Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Flo's Cakes - Pumpkin Pecan Braid

Flo blesses us with another one of her marvelous recipes. This looks like the perfect coffee cake for Thanksgiving morning.  Flo compiled this recipe from several different recipes. 

This is on my list to make this week! 

Pumpkin Pecan Braid

3 cups flour, divided
¼ cup sugar
1 pkg (¼ oz) quick-rise yeast
½ tsp salt
½ cup milk
½ cup butter, softened
¼ cup water
1 egg
In a mixing bowl, combine 2 cups flour, sugar, yeast, and salt. In a small kettle, heat milk, butter, and water to 120˚-130˚. Add to dry ingredients; beat just until moistened. Add egg and remaining flour; beat until smooth. Shape into a ball. Do not knead. Cover and let rest for ten minutes.
¾ cup pumpkin puree
1/3 cup packed brown sugar
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/8 tsp ground ginger
1/8 tsp ground nutmeg
1 egg
3/4 cup chopped pecans, divided

Mix together all the filling ingredients, using only ½ cup of the pecans. Roll dough into 14x11 rectangle on a large greased baking sheet. Spread filling down center third of rectangle. On each long side, cut 1-inch strips about 3 inches into the center. Starting at one end, fold alternating strips at an angle across filling to braid. Pinch ends to seal. Sprinkle with remaining pecans. Cover and let rise in a warm place until doubled, about 45 minutes. Bake at 375˚ for 20-25 minutes or until golden brown. When slightly cooled, drizzle with milk and powdered sugar glaze. 


Monday, November 24, 2014

Prepare - Christmas Countdown - Week Seven

For some of you, this week will be a crazy one with travel or hosting guests. I thought our family would have a rather quiet Thanksgiving holiday but somehow that has all changed. And that is not a bad thing. I'm looking forward to the events of this week. It just won't be quiet and boring!

I'm listing the same goals for this week as I had planned earlier but realize that for me they will most likely be pushed into next week. (And to be honest, not many weeks did I complete the week's goal. But if I got started I deemed it successful.)

Week Seven - Baking Week - November 24-29

In past years, Thanksgiving week for us has been the week to start holiday baking. When our children were small, every year we got together with some friends from Ed's job and made Christmas cookies together on the Friday after Christmas. Eventually as we had more children, this got too crazy to do with another family, but we still enjoyed beginning Christmas baking this week.

I like to bake several kinds of Christmas cookies and freeze them. Then they are ready to place on a plate for a quick gift or take caroling.

I also hope to make a batch or two of Bulgar Rolls. I know if I ask my mom or my mother-in-law what they want me to bring to the family gatherings at Christmas and New Years, they won't have any idea yet what their menu will be. But if the experience from past years holds true this year, the week of Christmas I'll hear, "Do you mind bringing your Bulgar Rolls again?"

I love making Bulgar Rolls and enjoy being asked to bring the same tried-and-true recipe every year. But it always annoys me to have to bake a double batch of Bulgar Rolls right in the middle of the busiest part of December.

Last year, since our baby was due at the beginning of January, I made the Bulgar Rolls early and froze them. Even though our baby was born New Year's Eve, I was able to pull out the rolls in time for the family gathering on New Year's Day. (My mother-in-law will probably never get over the shock that we showed up at her house with a one-day-old baby but we couldn't resist the chance to show off the baby and eat Chocolate Pie. And we didn't stay long.)

As I said, with the plans we have this week, I don't expect to get much baking done. But I'll be making my plans and hope to hit it next week.

What are you baking?

Preparation in Scripture

I found this interesting passage in Nehemiah.

"So they read in the book in the law of God distinctly, and gave the sense, and caused them to understand the reading.
And Nehemiah, which is the Tirshatha, and Ezra the priest the scribe, and the Levites that taught the people, said unto all the people, This day is holy unto the LORD your God; mourn not, nor weep. For all the people wept, when they heard the words of the law.
Then he said unto them, Go your way, eat the fat, and drink the sweet, and send portions unto them for whom nothing is prepared: for this day is holy unto our Lord: neither be ye sorry; for the joy of the LORD is your strength." (Nehemiah 8:8-10)

I have often heard this last line "the joy of the Lord is your strength" - I even have it hanging by my sink - but I couldn't have told you the context. Here Nehemiah has been teaching the people the law of the Lord and they were grieved by what they learned. (I'm guessing because they realized that they had not kept God's law.)

