanging Off Jefferson's Nose: Growing Up on Mount Rushmore by Tina Nichols Coury, Illustrated by Sally Wern Comport

Lincoln was only a boy when his father, sculptor Gutzon Borglum, suggested carving four presidents' faces into a South Dakota mountain. But without Lincoln's help, this bold project would have never been completed. The astounding accomplishment of Mt. Rushmore is told, accompanied with great illustrations.

Pop's Bridge by Eve Bunting, Illustrated by C.F. Payne

Robert thinks his father has the best job as an iron worker on the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco. But when an accident occurs, he realizes that each worker is important. A well-illustrated book that includes historical information about the bridge.

Follow four boys, a French metal worker, a sailor, a New York newsboy, and an iron worker—as they contribute to the building of the Statue of Liberty. Children interested in construction will pour over the detailed drawings that add interest and historical accuracy to each boy's story. The writing feels a bit stilted but the book has much to offer.

Naming Liberty by Jane Yolen, Illustrated by Jim Burke

A parallel story that tells of a young Russian girl on a journey to America and an artist with a bold vision for a statue that celebrates America's freedom. A reminder of the determination and persistence that made the Statue of Liberty, and a new home in America, a reality.

This book (and the others in the “You Wouldn't Want to...” series) take a humorous and sometimes sarcastic look at famous events. The illustrations are comic-style and are a hit with children, especially action-loving boys. But the historical information is solid, and this book gave a good overview of the challenges that faced the builders of the Brooklyn Bridge in New York City.

Twenty-One Elephants by Phil Bildner, Illustrated by LeUyen Pham

The amazing Brooklyn Bridge has been completed, but many are scared to walk on the new bridge. Everyone but Hannah. With the help of Barnum's twenty-one elephants, Hannah proves the Brooklyn Bridge is safe. A well-illustrated story based on a true event.

Sky Boys: How They Built the Empire State Building by Deborah Hopkinson, Illustrated by James E. Ransome

The 1930's was a discouraging time for many Americans but the Empire State Building brought hope. This is the incredible story of one of the world's most famous buildings and the men, called sky boys, who dared the heights. Well-researched book combines with great drawings to make it worth your time.

Do you have any favorite children's book on building projects to add to this list?

This post contains affiliate links.

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

20 Favorite Pumpkin Recipes

Last year my porch was stacked with long-neck pumpkins (otherwise known as butternut squash). This year was a pumpkin growing failure but a friend gave us two huge neck pumpkins. I cooked one of the pumpkins and it made over 30 pint of pureed pumpkin!

But we love all the many ways to enjoy pumpkin, so it is a delight to have such abundance.

I was sorting through my pumpkin recipes and realized there are a lot of pumpkin recipes shared here at Home Joys through the years. I decided to make a index with links for the recipes to make it easier for you and I to find our favorites.

 Pumpkin Pie Squares

Flo's Pumpkin Pecan Braid

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Whoopie Pies

Flo's Sour Cream Pumpkin Coffee Cake

Ugly Pumpkin Cookies

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Muffins - a Sunday evening tradition at our house

Pumpkin Angel Food Cake

Pumpkin Cinnamon Rolls

Spiced Pumpkin Bars

Pumpkin Curry Soup

My Mom's Pumpkin Pie

Pumpkin Granola Cookies

Pumpkin Chocolate Cheesecake Pie

Chocolate Chip Pumpkin Bars

Pumpkin Pudding

Spiced Pumpkin Butter

Pumpkin Pancakes

Pumpkin Squares with Cider Caramel Sauce

Pumpkin Dinner Rolls

Pumpkin Torte - I saved the best recipe for last. This is our hands-down favorite pumpkin dessert.

What is your favorite way to enjoy pumpkin?

Monday, October 12, 2015

Goal Week - Christmas Countdown

Last year I did an eight week countdown series on preparing for Christmas. I aimed to combine practical tips on preparing for Christmas with some Scriptural insights on preparation.

This year, with a baby due at the beginning of January, I am even more motivated to organize my life. I have a lot of goals that I wish to accomplish the next three months. I know they won't all be completed but the more organized and proactive I am, the greater the chance that a few will be crossed off the list.

Several of you have expressed interest in a countdown for this year. Instead of rewriting or re-posting the entire series, for the next eight Mondays, I plan to link to last year's series plus add in a few other related posts and maybe some printable worksheets.

This week, October 12-17, is goal week. It is an opportunity to consider what is important to you and your family this Christmas. I know that families vary greatly on what they consider important. Here is your chance to analyze whether you are continuing a holiday tradition that has lost its significance to your family.

Prepare - Goal Week  - last year's post

Goal Brainstorming Worksheet - a free printable

What Makes a Christmas Meaningful? - more tips on focusing on Christ during Christmas.

What about you? Are you a planner or would you rather wait until December to start Christmas preparations?

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Book Review - Somewhere in the Skies

Somewhere in the skies

Why do we read sad books?

I pondered that question when reading Somewhere in the Skies by Becky McGurrin. Every reader who picks up the book knows that it will be a sad story since it tells of the farm accident that took the lives of Scott and Phyllis Showalter, their two daughters, and their employee.

Yet, we read it anyway.

Could it be that we all know that we will face sorrow in this life?

Some day, sooner or later, we will grieve at our loved ones' graveside. Some day we will reach our own appointment with death. Unless the Lord returns first, these are facts of life. Do we read others' stories to be reminded that God's grace will be with us when we face those dark days?

Somewhere in the Skies is told mostly through the eyes of Scott's mother Reba. It combines the stories of several others who were affected by the tragedy. And yes, I cried, especially when reading of the two little girls who were left behind.

But it isn't a depressing book. I love the focus on the hope we have in heaven. Even though life on this earth is short, we can find a peace in God's promises.

You can purchase Somewhere in the Skies from CLP.

I received a review copy of this book in exchange for my honest review.


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