Saturday, April 23, 2011

Hot Cross Buns...

I have had a few minutes of culinary/literary fame through the years.

Yesterday I made 90 Hot Cross Buns for family and friends and this morning there are 6 left!

A few  years ago my Hot Cross Bun recipe was featured in the Taste of Home Magazine so I thought I would post it here for your baking pleasure.

Happy Easter,

I will print it below in full size so you can make these sometime if you want to.

Amounts in parenthesis are for making  BIG batch. I use my Magic Mill kneader, one regular batch makes 18 rolls

3 1/2 - 4C flour  (16C)  
2T yeast  (5T)    
1t cinnamon  (4t)
1/2t cardamom  (2t)

3/4C milk  (3C)
1/2C oil  (2C)
1/3C sugar  (1 1/3 C)
3/4t salt  (1T)
3 eggs [put 2+ 1yolk into dough, save one white]  (12 eggs, 4 whites)
2/3C currents or raisins  (2 1/2 C raisins)  --I prefer currents     

1 1/2C 10 powdered sugar  (6C)

In a large mixing bowl, combine 2C flour, the yeast and spices.  Heat milk, oil, sugar and salt just till warm (115°-120°).  Add to dry mixture; add eggs.  Beat on low for 1/2 minute.  Beat 3 minutes on high.  By hand stir in raisins and enough of the flour to make a soft dough.  Shape into a ball.  Place in a lightly greased bowl, turning once.

Cover; let rise in warm place till double, about 1 1/2 hours.  Punch down; turn out on a floured surface.  Cover let rise 10 minutes. Divide into 18 pieces (72); form into smooth balls. 

Place on a  greased baking sheet [or use parchment paper] about 1 1/2 inches apart.  Cover, let rise till double, 30-45 minutes.  Brush tops with slightly beaten egg white (discard remaining).  Bake 375°, 12-15 minutes, till nice and brown. Cool slightly; frost with crosses on top.

Frosting:  Combine about 1 1/2 C powdered sugar, 1-2 T milk and a dab

Thursday, April 14, 2011


We have had a LOT of rain lately. Today, when Bob and I were coming back from buying a new sump pump for our basement [yes, it kind of flooded this week and our sump pump decided to retire] I noticed all the underwater fields; some with 4 plank horse fences still totally submerged. The ground is so saturated and  there is just no place for it to go.

 The Canadian geese are happy though. They are swimming through fields, bathing in front yards and generally setting up housekeeping any and everywhere. And, though they look majestic flying in perfect V formation, they are very, very messy. A pair of geese can produce just under a a pound of waste a day, while a pair of adult humans produce only an ounce or two more! You can see why you don't want a dozen geese living in your front yard! UGH!

Well, a few years ago, many geese decided that our little town reservoir would be a great place to raise their goosy-kids and they settled down for the year.

The longer they stayed, the nastier our reservoir was getting. The fecal count was getting higher to the point where water treatment was costing more. Something had to be done.

The city held meetings and decided they needed to hire some consultant to figure out a humane way to get rid of the geese. In my opinion a nice town goose-roast would have been ideal, but of course, such a barbaric idea would not do.

And then we  had an anti-goose miracle. It snowed.

Now it doesn't snow much in the Bluegrass, so when it does much of the town digs out sleds, saucers and snow boards and they head over to the best snow-hill in town. It has a great slope, no trees at the bottom and is easy to access. And, you probably guessed--it is right near the reservoir.

      Well, between the hollering kids, the dogs, the adults bundled in fur coats drinking coffee and the college kids sledding well after midnight--the geese left, never to return.

That's right. You heard me.

Without gun or consultant. Without money or any type of in-humane traps, we, the people became Aqua-Heroes! We did it, all by ourselves! It was a great day for community team work, and we did it all without having a clue we were doing it.


I felt like we should be written up in some journal for solving community problems or in some environmental journal for being very politically correct and not using artificial methods to control pesky critters.

But, lacking that, I am publishing it here so you can see that through good old fashioned play, our community won the battle for clean water and we didn't even have to throw a rock or lift a shotgun to do it.

Take care,


Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Who owns the children?...

Raisins, peanuts and chocolate, oh my!
I came across this article: No Homemade Lunches allowed in Chicago Public School,

At  Little Village Academy on Chicago's West Side [a public school], students are not allowed to pack lunches from home. Unless they have a medical excuse, they must eat the food served in the cafeteria.
Principal Elsa Carmona said her intention is to protect students from their own unhealthful food choices.
"Nutrition wise, it is better for the children to eat at the school," Carmona said. "It's about the nutrition and the excellent quality food that they are able to serve (in the lunchroom). It's milk versus a Coke. But with allergies and any medical issue, of course, we would make an exception."

This took me back to 1989, the year Scotty was born.

