Wednesday, September 28, 2011

When Will I Learn?

My life has been full of terrible misfortunes most of which never happened.
Michel de Montaigne

I have a confession to make.  I am a worrier.  I come from a long line of worriers ... I am sure it's genetic.   My mother is a worrier of epic proportions and (unfortunately) I blossomed under her tutelage.   On the plus side, I am not nearly as bad as my mother, but sadly I still succumb to it much more than I should. 

I know it's wrong.  I know I shouldn't do it, but I'm only human and it gets the best of me.  The worst part, I know nearly all of what I worry about will never come to pass and all I'll have done is wasted precious time for naught.   When will I learn?

The Geek made it home safely from his business trip despite driving six hours in the dark through pouring rain.  My worry had absolutely no bearing on his safety.   "Single Parenting" for the duration of his trip turned out to be a rather easy task.  Once again, my worrying had no impact on that.  And jury duty that I had been called to... the same one I fretted about how I was going to manage to do it and take care of the kids if the Geek was unable to work from home ...  well, it was a bust as I was dismissed and sent home before lunch.  Worrying about it didn't change a thing, except to give me a big ol' headache beforehand.   When will I learn?

They say you can't teach an old dog new tricks, but I sure hope they are wrong.  Like the Munchkin's favorite Sunday School song says, "Jesus loves me this I know!"  I may be weak, but He is strong.  I pray that with His strength, this ol' hen might finally learn to "Let Go and Let God"

Miracles can happen, right?

Worry does not empty tomorrow of its sorrow. It empties today of its strength.
Corrie Ten Boom

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Seeing the Good

Every day may not be good, but there's something good in every day.
Author Unknown

I love that quote.  It really makes a difference when I follow it's directive and look for the good.  It reminds me of one of my favorite Bible verses.
Don't worry about anything, but pray about everything. With thankful hearts offer up your prayers and requests to God.  Then, because you belong to Christ Jesus, God will bless you with peace that no one can completely understand. And this peace will control the way you think and feel.
Philippians 4:6-7 (CEV)

Again, great advice that I sometimes forget to heed.  It never ceases to amaze me how an attitude of gratitude can change everything.  The bad stuff doesn't just disappear, but it no longer has the "power" to cloud my day. 

I still have a lot of "yuck" going on this week, but my change in focus is doing wonders.  I am truly excited for my brother-in-law and this next chapter in his life.  The Geek's absence hasn't been that bad and in fact the chicklets are actually not fighting for once.  Boy Wonder said it's because I already had enough to deal with ... it's a miracle folks!  I have a couple other things going on I'll tell you about later, but rather than dreading the time they are taking away from all I have to do at home ... I have started to actually look forward to the chance to break away from my "obligations" for a day or so.

Because it's a fine line between comfort and overdoing it, and since I am the "Queen of Lack of Self Control When It Comes to All Things Sweet,"  I figured it was best to share my latest stash of comfort food with others. (Sorry if you weren't on the receiving end and wanted to be.  I guess that means you'll just have to drop by for a visit and I'll whip you up your very own sweet treat to take home ... I promise.)  I think giving away my "goodies" helped to cheer me up too.  I often find it's uplifting to put a smile on a person's face by showing you love them.  And for me, nothing says "I Love You" like cooking and sharing food with someone.  The pumpkin fudge, by the way, was described by one recipient as 'little bites of heaven" ... yes, it really is that good!

Monday, September 26, 2011

Down in the Dumps

Food is the most primitive form of comfort.
Sheila Graham

I am feeling a bit down in the dumps.  My parents have left and begun their trek back home.  My sweet brother-in-law is moving away by the end of the month.  The Geek has gone out of town for business.  The chicklets are cranky (most likely because of all the change) and to top it off I have a bad cold.  At times like these I find the best medicine is either a nice bike ride or a good ol' dose of comfort food.  Since it is raining cats and dogs right now (which I am sure is contributing to my stellar attitude) ... I'm going to opt for comfort food.  I seem to also be suffering from a serious case of "pumpkin fever" at the moment, so this recipe looks like a perfect remedy for my "dumps".  Here's my slightly edited version of the recipe complete with my witty commentary.  Hope you like it. 
Pumpkin Dump Cake

Here's what you need:

1 15 oz can of Pumpkin Puree
Someday I may go all "Martha" and make my own pumpkin puree from scratch ... today, however, is so not that day.

1 10 oz can Evaporated Milk
I almost made the mistake of using condensed milk ... I can't help but wonder what this would have tasted like if I had.