So I'm taking from this passage that joy doesn't come from a lack of sorrow or hardship. Joy comes when we have prepared our heart to seek God, when we have heard His Word and are broken from our sin, when we have accepted His forgiveness, and have extended gifts to others.

Then we have His joy which in turn brings His strength.

And that is something worth thanking God for this week.

Only one more week on this Christmas Preparation Countdown!

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Book Giveaway - Footprints on the Ceiling

Most days I don't feel much over 20. 

And even if I want to forget that I'm near 40, my children remind me.

Yesterday my daughter said, "Mom, your hair is not turning gray. It is turning white. Because that is what happens when you are old."

Well, if I am becoming old, I decided I better hang around women who are aging gracefully. Like Dorcas Smucker.

In Dorcas' newest book, Footprints on the Ceiling, she writes about the wonderful things about turning fifty including "seeing the end of the story."

And in this volume Dorcas delights us with stories. Stories of how she wrote off romance - until her footprint on the ceiling of the seed warehouse caught the eye of her future husband. Stories of teaching Grandma to send an email and a daughter to make an apple crisp.  Stories of a mother's botched Christmas plans complete with a yowling stray cat which turn out with a good ending after all.

And that is just the first three chapters.

Dorcas has that gift of seeing stories in every day happenings. And even better she sees redemption and second chances in those stories. Not every story ends with "happily ever after" but all end with the hope of seven miles of daffodils that bloom long after the death of the one who planted the bulbs. I read Footprints on the Ceiling laughing at the craziness (and interrupting Ed's book to read to him about Grandma and the Media), crying at the tender spots, and nodding as Dorcas gives a dose of encouragement.

If  you have read Dorcas' other books  Ordinary Days, Upstairs the Peasants are Revolting, Downstairs the Queen is Knitting, and Tea Cups and Trouble Brewing,  you have followed her through motherhood. In Footprints on the Ceiling, her six children are spreading their wings and moving out into the world on their own.

And since I still claim to be a younger woman - a few bends in the road behind Dorcas, I took note of her tips on parenting - teaching a daughter how to recover a blueberry muffin disaster, learning that digging through garbage might not be the best way to fix problems, and keeping connections strong when a son chooses a different path.

As Dorcas says, "I've learned to be relieved when the cookies taste awful and the car runs out of gas. It means my husband and I have managed, for the moment, to set the boundaries where our teenagers are making choices for themselves but he consequences are still manageable."

As her children grow up, Dorcas' parents are aging. She records stories from her heritage such as washing your face in dew on the first day of May. She discovers she is like her mother in the blackberry patch - and in noticing the outcasts. She sits in the ICU and considers the dividends on the long term investment of raising children.

Dorcas grew up Amish and is now the wife of a Mennonite minister in Oregon. Recently my sister-in-law  gave one of Dorcas' books to a friend who thought she understood the Mennonites and Amish by reading Amish novels. (She didn't.)  Dorcas' books are human and real and a far better glimpse of true life than a novel. From every day life in Oregon to travels to Jamaica and Thailand, Dorcas gives me hope that fifty can indeed be wonderful.

Learn more about Dorcas at her blog Life in the Shoe,

And now the good news.

I have a signed copy of Footprints on the Ceiling for one of you. Let a comment below (if you are reading this by email, click on over to Home Joys to let the comment) to enter the giveaway. If you want, you can share a brief story of how you met your husband (even if it was not with a footprint on the ceiling). Be sure to leave your email address so I can contact you.

Dorcas gave me a review copy of her book but all the opinions on this post are my own. I will never recommend a book that I do not truly enjoy.

Footprints on the Ceiling is available for $15 per book, postage included.  You can mail a check to Dorcas Smucker, 31148 Substation Drive, Harrisburg, OR 97446.  US addresses only.  To send a copy to Canada or overseas, email Dorcas at dorcassmucker@gmail.com

Giveaway will be open for one week and is for US residents. Winner chosen by Random.org.

Post contains affiliate links.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Giveaway Winner - Walking the Talk

Thanks to all of you who joined in the book giveaway.

The winner of Walking the Talk is
Karen with the email rkas94
 I emailed you, Karen, so if you send me your address, I can mail your book!

