so I can pretend someone is listening

Dear Lily,

Happy 12th Birthday! 

Today my youngest, Lily, turns 12.  Wow!  While part of me is waxing a bit nostalgic that my baby is 12, the rest of me is saying “Wooooohooooo!  My baby is 12!!!!”  Lily, I love you so very much, and you are growing up into a lovely young woman.  Be strong, be sweet, be smart, and be yourself.  You don’t need to be anyone else. 

In honor of your birthday, I composed a little message for you: 

Love and smoochies,




April 30, 2010 Posted by | Family, Fun stuff, Kids | , | Leave a comment

Baking Day – Oat Bread

I was going to try to post recipes only on Sundays, however, if I don’t tell you about this bread I just made and stay away from the kitchen, I’ll just eat the whole darn batch.  “My name is Judy and I’m a bread-a-holic” *Hi, Judy*  Here’s what we’re making:

Don’t you wish you were here to smell it?  If you were, I’d make you clean up and do dishes, so be careful what you wish for.  Here’s the recipe:

  • 2-1/4 Cups lukewarm water
  • 1 Tbsp active dry yeast
  • 1/4 Cup honey

I put these in the bowl of my Bosch mixer with the dough hook, put the LID on (I absolutely positively ADORE the lid!) and mix these three things up.  If you don’t have a Bosch mixer, don’t hate me because I do.  You see, I am the kind of cook who needs a lid on my mixer so I actually have some dry ingredients left in the bowl after I turn it on.  I’m also a bird magnet with my car and they run into me left and right when I’m driving.  That’s a whole other topic that I probably shouldn’t go into.  After the yeast has gotten happy and thrown a party with the water and honey, it will get foamy.  Then you’re ready to add the next ingredients:

  • 2 tsp. salt
  • 1 Cup rolled oats
  • 1 Cup whole wheat flour
  • 5 Cups all-purpose or bread flour
  • 1/4 cup canola or light olive oil

With the Bosch, you just dump it in, put the lid on and let ‘er rip.  I mix it on “1” until it all comes together and then check the dough. Turn off the mixer and take off the lid and feel the dough.  If it is really sticky, add more flour, a tablespoon at a time.  If it isn’t the least bit sticky, add lukewarm water, again about a tablespoon at a time.  Your dough should be slightly sticky without leaving much on your hand when you test it.  Today I had to add a bit of extra water once it came together, last week I used exactly the same recipe, exactly the same amounts but had to add a bit of flour to make it juuuust right.  Once it is the right consistency, put the lid on and turn the mixer to “2”, and let it work for about 8 minutes.  After 8 minutes, take the dough out and put it in a large, greased bowl, turning to coat the dough.  Cover the bowl with a clean towel and leave it in a warm place to rise.  I put my bowl next to the coffee maker to keep it warm.  Let it rise about an hour, or until you stick your finger in and it leaves a dent without springing back.  The rising time is really dependent on your yeast and your kitchen temperature. 

Once the dough has risen, punch it down and divide it in half.  Today I used one half to make a loaf, and the other half to make Pioneer Woman’s Buttered Rosemary Rolls.  To make a loaf, spray your counter with non-stick cooking spray.  This works way better than flour because floured dough won’t stick to itself and you’ll end up with big air-holes in the loaf.  Put the lump of dough on your sprayed counter and turn it over.  Grab your favorite rolling-pin (mine’s marble – love it!) and roll the dough into a rectangle about 10″x15″.  Roll it up, not too tightly but not too loosely, starting at a narrower end.  Pinch the end of the roll to seal it, turn it so the seam is at the bottom and then gently karate chop the ends of the roll and fold under toward the middle of the bottom, pinching again to seal.  Place in 9″x5″ greased loaf pan, cover with that same clean towel and let rise about 30-45 minutes. 

For the rolls, I divided the remaining dough in half (2 pieces), divided each of those pieces in half (four pieces), divide each piece again in half (8 pieces), and again (16 pieces).  I’ve found doing it this way gives me much more uniform-sized rolls.  I rolled them on the counter until they were nice and round, and put them evenly spaced to give them room to rise in a well-oiled 12-inch cast-iron skillet.  Let rise 30-45 min.  Brush with melted butter, then sprinkle with rosemary.  I only had dried rosemary but I’m going to use fresh next time, hopefully.  Sprinkle with coarse sea salt, and then more butter.