1 cup light brown sugar
Can I just say I am a huge fan of brown sugar?  I am.  I often use it instead of white while cooking.  I know ... I'm such a rebel!

3 eggs
Farm fresh if you got 'em ... store bought if you don't.  My chickens are being a little stingy with the egg delivery right now so I had to resort to using store bought large ones.

3 teaspoons pumpkin pie spice
Like I said in a previous post, you can buy this or you can make it yourself using a recipe like this one I just discovered.

1 box of yellow cake mix
I used my favorite brand, but since they don't pay me to advertise I'll say just use whatever brand you want.

1 cup (you read that right ... 2 sticks)  of melted butter
This is comfort food, pure and simple.  By definition it must be sweet, gooey, buttery, an/or crunchy and most definitely not fat free.  Hey, I don't make the rules folks :)

1/2 cup coarsely crushed graham crackers
I'd go with the honey ones here ... but that's just my personal opinion.  Experiment if you want ... I dare ya ;)

1/2 cup coarsely chopped pecans
I had some walnuts so I used them and nobody complained.

1/2 cup toffee bits or white chocolate chips
The original recipe said that toffee chips were optional and I beg to disagree ... they are a must.  This is comfort food, remember?  Toffee chips are a two-fer ... sweet AND crunchy.   I threw the suggestion of white chocolate chips up there because they sounded good too, but to be honest  I didn't use them, but I would have if I'd had any in the house.  Maybe next time.

Here's what you do:

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.  Or if you have a octogenarian oven like mine, set it to whatever you need to to make it 350 degrees.  My oven tends to be about 50 degrees off, but she's a sweet ol' gal so I cut her some slack.  One of these days I'll get around to posting a picture of her ... she's a 1930 (give or take a year or two) six-burner Magic Chef gas stove and a dream to cook with.
Next you'll want to spray a 9×13 baking pan with some cooking spray.  I didn't have any so I used some solid shortening and it worked just fine.  Don't go overboard, just give it a light coating of the stuff.  I just want to say here that I prefer to use glass pans when baking.  They just always seem to give me better results.  What about you?  Are you a glass or a non-stick gal (or guy)?

Once you have your pan prepared.  Grab a big ol' bowl  and throw in the pumpkin, evaporated milk, sugar, eggs and pumpkin pie spice. Make sure you stir it all up nice and good until it's all mixed together.

Now pour the pumpkin "stuff" into your pan and spread it all out real even. 

Sprinkle your entire box of cake mix on top, followed by your nuts, graham crackers and toffee (or white chocolate chips if you are going that route)
Pour your two sticks (just try not to think about it, okay?) melted butter all over the top of your masterpiece.

Pop the baby in the oven and bake it  for a good  45 to 50 minutes.  You'll know it's done when the center is set and edges are all lightly browned.  

Now I heavily suggest you cut yourself a slice while it's still warm.  Top it off with a big scoop of your favorite vanilla ice cream (or whipped cream if that's your poison) and a sprinkle of cinnamon and sit back and... 


Friday, September 23, 2011

Tastes Like Fall: Pumpkin Fudge

Vegetables are a must on a diet.  I suggest carrot cake, zucchini bread and pumpkin fudge. 
a paraphrased and edited (by the spotted hen) quote
by Jim Davis

One of the sweetest words to my ears is "fudge".  Pair that with the word "pumpkin" and I am yours.  About two years ago the Geek and I discovered this yummy confection and I have had making a batch on my to do list.  Well, I can finally check it off and say with gusto, "This one's a keeper!"

You can find this recipe in it's original entirety here  on the blog "Every Creative Endeavor".  I am sure it would be super duper as is, but I made a few changes to the original recipe so I'm gonna just go ahead and tell you how I did it.  No matter how you do it, it's pretty quick and the perfect way to celebrate the first day of fall.

Pumpkin Fudge
Here's what you need:

1 1/2 cups sugar
I'm just talking the regular old run of the mill white stuff.

1/2 cup canned pumpkin
If you are a real "Martha-type" you could cook  and puree up the stuff from scratch, but that's just too much work for me!

1/2 tsp salt
I like to use as little added salt as possible so I just used a pinch (closer to 1/4 tsp.) and it turned out just fine and dandy.

2/3 cup milk
Go with whole milk here folks.  It's fudge for goodness sakes!  If you are a real rebel, you could even use evaporated milk and make it even creamier.  I had planned to do this, but forgot ... now I'll just have to make it again.

2 Tablespoon butter
I prefer to use the unsalted stuff, especially since the recipe calls for additional salt.

1 1/2 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
I had a jar of this in my cupboard, but you can make this up yourself using a recipe like this one using a combination of cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger and allspice.

