breakfast treat (brownie muffins)

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Chocolate Brownie Muffins

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup brown sugar
2/3 cup cocoa
3 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
2 eggs
1 cup milk
1/3 cup melted butter or vegetable oil
1 teaspoon vanilla

In a large bowl combine the first 6 ingredients.  In a separate bowl beat the eggs, milk, melted butter or oil, and vanilla.  Pour the liquid ingredients all at once into the dry ingredients.  Stir until just blended.  Pour the batter into the prepared muffin tin.  Bake in a 375 degree oven for 18-20 minutes, or until firm to the touch.

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I made these muffins for the first time this morning, with Seth as my helper.  The recipe said it made a dozen but I got 48 mini-muffins so you could probably get 18-24 regular size muffins.

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We leave tomorrow to take Grace back to college and then spend a few days with Caleb, Seth, and Sarah on a weekend vacation together.  School for them starts on the 30th.

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The muffins are SO SO SO SO SO SO GOOD!!!!  Make them!

 

 

in the kitchen

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For years I’ve been making dinner with children underfoot.  Isn’t it grand.  Indeed, if it isn’t a child, it’s the dog.  Or maybe even both.

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David is almost 16.  He knows if he wants some attention, he just needs to lay on the floor in the middle of the kitchen while I’m making meatloaf.

I asked him to peel potatoes.  He got frustrated because he didn’t like the peeler.  I got frustrated because he peeled them on the floor.  But he cleaned the floor when he was done.

Dinner was great.

Since the oven was already on and hot for the meatloaf, I made a chocolate cake for dessert, too.

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I baked our family favorite chocolate cake recipe and coated it with a newly found recipe for Glossy Chocolate Frosting, which tastes great with the cake.   It ends up being like a thin layer of not-too-sweet soft chocolate fudge.  And stays shiny!

Glossy Chocolate Frosting

1/2 cup sugar
1 1/2 T cornstarch
3 T. cocoa
1/8 tsp. salt
1/2 cup boiling water
2 1/2 T. butter
1/2 tsp. Vanilla

Mix sugar, cornstarch, cocoa, salt and add water.  Cook until mixture thickens.  Remove from heat, add butter and vanilla.  Spread on cake while hot for a glossy frosting which stays soft and smooth.  This recipe is enough for a 9 by 13 cake.

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I took the kids to the local library today.  Seth and Sarah always play a silent game of hide and seek in the library without running.  They always do this…. why don’t they sit and read books is what I want to know.

David read a book about weapons.  I recently bought him a new white t-shirt covered in dark red roses and he looks handsome in it.   He stayed by my side in the kitchen last night and at the library this morning.   He’s a great friend and son and always makes me laugh.  He tried to insult me the other day by saying, “I’m this way because of YOU.” but it just made my heart melt, as I took it as an ultimate compliment.

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Grace looked at a book about Art and I picked out two books on home decorating.  Weapons for Dave, art for Grace, and home decorating for me were all conveniently located in the same area so we sat on the floor together.  Caleb came over to us now and then to add to his pile of books which he left with me (Garfield, football)….

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I checked out the books while the children looked at charming paintings and talked to each other.

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And I thought to myself, “They love their sister.”

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I went to the farmer down the road next for some packs of nice hamburger.  I am going to make Dorito chip Salad for dinner.  Seth and Sarah know if they come in with me they can ask the farmer (or his wife) for a popsicle and they will say “yes” and cut the top off for them.

When we got home I took another cat portrait, this time Sherlock was with David, rather reluctantly.

Seth is standing here with his arm around my neck waiting for me to be done typing.  We are about to make another cake because there was only one piece left this morning and he wanted it.  However, I ate it in a weak moment (it was so good, so worth it) and I told him we could make another one.

Brittnee is happy.

Brittnee is always happy (says Seth).

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this morning

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(woolly bear caterpillar on the road)

Amanda came over for a few hours this morning.  She brought her dog Lloyd.  The three of us went on a nice walk together.

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The air was crisp and clean.  The kind of morning when you want to breath deep.

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my sister ~ my friend

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scenes from the neighborhood

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“For there is no friend like a sister
In calm or stormy weather;
To cheer one on the tedious way,
To fetch one if one goes astray,
To lift one if one totters down,
To strengthen whilst one stands”
~Christina Rossetti

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“How beautifully leaves grow old.  
How full of light and color are their last days.”  ~John Burroughs

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My sister almost stepped on a lizard!

I was so thrilled and promptly took photos from every angle.

