Archive for April, 2009

April 30, 2009

Strangers Among Us

180px-chocolate_chip_cookies1Piles of laundry. Gallons of milk vanishing.  An endless list of missing items.  Coincidence?  I used to think so…

How does a family of 6 the amass so much laundry in one day?!  To where did the 2 gallons of milk disappear that were delivered just yesterday? – not to mention, the 5 dozen chocolate chip cookies freshly baked this morning? Why don’t I have any tea-towels when I just did laundry yesterday?!


Then one evening as I sat sipping my Sleepytime tea in the comfort of my living room, I listened for the very first time.  I really listened.

And, these are the sounds that I overheard that fateful evening:

372px-dominator39First, I heard the Stanley Cup Championship Game being hard fought by the Detroit Red Wings and the San Jose Sharks. (I didn’t even know we had a rink in our house). It was a close contest, but alas the Detroit Red Wings lost in a dramatic shoot-out. Now, it seemed they needed bandages, ice baths and food – lots of food!

Just then, a blond flash in a tea-towel cape streaked through the room yelling, “Wonder Boy needs vegetables for super-hero power.”  Just as quick as he appeared, he disappeared.

At this point, I had a flash back from the day before. I had walked into one of the boy’s bedroom and there onwhiz2 the top bunk was a blazer and tie-clad preacher complete with The Rhyme Bible and a guitar. He was “preaching good” to a capacity crowd.

Hockey teams, super-heroes, mega-church pastors – I was just discovering what my children have known all along: There are strangers among us!

Can you image the piles of home and away jerseys I need to launder not to mention the mounds of hockey socks?  Do you know how many tea-towel capes an adventurous super-hero can go through in a single afternoon? Have you ever fed a congregation of hungry church-goers?

I’m not sure how to break it to my husband, or what his reaction might be. Personally, I am much relieved it to 526px-washer600pixknow the truth – finally! I was beginning to think I was loosing things. I was beginning to think my children were drinking milk like it is water. And, I was beginning to think I was a failing laundress.

So now, in my new found freedom (the truth always sets you free), I can put up my feet, sip my tea and laugh with the strangers among us!

Do not forget to entertain strangers, for by so doing some people have entertained angels without knowing it. Hebrews 13:2

April 28, 2009


Drake's socks

C'est fini


April 23, 2009

Ladies’ Coffee

“I’m going to Mrs. So-and-So’s for coffee.” was the response to my not yet uttered question.

6a00d8345157b369e200e5505df4148833-800wi1My mother was busily baking and the rich cinnamon scent coming from the oven had begun to make my mouth water. My question was answered even before I asked it. Coffee with the ladies meant one thing: she was baking coffee cake. The coffee cake was usually the Bisquick variety and the coffee was the red Folger’s canned coffee (the can was always saved for various craft projects, or storing odd’s and end’s in the garage). This was not the freshly roasted and ground beans from the modern, trendy Star-brothers, Cari-bucks or Dunn-bo down the street.

“Can I have a teeny-tiny piece?”

The ladies would gather at someone’s home and inevitably they would eat all the coffee cake. To my recollection, there were never any left-overs.  I’m not sure I even tasted coffee cake until I was officially an adult. Coffee was perked not brewed for these affairs, and the ladies would talk and talk and talk.  “How boring.” – I always thought never quite grasping the attraction of sitting around with a bunch of women for hours at a time.

“It’s for the moms.”

My Mom

Naturally, when I grew up, I expected my own weekly coffees with the ladies. These get-togethers of my childhood were not special occasions, but part of the culture – part of the landscape. I took it for granted that when I was a mommy I would have my own group of ladies and my own percolator and my own Bisquick coffee cake (not really – I prefer the scratch variety).

“Do they need the whole thing?”

