Friday, August 29, 2014

A Cake To Console

Honey Bun Cake

I came home from ukulele band practice yesterday just as tired as could be. But Daddy-O had been wishing for cake for about two weeks now. The first football game (his team) of the season was on TV last night and that was reason for a treat. I whipped up an easy recipe before I sat down collapsed. I figured this would either be a celebration cake or a consolation cake. By halftime, it was obvious. It was a consolation cake. The cake may have been the best thing about the evening.

This might be the best use of a cake mix out there. It's been posted here on my blog before, but if you missed it, I'll share again. It's simple enough for a night in front of the television. It's good enough to take to a church dinner. It's great with a cup of coffee. When the frosting sets up, it really does look like a honey bun. I think it tastes better than a honey bun.


1 box yellow cake mix

2/3 cup vegetable oil
4 eggs
1 cup sour cream
1 cup packed brown sugar
1/3 cup chopped pecans
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

1 cup powdered sugar
1 tablespoon milk
1 teaspoon vanilla

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour a 9x13-inch pan. (I just used regular PAM.)

In a large bowl, beat cake mix, oil, eggs and sour cream with an electric mixer on low speed for 30 seconds and then on medium speed for 2 minutes, scraping bowl occasionally. Spread half of batter in pan.

In a small bowl, mix brown sugar, pecans and cinnamon. Sprinkle over batter in pan. Carefully spread remaining batter over pecan mixture. Bake 44-48 minutes or until deep golden brown.

In another small bowl, mix powdered sugar, milk and vanilla until thin enough to spread. Prick surface of warm cake several times with fork. Spread powdered sugar mixture over warm cake. Cool completely, about 1 hour.

This time I needed to add another teaspoon of milk to the powdered sugar. The glaze should be fairly thick—kind of like honey, but when you spread it over the hot cake (work quickly), the heat from the cake melts it enough to spread. I used a large spoon to drizzle the frosting over the cake, then used the back of the spoon to spread it.

Thursday, August 28, 2014



Pattern: Cradle Cardigan
Yarn: Debbie Bliss Baby Cashmerino
Needles: size 5

It's almost time to welcome a friend of mine into the grandmother club! It is possibly the best club that exists anywhere. Another friend who is just now a first-time grandmother posted recently on Facebook, "How can something so tiny take up such a big space in my heart?"

What better way to do that than to make something for the new baby. This little sweater and cap should fit just about the time we get cold weather. I love learning new things, so this was a great time to learn some new knitting skills. I've knitted enough now that I had done most of the techniques used in this sweater—just not in this particular order. Now I'll make one of these for Baby Girl. The second one should go much faster.

You non-knitters can just skip over this part. But if you are a knitter and have wondered what is the best way to block (that basically means to wash and dry) an item that isn't a flat piece, get creative. Last night I was trying to find some way to arrange these. I put the caps over a foam cup. But the flat bottom of the cup squared off the top of the caps. Then I had an inspiration. 

I keep an old dough tray filled with wooden apples on my table. Those apples were just the right size to fit into the top of the cap. This also let the rest of the cap hang free, so that air could circulate and it could dry quicker. The second cap was a little longer when the brim was unrolled, so I added a jar on top of the foam cup to make it taller. When I woke up this morning, both caps were dry and perfectly shaped. Sometimes the answer is right in front of you. Literally.

And I always include the care instructions when giving knitted items. This yarn is machine washable. I actually washed the sweater in my washer in cold water on the hand wash cycle to make sure it worked before I wrapped it up. With a small baby in our own family now, I know mommies do not have time for hand washing anything!

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

In The Moment

I miss moments like these. Mommy sent me this photo a few days ago. Little Sister dressed herself up as a princess (her big sister's old dance costume, an undershirt and her Minnie Mouse shoes) and held story time for her baby sister. Stories are better when the teller is in costume.  I'm pretty sure, too, that Little Sister read this book with great expression. Because that is how she has been read to all her life. I loved hearing her "read" when she was here.

