Saturday, February 25, 2017

Apple Fritter Day

If you have been reading here a while, you know that every winter my mom, sisters, and sister-in-laws get together for a doughnut making day. We always have the fun fellowship while making bowls full of yummy calories. 

My parents are in the midst of moving, so we decided not to have our big annual doughnut day this year. But Ed mentioned that he never gets to eat a warm doughnut. He suggested that we make doughnuts sometime at our house. Maybe this year would be the perfect time to try it.

I borrowed my mom's electric skillet and pulled out my largest dishpan. We decided to make apple fritters, since that is our family's favorite. The dough is easy to make, just takes lot of elbow grease to mix such a large amount of dough. I was glad the dough doesn't need to be kneaded.

An hour later, the dough had risen to almost fill the bowl and we started cutting the fritters with a large biscuit cutter.

One batch of apple fritters made about five dozen large fritters. Next time, I might cut them smaller since as they raised, they really got large.

My children, especially my boys, enjoyed helping. Usually on doughnut day at Grandma's, they are busy playing with their cousins and don't get a chance to help.

I found out how little I know about making doughnuts even though I help every year. I had to google "what temperature to fry doughnuts." The first ones were too brown on the outside and still raw dough in the inside until I got the temperature adjusted. When frying, they puffed up into nearly round balls.

We glazed the apple fritters. 

I was surprised how well the day went. One batch of doughnuts seemed like so little work compared to our big doughnut day. We were finished long before the children were tired of helping. The success makes me willing to attempt it again.

And Ed got his wish of sampling a warm, just-fried apple fritter.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017


Just a glimpse of the last couples months at our house.

I struggle with birthday cakes, so I shamelessly borrowed this idea from Shaunda.

Last year I was trying to decide whether newborns or two-year-olds were sweeter. But now I think one-year-olds and three-year-olds mothering their dolls is the ultimate sweetness.

In early January, my family had our annual hog butchering. This year we did three whopping 500 lb hogs.  

Everybody helps, though I admit that I spent most of my time inside with the littlest ones. Someones got to do it.

The next generation of helpers is in training.

If you want to see more specifics from butchering days, check out the records of other years - 20132012, 2011, and 2010.

We don't generally do a big party for first birthdays. (Especially since her birthday hit the above butcher day.)

But a simple cupcake was fully enjoyed.

I love to find a couple girls in a corner sharing a book.

My sons were delighted to find a brand-new tent at Goodwill - for a less than brand-new  price. The weather this winter has cooperated and they have spent several nights in their tent. They are planning to live in this tent this summer. So they say.

Can I slow time down? This girlie is rushing to catch up with her siblings. A few days ago she learned how to climb onto chairs. Then tables. Now nothing is safe. The house seemed to have imploded with this whirlwind dumping toys and scattering clothes.

She loves to be outside on these unusually warm days. This afternoon she discovered that she can climb the sliding board ladder. All by herself.

I know she is my sixth child. But I still panicked when I looked across the yard and discovered her halfway up the ladder. But she had it all under control.

I think this girl is going to make me tired this summer. But oh, how many smiles she gives in return.

Saturday, February 18, 2017

3 Simple Tips to a Successful Garden this Year

February might be brown and cold here in Pennsylvania, but colorful seed packets are arriving in the mail and I'm beginning to dream about gardening.

There is a danger in dreams. I've watched gardeners turn over soil and plant seeds in May with hopeful optimism. But too often those same gardeners throw up their hands in despair three months later as the August weeds put the death-choke on their plants.

Sometimes that gardener has been me.

What can I do to help insure a successful garden this year? 

This past year I watched two beginning gardens. Both were located on a road that I travel often. I don't know if this was the gardeners first garden, but in both cases, they started with a bare stretch of lawn and turned it into a lush garden. From driving past on the road, I couldn't tell how much they harvested from their garden, but both gardens were obviously cared for throughout the season.

Here are a few of my observations of these two gardens and the tips I've gleaned from my own gardening experiences.

1. Dream within Reality

Neither of these gardens were large. I might be a poor judge of distance, but I'd guess the one as a 10 by 20 foot plot. The other garden consisted of four raised beds maybe 3 by 6 feet. They did not turn their entire yard into a garden. They didn't plant a market garden. I have seen many beginning gardeners fail because of planning too large of a garden.

A wise gardener will plan realistically, which is more difficult than it seems in the spring. It is easy to forget the reality of August, when the weeds, heat, and bugs conspire against the most hardy gardener.

Last year I purposely planted a smaller garden. I knew I would have a six-month-old baby in August and I decided that it wasn't the year to break records.

I didn't regret that decision.

While the two gardens I observed last year were small, they appeared to be well-maintained, which will give courage to plant a garden next year, and maybe, with a little experience under dirty fingernails, the gardener can successfully extend its size.