I looked it up when we got home and discovered it was a “Spotted Salamander” and Connecticut’s largest salamander.

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Just look at the spots!

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Maybe it was trying to find a little warmth on the road?  But the road is a very unsafe place to be, so I saved its little life by putting it in the leaves on the edge of the woods.

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heading back home

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I made pumpkin cookies this morning, too, from a 1972 Pennsylvania State Grange cookbook.

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If anyone knows Mrs. Robert Conaway tell her I used sunflowers seeds instead of nuts, and I also included one egg.  They were delicious.

 

“I’m almost a pie,” said the rhubarb.

I bought strawberries last week and texted everyone that I was making pies when I got home but wouldn’t you know it, my friend Kathy texted me and asked me out to lunch because it was her birthday.  I thought this was a pretty interesting coincidence because strawberry rhubarb pies are one of her favorites and I didn’t remember it was her birthday but had felt spiritually moved to make the pies so…..of course I went out with the birthday girl, but I didn’t get a chance to use up the strawberries that day and the family ATE THEM ALL in one evening.

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Meanwhile, the rhubarb was growing and sending out invisible vibes to my mind; “I’m almost a pie…..I’m almost a pie……”  “just come and cut me down and chop me up and add me to strawberries……”  “put me in pastry!…..”

Every spring Rich, I swear, is determined to accidentally plow up the rhubarb patch.  I guard it with my everything but still in the spring of 2017 he helpfully plowed up the garden when I wasn’t home.   Later I stood by the side of the garden and silently looked down into the freshly tilled earth, hoping and searching for any sign of rhubarb.  I picked up a piece of bruised and uprooted sprout, reburied it, my heart aching.  I was sure it was all destroyed.

Let this be a lesson to remember from the rhubarb patch; There is always hope.  Plants can still be alive underneath the dirt.  Things can still grow and thrive after a near death situation.

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Rhubarb is quite a marvelous plant with huge poisonous leaves– but once those are removed and carried out of the house and into the woods by a helpful child, we are left with crispy sour stalks and still that invisible voice (that must live in the stalks) saying “I’m almost a pie”.

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Caleb says we should plant a strawberry patch.  Wouldn’t that be nice?

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There are thousands of recipes for using up rhubarb but I found an intriguing recipe for pie in a Taste of Home cookbook that called for an egg in the filling.  Since we have a flock of hens and a never ending supply of eggs, I decided to try it.

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I doubled the recipe and had enough filling for three small pies.

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Strawberry Rhubarb Crumb pie

1 egg
1 cup of sugar
2 Tablespoons flour
1 teaspoon vanilla
3 cups sliced rhubarb
1 pint strawberries, halved
1 unbaked pastry shell

Topping:  3/4 cup flour, 1/2 cup packed brown sugar, 1/2 cup oats, and 1/2 cup butter.

In a large bowl, beat egg.  Beat in the sugar, flour and vanilla.  Gently stir in the rhubarb and strawberries.  Pour into pastry shell.

For topping, in a small bowl, combine the flour, brown sugar and oats; cut in butter until crumbly.  Sprinkle over fruit.

Bake at 400 for 10 minutes.  Reduce heat to 350; bake for 35 minutes longer or until crust is golden brown and filling is bubbly.  Cool on wire rack.

RECIPE SOURCE:  Taste of Home Baking Classics, page 107

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There is currently one pie remaining.  (The family loved it.)

This was my breakfast piece this morning, along with a book I found yesterday at Goodwill for 50 cents.  It was one that I had discovered at Barnes and Noble and added to a running note on my phone “to look for at the library”.  . . . I was happy to find it at Goodwill and can’t wait to read it.

This is my current book which I have to finish first:

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West With the Night, by Beryl Markham

bird pics//sugar crinkle cookie recipe

Monday night we had two baseball games at the same time so Rich and I wandered between two fields, it was freezing cold outside and I had a winter coat, a pair of jeans over leggings, gloves, a big scarf, boots on my feet, and a thick blanket around myself like a native american.  We watched more of Caleb’s game than Seth’s because the older kids know more about the game and therefore do more exciting things.  Seth’s team surprised us, though, we saw a few nice plays and Seth got the game ball.

Yesterday Dave had an orthodontist appointment at 11.  I was out in the field until the very last moment and then rushed to get him from school.  Afterwards we went to Panera for lunch.  He was craving a broccoli and cheese soup bread bowl.  We sat near the garbage can and were shocked at how much food grown ups were throwing away.  For example, we were there for about 20 minutes and two people threw away their entire bread bowl after just eating the soup out of the inside, “criminal” says Dave.  One wonders if the parents say the words, “finish what’s on your plate” any longer.  Or, “don’t let your eyes be bigger than your stomach.”