All summer when they were at the farm, I marveled at how Little Sister spoke to Baby Girl—even when she was just a couple of months old. She spoke to the baby just like she spoke to the rest of us. To her, Baby Girl was a regular person. The rest of us went into baby speak when we talked to the baby.

As much as we miss having the girls here, we are okay with this season of life, too. One of my favorite Bible verses is from Phillipians 4:11— "...for I have learned, in whatever state I am, to be content." So, I will find pleasures in what is here and in front of me. Today that just might be a glass of iced tea on our porch. 

We are not done with summer here. Temperatures are still in the 90s. That's iced tea weather. So many people now buy their iced tea. By the glass. By the bottle. By the gallon. From a restaurant. From the grocery store. (We are not even going to talk about instant tea.) I hear people say all the time that they can't make tea. Well, when I grew up, my mother and her friends would have laughed at that. It's just tea and water!

Here's how you do it:

SWEET TEA (or, Iced Tea if you aren't from here)

Bring 4 cups of water to a rolling boil. 
Pour gently over 2 family-size tea bags. (I like Luzianne or Lipton tea bags)
Let steep for 3-5 minutes. NO LONGER  
Remove tea bags. 
Add 3/4-1 cup sugar and stir to dissolve. (leave it out for unsweet tea)
Add enough cold water to make 1/2 gallon.

Around here, if you order iced tea, you're going to get sweet tea. But years ago, I gave it up for unsweetened tea because I was looking for a way to eliminate some calories. I don't add sweetener or anything. One friend, who also drinks it like that, calls it "naked tea." 

But at home, I need both sweet and unsweet tea to make both me and Daddy-O happy. You cannot add sugar to cold unsweetened tea—it will never dissolve.  So now I leave out the sugar for me and make a simple syrup for him. He can add this to his glass and we can both have it "our way."


1 cup water
1 cup sugar

Mix and heat over low heat, stirring until dissolved. Store in refrigerator. 1 tablespoon of simple syrup will sweeten a tall glass of iced tea. 

Most of the time, I just use 1/2 water and 1/2 cup sugar. That's enough for us.

Monday, August 18, 2014

It's Been A Week

It's been a week now. A week since we heard those little feet hit the floor—plop!. Then blap, blap, blap on the hardwood as Little Sister walked in each morning to greet us. There was never any thought of sneaking up on us. She was right behind Daddy-O all summer, helping him do "farm work." Feels like much longer than that.

The crib has been moved. The toys are put away. The storybooks are back on the shelf. The doll house has been stored until next time. The car seat is in the basement. And the kitchen here was closed for a week! I will admit that this grandmother was tired. Not tired of morning hugs and kisses, or nighttime snuggles and bedtime stories or rocking Baby Girl and singing her lots of songs. Her favorite when they left was There Was An Old Woman Who Swallowed A Fly. Never got tired of that part of our summer. But I will admit it's been good to sit still.

Last week was a busy as the nine weeks before it, when we had a full house. We spent it catching up on other things that had to wait while we gloried in the grandparent duties. But we squeezed in a lake get-away over the weekend and today has been gloriously relaxed. (Only for me--Daddy-O was plenty busy.) It's been quite a while since I've had that kind of day. It felt good.

Yarn: Debbie Bliss Baby Cashmerino (DK)
Needle:  size 3

I did not pick up a knitting needle all summer. Or, a musical instrument (except for a couple of ukulele jams with Little Sister.) So it was nice to pick up the yarn and make another sweet baby hat this week. And I've learned to play Fur Elise on the ukulele in the last couple of days. I've read a couple of books. Those are good things, too.

Way out in the midwest, Big Sister started school today. It's her last year in middle school. Little Sister starts her preschool in a couple of weeks. Baby Girl? She just tags along, having to go wherever the car takes her! Talked to Little Sister this morning. She said, "I miss you. But I'll see you at Christmas!"

