So, How’s It Going?

When I started the first blog it was easy. The kids were little and there always seemed to be some little story to share. Words seemed to come easier then too and I’m not sure if that’s a good thing or not. Extended silence on Sam’s Family was rare but did happen occasionally. And then I got quiet and realized a couple of things.

First, children are a lot funnier when they are little. There are fewer haha moments – that, or they’re old enough now that I need to take into account their feelings on whether or not I should share the haha moments.

Second, I’ve gotten older as well. (More on that in a bit.) For me this means that the words don’t come as easily now. I hope this is because I’ve learned to measure my words carefully and to let what I say mean something. I’ve come to appreciate the truths found in the tenth chapter of Proverbs: with many words transgressions are not lacking, and nourishment is found in the lips of the righteous to mention a few nuggets of wisdom found there.

When I started this blog my intent was nothing more than to have a place to share my photography. But I quickly learned that I am more of a storyteller than I thought, and I need both words and pictures to satisfy. But I still had plans to be all grown up and scheduled about it. Mondays would be recipe days. Tuesday was for posts on wifery and parenting or Christian womanhood or some other specific topic. I would share an image on Wordless Wednesday. Friday would be some kind of sharing highlighted with pictures, and Sunday would be (and still is) a Scripture verse paired with an image.

My goodness, looking at it all laid out like that seems kind of crazy. And if you just mosey through the previous few weeks you can see that I clearly haven’t been keeping that schedule. At first it was the holidays and just being out of the rhythm. Tried to get back to it only to get derailed again this time by my birthday and a long weekend.

Basically, life happens and there isn’t always time to blog about it or through it. So I am officially letting myself off the hook…no more stressing that oh-good-gracious-it’s-Sunday-and-I-haven’t-written-up-the-recipe-for-tomorrow or whatever. (Watch, I’ll say this and be on some kind of blogging marathon for the next month.)

Life gets busy but one of the best parts of my week happens on Wednesdays. Wednesday is moms group. I love it! I love the noise and the little people, the food and friendship. It’s an amazing group of women and they all have so many talents and skills. One of them started the neatest project at the beginning of the year. She’s crocheting a sky blanket. In preparation she gathered yarn in various shades of blues and grays. Every morning she looks at the sky and chooses the yarn that most closely matches it. She then crochets one row. (Since this is a year long project she’ll obviously end up with 365 rows. She determined that half of that would make a nice width so each row is around 182 stitches.) So far it is absolutely beautiful and I can only imagine how lovely the completed blanket will be. And how smart are the safety pins? She has them every so many stitches to help make sure of her counting. This actually really makes me want to learn to crochet.

Okay, so I mentioned that I recently had a birthday. I turned forty three this past Sunday. I told my beloved this morning that I am solidly in middleagedness. He just gave me this sweet smile and told me he delights in my gray hair. How could I not be happy growing old with him?

But still. This has happened.

That’s right. I have officially joined the ranks of the straight arm brigade. Without these nifty little things on my face I hold anything I need to be able to see as far away from my body as humanly possible. How does that happen? It literally seemed to happen over night and don’t even get me started on the gray hairs. I know, and I am thankful he delights in them, but honest to goodness when did I get so old?

And when exactly will I start to feel like a grown up?

Pinterest Test Kitchen #47 ~ Caramel Crescent Roll Bites

Warm and gooey.

Doughy and dusted with cinnamon and sugar.

These are absolutely delicious and very rich. Perfect paired with a cup of coffee or hot apple cider, they’d make a wonderful treat for Thanksgiving morning.

The original recipe calls them caramel snickerdoodles, I guess because of the cinnamon and sugar, but when I went to make these I only had crescent rolls so that’s why we call them caramel crescent roll bites.

Whatever you want to call them is fine just make sure you call the family in to enjoy them with you or you may end up eating them all by yourself!

What you’ll need:
1 can of crescent rolls
16 caramel bites unwrapped
cinnamon and sugar

What you’ll do:
Unroll the crescent rolls and cut them into two pieces. (They won’t be exact but from the picture above you can see how we divided them.)
Place a caramel square in the center of each piece and roll it up so that the dough completely covers the caramel.
Roll your caramel stuffed dough ball in the cinnamon and sugar.
Bake at 350 degrees for 10 to 12 minutes or until golden brown.

Allow to warm a tad because the caramel will be oozing and hot but then gobble them up because the
caramel will be oozy and warm 🙂

A couple of notes:
You probably want to line your cookie sheet with parchment paper since some of the caramel may leak during baking.
These are best eaten warm. Once they cool the caramel becomes slightly hard and not as tasty.

Pinterest Test Kitchen #46 ~ Man Bread

What is man bread you say?

Why it is bacon cheddar beer bread, of course. What more could a man ask for in his bread? Or a woman for that matter because to be honest this is just plain old good no matter whether you are a girl or man. It’s just that when you rattle off the name ~ bacon cheddar beer bread ~ it just sort of begs for a man to be heard in the background grunting “Arr Arr Arr” a la Tim the tool man style.