Bake the bread @ 350F for 30-35 minutes.  I usually have to put a foil tent on mine for the last 10-15 minutes so it doesn’t get too brown.  Bake the rolls @ 400F for 15-20 minutes or until beautiful golden brown.  If you only have one oven, you can put half of the punched-down dough in the refrigerator while the other half is being formed and rising, then when you put the first part in the oven, take the dough out of the fridge, form it and let it rise while the first batch is baking. 

When you take the bread out of the oven, turn it out of the pan right away onto a cooling rack or the bottom crust will get soggy.  Same with the rolls.  I’m not sure they’ll last long enough today to get soggy. 

These rolls are amazing.  I’m almost sorry I made them because I’ve already eaten two. 

The bread makes great sandwiches, it isn’t too sweet and it’s nice and soft.  I’ve got a confession.  It’s not about me, it’s about my kids.  I’m almost ashamed to say it though… I’ll just whisper it.  <My kids like store-bought bread better than homemade.>  Rats, I was expecting catharsis with that admission, and all I feel is shame.  I need a hug.  But don’t hug me if I don’t know you, that freaks me out.  Yes, my children will turn up their nose at homemade bread in favor of the cheapest, grossest white bread.  Must be some kind of genetic throwback or something, but I love them anyway.

So now that I feel all weird about admitting my shortcomings to you, I’m going to drown my sorrows in a Buttered Rosemary Roll.  And go find my fat pants.  C-ya.

April 28, 2010 Posted by | Bread, Fun stuff, Recipes | , , | Leave a comment

Sunday Dinner – Dutch Apple Crunch Pie

The house I grew up in sat on 2 lots in our little town.  It was an old house back then, and when it was built it was probably on the very edge of town.  The backyard had an old chicken coop, a “fruit house” that was like a above-ground root cellar, and many old fruit trees.  One of them was an apple tree.

Three seasons of the year this apple tree was our play-house and our horse (one of the main branches ran parallel to the ground and was big enough for us to sit on).  In the fall, though, it was a job.  My sister Kim and I would go out and pick up apples almost every day.  If we missed a day the darn yellow-jackets would find the apples and try to kill us for taking their food.  Once we picked up the apples, Mom would make and can applesauce with Red-Hots melted into it so it was a lovely shade of pink, and on special days she would make this apple pie. 

My apple tree now is only about 5 feet tall and kind of sad.  It’s all bent over from having too many apples on it a couple of years ago, but it’ll probably look cool 50 years from now if it makes it that long.  The apples it produces are great to feed the cows but not good for much else.  Oh well.  Maybe someday it’ll make enough good apples to make a pie.  I can hardly wait!

You can always tell the best recipes by the “patina” on them.  Here are my Grandma Mary’s recipe for pie crust, and Mom’s recipe for apple pie:

Never Fail Pie Crust  – makes enough for 2 double-crust pies

  • 4 Cups flour
  • 1 Cup shortening
  • 1 Cup butter
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 Tbsp sugar
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1 Tbsp vinegar
  • between 1/3 – 1/2 Cup cold water

Mix flour, baking powder, sugar and salt together in a large bowl.  Using pastry cutter, cut in shortening and butter until mixture looks like coarse crumbs.  In a small bowl, beat the egg, then mix in vinegar and water (the amount of water is variable.  For me, if the weather is hot or humid, I use 1/3 cup of water.  If it’s winter and dry from the heater running, I use 1/2 cup.  It just kind of depends.)  Pour liquid ingredients into dry ingredients and mix until incorporated.  Then I divide the dough into 4 pieces and put each piece in a zip-type bag and pop them in the refrigerator while I’m making whatever pie filling I’m craving.  You can also put the dough in the freezer if you’re not planning on making more than one pie, and it’ll keep for about 2 months if it’s well wrapped.

Dutch Apple Crunch Pie  –  This Dutch apple pie is different than most, because it has a top crust and then the sprinkles on top of that.  It is oh. so. good.