Friday, August 8, 2014

Precious Summer Memories

It's our last full day with everyone here at the farm. Even Big Sister is here today. The exodus starts early in the morning. It's been a busy summer. Sometimes it felt like a long summer. This morning it feels like it flew by.

What precious memories we will have from our summer months with the littles in residence. Watching Little Sister teach her baby sister a song early in the morning was one of those very special moments.  First she tried to teach the baby to clap as she sang her song. "Good! That's the way," she would say as she took the baby's hands and clapped them together.

Then it was time to teach the melody. So Little Sister dragged her piano in the kitchen and put it right beside the bouncy seat. Baby Girl took in every movement. Even though Little Sister tried her best, she never got Baby Girl to sing a note! (Baby Girl was four months old last week.)

The conversation between sisters continued for quite some time. Baby Girl can make all sorts of sweet baby sounds now. I loved it when Little Sister turned around to me and said, "I think she loves me." Without a doubt.

We are surely going to miss moments like these.

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Crisscross Applesauce

Because I had applesauce left from our apple-cooking week, I made applesauce muffins to use that last big spoonful. If the rest of my day goes like this baking experience did, I should just go to bed now! But even with the mix-ups and accidents, these are delicious. 

I ran out of all-purpose flour—because I dumped in the wrong spice and had to start over. So the second time, I used half all-purpose flour and half white whole wheat. That worked fine and maybe is a little healthier, too. I poured too fast, so a big splash of vanilla landed in the bowl. So I didn't add in as much from the measuring spoon. I used a "guesstimate" at that point. The oven timer got turned off accidently. Thankfully, I realized that in time to watch for them to brown.

But the finished product was yummy. Maybe this is one of those nearly indestructible recipes. We all need some of those on hand. I love nuts, but I did not add them this time so that Little Sister would eat the muffins. Like many small children, she doesn't like nuts in anything. She is going to miss her Mimi's cooking next week. And I'm pretty sure she will miss her Mimi. We will surely miss her. And Baby Girl. And Mommy, too.

When we drove into our driveway last night, two deer had come back to check the apple trees. One quickly darted away, but this one stayed long enough for me to snap a picture. Sorry, roaming deer, the apples are gone for this year.


1/2 cup butter, softened
1 cup sugar
1 egg
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup applesauce
2 cups all-purpose flour (I used half all-purpose and half white whole wheat)
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 cup chopped nuts (optional)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. 

In a bowl, cream butter and sugar. Add egg and vanilla and mix well. Stir in applesauce. Combine flour, baking soda and spices. Stir into creamed mixture. Fold in nuts, if using.

Fill greased muffin cups about 3/4 full. Bake for 20-25 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted into center of a muffin comes out clean. 

Cool for 5 minutes and then remove to wire rack. 

Makes 12 muffins.  This recipe can be easily doubled.

If you spend much time around preschoolers, you know what "crisscross applesauce" means. But if it's been years since you had little ones around, you might not be familiar with this term. I first heard it when Mommy was teaching kindergarten a few years ago. It's what we used to call sitting cross-legged or Indian-style. But now when the preschool teachers ask them to sit crisscross applesauce, and every child exactly what to do!

UPDATE: These muffins disappeared so quickly that I made a second batch the next day. With nuts this time. They were supposed to go to the lake but I'm not sure they will last that long.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

It's A Honey Of A Recipe

This week is in the "what were we thinking" category. Nothing bad going on, but too many things scheduled on top of each other while we are also trying to get Mommy and the girls ready to head home. So there isn't much cooking going on here this week. BUT I did cook lots last week. This is a supper we especially enjoyed.

Sometimes supper plans change. We thought we were going to have BLTs for supper but the tomatoes weren't ripe enough. Thankfully, I had just bought chicken legs that afternoon for later in the week. When I want easy chicken legs, I usually just pour bottled BBQ sauce over them and stick them in the oven for an hour. But I happened to see this recipe online just in time. It had so many five star reviews, I figured it had to be good. And I had all the ingredients on hand.