Super easy to make and since the beer is your yeast it’s also fairly quick to put together. Start to finish is about an hour for a loaf of fresh savory bread. We enjoyed it with spaghetti but I think it would be a nice compliment to soups as well. (We do breakfast for dinner upon occasion and this would be perfect with grits and eggs.)

What you’ll need:
3 cups all purpose flour

1 TBS baking powder
1 tsp salt
2 TBS sugar
2 cups of cheddar cheese
12 oz (1 bottle) of beer
6 to 8 slices of bacon, cooked and crumbled (We used 8 slices. Okay probably more but I wasn’t really counting 🙂
2 TBS melted butter (I just used softened butter.)

What you’ll do:
Mix all of your dry ingredients together in a large mixing bowl.

Add in the beer, about half the bacon, and 1 cup of the cheese.
Stir until well blended. 
Put the dough in a greased loaf pan.
Spread 1 TBS of butter across the top.
Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes.
Remove from the oven, brush the rest of the butter across the top, and sprinkle with remaining cheese and bacon.
Return to oven and cook for another 25 minutes.
Allow to cool for 5 minutes before removing from the pan.

It has a great flavor and a delicious crunchy on the outside texture. Next time I think I will double the recipe because our loaf went fast!

The Great Autumn Debate

It’s that time of year. Leaves are beginning to change colors and fall from their trees. Sweaters and fuzzy socks are closer to becoming the reality than sunscreen and swimsuits. The cooler weather brings about what I call the great Autumn debate and it isn’t whether you want a tall or venti pumpkin spice latte. In a few weeks there will be laughing and squealing children in all manner of attire running up and down the street knocking on doors and asking for candy.

That means it is also time for finger pointing and lines being drawn in the sand, pronouncements of self-righteousness and mission mindedness or heaps of condemnation thrown in for good measure.

Trick or treating.

Halloween.

Do we or don’t we?

A mockery of a defeated foe or a night belonging to the devil?

We’ve been on every side of the issue. We’ve just done it because that’s what we’ve always done. We’ve turned the lights out and pretended to not be home. We’ve only passed out candy. We’ve let the kids dress up but not as anything scary and headed to the local church “Hallelujah” night. We’ve dressed up and gone around our neighborhood like a Charles Dickens’ beggar.

Have I forgotten any position on the subject? We covered them all I think. And you know what I also think?

Who cares?

Now, I know there are people who say it is a big deal and that it should matter. That this is hill worth taking a stand on; one that possibly alienates people and breaks friendships over at worst or at the very least sets up some serious boundaries and restrictions on those relationships. I know others that say get over it already. It’s no big deal and harmless; let the kids have some fun and eat candy for crying out loud.

Want to know what else I think about all of this? If you’re still reading I am going to assume so and tell ya.

“So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.”

Say what?

If you do indeed feel that it is not right to participate in such festivities then please, by all means abstain. But know that there is a right way and a wrong way to abstain. Imagining that you are somehow more spiritual or holy because you disdain such nonsense certainly gives no glory to God. He is honored by your obedience that is faithful and humble.

If, however, you feel that there is nothing wrong with costumed panhandling for sweet confections then by all means knock on those neighborhood doors. But know that there is a right way and a wrong way to take part. Do not assume that you are somehow living a more enlightened missional calling because you’re dressed up like Glenda the Good Witch passing out Snicker bars. God is honored when you enjoy the simple and good things with thankfulness as coming from His hand.

In the above mentioned passage the Apostle Paul exhorts his readers to not seek their own good but that of their neighbor. I’m convinced that whether you abstain or take part you can be a blessing to those around you if you are choosing to abstain or take part for His glory and not your own.

As for our family?

We’ve chosen to see this time as an opportunity to practice some neighborhood hospitality. We invite any of

our church members to come and eat hots dogs and macaroni  & cheese with our family. Their children are welcome to dress up and meander up and down the street with our own, knocking on doors and getting candy.  While that’s happening I’m standing at a table at the end of my driveway passing out cups of hot cocoa and chocolate dipped jumbo marshmallows and chatting it up with people that normally I just wave to in passing. It’s what we have discovered through the years that works for us and we believe is a small way that we can display God’s great hospitality and generosity to us.

Pinterest Test Kitchen #40 ~ The Cleaning Edition (In Which Colgate Toothpaste Saves The Day)

First my disclaimer:
These are some of the poorest quality photographs I have ever taken…at least in a long, looooong time. But I hate reading these kinds of post and not seeing evidence photos of the process so even though my white board is in a really awkward spot for decent pictures, I am secure enough in my clicking and snapping that I will gladly put them here.

Now on to how half a tube of Colgate toothpaste saved the day. Or at least made it better.