The rest of you can pick up your own copy of Walking the Talk at Amazon or from Vision.

Come back tomorrow for the next book giveaway!

Post contains affiliate links.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Prepare - A Chrstimas Countdown - Week Six

Week Six - Grocery Shopping Week - November 17-22

This week continues our shopping - but this time it is to the grocery store. Shopping is not on my favorite thing to do so I'll be glad when this task is complete.

I like to do my holiday grocery shopping the week or two before Thanksgiving to take advantage of the sales. One of the first posts I wrote was about buying turkey on sale. Since often there is a minimum amount that you need to buy to take advantage of the turkey sale, it is a good time to stockpile.

I'll try to stock up on baking supplies to take me into January - if my lists are complete. I'm sure I'll miss something and have to be back to the store, but at least I made an attempt.

Some of you have asked what kinds of Christmas cookies we will be baking. Well, nothing fancy. We tend to keep to the same old favorites!

Here is some links to favorite cookie recipes that I've shared in the past.

Molasses Cookies
Double Chocolate Cookies - I make these with Andes Mints for Christmas
Peanut Butter Blossoms
Monster Cookies
Lemon Strawberry Swirls
Gingerbread Boys
Peanut Butter Critter
Graham Cracker House - not a cookie - but a fun child's project

Also, a friend shared with me a link for a set of nativity cookie cutters. This set has been in their family for many years and she was thrilled to find them still available since all her daughters want their own set for their home.  What a fun family tradition!

Preparation in Scripture

Our family is reading through Isaiah right now. It has been a perfect preparation for Christmas, especially when the children spot passages that they remember from The Messiah. The prophecies about Christ make encouraging reading.

 Comfort ye, comfort ye my people, saith your God.
 Speak ye comfortably to Jerusalem, and cry unto her, that her warfare is accomplished, that her iniquity is pardoned: for she hath received of the LORD'S hand double for all her sins.
 The voice of him that crieth in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the LORD, make straight in the desert a highway for our God.
 Every valley shall be exalted, and every mountain and hill shall be made low: and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough places plain:
  And the glory of the LORD shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together: for the mouth of the LORD hath spoken it. (Isaiah 40: 1-5)

 This passage about makes me cry. In a world with sorrow and warfare, wilderness and deserts, crooked and rough places - I long for the glory of the Lord to be revealed. And this passage gives a promise (from the mouth of the Lord, who cannot lie) that all of us shall see His glory.

And that is comfort for the bleakest of days.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Book Giveaway - Walking the Talk

Over the next couple weeks I plan to host several book giveaways.

I love to share books with you. Plus a giveaway is always good for pulling out a few lurkers! So if you have never commented - this is your chance!

The first book is Walking the Talk, Calling All Believers in Christ to Obedience by Arvin Martin.

I'm often asked questions about what the Mennonites believe. Mennonites seek to live a life of obedience to the Word of God and take literally the commands of Christ. Walking the Talk never mentions Mennonites, or any other denomination or church group, but the book is about radical obedience to Christ and His Word, so if you want to know what the Mennonites believe, this book would be a good place to start.

Walking the Talk begins with the foundation  - asking the big questions about who we are, what is our purpose, and where are we going. Following are chapters on such topics as the Word of God, the Holy Spirit, and Faith vs. Works. The last half of the book delves into practical areas of obedience such as music and finances. I like that Arvin lays down the principle before discussing the application. For example, he shares a chapter on humility before tackling the subject of modesty.

There are two things I especially liked about Walking the Talk. The first is the huge amount of Scripture the book includes. This is a Word-saturated book.

I also appreciated the short chapters. Some days it feels like I don't even have time to pick up my Bible. With the short chapters and the quoted Scripture, I could enjoy a Bible study even when I didn't have much time. Each chapter ends with some study questions to help reflect over the past chapter.

Arvin is one of the ministers at our church and I was able to read the first draft of his book several years ago. It is fun to see the book come together. I'm grateful for the huge amount of time he has put into this project.

To enter a giveaway leave a comment and tell me about a book that you enjoyed recently. (Maybe I'll get an idea for my next read!) Be sure to include your email address so I can contact you.

You can also purchase your own copy of Walking the Talk from Vision Publishers.