My three oldest boys were in an elementary school in Rochester Hills, Michigan. [We] began homeschooling the next year]. At any rate, it was mandated that they bring in a "healthy snack" to eat about 10:00 each morning. At that time I was expecting our 5th child and, like so many large families, money was tight--only one paycheck, lots of kids, yada, yada, yada.

So, I made up a big batch of gorp. I bought bulk peanuts [peanuts weren't villains back then-we never heard of peanut allergies] and raisins and threw in a few chocolate chips. I packed them in environmentally friendly re-usable Tupperware snack cups and congratulated myself on what a great mom I was.

My kids came home and told me that was not an acceptable snack. All three of their teachers said that it was not allowed. I said, "So what do the other kids bring?"

"Fruit roll-ups*** and purchased granola bars!"

You tell me what is healthy about corn syrup laden fruit roll-ups and sugary granola bars? Plus, they were way, way more expensive than my homemade, high energy gorp. So, we picked all the chocolate chips out of the gorp and they took it every day after. [In case you wonder, I did mention it to one of the teachers to verify, and what they said was true.]

They only attended that school from March-June but if it would have been longer, and if I was not so tired with the 5th pregnancy, I would have really raised a stink. Don't granola bars have chocolate chips and tons of sugar/corn syrup???

I think the Gorp Incident is a lot like the Chicago schools policy. It is a case of the "professionals" thinking they own our children and it just makes me mad. If I was a parent of one of those kids in that school I would be making a LOT of noise. Who owns the kids? I think that is the real question.

Take care,

***Note: In a Cherry Orange Fruit Roll Up you'll find pears from concentrate, corn syrup (Corn syrup is not considered a good food by the nutritionists I know.), dried corn syrup, sugar, partially hydrogenated cottonseed oil (Anything hydrogenated is also not considered something you want to put in your child's body.), a few other ingredients and then we have a variety of artificial colors. The nutritional analysis and ingredient have been provided by


Monday, April 11, 2011

Tools not Toys... Here we go again...

Play food is lots of fun, even for babies.
I have written about this before and it is becoming increasingly more important to me to follow my own advice because of my two granddaughters. I took these photos last week.

Looking at our kitty on the front porch.
 Elinor will be one if a few days, with Allison following three months later.
I went on the porch to get this shot. I am not as interesting as a kitty!

Elinor in the swing Bob put on our porch.

More fun with food.

It is very hard not to want to buy them all sorts of stuff, because they are so cute and we love babies so much and after all, being a grandparent is awesome. 

As you can tell by these photos, these babies are probably the cutest babies ever--so we have to hold ourselves back from buying a bunch of junk for them that will just be clutter in their homes.

As you will probably notice, we have lots of board books. Each girl has her preference. Elinor loves flap books and already knows what is behind each flap. The funny thing is if it has a monkey behind the flap she pounds on her chest like an ape and make monkey noises. Cris has taught her well. :)She loves Dear Zoo.

Allison loves the touch and feel books. She takes just one finger and touches each texture very carefully. Under the Sea is a favorite, but you can bet this was not this expensive when we bought it! I found this book Life in the Jungle from the same series which is much cheaper. It has pull out tabs too, for when they get a bit older.

And Tails is a favorite and I think it is my favorite board book.


So, in honor of our grandchildren, I am re-printing my Tools not Toys post . I would love to tell you what tool-not-toy we are giving Elinor for her birthday this week, but I hate to spoil the surprise.

 I will try to remember to post a photo next week. Oh and if you want some of my great advice about what books to buy for different age kids, just ask. I LOVE to help folks pick out great books for any age child.  

  Tools or Toys...

~Dad in his workshop making himself a new workbench~

My dad had a lot of great advice. I mentioned before his idea about "Grant Writing," in relation to kids and allowances, but another thing I learned from him was the art of giving gifts to kids. I remember it clearly--at that time I had 3 little boys and Dad and I were standing in his workshop. He was making something and I was holding some tools for him and I commented that he and Mom always gave such great gifts to the kids. At that time I was in a ladies Bible Study and that same week some of the moms were discussing how their kids got so much "toy junk" as gifts and they were lamenting it and wondering how they could curb the toys, limit the junk.

Dad said, "You have to give kids tools, not toys."

That was the advice. He didn't really elaborate--which if you knew my dad, you would be smiling because he generally elaborated on everything. Tools not Toys--actually, he didn't have time to elaborate because someone [with three boys six and under--it happened a lot] started crying in the house with Mom and I left Dad in his workshop to see what the trouble was. Then I was off to other things and the conversation never really got finished. But, when I was driving home that afternoon those words came back, "Tools not Toys."
[Happy days in the sandbox]

It goes back to the thought that we are raising kids to be well adjusted, functioning adults that will one day hold jobs, have families and be responsible citizens. We just have our kids for a little while and during that time we are to prepare them to take their place in society. So they need to learn a lot along the way. They need to be molded and shaped and directed along the way--they need the tools, we need the tools, to get them there.