  • Pastry for one double-crust pie
  • 6 Cups peeled, cored and sliced apples
  • 3/4 Cup sugar
  • 1/2 – 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 Tbsp flour
  • 1 Tbsp lemon juice
  • 1 Tbsp butter

Combine all ingredients and place in pastry lined 9-inch pie pan.  Put on top pastry and cut vents in top.  Add Crunch Topping:

  • 1 Tbsp shortening
  • 1 Tbsp sugar
  • 3 Tbsp flour
  • 1/4 tsp salt

Mix above ingredients together with a fork until crumbly.  Sprinkle topping over top pie crust.  Bake at 425F for 10 min.  Leaving pie in oven, reduce heat to 350F and bake for 30-35 minutes or until nicely browned.  Depending on your oven, this could take from 25 – 45 minutes, so rather than go by the time given keep a good eye on it and bake it as long as it needs to be baked.  Cool and serve.  In my house we let it cool until it’s just slightly cooler than lava, and serve it with vanilla ice cream.

Oh, my goodness.  I want apple pie.  I REALLY want apple pie.  I hope you like this as much as we do!

April 25, 2010 Posted by | Dessert, Recipes, Uncategorized | , , | Leave a comment

Nineteen years ago…

…our first baby was born.  She was very beautiful, with thick, curly hair.  She was very sick.  We knew she would be sick before she was born. 

We named her Caitlin Mary, called her Caitie.  Caitie was born with congenital diaphragmatic hernia (CDH), so her lungs were very small.  Too small.  After a great struggle to live, Caitie died when she was 10 days old.  I had never loved anything as much as her.  Only a mother can love that much.  My heart felt permanently broken.  I wanted to die, too. 

Then, I couldn’t have imagined that life could ever be good again.  But life is good.  We have been blessed with four more daughters.  The open wound on my heart left by Caitie’s death has pretty much healed over, but every year on her birthday I can’t help but try to imagine what life would have been like with her here.  And I cry.

I would have had five girls, someone older than Abby to boss her around.  Maybe she would have liked math like I do, maybe she would have played the piano like I wish I could.  Or maybe she would have been so sick all the time we wouldn’t have been able to have more kids.  Maybe life would have been a physical hell for her.

God knows why she was sick, why she had to live through that, why we have to live out our lives missing her.  I no longer feel like asking Him, “Why?”  It is the way it is.  And I know it’s OK to miss her on her birthday. 

Every year on her birthday, I listen to this song and wonder how in the world whoever wrote this got in my head and wrote down my thoughts.

Homesick by MercyMe

So Happy Birthday, Caitie-bug.  Today we will celebrate and remember the day a wee little girl was born, and the day we knew what it was to love our own child.  And we thank God for every minute you were here.  We love you.

April 23, 2010 Posted by | Family, Kids, Remembering | , | 4 Comments

Stop the world, I want to get off

Yesterday was good and bad.  Good because I got to see Dick and spend the day with Mom.  Bad because I did all that at the hospital.  When I got there I had to go to the ICU to visit him, which frankly gives me a bad case of PTSD.  More on that tomorrow.  He was awake and alert and seemed glad to see me.  I said, “Hey, it’s My Favorite Martian!” because with the big drain tube sticking out of his head, this is what he looked like, except for the orange sky and green sparkly shirt:

He liked my joke about needing to go to the hospital like he needed another hole in his head.  Then he fell asleep in mid-sentence.  Being sick is hard work.  Being that sick is very hard.  Later on, they took the tube out because it wasn’t doing any good.  So for now, we wait.  What are we waiting for?  Honestly, he’s not ever going to be better.  Barring some miracle, which I know can happen, he will be as sick as he is now until he dies.  And that sucks.

In light of life sucking today, it is a minimal homeschool day, a minimal housework day, a minimal thought day.  It is an I-wish-I-could-trade-places-with-someone day.  I want to go outside and lay in the tall, tall grass, feel the warm sunshine and just look up at the blue sky and pretend that nothing else exists.  But the ground is cold and wet, the grass isn’t very tall and the sky is cloudy.  Life as it is exists.  The kitchen is horrible after me being gone for 3 days in a row.  It seems that children forget how to do chores unless you are there to supervise.  But I don’t want to nag them today.  I want to be like Ferdinand, at the end of the story.  If only for a while.  Maybe later.  Maybe tomorrow.