Planning a smaller garden will also help make sure you are planting wisely. Why plant zucchini if you hate it? Or ten tomato plants if all you want is a few cherry tomatoes for your salad? Evaluate what you already eat and don't pretend you will suddenly acquire a love for eggplant.

2. Have a Plan, And Do It

Both gardeners that I watched last spring obviously had a plan. They didn't walk out to their yard one day, dig a hole, push some green bean seeds in the ground, and hope they would grow.

One of the gardens actually began the year before. One Saturday in late summer Ed and I drove by this yard where a man was busy at work with a shovel and wheelbarrow. It appeared as if he was removing the sod. We made guesses about what he was doing. Planting a tree? Building a shed? But after a few weeks it appeared that the project was abandoned. A neat rectangle section of sod had been removed but there were no further signs of progress.

A few weeks later Ed mentioned that it appeared that they were layering grass clippings and leaves on this section of bare earth. Throughout the fall, more leaves and more grass clippings were added and we guessed that this spot was meant for a future garden. Sure enough, in the spring, this new garden was planted. Those months of adding mulch and a winter for it to decompose would have made a wonderful rich planting bed in the spring. The summer appearance of the garden proved the gardener was rewarded for his efforts in planning a whole season before planting his garden.

The other gardener I watched last year prepared four raised beds. They were simple wooden beds, narrow enough to reach into the middle easily. Again, the work of preparing this garden was resulted in lovely growing conditions.

3. Sit and Enjoy

I've long been a proponent of "walk your garden." In other words, spend regular time in your garden, both to enjoy it and recognize problems while they are still small.

But maybe I should change that to "sit in your garden." The gardener with the raised beds placed a bench beside the garden. They also planted perennials, maybe herbs, nearby. The garden was directly beside the house and certainly added beauty to the home's landscape.

The other garden didn't have a bench beside it, but I often saw a small child's riding toy in the yard and a large deck was nearby. My impression was that these were people who spent time outdoors.

If you plant a garden, find ways to enjoy it. Take your coffee outside and listen to the robins at dawn. Or carry out a lawn chair and watch the bats come out to eat the mosquitos at sunset.

There are many ways to provide food for your family. A garden is not a necessity for most of us. So keep it manageable, plan well for your success, so you can sit and enjoy it in August.

If you find ways to enjoy your garden, you are more likely to have positive memories to make you spend your brown February days planning the success of your next garden.

What are your tips to a successful garden? Or am I the only one who is dreaming of gardening?

For more garden info, check out our garden page.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Question: Baked Beans

A reader sent me the following request.

I am looking for a special recipe of baked beans that are baked for hours in a stoneware crock. I lost my mother's recipe. Would you have one by any chance? - Gloria

I have tried making baked beans several times, but have never been entirely pleased with my recipe. Can any of you help out me and Gloria? They don't have to be baked in a stoneware crock, but I am looking for baked beans that don't come from a can. :)


Saturday, February 11, 2017

Five Marks of a Bond Servant

I've been working on a Sunday School lesson from Luke 17 this week. With its topics of faith, servanthood, and gratefulness, it has been a personally challenging passage.

Roy Hession wrote about this chapter in The Calvary Road. He gave five marks of a bondservant. I'm sharing them here.

Five Marks of a Bond Servant

by Roy Hession from The Calvary Road

1. Must be willing to have one thing on top of another put upon him, without any consideration given him.

2. In doing so he must be willing not to be thanked for it.

3. Having done this, he must not charge the others with selfishness.

4. Must not congratulate himself for having done the first three, but realize that it is only the Lord in him that enables him.

5. Realize that in doing and bearing all this in meekness and humility, he has not done one stitch more than was his duty to do.

This is the Way of the Cross.

Read the whole chapter from The Calvary Road online.

Friday, February 3, 2017

22 Favorite Soup Recipes

It may be cold and dreary outside but as long as I can serve my favorite soup and stews, I can keep it warm and cozy in my kitchen. I think soup is the ultimate one-pot meal - chock-full of veggies, easy on the grocery budget, and always yummy.

Here's some of our current favorites.

Chicken Rice Soup

Zesty Venison Soup

Stuffed Pepper Soup

Taco Soup 

Garden Chowder

Steak Soup

Cheeseburger Soup

Italian Meatball Soup

White Chicken Chili

Broccoli Cheese Soup

Tuscan Bean Soup

Beef Vegetable Soup

Ham and Bean Soup

French Onion Soup

Corn Chowder

Zuppa Toscana Soup

Hamburger Soup

Wisconsin Potato Cheese Soup

Soups In a Jar
I like to keep a few soup-in-a-jars on hand for those busy days when I need a meal I can dump in the crockpot and forget for the day.

Friendship Soup

Five Bean Soup

Southwestern Three-Bean and Barley Soup

Peasant Bean Soup

What am I missing? I'd love to try your favorite soup recipe.


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