My Dad, way back when, was a history and shop teacher. And one thing he instilled in us from a young age is, "You have to have the right tool for the job." He would sometimes shake his head when he looked at my husband's tools in our early married life. Many times he would give us the correct tool for the job, or let us use his. I mean, you can not fix plumbing without a pipe wrench, or work with electricity without a volt tester.

The same is true with kids. What kids need are tools not toys. If folks could just get a handle on that, much of the junk found in the typical kid's section of most stores could be reduced by half or maybe even 90%. But, what is a tool?
[Scotty, age three, he loved his Dr. Drew blocks]

Tools, in no particular order: Balls, blocks, dolls, flashlights, sand box, wagon, bike, swings, picnic table, paper and markers/crayons, legos, scissors, games, backpack, fishing pole, compass, knife [older child], mess kit, camping supplies, books, actual tools like a screwdriver and hammer, wood-burning set, knitting or crochet or any kind of handwork, magnifying glass, leather craft, jump-rope, kid sized baking or cooking set, puzzles, kitchen set [play food and so on], a cash register and play money, paddle ball, a big empty box, capes and costumes, gardening items like a pail, shovel and so on...really most traditional toys. I consider Match Box type cars and most action figures tools too.

Toys, in no particular order: Anything that has batteries or makes noise that drives a mom crazy [anyone remember the Tooneyville Choo-Choo?], if it is meant for the child to watch it rather than interact with it, video games, computer games--even educational games can be toys if you are not careful, anything that is cheap plastic and will break easily, stuffed things that talk and entertain--really anything that is meant as an entertainment. I am sure if you and I went together to a big box store, we could find tons of toys that would fall in this category.

Now, I am not saying "NO TOYS EVER!" What I am saying is: Tools should be a child's main diet and toys should be like a dessert. Dessert is nice, but you only have occassionally, not at every meal.

Tools will encourage imagination, develop large and small muscles, and should get the child outside daily. Tools will stand the test of time, can usually be passed down from child to child in a family, and have a lot of play value.

So, the next time you need to give a gift to a child,remember my dad's words, "Tools not Toys." Thanks for advice Dad.

Take Care,

For some suggestions on how to do this, you might want to read my next post--how do I limit the toys I have?

For more of my Pre-School thoughts and suggestions:

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Eating on Vacation with kids...

I have memories of traveling to Alaska, south Mexico, California and many more places [by car] with my family when I was a child. Now, granted, there were not the fast food choices that there are today, but in all our travels I think I can count on one hand the lunches we ate at a restaurant.

Mom always made sandwiches.

She kept the sandwich ingredients in an old blue steel case. I suppose it was an old draftsman case, but I am not sure. She kept bread, peanut butter, mustard, ketchup and lunch meat in there. What? Lunch meat?

Yes, that was back in the days where you weren't allowed to get food poisoning. Everyone at tuna sandwiches that had been in steel lunchboxes for hours and no one thought anything of it. We did not have frozen packs or insulated lunch kits--I guess we were made a stronger stuff back then.

I think she took the meat out of the fridge in the Airstream trailer we pulled in the morning and put it in the blue lunch case for later. I think she did this so that they wouldn't have to open the fridge when we were on the road because that would let out all the cold and since it wasn't plugged in while we drove, we didn't want that to happen.

At any rate, I hate bologna to this day because of being forced to eat a bologna sandwich with ketchup [I am not too crazy about ketchup either] for lunch on one of our trips. Maybe I was whiny, I don't know, but I wanted a PB&J instead, but I had to eat the bologna because Mom already made it for me and I shouldn't be so fussy. As a parent I understand that, but I never liked bologna and could eat PB&J every day for my whole life, so why did she make it for me?

When Bob and I traveled with young kids I vowed NEVER to have salmonella-in-a-box and to eat either peanut butter and crackers, cheese sticks [from a cooler], granola bars and that type of thing--or just stop at fast food. But, that can get expensive. So we found a solution that might help any of you who travel with children.

I would get a LOT of dollar bills and then when we stopped at a fast food place I would give each child $2.00 or if I had 5 dollar bills, I would give one to every two children. Then, they had to order for themselves and spend wisely. Since they always had some vacation money saved up they could spend over that amount if they wanted to supplement with their money, or if they ate cheap they could pocket the excess. The rule being, you must get full and eat something healthy--and no complaining about being hungry later.

It worked great. Basically everyone got water to drink, ordered off the cheap menu, shared fries and so on. Some splurged and got a shake occasionally, some pocketed spare change after every meal. It kept our costs down to a manageable amount and taught smart shopping and thriftiness as well. Plus, I didn't have to remember 7 different orders and then have to pray that the teen workers got it all right.