Now, instead of the weekly coffees, we check our i-calendars for available blocks of time and schedule coffee dates months ahead of time. We don’t meet in each other’s homes, but in stylish coffee houses. We don’t eat warm coffee cake that Mrs. So-and-So made, but factory/bakery made treats from nameless workers. We don’t talk and talk and talk, but we have purpose and agendas.  When that meeting is over, we promptly cross it off our to-do list and consult our faithful electronic calendars for our next task.

“Will you make me some coffee cake for us, too? Pleeeeease!”

A friend recently invited me to her home for coffee, and you would have thought the Queen of England had invited me to High Tea at Windsor Castle. I felt so honored and blessed. What a rare treat it was. The coffee wasn’t Folgers (thankfully – okay, I do have a wee bit of coffee snob in me), but we talked and talked and talked. She shared some of those delicious little ginger crisps like they sell at IKEA – yummy! It was simple! It was simply wonderful!

“Mommy, can you teach me how to make coffee cake?”

The visit made me nostalgic. I know I can’t go back in time and relive those moments in a simpler age, but food has a special quality in that it can take us on a journey through time and space. So guess what I did – I made coffee cake.

“When are the ladies coming to our house, Mommy?”

April 20, 2009

Frugal Meets Magical

Left-overs: Where frugal meets magical!

The left-over dry and stale Easter challah bread was magically transformed into a tasty, steaming bread pudding. A caramel-like sauce slathered the dessert and added a note of decadence to the whole affair. Yummy!! Additionally, the vehicle for this transformation was the crock-pot.  And, the left-over caramel sauce is just waiting to be poured over pannekokens one morning this week.

Here is my Frugal Flowchart:


She watches over the affairs of her household and does not eat the bread of idleness. Proverbs 31:27p1010075

April 14, 2009

Peef S’mores: An after-Easter adventure

Our Peef-S’more experiment:

S'more Ingredients

S'more Ingredients

Assemble s'mores - don't forget to remove the metal wrappings from the chocolate eggs!

Assemble s'mores - don't forget to remove the metal wrappings from the chocolate eggs!

Only seconds in the microwave -  peefs will expand quickly!

Only seconds in the microwave - peefs will expand quickly!

Puffy peefs with melting milk-chocolate

Puffy peefs with melting milk-chocolate

Just add graham cracker top

Just add graham cracker top

Our 'lil "Graeme Cracker"

Our 'lil "Graeme Cracker"

April 13, 2009

Waste not…

Today is the day after the grand Easter celebration dinner. The ham was bountiful and smelled amazing. The potatoes, caesar salad (my brother-in-law’s specialty!) and deviled eggs filled every empty spot in your belly, and the beehive-shaped honey cake and/or cherry pie and/or flour-less chocolate torte provided just a touch of sweet to round of the Resurrection Day feast! Oh, the memories! Oh, the left-overs! 

My tips for Easter dinner left-overs:


  • As we speak, I have two ham & cheese quiches in the oven – yum!
  • Your family will tire of ham left-overs so chop up the ham and freeze in quart-size baggies. 
  • Find a good recipe for ham and bean soup. Use the ham bone for a great stock, and freeze left-over soup in individual containers for lunches.

Mashed potatoes

  • Throw together canned salmon, mashed potatoes, chives and an egg.  Fry as you would pancakes for a tasty and nutritional meal.  Serve with steamed broccoli for dinner or fruit for breakfast.  
  • Make potato bread. I found an older recipe last summer for potato cinnamon rolls printed in the More with Less cookbook.  The recipe made over 100 rolls.  I froze many, many of them; we had cinnamon rolls for months! We also gave them as food gifts and contributed a few dozen to a bake sale. If anyone in our family mentions potato cinnamon rolls, we all chuckle at the memory.

Deviled eggs

  • Well, if I had any left, I would just eat them…

Challah bread

  • I am fascinated by this Jewish sabbath bread (I’ll have to save that for a future blog…)! It is a rich, egg-based bread like a brioche. I find it dries out pretty fast, but it makes amazing French toast.
  • Recently, I found a crock-pot recipe for bread pudding. This would be the perfect bread to experiment with the recipe.
  • Challah bread makes wonderful bread crumbs, too.


