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!

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Christmas Collage

We had an uncommonly low-key and peaceful Christmas, even with two 2-year-olds on site!

Most of the recipes I made this year were traditional ones for our family: biscuits and gravy, two kinds of cinnamon rolls, and corn pancakes for our Christmas day brunch (yes, corn pancakes). But the star of the show this year was the hot spiced fruit.  I always have made a version of this but found one that is much superior to my old recipe.  You can find it here: Home for Christmas Fruit Bake Recipe!

I don't know how corn pancakes became traditional holiday fare at our house.  My kids loved them growing up and now they are a part of our annual brunch--and there is no recorded recipe.  We usually combine a box of Jiffy corn muffin mix, a can of creamed corn, and about 1 tablespoon vegetable oil for the corncake batter. If there are no egg allergies at your house you can add an egg and omit the oil.

Here are some Christmas photos from our various celebrations (note the photo of that yummy and easy to make fruit bake).  Praying that you and yours have a safe and happy 2018! 

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

From November ...

I'm surprised to see I didn't post during November. It was a busy month as we hosted Thanksgiving at our house.  I spent it cooking, cleaning, and cooking some more.  And, I would like to tell anyone who cares to try it for themselves, baking and carving the turkey ahead of time and then freezing it in well-seasoned broth works great!  It was moist and delicious, and I don't think anyone would have suspected if I hadn't told them.  I brought it from the freezer on Thanksgiving morning and then heated it gently until it was hot through.

Here are three of favorite photos from my leisurely, healing, November walks around the driveway:

Wednesday, October 25, 2017

Another October Post...

The bottom photo is a detail of the red maple in our west yard, top, left.  

Some folks are posting 7 days of black and white photos on Facebook this week.  It's a neat idea, and I've seen some lovely photos...but in my estimation, black and white just doesn't portray autumn in Kansas in the way it deserves.

I'm so glad to be recovering from surgery in October--the heat of summer or the cold of winter would've kept me inside, and I'm about to go stir crazy as it is!  What a blessing to venture outside my door into the sunshine and green-scented crispness of this rain-washed October.

Sunday, October 22, 2017

Like Spring Only Better

Fall color has officially arrived--but regular rains and moderate temperatures have kept the grass green and growing.  Our five year old grandson chased a frisbee in our front yard yesterday, and when he stretched out full length in the grass he disappeared!  We are going to have to mow the lawn here at the end of October.  
I had an emergency surgery not quite two weeks ago, and today was the first time I had ventured outdoors since I arrived home from the hospital.  On a lovely, soul-nurturing stroll around the driveway I snapped these photos--homegrown pumpkins, green grass flanked by red maple leaves, and roses in October.  Grateful to be here to see it.  God is good.

Friday, October 6, 2017

Early October

There isn't much color in the fall trees in our part of Kansas, not yet. Even our red maple that is usually a blaze of crimson by now seems to be waiting, withholding judgment; is it really Autumn?  We usually have blazing heat and little if any rain in July and August, but this year the temperatures were moderate, and we received needed rain right on schedule; maybe more moisture than usual has discouraged the usual scarlets and golds of October?  But, as the photos above show, there's beauty nonetheless.

Friday, September 29, 2017

Favorite Time of Year

Clockwise from upper left:  the little yellow house in the gold wash of late September light;  Heath Aster or perhaps a variety of fleabane; from darkness to light as I walked down the hill above our house; and my bucket of admittedly fake fall flowers, hanging from the old pump that has served as our mailbox mount for 43 years. 
I love late September and early October here on the farm.  John is combining corn and we have a good crop this year, so there is a positive excitement in the air as he bustles to and fro between the elevator and the field with brief stops at home to eat and sleep.  This afternoon our son has taken a half day from his regular job to drive the combine for his dad, and a good friend will be driving one of the semis. Farmer John will be overseeing the festivities, and probably will drive a second truck.

I took a walk this morning and I don't think words can adequately describe the almost spicy scent in the air.  It makes me think of a sweetly crisp apple combined with newly mown hay; the air was brisk and cool but the sun was hot on my skin.  If I could send you the scent in the air around me as I snapped the photo of the hay bales at right,  you'd see what I mean!