So, if you travel, you may want to use the suitcase method, or the $2.00 method [maybe up it to $3.00 now], or maybe stop at a rest stop and do some cooking [we have done that too]--but at least you have some options.

And, if I ever come to your house, please don't make me a bologna sandwich. UGH!

Take care,

Thursday, April 7, 2011

I am a Homeschool Carny...

Did you ever go to fair or a carnival when you were a kid? Do you remember the guys who would holler out to you as you went by, “Three shots for a dollar!” “Try your luck!” “See the bearded lady”…Carnies.

And I am one.

Back, and back again I remember when the carnival came to town.  Mud encrusted vans and trucks pulled up into a deserted farm field that the day before had been home to bunny and bird. There was slamming and banging, men and woman jumping out of the vehicles and scurrying to replicate some grand theme park.

Catalogs ready to go.
With pneumatic tools and lots of muscle, Ferris Wheels, Tilt-A-Whirls and my personal favorite-- The Scrambler-- would rise from the trucks and dust, like a Phoenix rising from the ashes. The bright plumage of the rides made the brown field look old and tired.
My Carnival, ready and waiting.
 Then, when the last rivet was in place, families and young lovers would stream into the area with bright happy faces and change in their pockets. The Carnies would beckon from their booths to come spend your money with them.

They always seemed a bit over-anxious and scary to me. I kept to the middle of the aisle, lest one should force me to spend my quarter trying to shoot too-big balls into small hoops. The glitter from the outside seemed a bit scary when I was on the inside.

Books and Banners--kind of like a ring toss!
When the lights went out on that final night, and all that could be found were the cast off cheap stuffed toys and the sticky cotton candy cones, and when all good children were home in their beds—then the Carnies began the rather depressing job of taking down the magic. And, before dawn, the carnival was gone and all that remained was a dust-bowl field with large gaping cracks in the earth, devoid of grass, fun or anything shiny. 

In our sparkly convention clothes-notice no sequins!
Several years ago a circus came to a field about a mile from here. It was much the same, but less glitzy. An actual elephant helped to raise the “Big Top” and it was glorious to see. It was during the week, on a school day, so the only people out watching were the myriad of homeschoolers in our area. Even as an adult, the glory and wonder of it are etched in my memory.

Tigers and lions lounged in giant, open sided semis that were fitted with strong iron bars as one triumphant elephant used her enormous gray head to straighten a tent pole. The men, sweaty and strong, pounded in huge tent stakes. It was the stuff of story books and Disney movies, and we were there. I didn’t see the circus that year because I gave my ticket to one of my older sons, but the memory of that old field becoming a circus lingered in my thoughts long after the elephant was lead to her semi and traveled to the next town, and the one after that.

Ready to go to the next town.

I sell homeschool curriculum at state conventions; this is my 13th season. This year while I was packing up to go home after The Midwest Convention in Cincinnati, which hosted  5000 families, something occurred to me that I had never thought of before,

"I am a Carny.” 

Our Circus Wagon.

I roll into town in my large pick-up truck and we back into the loading dock of the convention hall. We haul hundreds of pounds of catalogs, books, racks, flooring and more to a forlorn looking 10x30 foot space and begin the hard, sweaty work of making it into a curriculum showcase.

The Big Top after the show is over.
Foam floors are fitted together, shiny tablecloths cover tired tables, book racks unfold and open their arms to hot-off-the-press books. We raise banners with nothing but our strength and crawl under tables to hook up the electricity so that the computer and DVD player will spring to life.

We put on our sparkly carnival clothes, comb our hair, pinch our cheeks so we look healthy, put on our smiles and wait for the doors of the convention hall to open. Our adrenalin is pumping as the doors open and we can’t wait to be an encouragement to homeschool parents.

 I think moms can understand best what it feels like when those convention doors open. It is a lot like labor--when the contractions come over you, and you can feel them coming, and all you can do is meet them head on, stay focused and wait for them to do their work.

Conventions are like that.

The doors open and the people rush in in waves, all wanting to see what we have in our booth—all wanting to talk to us. We meet them head on, stay focused and we go to work, helping them as well as we can. We stand at the front of the booth and beckon them to come in…”See our curriculum. It is the best. We can help you teach your children.  Throw a ball—make a basket—read our books!"

Yep, I am a Carny, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.

When the lights go down, and the crowds go home, all the education and fun and glitz go back in the tubs. The shiny tablecloths go back in the box, the tables fold up, and we unplug our gadgets, put on our jeans and tee-shirts and are off.

It is kind of sad to look at the littered floors and ugly black extension cords lying around like orphaned puppies—but that is the life of a Carny. Move to the next town, jump out of the truck and do it all over again.

I am a Homeschool Carny—who would have thought?

Take care,