March 2014: The Children Are Tender

Caregiving, teaching little kids to read, and riding in the pickup with Farmer John; I tweet, pin, and blog, from my home in rural Kansas. If you've landed here looking for information about my books, visit my author's page by clicking this link: A. Born. Thanks for visiting!

Sunday, September 9, 2018

Pushing the Season

Last night was lovely, a hint of fall in the air.  The maple tree in our yard is no longer June green; it has faded a bit as the nights grow shorter.  I took some phone photos at the foot of our driveway just at sunset, and look!  The light has turned September gold (maybe it's all those Kansas sunflowers that have blossomed out). 

August Photos

Upper left:  Our oldest grandson, Daniel, has been looking out this window since he was old enough to drag a stool to the window seat and clamber up to perch there, proud of his accomplishment. He is a tall ten-year-old now and no longer needs the stool, but still likes to sit here. On the day this photo was taken he said, "I like looking out this window.  There is always something different to see."  I feel the same way!  

Farmer John and I have resumed walking for exercise. Our dog, Moose, is the only family member who is entirely happy about this daily discipline. I like taking pictures, though.  My favorite here is one you can't see just real well--see Moose charging toward John in the photo at upper right, and how John has held out his arms?  This is a nightly ritual. I almost always go striding out ahead while I'm waiting for John to put on his boots, and when he appears around the corner of the house Moose runs back and forth between us until John catches up to me.  

Saturday, September 8, 2018

An August Gathering

 Our church has welcomed our new pastor and his lovely wife by inviting them to a number of small group suppers, hosted in homes.  And so toward the end of August John and I hosted the final scheduled get-acquainted meal. Nine of us gathered around our table and we really did have a lovely evening.

I made much of the meal ahead of time. I've found that turkey breast can be baked and frozen in a plentiful amount of seasoned broth, and if heated gently at low temperatures on serving day (about 275 degrees) it comes out moister and more flavorful even than on the day it was placed in the freezer.  This has worked well for me with roast beef as well.  I made the mashed potatoes and gravy well ahead of time on the day of the meal and kept them hot in crockpots on the serving table. As our family has grown we nearly always serve food buffet style, and that's how I chose to serve this meal as well.

Some neighbor kids had sold me a 40# box of beautiful Colorado peaches, and from the portions I didn't package for the freezer, I made the dessert below for our gathering.  Our pastor avoids added sugar and my mother-in-law has type 1 diabetes, and so I sweetened the slab pie with Truvia baking blend.  It was yummy with no aftertaste in the finished pie.  And--I wrapped it well in saran and then foil and froze it before baking, another convenient make-ahead. 

The menu was pretty simple; turkey breast, sliced roast, mashed potatoes and gravy, roasted green beans, my mother-in-law's famous potato salad, peach/almond summer salad, a colorful fruit platter, garlic bread, peach slab pie and frozen yogurt.  To my vast relief the food turned out well, and we enjoyed our evening greatly.  

Peach Slab Pie

 Grandma Irma's Never Fail Pie Crust:

5 cups flour
2 and 2/3 cup chortening
1 cup flour
1 cup water
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon salt

Cut shortening and 5 cups of flour together. Make a paste of the last three ingredients and stir into the first mixture.  Roll half the dough out and place in bottom and sides of a half sheet pan (jelly roll pan).  Roll the other half out and set aside between sheets of wax paper.  Cover pastry to keep it from drying out while you prepare the filling.  You may have extra pastry, not a bad thing. Freeze it or make cinnamon piecrust for the kids (add butter, cinnamon and sugar to rolled out dough, bake about 10 minutes at 375 degrees).  


