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Cookies

December 17, 2017

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Libby and I spent yesterday afternoon making Christmas cookies while the boys were out. Baking with my daughter has improved in recent years. When she was small, she loved to help in the kitchen, but the help was of a less helpful variety than it is now that she is eleven. She would ram a kitchen chair into the counter, climb up, and somehow turn a bowl of flour, baking powder, and salt into an explosion so devastating that I would be nearly in tears. Then she would climb back down and disappear, leaving a trail of buttery fingerprints. Now, she is actually helpful. In fact, if I leave the room, she will continue on, reading the recipe. I will come back to softened butter spinning around with sugar in the mixer bowl or a preheated oven and parchment covered baking sheets. There may be a counter full of cooling cookies, expertly pulled from the oven with no burns or fires, transferred to wire racks. Older children are a special kind of delightful. Older children who have become competent in the kitchen are miracles that my thirty year old self would never have believed in. It helps that she is obsessed with the Great British Baking Show. She chatters on about Mary Berry and twenty layer cakes and it is warm and festive and delicious in our kitchen. At the end of baking day, we had two batches of chocolate peppermint cookies, one batch of sugar cookies-turned-gingerbread-men, and one batch of my personal favorite cookie (the only cookie for me, in fact) – molasses ginger.

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Today, we plan to wrap everything up in bakery boxes and make deliveries to the neighbors.

Fa la la la la!

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Once A Year Won’t Hurt

December 16, 2017

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One December night each year, my children and I find ourselves alone for the evening and we make a dinner of waffles. Tonight, I introduced them to one of my childhood breakfast indulgences, a dish served at a diner near my family’s home: the Alaskan Ice Cream Waffle. One plate-sized waffle, warm from the iron (I kept each in a 200 degree oven while the others cooked). One generous scoop of country-style vanilla ice cream (extra if the scoop seemed particularly chintzy). One ladle-full of strawberries cooked with sugar and cooled. Whipped cream spooned into all of the spaces where waffle was still visible (no waffle should remain visible). Followed by our annual viewing of the movie Elf, piled in close together on my bed.

A beautiful, belt-loosening Christmas tradition.

Hello Again

December 15, 2017

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The pressure is on for this first post in three years.

I plan to be back and then, after that, to be back again.

Let’s just ease into it.

A Cold Start

November 19, 2014

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I stacked firewood on the porch yesterday morning – we had already gone through the first stack. And at bed time, we threw an extra blanket on the bed. The week has gotten off to a nippy start.

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The last little pig in the pen is burrowing down in sawdust to stay warm. Several times a day, we have to break ice off of his water and fill the bucket up with hot water from the bath tub.

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A warm-up is predicted. I’ll keep my scarf and boots nearby, though. Just in case.

Hog Day

November 16, 2014

I hope these pictures from our recent Hog Day don’t offend anyone. But there are a few that might be on the graphic side .. just so you know before scrolling down.

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Things have gotten much more efficient with the hog slaughtering around here in recent years. When Ben and our neighbor first started to raise hogs and slaughter them, there were anatomical diagrams of hogs taped up on the wall and it took foreeeeevvvver. The meat would be brought inside in large pieces to cut and that required further research .. “Is this the butt or the shoulder? Wait. The butt is the shoulder. The rump is the butt. So … what’s this thing … ?” And the mess was phenomenal. The aftermath looked like a crime scene and took days to recover from. There were drops and splatters and babies crawling on the floor and no room in the fridge or either freezer for anything else. “Sorry. You wanted milk with your cereal? How about a rump roast for breakfast instead?”

But these days, there is a well-worn pattern. No one needs the drawings or any Youtube refresher courses. It takes only a fraction of the time it used to to get the meat inside, and from there it is cut, packaged, labeled, and in the freezer before dinner. Sausage and goetta both take a little extra time, but they can wait until the mess is cleaned up. Clothes are washed. Counters scrubbed; floor mopped.

Until next time.

We are grateful.

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Out With Costumes, In With Snow

November 2, 2014

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Jacob and Libby dressed as an elderly couple for Halloween this year. Jacob actually stayed in character (that character being quite cantankerous), shaking his cane at people and accusing them of laughing at him because he was walking slowly. “It’s my sciatica, you young whippersnapper!” he would growl.

