Tuesday, November 27, 2012


Last year I heard a speaker talk about traditions and how they keep a family joined together. It was an interesting topic and the more I thought about it the more I could see that it is true. I have great memories of one time events as a kid, but it's the things we did every year that keep me wanting to continue to connect with my family still. I miss those Thanksgivings that we all spent at my grandparents farm, the Christmas eve parties, and decorating gingerbread houses among others.

One of the points this speaker made was that kids will look for ways to connect with family as they grow up. If we give them those traditions then, as they develop into teenagers, there will still be a link back to their family. And, as parents we will covet those precious few connections we have with our kids. 

It's hard to believe now, when my kids are 9 and (almost) 4, that there will ever be a time that they don't want to talk my ear off. But, I hope when that day comes we will have instituted enough traditions to keep them still wanting to take part in family life.

So, this last year I put in an effort to restarting some old traditions and also to come up with some new ones too. 

Gingerbread houses are one of those old traditions that I chose to keep around. I have pictures of me as a small child (age 5 or so) decorating them. And now, I have pictures of my kids too.

I want to share our family's recipe that we use for gingerbread houses. This is the recipe that my mom used when I was little. I hope you can start some wonderful traditions too!

Taking a break from playing outside, my kids were excited for the gingerbread houses to come out of the oven.

Here you can see the pattern cut, but not out of the pan yet.

All set up to decorate!

The houses all done and ready to start munching on.

Yields two gingerbread houses

1 1/2 C butter at room temperature
1 1/2 C brown sugar
1 T ground cloves
1/2 C water
2 T cinnamon
4 t ginger
1 T baking soda
5 C flour

I use a KitchenAid mixer, it makes it so much easier. Cream butter and brown sugar add water. Mix dry ingredients together. Add dry ingredients to the butter/sugar mixture.

Divide into 2 equal portions. With a well floured rolling pin roll each portion evenly over a greased (or parchment paper lined) 12 x 15 baking sheet. 

Bake at 300 for 15 minutes. Remove and cut house pattern. Remove pattern and return sheet to the oven, continue baking for another 12 minutes. Cool in the pan to allow the pieces to harden. Remove to wire racks. Store in an airtight container.

To build house: "glue" house together with Royal Icing

2 large egg whites
2 2/3 C powdered sugar

Whisk together egg whites and sugar. Beat on high until icing holds stiff peaks. *use quickly as it hardens to something akin to a diamond. You can store it covered with a wet towel or in a sealed ziplock bag. 

You can easily make a house pattern or find them on the web. The house pattern shown is our basic one that I grew up with. Over the years we have done several different ones. A castle, an airplane hanger, even a pub one year!

Here is a great site. They have free patterns or some that are a bit more detailed for a small cost.

As a note, my son is highly sensitive to artificial color and flavor. So the candy we use is all natural. As is the icing. Though, we have never had a problem, if you are concerned about the raw egg in the icing you can use Wilton's Meringue Powder. Easily found at cake decorating stores and many craft stores as well.

I wish you luck in starting your own traditions!

Wednesday, August 29, 2012


I am a mish-mash of many different people. I don't know if it is normal or if I am unusual in that. With a fractured family tree there are many many branches.

This last weekend I flew back to say goodbye to my grandmother, Mur.

I became part of her family through marriage. Not mine. My Dad's. When I was six I gained a step-family. Soon after the wedding in Texas I went with this new part of my family to Oklahoma to visit my step-mom's parents. I did not know at the time the impact they would have on me.

I'm not even sure I realized until very recently the truly full impact. Of course I saw it in my involvement with horses. As I visited the farm this last trip, I walked the paddock where I rode for the first time. I ran my hand along the welded pipe fencing that I climbed over and through so many times over the years. That impact on my life was easy to see. There were things that were deeper that are just now coming to the surface.

The paddock where I first learned to ride.

It wasn't until I sat there during the funeral service that I started counting the ways Mur has influenced my life. My recipe book is filled with "from Mur" recipes. My children watch (and will soon help!) me snap green beans. When we have beans and cornbread I always serve it with pear relish (a "from Mur" recipe) that I have canned myself (just as she did). Growing a garden...Snickerdoodles... Red Velvet Cake... Goulash... And the list goes on.

But, it's not just the physical actions in which I see my grandmother. The real impact from her was with the acceptance and inclusion. Whether or not you were family, you were family. I felt it in a very real way when I knew without a doubt that I would be welcome at their house always. Even after my dad and step-mom split.

During my first trip to the farm after the divorce of my dad and step-mom, Mur pulled me aside and reiterated that I was family, no matter what.

The pear tree where Mur would send me if I wanted pear cobbler. -which I always did!

I usually spent about a month in Oklahoma in the summer. There was always someone extra at the dinner table - and if you are from the south you know that by "dinner" I mean the middle of the day meal. Mur came from the generation that always extended an invitation to whomever was around after church.

I learned hospitality from Mur, and how to serve a big group.

If I were to ask my grandparents why they were the way they were, I know the answer I would get. They would look at me and say, "Because that is what God calls us to." They really believed that and lived what they believed every. single. day.

The "Back 80".  The best place ever for a girl and a horse. It has about 60 acres of open space. 

Mur and Pa might not have taught me the subtleties of theology, but they did teach me simple faith. That lesson has carried me through many hard times. Sometimes it doesn't matter whether I am a Calvinist or a Wesleyan; whether I believe in predestination or not. Sometimes it is just enough to know that Jesus loves me. That is what Mur taught me. Over and over at the funeral service I heard how Mur wanted everyone to know that Jesus loved them.

I will always be grateful for the wonderful memories and for the things that I learned in Oklahoma. This last weekend I walked through the 200+ acres that comprised the farm. As I walked I had so many sweet memories come back to me. Everywhere I looked I remembered being on horseback. I rode several different horses over the years and each had it's own season. One horse I rode up and down the creek and through most of the treed areas. Another horse was the first one I ever swam. That was a fun experience. There was the horse I jumped and the horse that dumped and drug me. I saw the pond that I learned to fish in.

Good memories!

The pond I first swam a horse. The water is super low this year.

  The creek bed that I used to ride up and down. Again, super low on water.

So, when birthdays come around I will continue to make red velvet cakes. I will add bread crumbs when I saute vegetables.

And, I will strive to show the hospitality that was modeled for me.

Oklahoma red dirt

When I think of dessert at the farm I think of Mur's scotch cake. I have no idea how it got its name, but it was always yummy.

Mur's Scotch Cake
2 C Flour
2 C Sugar
1 Stick Butter (1/2 C)
4 T cocoa powder
1 C water
1 t Cinnamon
1/2 C Buttermilk
1 t Vanilla
2 Eggs
1 t Soda

Combine flour, sugar, cinnamon, and soda in a bowl. In a sauce pan mix butter, water and cocoa. Bring to a boil. Pour cocoa mixture into flour mixture. Add the rest of the ingredients and mix well. Bake at 400 degrees for 30 minutes.

1 stick butter (1/2 C)
6 T milk
4 T cocoa
1 box powdered sugar
1 t vanilla

In a sauce pan bring butter, cocoa and milk to a boil. Add other ingredients. Mix well pour over warm cake.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Farm Blog

I will no longer be blogging about the farm here. Instead I will be blogging about our farm at http://washingtonfarmerchick.blogspot.com/ Come see the animals there!