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!

Saturday, December 29, 2018

Gingerbread People from the Red and White Checked Cookbook

I learned to cook from the Better Homes cookbook pictured above, left.  The copyright page is missing, but I received it as a wedding gift and so it is a 1974 edition or thereabouts.  By 1989 I considered the old cookbook too worn to keep using, and bought an updated edition. But it turns out that I am so fond of my old, first and best cookbook, that I have never used the newer copy much at all.

Farmer John decided to make gingerbread men this year, and without consulting with me, he pulled out our "new" Better Homes and Gardens cookbook (which you'll note is nearly 30 years old), and found "Gingerbread Cutouts" on page 114.  We adapted the recipe for our allergic grandchildren and came up with the egg-free version below.  Oh and just for the record--John does not decorate cookies, and since I know how to use an icing bag outfitted with a Wilton tip, I did frosting duty.  It was a quick job, but they do look festive.

Our oldest grandson, Daniel, said, "I like these cookies!"  A new Christmas tradition is born!

Egg Free Gingerbread Cutouts

1/2 cup shortening
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup molasses
1/4 cup applesauce (instead of egg)
1 tablespoon vinegar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves

Grammy's buttercream frosting (below)
Red hots

Beat shortening with an electric mixer for about a minute.  Add applesauce and beat another minute at medium/high.  In a separate bowl, whisk dry ingredients together. Add about half the dry ingredients, the molasses, and vinegar.  Mix until thoroughly combined, add the remainder of dry ingredients, mix until combined.  Refrigerate dough 3 hours or overnight.  Divide dough in half, roll about 1/8 inch thick, cut into desired shapes with cookie cutters.  Place 1 inch apart on greased (or parchment covered) cookie sheets at 375º, for about 6 minutes.  Cool thoroughly, decorate or frost as desired.  

Grammy's Buttercream Frosting

Note:  Grammy does not measure.  All proportions are approximate.  

1 pound or so powdered sugar (use C&H; some store brands are gritty)
1/8 teaspoon almond extract
1 teaspoon vanilla
Juice from half a lemon
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup softened butter or Earth Balance margarine
Enough warm water to desired consistency, about 3 tablespoons
Beat well with electric mixer, use immediately so that it will set up as it cools.

A little family history: the copper coffee pot pictured above was found half-buried in an old barn when my grandmother and mother (Grandma Opal and Grandma Anna Ruth) were strolling around the lot of a farm estate sale.  They dug it up and took it to the owner, who said, "It's yours."  Grandma Ruth cleaned it and had a tarnish-proof finish put on it, which may well have spoiled any value as an antique, but has kept it shiny and coppery all these years.  I love it.   

Sunday, December 23, 2018

A Birthday Milestone

Upper left: My precious grandchildren and me.  Clockwise from upper right: a beautiful gift was a bracelet with our grandchildren's birthstones; selfie of Farmer John and me; Rebekah Ruth and her parents; the road ahead, taken on the morning of my 65th birthday; my sweet grandsons and their parents; and my cake with mercifully fewer candles than would have been strictly accurate.   
My daughter, Melinda, coined the term"slippery slope" to describe how everyone's holiday expectations can collide, and hurt feelings may happen despite the best of intentions.  She has said that avoiding holiday angst when lots of people gather is "a slippery slope." 

My 65th birthday was a milestone I feared.  On that date, my teaching license expired and will not be renewed. As I approached the day I dreaded it emotionally.  I felt the message that would hit my heart would be something like this: "Happy birthday, you are no longer a teacher, and now you are on Medicare;" two potentially upsetting milestones!  But my family worked hard to make the celebration sweet, and then a dear friend called to bring me this message:  "When I prayed for you it came to me that you are still the Lord's child.  That is a relationship with no expiration date."  


 Lord keep our hearts open to the joys of our celebrations, protect us and be in our responses to the inevitable hurts that occur when lots of precious people, each with their own expectations, gather together. Please Lord, don't let us cause hurt to others out of our own heartaches, and may Your Name be praised and honored among us as we celebrate Your birth.  

Praying to remember this Christmas season that it's all about Jesus.  

Sunday, December 16, 2018

Aunt Barbara's Peppernuts

Left: Our Christmas tree is loaded with sentimental ornaments, many made by our children and grandchildren; Upper Right: Aunt Barbara's Peppernut recipe; Middle Right: our mantle decor...I felt conflicted about Santa being there but made a creche the centerpiece for the grandchildren to arrange in front of the fireplace; Bottom right:  A stained glass Christmas tree made by our daughter, Mindy, when she was about 8.  The frosted window in the background show the results of our November 25 blizzard; we had about 3 to 4 inches of drifted snow here and the Interstate highway a mile south of our house closed for a few hours due to low visibility.  