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The next morning, we woke up to swirling snow. November!

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Johnny Cash, Costumes, and Groaning

October 31, 2014

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Jacob recently became the proud (and slightly obnoxious) owner of a Walkman and a Johnny Cash cassette tape. At first he wore the headphones constantly. In the minivan. In the restroom. He even made a few daring attempts to bring it to the dinner table or to do his math work. Finally, we set some rules and things seem to be going smoothly. He’s familiar with all of the songs on that tape now, but at first I would hear peals of laughter coming from down the hall and then there he would be, headphones around his neck, chortling, “Mom! There is this song about a boy named Sue!” And even when I told him that I knew that song, he proceeded to press play and listen, press the pause button and shout out a line to me, press play and listen, pause and shout, and so on until the song ended. “Kicking and gouging in the mud and the blood and the beer! Haha!” Another of Jacob’s favorites is Sunday Morning Coming Down. I don’t know which line he likes more – “The beer I had for breakfast wasn’t bad so I had one more for dessert.” Or “Then I stumbled through my closet through my clothes and found my cleanest dirty shirt.” Ben and I have, on several occasions, caught each other’s eye, shook our heads, and commented on needing to find a wider variety of cassette tapes. But you know – those are not easy to come by. I have two – Neal Young’s “Decade” and another by The Allman Brothers because it has the song that I was named after on it. For now, I think Johnny is our best bet. Hopefully something more age-appropriate will come along. I like it when he calls the headphones “ear buds”. It took me so long to stop calling ear buds “headphones” and now Jacob is having the same problem, in reverse.

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The leaves are nearly gone from the trees. Every year I sense the fleeting nature of the season and wish I could stop everything and savor it. You can’t grasp at the passing of time though, can you? It doesn’t stop. This morning I saw from my bedroom window that the grass right outside was completely carpeted with red leaves and when I went outside to take in the beauty of it all, I noticed a rim of crisp frost along the edge of each leaf. It won’t be long now. The grass will be blanketed in snow instead of leaves and I’m going to give a real effort to savoring the beauty in that, too.

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Ben is a clever and creative costume creator for our children. They lucked out when they got him. Around the time when we flip the calendar page from September to October, the kids begin making outlandish requests that are obscure enough to not be available for purchase. Last year, Ben was up into the wee hours of morning for days before Halloween papier macheing a Viking helmet .. layer after layer of newspaper and glue and paint. Together we scour the aisles of our favorite Goodwill store trying to find things that don’t really become mass produced – suspenders, knickers, body armor, and so on. This year is particularly busy for us as we just finished clearing out my grandma’s apartment and have mountains of her things to go through (meanwhile, they are crammed into every corner of our house). Not to mention all of the other little pieces of our family life – Ben’s business and parenting and homeschooling and keeping a marriage alive and kicking. To name a few. So while Ben fretted over how to create authentic-looking knight armor out of cardboard one evening, I gently suggested that this might be the year we let the kids pick out simpler costumes. Something from the dressup closet, perhaps? Something that would require no hot glue guns or entire bolts of fabric. I think we came to a decent family compromise. I did have to give Jacob a new haircut tonight. We borrowed a few things, made a couple of runs to the Goodwill, and Ben spent one evening sewing the innards of an old bed pillow into Eli’s getup. But – no papier mache! No spray paint. No rooting through dumpsters. But I think, as long as the forecasted freezing temperatures don’t keep us inside, it will be great fun.

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Two books changing my life right now are: A Praying Life by Paul Miller and Keep a Quiet Heart by Elisabeth Elliot. Also Romans 8. The concept of welcoming suffering has been seeping into my heart for a couple of years now. Bittersweet by Shauna Niequist blew my mind with the idea some time ago and since then, it pops up here and there in that way things do when you realize that you are being spoken to. Our pastor delivered what I thought was a profound sermon on Romans 8:18-30 this past Sunday. I don’t think I moved the entire time he spoke. The idea of groaning and hoping and waiting being good is something that I intend to sink into in the coming months.