Stir together: 
1 cup Truvia blend
12 medium/large fresh peaches, blanched, peeled, and sliced
1 Tbsp. vanilla
1/2 teaspoon almond flavoring
1/2 cup flour
3 Tbsp. melted butter
1/4 teaspoon salt

Place filling into prepared bottom layer of pastry, cover with pastry and crimp edges, do not cut vent holes if you are putting it into the freezer.  When people don't mind a little sugar, I pat about a tablespoon of water on top and then sprinkle with a couple of tablespoons of sugar. Can be covered well with saran and then foil and frozen.  I wouldn't leave it frozen over 2 months.  On day you plan to serve it, it can go straight into the oven from the freezer.  Cut vents in the top pastry, bake at 350 degrees about an hour, or until the crust is golden and the filling is bubbly.  

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

June and July in Kansas

June was unseasonably hot, and July has been uncomfortably dry.  That it is also uncomfortably hot goes without saying; this is Kansas, after all.  Our son will work at The Farm Show in Pittsburg, Kansas this Friday and Saturday, and he told me the high is predicted to be 98 degrees with a heat index of 109.  I had a flashback of how I used to feel when he began football practice under similar conditions in early August during his his junior high and high school years.

But despite the almost painful brightness of the sun and the unrelenting heat, there is nevertheless so much beauty.  I especially love the early mornings, just before sunrise. The scents of summer are perfumed with a humid sweetness; milkweed blossoms in the road ditch, freshly mown hay across the road, and the green grass scent of our yard which hasn't yet dried to depressing brown.

I hope it rains soon, and I'll sure be glad for the cooler temperatures of Autumn.  But right now I am actually enjoying summer.

Colors are vivid in summer.  The old fashioned rose at bottom grows in a wild corner of our yard and has vined into a scrubby tree in the hedgerow.

Our grandkids: ages 10, 6, and two 2-year-olds  Lower right:  Big brother reading aloud to little brother; this blesses my heart because I brushed off my stagnating reading teacher skills and, toward the end of this school year, began daily lessons with the guy on the right.  He has just turned 6, and is reading at mid-year first grade level.

Saturday, June 2, 2018

May, 2018

I've spent a contented hour reviewing phone photos taken during May, all the while aware that there usually isn't much to be gained in pondering what has gone by.  It's best to look to the future with hope! 

But this blog is about counting my blessings during a season of my life that has been difficult because I've had to place my mom into nursing home care following 12 years of taking care of her in our home.  Her Alzheimer's disease has been an oft-times grueling ordeal and yet, not.  Not really.  There have been times when it was just awful, as in the months following her diagnosis, and when she fell and broke her collarbone and then, while she was still in pain from this injury, caught a stomach virus and then pneumonia.  But those times didn't last long.  There have been long stretches of ordinary days, and oh how I've come to treasure the blessings of everyday joys and responsibilities.  And so here are photos from our May family gatherings, and a few of the inevitable (for this time of year in Kansas) stormy skies, and a couple of flowers because I can't help it.  Thank You Lord for the blessings of comfort and peace even in the midst of grief or pain.  

Saturday, May 19, 2018

Family Work Day

When the mailman tripped over a cracked section of our 45-year-old sidewalk, our son-in-law rounded up his crew and in about 6 hours pulled up the old pavers, dug out a carefully measured bed for a new path, and put new stones in place.  Farmer John pitched in by hauling nearly a ton of sand to the worksite and using the tractor and loader to move the old pavers to a location where I won't have to look at them anymore.

The new pavers belonged to our son who had stored them in our garage.  "Feel free to use them," he said, "I moved out of the house where I'd planned to use them a couple of years ago!"

We had a lovely family day.  It was wonderful seeing my daughter and her family working together and I had fun making breakfast and lunch for us all with my best helper, Isaac, age 2.

The blessings of family are one of life's greatest joys. Our son-in-law's selfless labor, those precious grandboys manfully shoveling away with only a little bit of grateful for these precious people.
Upper right: old sidewalk, lower left, finished project not looking as pretty in this photo as in real life.  This was a beautiful gift of time and a labor of love from our daughter, son-in-law, and grandboys.

Friday, May 4, 2018

A Cold April!