Farmer John has fond memories of his Aunt Barbara, who each year makes a batch of Peppernuts:  spicy, crunchy, bite-sized cookies.  John has adopted his Aunt Barbara's tradition and earlier this week he used her recipe to make a batch of his own.  They are a little bit addictive (no one can eat just one).

Here is Aunt Barbara's recipe:


1 and 1/2 cups brown sugar, packed
1 and 1/2 cups white sugar
1/2 cup margarine or butter
1 egg
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon ginger
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon anise oil
3/4 cup water
1/2 cup finely chopped pecans or English walnuts, optional (John does not use)
5 cups flour--or more

In a large bowl, mix flour, spices, and baking soda together with a whisk.  In a separate bowl, use an electric mixer to cream the sugars and margarine together until well blended, add egg and anise oil, beat until fluffy. Add the flour/spice mixture a half cup at a time, alternating with small amounts of the water.  Refrigerate dough overnight.  Roll into long ropes (you may need to add more flour to handle dough), then use a sharp knife to cut thumb-sized pieces.  Bake 8-10 minutes at 350º until light brown.  Cookies should be crunchy when cooled.  

Thursday, October 18, 2018

Moose and the Pumpkin

Moose showed no remorse and actually seemed grateful to me for providing such a nifty chew toy.  I asked him politely not to do this again, and to his credit he's left the other two porch pumpkins alone.  

Tuesday, October 2, 2018

All's Well That Ends Well...

Every farm worker knows that moving equipment from field to field is one of the less exciting jobs on the farm.  Combining corn, wheat, and soybeans = fun!  I even kind of like sitting at the edge of the field watching John swath or bale hay.  But I find moving the combine and the grain cart and the semi from a neighboring farm to the far south field (about 8 miles) to be pretty boring.  And so I entertain myself best I can.

Tonight I drove John to the neighbor's hayfield to bring home his tractor and baler, a 12 mile round trip.  The sun was setting and everything was so beautiful that I kept stopping to take phone photos.  I found an interesting angle in the side mirror and began working to get a photo of the approaching tractor and baler.  I was clicking away when I heard the tractor downshift and realized about a dozen tons of farm equipment was almost upon me!  I gunned the motor of my little Chevy Trax and got out of the way.

Farmer John is used to my ways and was undoubtedly watching me closely.  Whether we are on a walk or moving equipment field to field he knows my penchant for taking photos.  But next time I'm leading the way and simultaneously taking photos, I will strive to remember that objects in the mirror are closer than they appear!

Sunday, September 23, 2018

September Weekend

The two grandsons pictured upper left accompanied me on my evening walk Sunday.  They had been out with their dad gathering milkweed leaves to feed their monarch caterpillars.  Middle top:  Our son and his daughter spent some time here this weekend as our daughter-in-law was at a conference in Texas.  Jonathan, our son, helped his dad with the combining and I got some wonderful quality time with our granddaughter, beautiful Miss Rebekah.  Top right: Mr. Logan, age 6, has a gap in his smile as he has lost a tooth in front!  The little guy lower left is a champ on the rope swing his daddy put up in their backyard, and he's not yet 3 years old (but almost)!  

We had some heartache this weekend as my Alzheimer's mom shows signs of increasing confusion, but there is joy along with the sorrow as she continues to praise the Lord for her blessings.

We were busy all weekend with grandkids all around and corn harvest in full swing.  I fed the group that gathered at our house Saturday at noon with a large budget pack of chicken legs.  I did half with the honey soy sauce recipe you can find here, and concocted a crispy oven baked version with the remainder,  and this ended out to be the clear winner.  I don't know amounts--sorry--but I beat two eggs, mixed Italian seasoned fine bread crumbs and crushed cornflakes, dipped each leg into the egg mixture, then the crumbs, and then repeated. This was a messy process but the double dipping yielded a nice crispy crust.  I placed the prepared legs into a 9 x 13 glass pan sprayed with nonstick cooking spray, sprinkled them with salt and pepper, spritzed the legs with olive oil to aid crisping, and baked uncovered a little over an hour at 350º.  Yum!  Next best thing to my grandma's fried chicken. 

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).