For a good portion of this year I've been depressed with grief from having to place my mom into nursing home care, and I've also suffered a variety of minor physical ills.  It's good to count my blessings during this harvest time and remember the ways the Lord has brought us through.

The cooler temperatures have spurred me to make a pot of chili for a family celebration this weekend; you can find the recipe by scrolling to the bottom of the post here. Happy Fall y'all!

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Beautiful September 6

Today had the look of late summer but the air felt like early fall.  This morning the thermometer read an unseasonably cool 49 degrees, with highs for this afternoon in the low 80's.  I meandered out about 8:30 this morning and took the photo of the butterfly, and later in the day couldn't resist those white, fluffy clouds against a cerulean sky!

Saturday, September 2, 2017

God Hears Our Prayers for Our Kids

We were at a friend's wedding back in 2010 when I snapped this photo of my son and his date (left). When the festivities were over and I had time to examine the pictures I'd taken, I was pretty certain I was looking at my future daughter-in-law--and I was!  Beautiful Nicole married our son, Jonathan, just a year-and-a-half later.  At right: Jon appears to be gazing steadfastly into the future here--but was actually watching to be sure his garage door raised properly after he'd pressed the remote opener!   

My beautiful son--ok, my handsome son (but my fellow moms of sons will understand that I think of him as beautiful)--is going to turn 30 in just over a month. He is our youngest child and he is going to be THIRTY!  This seems amazing and impossible and yet simultaneously right, just as it is right for roses to bloom in June and apples to ripen in September.

Jonathan has accomplished a lot in his thirty years. He began working for John Deere weekends and summers when he was just 16, and has worked in three different John Deere stores to date. And so, somehow, though he's only 30, he's worked for JD for 14 years, and in his spare time has earned a college degree, married, had a daughter, and helped his wife as she completed her own education and became a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine.  Yes, my mother's heart is blessed.  

The year Jonathan turned 13 though, I spent a lot of time praying for him for a variety of reasons; suffice it to say that junior high can be brutal.  Sports, academics, increasing independence: all these things and more caused me to spend a lot of sleepless nights praying for my son. I wasn't particularly helped by my gift of discernment, because at that point in his life there were dangers all around so that I had to fight constant battles against my fears for him. Only those who have seen a beloved child at risk will understand the depths of emotion with which I cried out to the Lord on Jonathan's behalf.  I confided my worries to a dear friend who joined me in prayer, and then responded with a comforting email:  
I copied my friend's words
 into the front of my Bible. 
I got this mental image as I was praying of your son being a man and being this absolutely "to die for" husband (and grown son).  It was kind of cool to picture him as one of the "rare breed" who was able to support and care for a wife in that special way that seems so hard for men, and to also keep loving his mother."  
My friend's words turned out to be prophetic. When Jonathan got to college, he joined Christian Challenge. He became active in his campus church, and serves as a deacon in his current church.  He cooks, smokes meat, does woodworking, has remodeled two houses, takes care of his daughter while his wife is working, works a full time job himself, and does a whole lot of other stuff-of-life things that I won't try to itemize.

Yes, God answers prayers. The photos above warm my heart because they clearly show that our son  has been gifted with a wife who loves her husband, and daughter who loves her daddy, and isn't it the prayer of every mother's heart that her children will have people who will take care of them and love them when she is gone? Jonathan has grown in stature, his mother has grown in her faith.  I'm more able nowadays to rest in the Lord's assurance that He isn't ever going to let go of my beloved son, because Jonathan belongs to Him. This is the sweetest, greatest blessing.

Our first duty as parents is to pray steadfastly for our children to come to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior.  Yes, I spent a whole lot of time praying Psalm 91 (keep them safe, Lord) and Psalm 121 (PLEASE keep them safe, Lord) for my children, and my son has had Proverbs 3 quoted to him (sometimes at the top of my lungs) more times than either of us care to remember. But the prayer that yields the best fruit for our children is that they understand the meaning of John 3:16, and accept God's invitation to become children of God.  Once that transaction is complete, we can rest in the assurance that the Lord takes care of His own, though we mustn't stop praying for them so long as we have breath and wits to do so.
And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ—to the glory and praise of God. Philippians 1:9-11
God hears our prayers for our kids.