I'm so glad for this day and age of phone photos. Anybody else recall the days when we would buy a roll of 24 or 36 exposure film, carefully ration the shots we took, then send the roll off for developing?  Now it isn't unusual for me to take 36 photos in a day!  It's so much easier to get good pictures of our little ones when we can take a dozen photos of the same pose.

If not for my many phone photos I'd have thought I didn't accomplish much during April.  I hurt my back toward the beginning of the month and wasn't able to do outdoor work--and beyond that, our April was COLD.  But I did entertain the grandkids pretty often, provided my middle grandson reading lessons (he's only five but he's ready to read), and as usual, I did a lot of cooking.

The collage at left is from Easter Sunday when we bravely (or stupidly) drove through ice and slush to get to our son and daughter-in-law's home an hour away in order to share Easter supper with them.  Once there we had a lovely time with all the traditional dishes and then some; glazed ham, turkey, cheesy potatoes, sweet potatoes, green bean casserole, orange fluff salad, spring greens salad, a fresh fruit platter, hot rolls, carrot cake and frozen yogurt.

Our son has grown a beard, and I have protested.  I feel he is a handsome young man and that the beard hides his face.  However, this photo of him with his two-year-old daughter was almost enough to make me like the beard.  His love for his little girl is shining through here in a very Pa Ingalls-ish way.

We had a lovely visit with my mom at the nursing home on April 16.  Our oldest grandson was at a Western Heritage event with his dad, and our granddaughter was home with her mom, but I was glad to snap the photo above of mom with both her grandchildren and 3 of her great grands.  Mom's Alzheimer's diagnosis was 14 years ago, and she has lost most of her vision to macular degeneration, but she is still able to carry on a conversation and says often that she enjoys life.  This is a blessing beyond what I knew to hope for.  Very grateful to the Lord.  

Left--wild plum blossoms in a thicket across the road from our house.  

Right--our lilac bush bloomed after all!  I was sure the freezing nights early in the month had killed the buds, which were tiny and looked brown.  But the warmth and sunlight we enjoyed the last week of April brought this hopeful sign of spring to life.  

All in all this has been a busy, blessed month. I'll close with one of the recipes I tried this month (below).  

Chicken/pineapple stir fry with brown rice
Summary: Cut one chicken breast into bite-sized chunks, saute it with onion, garlic and red pepper in 2 Tablespoons canola oil.  Drain juice from a large can of pineapple, thicken juice with 2 Tablespoons cornstarch, add a little orange juice. When meat is cooked through, add the juice mixture and cook until thickened, stir in stevia, salt, and pepper to taste. Stir in about a teaspoon of toasted sesame oil if you have it on hand.  Cook some rice.  Yum!  

·      large can pineapple chunks and juice
·      ¼ cup orange juice
·      1 Tablespoon soy sauce
·      2 Tablespoons cornstarch
·      2 teaspoons powdered Stevia
·      1 large chicken breast
·      1 medium onion, chopped
·      1 chopped bell pepper
·      2 large cloves garlic, minced
·      drain a large can of pineapple chunks, reserving the juice. 
·      add water to reserved juice if necessary to make 1 cup pineapple juice
·      Mix ¼ cup orange juice (I just scooped some concentrate out of the can) and 1 Tablespoon soy sauce with pineapple juice
·      Stir 2 Tablespoons cornstarch into a small amount of the juice until smooth, stir together with the rest of the mixture.  Add 2 teaspoons powdered Stevia. 
·      In 2 Tablespoons of canola oil, saute one medium onion, chopped, one chopped red bell pepper, 2 minced garlic cloves and one large chicken breast cut into 3/4ths inch chunks and lightly salted.  Cook until chicken is done and onion is mostly transluscent. 
·      Stir pineapple and cornstarch mixture into meat mixture.  Add about a teaspoon of toasted sesame oil if you have it on hand.  Add salt—maybe about ½ teaspoon or so, and pepper to taste. 

Cook one cup of brown rice in 2 cups chicken broth in instant pot—4 minutes on high, natural release for 10 minutes.