April 22, 2010 Posted by | Sick, Uncategorized | , | Leave a comment

Yet Another

fine china

Another morning, another cup of coffee, another oatmeal scone (and probably another after that), and another trip to another big city today.  This one, not so much fun.  My step-dad, Dick, is in the hospital again.  His health issues are numerous, and this time he’s in because his brain is being bad.  He has a bleed going on and last night they did brain surgery to put in a couple drains to relieve pressure.  This is tough on my Mom, naturally, so I’m going to go up to Olympia and hang out with her today at the hospital.  After two days off the farm this week already, I’m behind on EVERYTHING I’m supposed to be doing and this is going to put me even farther back, but you can’t exactly schedule things like this now can you?

muddy track to the manure shed

One of my huge character defects is that when I get stressed, everything gets funny.  In a really sick sort of way.  Like today, I know when I see my step-dad, I’m going to say, “Hey, Dick, you needed another trip to the hospital like you needed a hole in your head!”  Good thing he’s known me for 25 years and has had that long to learn to ignore me.  (Unlike you, poor thing.)  Sarcasm and sick humor are like a reflex in me, I don’t need to generate them, they just come pouring out.  Like 2 years ago when my then-79-year-old father-in-law, in a freak accident, got knocked off his tractor which then proceeded to run him over.  He got up and walked away from it, I kid you not, pretty sore for a couple of weeks and quite humble, but otherwise unscathed.  Once I found out he was going to be OK, I was so relieved!  Then, a song ran through my head which I unwisely shared with my husband, who, at the time, didn’t think it was very funny though he’s mildly amused by it now.  You know the old Christmas classic “Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer”?  My head turned it into “Harold Got Run Over by a Tractor”, and it would have been even better if we were John Deere people (“Harold Got Run Over by a John Deere”) but we’re International people.  *sigh* 

So today I’m really going to try to rein it in, and if he’s doing bad there won’t be any use for humor.  I do have some manners.  I hope today is kind to you, as I hope it is kind to me and mine.  I hope he’s doing so well that tomorrow I can stay home and catch up on everything, like making laundry soap.  I’m almost out.  I’ll just tell everyone to not get dirty until this settles down.  My parting shot:


April 21, 2010 Posted by | Sick | , , , , | Leave a comment

Farmer Meets Rancher: The Pioneer Woman

Two-and-a-half years ago, my sister told me about this blog-thingy called The Pioneer Woman.  I don’t think I even knew what a blog was, but Sis sent me the URL so I went to check it out.  Here was this crazy woman who lived out on the wide prairie (hmm, that sounds familiar) who had these four kids (also, a bit familiar) and she homeschools (getting creeped out now) her husband is a rancher (mine is a farmer, that’s kinda-sorta close) and has a yard full of cows.  Whew!  Well, there finally had to be a difference!  I don’t have cows in my yard, how silly!  I have parts of cows in my yard, thanks to my dogs, but we prefer not to think of them as dead cow parts but Yard Decor.  I can actually deal with that thought, and it makes me feel so cultured. 

One of my yard decorators

I’ve been a regular visitor to since then.  I’ve laughed a lot at her, cried with her when her beloved Nell never came home, and put on 30 lbs thanks to her recipes.  The first day I visited her site she had just posted her recipe for Apple Dumplings (, which I promptly made and then made disappear.  It’s been a lovely ride since then, with many, many culinary adventures undertaken (and added to my hips).    I was so excited last summer when she announced that her cookbook would be coming out in October!!  I went and pre-ordered it immediately and waited forEVER for that book.  Then, in the midst of the longest wait next to the last month of pregnancy, PW goes and announces her upcoming book tour!  Another long wait while the tour page loaded, and the wind went right out of my sails.  She wasn’t coming anywhere close to me.  Sadness enveloped me, then I made a batch of her Yummy, Delightful Mystery Rolls ( and pulled up my (now bigger) big girls pants and got on with my life.  The cookbook finally came, and that very night I made my husband the Twice Baked Potatoes.  He proposed to me again, the second time this year and we’ve already been married for 20 years.  They are just that good.  And the earth kept turning.

photo by Emma

Stay...Good Dog

Last month I was just minding my own business, thinking about how in the world I was going to deal with those 30 lbs and my upcoming 25 year class reunion.  Out of the blue, my old friend Jude sent me a note that The Pioneer Woman was going to be coming to Portland!  Hey!  I know where Portland is!  I even had all my kids there!!  And the book-signing was going to be at Powell’s, which is only the most awesome book store in the UNIVERSE.  Or at least the known universe.  I locked that date in on my calendar, told Stu that no farm emergencies were going to be allowed that day because I was going to go meet REE!  He said, “Who’s Ree?”  Once I explained who Ree was, you know, The Pioneer Woman, the one with the twice baked potato recipe, well he was ready to go.  Then the kids decided they wanted to go too.  We made the dogs stay home, they probably had some redecorating to do anyway.