Wednesday, August 23, 2017


Clockwise from upper left: A colorful basket of produce ready for a stir-fry; chocolate zucchini muffins; zucchini/onion quiche; a package of zucchini from the freezer.  
Our garden is producing copious amounts of summer squash.  I've frozen 15 pints of shredded zucchini to be used in the chocolate cupcake recipe below, have made zucchini spice muffins with raisins, and, my favorite, a zucchini and onion quiche from Taste of Home (recipe below).  Next...I may try leaving gifts of the pretty green squash on my friends' doorsteps, maybe anonymously, because there is no dearth of zucchini in most Kansas home gardens right now. I'm not the only one scrambling to find ways to use this easy-to-grow vegetable!


--Farmer John makes a yummy stir-fry something like this:  In a tablespoon or so of olive oil combine one medium thinly sliced onion, one small, sliced, yellow summer squash,  one small, thinly sliced zucchini, and a handful of cherry tomatoes. Stir fry over medium heat, add 2 cloves finely chopped garlic, salt, and pepper about three minutes before the end of cooking time.  Sometimes he adds kielbasa sausage slices as well.

--John also fries young yellow squash in olive oil over medium/high heat.  He slices them fairly thin, rolls them in seasoned flour, and fries until golden and crisp.

--For the zucchini goulash pictured at left:  brown 1.5 lb hamburger with 1 medium chopped zucchini, 1 small chopped onion and 3 large garlic cloves, minced.  Season to taste with salt and pepper, add 1 teaspoon ground oregano and about 1 Tablespoon fresh basil, minced. Stir in 3 medium chopped fresh tomatoes and about 1 cup of Emeril's original marinara sauce.

Daniel and Logan's Favorite Zucchini Muffins
These are egg and dairy free and so are perfect for my grandboys, who have food allergies. 
They are very easy to make and taste like a brownie.   

2 cups shredded zucchnni
1/2 cup oil
1 cup granulated sugar
2 cups flour
1/3 cup cocoa
l/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 tablespoon baking soda
2 teaspoons vanilla

If the zucchini is fairly young and small (12 inches or under), there's no need to peel it before shredding. Roll the shredded zucchini into paper towels or a clean kitchen towel and squeeze out the excess moisture. Combine all ingredients in a mixing bowl and stir with a spoon just until combined.  Batter will be very thick.  Place cupcake liners in a 12-cup muffin pan and fill each liner about 3/4ths full of batter.  Bake 20 to 25 minutes at 350.  Muffins are done when they can be removed from the pan without losing their shape.  

Taste of Home's Zucchini Quiche 
I was out of dried parsley flakes and so I also omitted the dried basil and substituted 2 tablespoons of chopped fresh basil leaves instead.     We served it with sliced tomatoes fresh from the garden--YUM!  

·       Pastry for single-crust pie (9 inches)
·       3 tablespoons butter
·       4 cups thinly sliced zucchini (about 3 medium)
·       1 large onion, thinly sliced
·       2 large eggs
·       2 teaspoons dried parsley flakes
·       1/2 teaspoon salt
·       1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
·       1/2 teaspoon dried basil
·       1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
·       1/4 teaspoon pepper
·       2 cups shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese
·       2 teaspoons prepared mustard
Preheat oven to 400°. On a lightly floured surface, roll dough to a 1/8-in.-thick circle; transfer to a 9-in. pie plate. Trim pastry to 1/2 in. beyond rim of plate; flute edge. Refrigerate while preparing filling.
In a large skillet, heat butter over medium heat. Add zucchini and onion; cook and stir until tender. Drain and cool slightly.
Whisk eggs and seasonings until blended. Stir in cheese and zucchini mixture. Spread mustard over pastry shell; add filling.
Bake on a lower oven rack until a knife inserted in center comes out clean and crust is golden brown, 35-40 minutes. If needed, cover edge loosely with foil during last 15 minutes to prevent overbrowning. Let stand 10 minutes before cutting.Yield: 8 servings.
Pastry for single-crust pie (9 inches): Combine 1-1/4 cups all-purpose flour and 1/4 tsp. salt; cut in 1/2 cup cold butter until crumbly. Gradually add 3-5 Tbsp. ice water, tossing with a fork until dough holds together when pressed. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate 1 hour.
Originally published as Zucchini Quiche in Quick Cooking July/August 2005, p7

Friday, August 11, 2017

August and the Tomatoes Are Ripe!