Giveaway is open for one week and is open to US residents. Winner chosen by Random.org.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Pumpkin Pie Squares

Our family loves pumpkin pie - and the more pumpkin the better. So these bars, which taste almost like pumpkin pie but with more pumpkin, is a winner at our house. Plus I don't have to make pie crust!

This recipe is a merging of two recipes that I received from two different friends. I liked parts of both recipes so merged the two.

Proof that I can never make a recipe exactly as it is written!

Pumpkin Pie Squares

1 cup flour
1/2 cup quick oatmeal
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup butter

Combine ingredients. I use a food processor to make it extra quick to cut in the butter. Press into a 9x13 pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 15 minutes. Cool.

6 eggs
1 1/2 cup brown sugar
2 T flour
2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp salt
1 tsp ginger
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp cloves
4 cups pumpkin puree
2 cups scalded milk (heated to hot but not boiling)

Mix all ingredients together and pour over crust. Bake at 350 degrees for 60 minutes or until a knife inserted in center comes out clean. Serve with whipped cream.

Edited to add:
Oops! I forgot to list the eggs!  A major mistake! I hope none of you tried this recipe without eggs!


Monday, November 10, 2014

Prepare - A Christmas Countdown - Week Five

Week Five - Gift Shopping Week - November 10-15

I made fewer than half of last week's crafting goals. But that is okay. If I would have made no goals, I wouldn't have accomplished anything!

We don't buy a lot of Christmas gifts but the children have been begging to go shopping for some gifts for their cousins. So this week's goal is to do some gift shopping. If the shopping is successful, I plan to wrap the gifts immediately. I have found that it works so much better to wrap and label gifts right away. If I stash the shopping bags in a corner of the closet, I may not remember who I bought them for - or that I bought them at all.

Maybe that is one problem with purchasing gifts early. But one benefit is being able to order gifts and choose the best shipping rates since I have plenty of time.

Besides gifts, another item that can be purchased now is a new planner. I like the Time Keeper but other good planners designed for homemakers are Guiding the House and the Daily Planner. A good planner keeps me on tract and helps my feeble brain remember where I should be and when.

Preparation in Scripture
"The horse is prepared against the day of battle: but safety is of the LORD." (Proverbs 21:31)
I can make my plans and be prepared for what I think my day or week will hold. But I can only guess at what the future holds.

No matter how well I am prepared - I will always be surprised by the set backs.

This morning I dove into my Monday work knowing I had a busy week ahead. But my daughter lost her breakfast and my plans for the day were derailed.

Since last Monday, we've received news of three deaths. Not of anyone close to us, but close to people we love and so we grieve with them. And while sometimes death comes to the old and frail who long for heaven, at other times it is to the young and appears far too soon.

So I prepare - for Christmas, for life, but maybe most of all, for death.

I wrap gifts and hold sick little girls. I weep for grieving friends and laugh with giggly toddlers. I make another meal for growing boys and sew a dress for daughter. I fail as a mother and wake up to try again another day. I do what I can and know it will never be enough.

My safety is of the Lord. His grace is my only hope.

Friday, November 7, 2014

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Whoopie Pies

A few weeks ago - probably when I was in the midst of cooking one of the 70 or so butternut squash that we harvested this year (I still have a few on my porch - if you want one!), Ed suggested I make pumpkin whoopie pies. When I gave the excuse that I had never made pumpkin whoopie pies and didn't have a recipe, Ed said that his sister Bonnie would have a good recipe.

A few days later I happened to be at Bonnie's house - and there on the counter was a pan of pumpkin whoopie pies! I hinted that I'd like the recipe and Bonnie quickly wrote it out for me. 

Now I had no excuse. But who would want an excuse? These are so good! And they turned out perfectly, nice and round like a whoopie pie should. Unlike my former experience with whoopie pies when they spread out flat (probably something to do with my complusion to changed recipes). I frosted them (or rather my daughter frosted) with my friend Nola's cream cheese frosting. Yum!

These are a soft cookie. And they will stick together. It is rather a pain but about the only solution is to wrap each cookie individually in plastic wrap. Probably one reason why I've never got excited about making whoopie pies in the past.

But they are easy to freeze and perfect to slide into Ed's lunch. And with all the pumpkin on my porch, I'll probably be making these again.