Yesterday’s after school activities were 1) Dave had a baseball game 2) Seth had a baseball game, and 3) Caleb had a band concert.  All at the same time.

I made tacos for dinner, dropped D and S off at their respective fields, went back home to get C, and went to the concert while Rich got home from work, changed his clothes, and went to S’s game.  I pulled Caleb out of the auditorium as soon as band (the only thing he was in) was over because I just could not/would not sit through another 2 hours of chorus and awards, and we went to D’s game down the road just in time to see him get his one and only up to bat–a nice base hit.  Seth’s team lost, David’s team won by the mercy rule so we were home just in time for Dave to watch his favorite TV show “Flash” at 8pm with Michael and the girls (who had stayed home together).  In fact, David’s baseball expertise is stealing bases and his nickname is “Flash”.  oh boy.  Have I mentioned he’s taller than I am now?  This morning I am washing dirt and taco sauce off of his white baseball pants because he didn’t eat his dinner until after the game.

This morning I’ve been crazy busy trying to get the upstairs ready for the professional carpet cleaner guy to come at 10.  Although we use a gate on the bottom of the stairs, Parker continues to do some “marking” in Sarah’s room whenever he finds it left open and although I cleaned it the best I could with my small shampooer, I felt it was time for the big guns, so to speak.  The carpet guy is also cleaning two area rugs on the main floor.  Jacob is sleeping downstairs in his room.

The dog is not on my good side as he is also digging huge holes in my gardens.  HUGE!

Tonight David has another game and Caleb has practice.  And the weather is till winter-like.  (currently 50 degrees)

Jacob is going to drive to Vermont to get Ethan tomorrow with Rich’s truck because E is done with finals and ready to come home for the summer.   Grace and Jacob are both going to Senior banquet on Friday and then…….FRIDAY is ALSO Brimfield antique show with my brother, sisters, and sons and the weekend is more sports and church and then next week Rich is gone on a business trip and Ethan starts his new job………and life is just going too fast……all I can do is employ a good sense of humor and let out a necessary ahhhhh (scream) now and then.

so let us watch birds and make cookies for a little rest and relaxation, shall we?

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I took these photos yesterday from 9 to 10 in the morning.

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As I took these I thought I was shooting the same yellow bird, but when I got home and looked at them closer I realized they were different.  One has a black mask.  Taking bird photos is surprisingly hard, imagine trying to focus from across the room on a ping pong ball during a game.  And then put trees, branches and leaves in the way.

Maybe bird watching isn’t as relaxing as I thought.  LOL

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These birds were moving around in the grass so quickly I didn’t even know they were sparrows until I looked at the photos later.

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Ah, now we’re seeing something exciting…..

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I ADORE the colors in these bluebird photos.  So calming.

Aren’t the early springtime trees beautiful?

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My friend Mr Mallard Duck, I saw him the other day, too.  I refrained from saying an excited Hello as I did not want to scare anyone else away.

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like this Solitary Sandpiper!  I do so love to see these birds.  They do the funniest motions when they walk, bobbing up and down.  They are pretty little water birds with long legs and a long beak.  It’s my favorite photo of the bunch, I love the reflection in the water, the muddy bank and the blurred out grasses in the foreground.  Not to mention the bird itself is pretty, too.

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Delicious cookies for Mother’s day or any other day!

Sugar Crinkles

1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 cup shortening (I used half butter and half butter flavored crisco)
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 egg
2 cups flour
1 teaspoon cream of tartar
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
sugar

Cream together the sugar, brown sugar, shortening, vanilla, and egg.  Add the flour, cream of tartar, baking soda, and salt.  Mix well.  Roll into 1 inch balls and roll in sugar.  Place the balls about 2 inches apart on an ungreased baking sheet.  Bake in a 350 oven for 10 minutes or until lightly browned.

I was a little late picking up Grace from school the other day because these were baking in the oven but she was pacified with three fresh and warm cookies (the ones in the picture!) when I finally arrived.

easy afternoon snack

I remember my mom making these for us when I was a child.

I broke the muffins apart and let Sarah do the rest.

Then, biggest brother came along and added even MORE cheese.