  • This year we are over-run with those mini marshmallow minions. My thought (and I haven’t tried it, yet) is to stuff those birds with a chocolate egg or two (since they are plenteous as well), place between two graham crackers and throw in the microwave (the oven works too). Sounds rather extreme, doesn’t it?pink_peeps

Love to hear your solutions to the left-over dilemma…

Lazy people don’t even cook the game they catch, but the diligent make use of everything they find.  Proverbs 12:27 (NLT)

Father God, Give us diligent hands so that everything we do prospers according to Your word (Proverbs 10:4). Amen

April 10, 2009

Ina Strikes Again!

thumb_bcipMove over Martha, Ina Garten has invaded the Strong residence.  

I love cooking and baking when I’m inspired!  Personally, I think Martha Stewart is an absolute genius.  When I’m in a cooking slump, I just reach for a new Martha Stewart Living magazine.  Martha coaches me. She tells me “you can do!” and in very simple steps trains me in the proper techniques. Remember the amazing chocolate Easter egg truffles on the cover of her magazine a few years ago? With Martha’s help, I made them.  They were made in real egg shells and the process took days, but they were beautiful!  

(I used eggs from my parent’s organic, free-range flock.  My mother saved all the Araucana eggs for me because they lay lovely green and blue eggs, so I didn’t have to dye my eggs).

Now I have Ina Garten’s Barefoot in Paris cookbook (Thank you Gabriels for the birthday gift that keeps on giving).  She inspired my now famous Wench toast or Fraffles, if you like. After reading her cookbook cover to cover (am I the only one who reads cookbooks like novels?), I was inspired to create an enchanting gourmet French meal for my family:  Salmon en papillote & Chocolate mousse with pizelles (side note: pizelles are Italian cookies).

Graeme posing with his meal... what have I started?

Graeme posing with his meal... what have I started?

Forrest posing and Colin non-verbally expressing his opinion of my French cuisine.

Forrest posing and Colin non-verbally expressing his opinion of my French cuisine.

The salmon was moist, the veggies were crunchy and the rice was nearly perfect.

The salmon was moist, the veggies were crunchy and the rice was nearly perfect.

Dessert got rave reviews!

Dessert got rave reviews!

The kitchen just may have gotten a 5 star from food critic, Drake, that evening...

The kitchen just may have gotten a 5 star from food critic, Drake, that evening...

April 3, 2009

Knitting: A Lesson in Perserverence

Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. James 1:4

Okay, so here it is…

I began Drake’s first sock when Graeme was a baby (he is 4 now).  Between home-schooling 2 children, entertaining a pre-schooler  and nursing a little one, my life became quite sedetary.  Not wanted to be completely unproductive, I rediscovered knitting. My mother had been knitting the most amazing socks for years, and it was inspiring!  So, I began, and needless to say, I was hooked!

Considering I hadn’t knitted since I was probably 10, I did pretty well.  The sock yarn was lovely (free knitting tip: beautiful yarn hides imperfections), but I discovered after hours logged I found a noticeable flaw in the ribbing. That just wouldn’t do, so I unraveled the whole sock…

Fast forward two years, and I recovered my sock bag.  I was determined this time, and I was also spending many hours at hockey rinks.  The combination proved to be the perfect catalyst – finally Drake’s first sock was completed!  With momentum in my favor, quickly I began knitting the next sock.  What I didn’t figure into the equation was that Drake’s feet had grown…  Did I mention the younger brothers have several pairs of hand-knit socks now?

Being a hockey mom affords you ample time for knitting especially when your 11 year son absolutely needs to be at the rink 1 hour prior to games and practices.  So, this past season I was able to complete many knitting projects. And again, I began a new pair of socks for Drake.  The yarn is really beautiful with browns and rust and khaki-green in a self-striping pattern.  The first sock is done (and fits!), and the second sock is almost completed…

Did I mention the cat?

Tobias the Cat

Tobias the Cat