Bonnie's Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Whoopie Pies

3 cups pumpkins puree
3 cups brown sugar
1 1/2 cup oil
3 eggs
6 cups flour
3 tsp vanilla
1 1/2 tsp salt
3 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp cloves
1 tsp ginger
6 tsp baking powder
3 tsp baking soda
3 tsp milk
2 cups chocolate chips

Mix pumpkin, sugar and oil. Add eggs. Dissolve soda in milk. Combine all ingredients together except chocolate chips. Fold in chips. Drop by spoonfuls on baking sheet. Bake at 350 for 10 minutes. Frost.

Cream Cheese Whoopie Pie Frosting

1/2 cup softened butter
1 (8 oz) pkg cream cheese
3 cups powdered sugar
1 tsp vanilla

Combine all ingredients.

Monday, November 3, 2014

Prepare - A Christmas Countdown - Week Four

Week Four - Craft Week - November 3-8

I don't consider myself a super crafty type person though I do love to sew. But there is something special about homemade gifts and this time of year makes me excited to start crafting again. Maybe it is just being indoors more since the outside work is finished.

Or maybe it is part of my genes. I remember past years when my mom would say that she wasn't sewing any Christmas gifts - but a few days before Christmas would find her sewing machine whirling late at night on some sort of project. And now, I find myself doing the very same thing.

When I first discovered the web, I spent a lot of time on the craft blogs. Until I found that I was bookmarking craft ideas but never doing them. I became discouraged if I spent too much time looking at others' creativity. So I now avoid craft blogs (and pinterest) unless I'm looking for specific project.

Such as today, when I decided to make a Thanksgiving garland for our mantel. A quick search found more than enough ideas. I kept it very simple. I wanted to use burlap, but didn't have any so used card stock instead. I had to use three different colors since I only had a few sheets of each color. I printed off the first two words with my computer printer but I couldn't get a font big enough for the "blessing." I pulled out some stencils and paint and had this hanging 30 minutes later. Not perfect, but I'm okay with imperfection.

If you want a super cute thanksgiving banner that includes a countown, The Dating Divas have a free printable.

One exception to my avoidance of craft blogs is that I do check Sew Mama Sew  each year in November for their Handcraft Holidays. Each day in November they share free tutorials and gift ideas. I am always inspired. Today they had some sweet gifts for babies and I might need to add those dear little shoes to my list of things to try.

For me, finding time to craft will take ignoring other tasks. I finally made peace with the truth that I will never ever be caught up with every household task. I don't recommend that you ignore your responsibilities but (for example) today we are eating leftovers, our school work was done by lunch (a rare event), and the house was in decent shape since we had company yesterday, so I chose to ignore some other work.

My goal this week is to print off mailing labels for Christmas cards, write a Christmas letter, and design a family photo card. If I get those done, I'll be thrilled. If I have more time I have a few other ideas for some craft projects that I'd like to have on hand for gifts. I'm planning to get together with my mom to make candles. I think it has been four or five years since I made soap and it would be fun to try again. But most likely my project will be something like making up soup mixes. That is something my children can more easily help with.

And in my spare time (hah), I want to deep clean my kitchen. After a summer of food preserving, it badly needs some extra attention. I cleaned out the two worse drawers on Saturday. If I'd just do one drawer or cupboard every day, my small kitchen wouldn't take long to complete.

I'd love to hear about your projects if you enjoy crafting of any sort.

Preparation in Scripture

"Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in me.
 In my Father's house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you.
 And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again, and receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also." (John 14:1-3)

I already know that my list for this week is far larger than my time. One or two of those items would be more realistic, but maybe I can get a start on a few projects this week and work at it in the coming weeks.

And I know myself well enough to know that the housecleaning project is the one most likely to fall by the wayside. And thinking of houses and preparation brought the above verse to mind.

Sometimes we may wonder if the Lord is ever going to finish His preparations and return to earth for His church. But God's promises are true, just maybe on a different timetable than us.

And when I think of Christ's return, I realize that far more important than my crafting or housecleaning is soul cleaning.

 "Be patient therefore, brethren, unto the coming of the Lord. Behold, the husbandman waiteth for the precious fruit of the earth, and hath long patience for it, until he receive the early and latter rain.
Be ye also patient; stablish your hearts: for the coming of the Lord draweth nigh." (James 5:7-8)

If you don't feel like preparing for Christmas yet - that is fine. If you hate crafting - don't feel guilty. But don't put off preparing for the Lord's return. 


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