I tweaked the recipe a little, and wrote the directions the way I did it. We liked this very much. I think next time I would cook mine a little longer to let them get a little browner. The very brown parts tasted the best! We could taste the honey, but it was not overpowering. We wished we had put individual wet wipes at each place. It's not super messy, but we did have sticky fingers!


2-1/2 lbs. chicken legs (I used two pkgs--10 legs)
3/4 cup honey
1/2 cup low-sodium soy sauce
1 tablespoon + 2 teaspoons ketchup
1 tablespoon cooking oil
1 rounded teaspoon jarred minced garlic 
salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Line a 9x13 pan with foil for easy clean up. Mix together honey, soy sauce, ketchup, garlic, oil, salt and pepper, blending thoroughly. Put chicken legs in pan. Pour sauce over chicken.

Bake, uncovered, for 1 hour to 1/1/2 hours, until caramalized, turning chicken pieces a couple of times during baking. Spoon sauce over legs a couple of times during the last 15 minutes. 

Be sure to bake until the skin on the legs begins to get some dark brown color (not burned, though!) on the skin--when it has "caramalized." That's where the yummy flavor comes from!

Did you notice the marinated vegetables served on the side? That's Carol's recipe from last week. It was nice to have that salad in the refrigerator ready to go as a side dish.

Monday, August 4, 2014

Sunday Revisted

What a weekend! Mommy and Daddy had a quick get-away before they head back home in a few days. So Daddy-O and I had Little Sister and Baby Girl by ourselves for the weekend. We did fine (although we are both tired this morning) and there were no catastrophes like Mommy expected. We played lots and changed a million diapers and bibs. 

Little Sister and I made it to church yesterday, too. I was not brave enough to take Baby Girl with us. Little Sister wore a dress yesterday that I had made for Jessica when she was about five. It was a little big on Little Sister, but close enough for her to wear. How much fun I've had seeing these dresses worn again. There were actually a couple of other grandmothers at church who remembered this dress from when Jessica wore it a long time ago.

Last Sunday, it was Baby Sister who wore one of Jessica's dresses. At this point, I cannot fathom how I ever found to time to actually sew, smock and embroider clothes for my girls. Having babies here this summer has been a full-time venture. Could it be that I was faster at everything when I was 30 years younger? Anyway, I'm just glad I saved the dresses.

I also managed to try one new recipe last night. Not sure what prompted my change of plan in the kitchen, other than I had everything on hand to make this. I saw this recipe on the Plain Chicken blog. I have come to trust her recipes—although I did wonder about this odd combination of marinade ingredients.

When it was done, I cut up some chicken and put a preschool portion on Little Sister's plate. I set her dinner plate out on the porch and went back to get the next plate and glass. When I came back, she had already eaten all of her chicken! This is the child who often avoids meats. She happily ate another larger portion. After his first bite, Daddy-O said, "This is a keeper!" And it is. We will make this again for sure.


1/2 cup olive oil
1/2 cup bottled Ranch dressing (I used Hidden Valley)
3 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
3 tablespoons BBQ seasoning (I used Weber Sweet & Tangy)
1 teaspoon white vinegar
4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts (at my store, they come 3 to a pkg—close enough)

Whisk together olive oil, Ranch dressing, Worcestershire sauce, BBQ seasoning, and vinegar. 

Pound chicken to 1/4-inch thickness. Place chicken in a gallon-size ziploc bag and pour marinade over chicken. Refrigerate for 8-12 hours.

Cook on grill heated to medium-high. Grill for 8-12 minutes, until chicken is no longer pink in center and juices run clear. 170 degrees with meat thermometer.

I took a shortcut and put the chicken in the gallon bag (I used a freezer bag which is heavier) and pounded it right in the bag, then added the marinade to the bag. And yes, the BBQ seasoning is a dry mix. You'll find it with the spices at the grocery store.