I have a giant white board hanging on the wall that is sort of the in between space of the kitchen and coming into our living room area. And by giant, I mean it’s pretty huge ~ it’s about 5ft by 3ft-ish. For the most part I love it. I can jot down quick notes, honey do-lists*, Bible verses we’re contemplating, and the kids have plenty of space to practice math problems, do Latin lessons and spelling lists, or just draw. (Have you noticed the amazing colors that dry erase markers come in this days? And now there is something called a dry erase crayon?! Can’t wait to try that out.)

We try really hard to keep permanent markers in safe out of the way places and not let them mix in with all the fabulous dry erase markers but occasionally there’s a mix up and oops! Not a big deal generally because it’s usually caught before too much writing has taken place. And in case you didn’t know this here’s a nifty trick – if you quickly color over a small permanent marker mark with dry erase marker you can then wipe them both off. Which is great unless a.) using a permanent marker isn’t noticed until quite a bit of drawing has occurred or b.) the drawing is pretty big. Option C is what happened with us which is a combo platter of both a and b.

I wasn’t really sure what to do. Our nifty trick wasn’t helping and I wasn’t sure what to do. So I did what any woman would do: I turned to pinterest and I was not disappointed. When I went back to find the original pin that I read I couldn’t find it but there are several listed if you’re curious.

What you’ll need:
white board with ugly permanent marker on it

toothpaste (I used Colgate because it’s what I had on hand)
damp wash cloth

What you’ll do:
Cover markings with a liberal amount of toothpaste
Wait a few minutes
Scrub off with damp cloth

I’m not going to lie…you need to put a little elbow grease into it. But when you’re done you board is sparkly white and minty fresh smelling!

*So about honey-do lists. They’re kind of a running joke between me and my beloved. He doesn’t like lists. He doesn’t like for me to make lists-written or just mental ones. He really hates for me to list my lists out loud too, which is a problem because sometimes I’m just talking through what needs to be done or happen and it just falls out of my mouth in a list like form. He’ll get this funny look on his face and say something like, “You’re listing me!” in a sing song yada yada yada kind of way. Of course me being me means that I will upon occasion poke fun at him by making list on purpose. And that’s what I did one day at the top of the white board. Being kind of sassy I put about four things on the right corner of the board under his name. In the left I put a couple of things for me under my name.  He did his normal “You’re listing me!” in his sing song yada yada yada and then we just went about our business. A little while later I happened to pass by the white board and noticed that something had been added. In neat letters he had carefully written “quit nagging” on my list. I believe my response might have been, “Yada, yada, yada”.

(Just to be clear this was all done in good fun. Not that he won’t call me out for nagging if he needs to mind you, he’s a good husband like that. Course I’m such a great wife that he rarely needs to..ha! I’m saying that totally tongue in cheek 🙂

Okay so I said that I was confident in my picture taking to not worry about putting up bad pictures but well, I can’t do it. I mean I left the pictures but I don’t want you to leave with those pictures in your head, like that’s the kind of pictures I always take. I mean what if this is the first time you’ve ever been to my blog? Anyway, here’s a picture of a bee on a flower that I took the same day as the fuzzy white board pictures.

Pinterest Test Kitchen #39 ~ Nutella Brownies Version 2

Let’s face it. I love nutella. You love nutella. I mean you may come across the occasional person who doesn’t care for it but not often. People love nutella and what’s not to love with that creamy chocolately smoothness and hint of hazelnut?

I’ll be honest that, in my opinion, there aren’t a lot of recipes that use nutella that taste better than just a plain ol’ spoonful of the stuff. The flavor is just easily overwhelmed I think so while I will eagerly try any recipe that calls for it as an ingredient (any excuse to have a jar in the house) there aren’t many that I want to make more than once. The ooey gooey nutella cake has been the lone star on my baking list until now. These chewy nutella brownies were so deliciously good that they’ve earned a seat right next to it though and I really would be hard pressed to choose one over the other.

Rich and decadent this brownies were a treat if a little more involved than some other recipes.

What you’ll need:
2 sticks of butter
2 1/4 cups sugar
1 regular (small) jar of nutella
4 large eggs
1 cup cocoa powder
1/4 cup dark cocoa powder
1 tsp salt
1 tsp baking powder
1 TBS vanilla 
1 1/2 cups all purpose flour
10 oz package mini chocolate chips
What you’ll do:
Melt butter in a medium saucepan. 
Add sugar and continue to cook for one to two minutes (do not allow to boil)
Remove from heat and stir in nutella.
Pour mixture into a large bowl and add eggs, cocoa powders, salt, baking powder, and vanilla, stirring until combined.
Stir in flour half a cup at a time until completely mixed in.
Stir in chocolate chips.
The batter will be very thick. 
Pour it into a greased 9×13 pan and bake at 350 degrees for 25 to 30 minutes or until a tooth pick inserted in the center comes out clean. The center will look slightly moist but the edges should be set. 

These are some serious brownies, people. And they are just as good the next day…if you manage to have any left over. Also, they would be like next level if combined with a scoop of ice cream.