1 12 oz package vanilla baking chips
I used Toll House brand and I was not disappointed.

2 cups mini marshmallows
Any brand will do ... I used my local grocery stores brand and they worked perfectly.  You could substitute a 7 oz. jar marshmallow fluff if you're feeling so moved.  I plan to try making it with fluff the next time I do this just to make it a bit easier on myself.

1 1/4 teaspoon vanilla
Use the best stuff you can afford and PUH-LEASE only the REAL stuff.  If there is one thing I have learned as I become a better cook is that what you make is only as good as the ingredients you use :)  Incidently, I misread the original recipe and used 1 1/2 tsp. of vanilla.  I'm a big vanilla fan anyway ... so no harm, no foul.

3/4 cup of chopped toasted pecans
I wasn't feeling particularly nutty enough to do this today, but I think I am gonna give it a try the next time I make it.

Families are like fudge... mostly sweet with a few nuts.

Here's what you do:

Line an 9 x 9  inch pan with foil making sure that the foil hangs over the edges of the pan.  The original recipe said 8 x 8 inch pan, but I didn't have one and it worked out just hunky-dory.  You'll want to spray the foil with non stick spray to make getting it out and eating it later easy peasy.

Dump the  sugar, milk, pumpkin, butter, salt and pumpkin pie spice in a medium saucepan --- you'll be happy when you go to wash it if it's nonstick -- and give it a good stir.  I didn't melt the butter first 'cuz I figured it'd do that pretty quick once I started cooking and I was right. 

Here's the part that you might balk at a bit, I know I did.  You are going to need to put the pan on medium heat and stir constantly until it boils and then keep stirring the boiling goop for 12 more minutes. I tend to avoid recipes that require constant stirring, especially ones that take a while, but do what I did.  Put on some tunes and mindlessly stir and it'll all be over before you know it. 

The original recipe did not call for a candy thermometer, but I had one so I decided to go ahead and use it.  12 minutes is about the time it takes to reach "soft ball stage" or 240°F.  I don't know how crucial this is, but I do know one of the biggest complaints I saw on the web while looking for a pumpkin fudge recipe, was that sometimes the fudge didn't set up right for people.  Knowing this I decided to err on the side of caution and use my handy dandy candy thermometer and the fudge turned out perfect.  Bottom line, use a candy thermometer if you have one, or go all rogue and sans one if you don't and just take your chances.

Once it's at 240°F (or boiled for about 12 minutes), take the pan off the stove and stir in the vanilla, marshmallows, and vanilla chips.  Keep stirring until it's all nice and smooth or do like me... stop when your arms starts to fall off and you figure what's a few unmelted marshmallows and vanilla chips gonna hurt.  

Pour the sweet smelling mess into your the foil lined pan.  Cover it with some plastic wrap or foil and put it in your refrigerator for an hour or so until it is set.  

Once it's all set, pop it out of the pan onto a cutting board and cut yourself a piece.  Pop it in your mouth and say "Mmmmmm!"  Warning, this stuff is kinda rich, so start with a small piece or you'll end up with a belly ache like someone I know :)

Enjoy and Happy First Day of Fall!

Wednesday, September 21, 2011


“Life is just like an old time rail journey … delays, sidetracks, smoke, dust, cinders, and jolts, interspersed only occasionally by beautiful vistas and thrilling bursts of speed. The trick is to thank the Lord for letting you have the ride.”
Gordon B. Hinckley

Detours.  Love 'em or hate 'em, they are a fact of life. By definition, they are not anticipated and can cause a  change of plans.  I don't know about you, but my life is full of detours.  Some welcome, some not so much, but all unexpected.

detour : a deviation from a direct course or the usual procedure;

Sometimes the detour is nice ... like a friend calling on the phone to chat when I had nothing to look forward to except doing laundry all afternoon ... anything to get out of house work :)

Sometimes the detour is a pain in the "you know what" ... like when I am running late to an appointment and an a traffic jam causes me to run even later.

Sometimes the detour is truly painful ... like an illness or a broken bone.

Sometimes the detour is just downright sad ... like a death or loss.

Last Sunday, our pastor at church challenged us to look really look at the detours in our lives.  To see if some of these unexpected twists in the road might actually be opportunities for good.  Specifically, he was talking about opportunities to share our faith with others outside of our "normal" circles, but I think his message applies to day to day living too.

My brood is notorious for creating detours for me.  The day I have planned rarely ends up that way.  Sometimes (more often than I care to admit) I become frustrated and may ... ahem ... become a bit short-tempered with my chicklets.  I am trying to become more open to life's interruptions, but it's hard.