We have a crazy week ahead as we prepare to send our babies-in-residence back home next weekend. There are last visits to make, a fourth birthday party has to be fitted in, Big Sister comes back here from camp, Jessica arrives to see them off—yes, busy days, indeed. Then, after all of that rush, they will all leave. How different our house will feel this time next week. 

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Ozark Pie

I am at the bottom of the apple basket. Finally. There were just a few small apples left yesterday, not enough for another apple pie. (Daddy-O's favorite apple dessert.) But I remembered this recipe that came from my sister over 30 years ago. It only needs one cup of chopped apple. I had enough apples to make this!

This recipe for Ozark Pie is not exactly a pie. If you do a Google search for this recipe, you'll see it called Ozark Pudding, too—and it isn't a pudding either. It has a wonderful crispy/chewy texture. It's a great dessert for the small amount of effort required.

Mommy ate it for breakfast. Yep, I baked this first thing in the morning while Baby Girl was asleep. Breakfast dessert. There is such a thing, isn't there? Mommy said she could have eaten it all. I do believe she stopped with two pieces.

The batter part of this dish is very stiff. I kind of had to pat it out into the dish. It bakes up with a crackled, crispy crust. It is delicious warm, but if you want neater slices, let it cool first. Next time I think I will use baking spray instead of regular PAM. 

I have no idea how this Ozark recipe came to my sister here in the deep South so many years ago—back before the internet and Pinterest and Google and food blogs from around the country. But we are happy it did. 


1 large egg
3/4 cup sugar
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1-1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 cup diced apple
1 cup chopped nuts
1 teaspoon vanilla

Beat egg. Add sugar and beat well. Sift together flour, baking powder and salt. (I just whisk it together instead of sifting.) Stir into egg/sugar mix. Blend well. Fold in apples, nuts and vanilla. Pour into well-greased 9-inch pie plate. 

Bake at 350 for 30-35 minutes.

Serve with whipped cream or ice cream.

Friday, August 1, 2014


I am almost to the bottom of the basket of apples. (Bless you, roaming deer for eating the rest.) Thank goodness. I figured making applesauce would be a good way to use up a lot of apples. I've been making applesauce for years and have never given a thought to needing a recipe. But if you look up applesauce recipes online, there are a gazillion ways people make it. Most are fancier than my plain version. In my mind, applesauce is just cooked apples, mashed up. But fresh, homemade applesauce—even this plain kind—is better than bought and easy enough to make in minutes.

This is great when you're in a hurry; when you need to use those last apples before they ruin; when you have a little one at your house and want to make a "treat." Little Sister had a dish of this for lunch and declared it, "Yummy!" 

Here is my "no recipe" recipe. You can do with whatever number of apples you have. (I might have four apples. I might have eight apples.) Sometimes I add cinnamon. But usually I'll stick to this very basic way of making it.


apples, peeled and sliced into a saucepan
enough water to go about 1/3 of the way up the apples (don't cover them with water)
a squeeze of lemon juice (optional)
a little sugar to taste, if the apples are tart

Bring apples and water to a boil. Lower heat and put lid on the pan. Cook about 15-20 minutes, or until apples are soft. Watch the apples and add a little more water if needed. Or, remove the lid and cook a few more minutes, if necessary, to let the excess water cook out. If you have too much water left, dip some out. You don't want watery applesauce.

Mash apples with a fork or a potato masher until you get the texture you like. (I like mine chunky. Little Sister likes it smooth.)  Taste and add a spoonful of sugar if it needs it. 

UPDATE:  Today at lunch Little Sister pushed her dish of applesauce away and told me she didn't like it. I asked why she didn't since yesterday she loved it. She told me, "I don't like this applesauce—it has APPLES in it!" Guess this dish wasn't as smooth as the big spoonful she ate yesterday.  :-)