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English muffin pizzas

all you need is English muffins, pizza sauce, cheese, and an oven

to have happy children with full bellies

a good cook knows it’s not what is on the table that’s important,
it’s what is in the chairs.

baked beans recipe (yum)

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The sun was almost down behind the house, and in front of us like a living piece of art was a dusky early evening.  How many times have I stopped what I was doing in the house to run out on the porch just for a moment; to soak in the beauty, breath the fresh air, cool my busy mind?  Called the children to come and see the pretty sky?  So many times that now sometimes they do it, too.

“Mom, come look!”

s h a r e d  J O Y  i s  a  d o u b l e   J O Y

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The darkest of blues and a world washed clean.

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A year ago I put together a recipe file of all the baked bean recipes I could find in my cookbook collection.  I tried out a few of the recipes and then lost interest in beans for another year.  It is interesting to me how we become seasonally predictable.  All of a sudden I’m getting the urge to bake beans again–exactly a year later.

I selected the next recipe to try and for this recipe, I needed dark rum.  Rich and I drove downtown on Saturday to get some while the beans were soaking on the stovetop and the children played.  I sat in the truck while he ran into the liquor store for a nice bottle of rum.  Then we went downtown for coffee and a walk.

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We ate dinner together around the table at the end of the day.  A big pot of homemade baked beans and fresh bread from Price Chopper.  The children all ate a plate of beans, so piping hot that they had to spread them all around their plates to cool faster.  They all liked them and several of us had seconds. It is a contented feeling to make such simple foods and have them enjoyed.

Rich and Jacob go to the gym three times a week and Rich told me that Jacob should probably not eat beans the night before, ever again.  Jacob replied, “It doesn’t matter what I eat, it’s going to happen.”

I thank my Aunt Mary for this recipe, because it came from a wonderful cookbook that she gave to me years ago as a bridal shower gift.  I’ve studied and used it so much that it’s falling apart now.  Every recipe I’ve made out of this cookbook has been extra delicious.

Molasses and Rum Baked Beans

1 pound dry navy beans or dry great northern beans
1/4 pound bacon (six slices) or salt pork, cut into 1/2 inch pieces
1 cup chopped onion
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup molasses or maple syrup (we used maple syrup)
1/2 cup catsup
1/4 cup dark rum
1/4 cup brown sugar
2 tsp. dry mustard
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. ground ginger
1/4 tsp. pepper

Rince beans.  In a 4 1/2 quart dutch oven combine beans and 8 cups cold water.  (I also added a bay leaf).  Bring to boiling; reduce heat.  Simmer for 2 minutes.  Remove from heat.  Cover and let stand 1 hour.  Drain and rinse beans.

In the same pan mix beans and 8 cups fresh cold water.  Bring to boiling; reduce heat.  Cover and simmer about 1 hour and 15 minutes or till tender.  Drain beans, reserving hot liquid.  Transfer beans to a 2 1/2 quart casserole or bean pot.

In a medium saucepan or large skillet, cook bacon or salt pork till fat begins to accumulate.  Add onion and garlic.  cook and stir over medium heat till onion is tender but not brown.  Stir onion mixture into beans along with 1/2 cup of the reserved bean liquid, molasses or maple syrup, catsup, dark rum, brown sugar, dry mustard, salt, ground ginger, and pepper.

Bake, covered, in a 300 degree oven about 2 and a half hours or to desired consistency, stirring occasionally.  If necessary, add additional reserved bean liquid.  Makes 10-12 servings.

NOTES:  I doubled this recipe.  I used a teaspoon of sandwich mustard rather than dry.  It took my beans much longer to bake.  Plan on this recipe taking an entire day from morning to night.  There is nothing worse than under cooked baked beans.  When done, the beans should be super soft and everything else in the pot should be melted together.  Add liquid as they bake so there is sauce.  Very delicious with bread and butter and cold glasses of cider.

recipe source:  Stay for Supper (Country Home) Cookbook

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photos from walk yesterday, which was a warm fall day

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the leaves I brought home with me

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“….we must never pretend that things are better than they are-but I do want us to look beneath all that is difficult and see the miracle God has wrought in our hearts.  I want us to see that he has placed powerful urges to do good in the deepest recesses of our regenerated hearts.  That’s what the New Covenant is all about.  Something wonderful and beautiful and resilient is within us that no abuse, rejection, or failure can ever destroy.  I want us to relate to one another, not as moralist to sinner or therapist to patient, but as saint to saint, father to child, friend to friend, as true lovers, with the confidence that we can help each other believe that, by the grace of God, there is something good beneath the mess.”
Larry Crabb