Another "detour" in my life right now is the fact that my brother-in-law is moving out of state. I am happy for him and the reasons he has chosen to go, but it's certainly not welcome.  Not only am I going to miss him, it has caused me to re-visit my sister's death and the grief I thought was passed.  I don't know why, but at times it has felt like losing her all over again and it's hard.

My parent's are getting ready to head back home to Florida.  In fact, they had planned to leave tomorrow but my mother is experiencing some leg and back pain that has made them postpone their trip for a few days.  It hasn't been easy watching them become frailer this past summer.  It is only a matter of time until they move here permanently and rely on me even more.  I will do it out of love for them, but it's not exactly what I had anticipated doing at this point in my life and it's hard.

The detours in my life have one thing in common ... they are hard.  They throw me off course and if I'm not careful, I'll take it out on those I love.  I am so thankful I don't have to do this all by myself. 

“Come to me, all you who are struggling hard and carrying heavy loads, and I will give you rest."
Matthew 11:28 (CEB)

It's a fact that detours are a given in my life.  They are going to happen no matter what I do or don't do.  I will do myself and those that depend on me a great disservice if I don't learn to sit back and do my best to enjoy the ride.  I may not like them, but as the popular saying goes ... "It is what it is"

A truly happy person is one who can enjoy the scenery while on a detour.
Author Unknown

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Pardon my Indolence

I like the word "indolence." It makes my laziness seem classy.
Bern Williams

I am having a hard time finding the motivation to do the things I need to.  Laundry and dishes are multiplying and begging to be done.  Home school lessons need planning.  Dust bunnies need slaying.  I think you get the picture.

I had hoped that my time off would be rejuvenating.  I thought I would come back refreshed and ready to tackle my to-do list with the gusto of a superwoman, but instead here I stand with a droopy cape and a run in my tights and not an ounce of super hero-ness in my aging body.  What's up with that?

Apparently the Geek is suffering from the same affliction.  Our time away did nothing more than leave him wanting even more time away from it all.  Since that is not a possibility, he too is feeling deflated and totally lacking any of the oomph required to address the responsibilities piling up around us.

Any suggestions, friends?  What do you do when your "get up and go" has got up and went?  Inquiring minds want to know. 

Now if you'll excuse me I think I'll join the Little Prince for his afternoon siesta.  I know the smart thing would be to use the time to get a few things done.  I'm just too exhausted just thinking about all the work I need to do and taking a nap sounds so much more inviting :) 

Monday, September 12, 2011

My Reluctant Return

Heaven on earth.

That's where I spent the last week.  Ok, maybe not heaven since I had to share it with a little man who decided now was the time to try out screaming at the top of his lungs as his communication mode du jour. But besides that, my trip away with my brood was everything I could have hoped for and more ... great weather, awesome scenery and hardly a care in the world. 

taken with my otherwise useless cell phone:)

I have to admit, it was unsettling the first time I looked down at my cell phone and saw "Leaving Service Area," but my uneasiness was soon replaced by a sense of peacefulness I find hard to put into words.   Cell phones and the internet are such a part of my everyday life.  I take for granted the fact that anything/anyone I need is merely a click or a few numbers punched away.  If you had asked me if technology caused me stress before my trip I would have most likely said no, but now I know better.  There is something so freeing about truly being away from it all.  Although I was hesitant at first, now I look forward to the next time. Because believe me, there will be a next time ... there simply must.

In wilderness I sense the miracle of life, and behind it our scientific accomplishments fade to trivia. 
Charles A. Lindbergh 

Thursday, September 1, 2011

A Miracle?

They say if you fall off a horse --- or in this ol' Mama Hen's case, a bicycle ---  you need to get right back on.  Well that's easy for "them" to say isn't it?  They probably never were riding down a quiet country road when said bicycle decided to veer off to the left sending one unsuspecting Mama Hen flying into the air (much to the horror of her chicklets riding their bikes behind her)  and then landing with a painful thud in the bottom of a eight-foot deep ditch, flat on her back with her bicycle on top of her .. now did they? 
don't let this tranquil scene fool ya' folks ... that gravel puts the "d" in dangerous!!!!
If you have ever doubted whether the Big Guy Upstairs still performs miracles, I can emphatically tell you without any hesitation, "Yes, my friend He does!"  I am no spring chicken and should be at the very least missing a feather or two, but with the exception of a bruised ego, I (and my trusty bicycle) came out unscathed. That is a modern day miracle if you ask me.

His huge outstretched arms protect you—
under them you're perfectly safe;
from Psalm 91
The Message