I have loved August thus far, and that's an unusual status quo for me.  I have a standing grudge against humidity (frizzy hair, dontcha know), and as I've grown older I've turned into one of those people who say, "I just can't take hot weather anymore."  But this August has been gloriously cool, with regular rains.  Morning lows have been in the 60's.  This is amazing.  I've never known an August like it.
On a walk with my grandsons on a late afternoon in early August--and it wasn't too warm!  

It's been cool enough to sit outdoors in my new happy place. The chair is from a set of porch furniture my parents bought in the 1950's.  It was originally painted green, but in later years my dad stripped the green paint to find lovely maple underneath.  Outfitted in three cushions from The Dollar Store, I joked that the chair looked like the wardrobe from Beauty and the Beast: a bit overstuffed. But it feels heavenly. My chairside table is my Grandpa's anvil from his blacksmith's shop.  Wonder how he would feel about me using it to hold my iced tea cup??

Our tomato plants are producing and I've tried my hand at homemade ketchup.   I'll share the recipe for the batch I made this afternoon; it was so savory and delicious that  I had to restrain myself from eating it like soup! Here is the recipe as I wrote it for my grown-up children: 

Homemade Ketchup

...not quite like Grandma Opal’s but pretty good nonetheless...I used The Pioneer Woman’s ingredient list but with fresh rather than canned tomatoes and proportionately more sugar.  And to tell the truth, I’m pretty sure Grandma used more sugar yet.  And probably more vinegar too.  And she probably had never heard of Worcestershire sauce.... 

·      14 cups tomato juice from about 10 lbs. ripe tomatoes. 
o   Blanch ‘em, peel, core and quarter them, and put the juice through a wire sieve to get rid of the seeds.  It’ll take a little bit--stir it around, moosh it down  with the back of a spoon...fill the sieve and go have a cup of coffee.  Or...use one of those tomato squishers. I do not get along with the one Dad uses.  He evidently doesn’t mind the fine spray of juice that splatters clothing, floor, and countertops. Maybe it is because I wear glasses and flip-flops, but I mind.  And the squisher has a lot of moving parts that have to be dissembled and cleaned.
·      2 medium onions, chopped fine
·      4-5 cloves garlic, minced
·      ¼ cup olive oil
·      1 can tomato paste
·      1 cup brown sugar, packed
·      1 cup white sugar
·      ¼ cup molasses (if you spray the measuring cup with cooking spray, the molasses will slide right out)
·      ½ c. apple cider vinegar
·      1 Tbsp. Worcestershire sauce
·      1 Tbsp. salt
·      1 teaspoon chili powder
·      1 teaspoon ground ginger
·      1 teaspoon allspice
·      l/2 teaspoon cinnamon

1.      Boil the tomato juice for about 20 minutes or so until it has reduced by I have no idea how much. Just cook it down some.  Stir it once in awhile.    
2.     Meantime, saute the chopped onion in the oil over low/medium heat until the onion is translucent.
3.     Add the minced garlic to the onion during the last 2 to 3 minutes of cooking time
4.     Add the onion mixture and all remaining ingredients to the simmering tomato juice and stir well. 
5.     Simmer for about 45 minutes, stirring often.  It will begin to thicken up a bit. 
6.     Use an immersion blender to smooth it out. (Don’t use your countertop blender.  Trust me on this.)

I freeze this in quart bags, 2 cups to a bag.  It is deeee—licious. Add more brown sugar and use it for a meatloaf topping and you’ll become famous.  Put some in the meatloaf too.  

Yields about 5 pints