We got to Powell’s at 4pm.  The Pioneer Woman started at 6pm.  My kids were “positively dying of boredom” in the most awesome bookstore in the known universe.  I still can’t figure it out.  Stu and the girls are all hanging out, and I’m lucky to have a seat while watching the store fill up.  And then it filled up some more.  And then more people came.  And then 6 o’clock came – and went.  Gotta love Portland traffic.  Finally,  in walks Ree.  The crowd squeals like only 500+ women can squeal and I seriously thought about going home right then.  I guess I can’t HANDLE the squealing.  Here’s the only picture I got:

My camera skills have, uh, a lot of room for improvement.  Does this help?

 I was afraid it wouldn’t.  Nowhere to go but up.  Anywho, there was a nice little Q&A and then waiting to have my cookbook signed by THE PIONEER WOMAN HERSELF AND I WAS GOING TO GET TO MEET HER AND now I had to say something and not sound stupid.  Great.  When I got up there I’m not sure I was speaking English anymore and I’m not multi-lingual unless you count pig-Latin.  (Ree, if you read this, I really can converse in complete sentences in clear English most of the time.  Honest!)  I had her sign the Twice Baked Potatoes page for my husband, he thought that was really awesome!   Then the long trip home, kicking myself all the way for representing my area so badly.  Then I ate a piece of Grandma Iny’s Prune Cake ( and all was right with the world, except for the size of my jeans. 

Nice to meet you Ree, from one prairie-living, four-kid-raising, homeschooling, spouse-of-a-rural-occupational-guy to another.  And thanks for all the good food.

April 20, 2010 Posted by | Fun stuff | , , , | 2 Comments

Nothing like consistency


And you won’t find anything like it here.  It’s kind of the theme of my life.  The only consistent thing is inconsistency.  The taps in my brain run hot and cold, and very seldom do they combine and form any sort of just warm. 

It’s been a lovely, quiet morning.  Coffee and Scottish oatmeal scones fresh out of the oven.  I wonder, are they truly Scottish because I used raisins instead of dried currents?  Why do I even think about things like that?  Nobody cares, unless you are a Scottish stickler or something and if you are, please let me know.  I care.

Now I have one kid up and around, asking me to get her schoolwork for today ready.  Quiet time – done.  Peaceful morning – over.  Slog time is here.  I have to face the reality of a trip to town today, which will include ~shudder~ stopping at Hell-mart.  I have a seriously-dislike-slash-hate relationship with Hell-mart, but I must have Cascade Complete and they’re the only ones around here who have it.  I must have Cascade Complete because my kids refuse to rinse the dishes when it’s their turn to wash them.  I have told them OVER and OVER that the dishwasher is not a magic machine, it will not turn filth into shining cleanliness like on the commercials, but since they are smarter and wiser than I, I must buy the most expensive stuff made in the history of dishwashers.  There goes their college fund.  Down the drain.  On the other hand, the dishes get clean and I’ll take immediate gratification over long-term gain any day.  So off to Hell-mart I go, to do business with and enrich Satan’s minions.  It grates my soul.

My menu for this evening:  Stroganoff with home-made noodles, salad, and peas.  Sadly, not peas from my own garden.  Happily, the peas in my garden have actually sprouted! and are about an inch tall! and they didn’t rot like I though they would because of the 2 feet of rain that fell in the weeks after I planted them!  Pretty much all my starts have sprouted (hooray!) and I’m going to Kaija’s today to get some iceberg lettuce seeds.  I read somewhere (you’ll find I say that a lot) that iceberg lettuce doesn’t bolt or turn bitter in the heat of summer like leaf lettuce, but you have to start them indoors early.  I’m gonna give it a try.

Oh, I almost forgot!  My husband, the farmer, no longer thinks blogs are so much nonsense.  He’s actually encouraging me to do this!  I wonder why?  Does he have alterior motives?  Like, would he rather I spill my guts to the nameless, faceless internet than to him?  Nah, he’s just seen me looking at the Pioneer Woman, Cake Wrecks and a couple of others and thinks it’s not a bad idea.  I say, honey, welcome to the 21st century!  You’re only 10 years late.

April 20, 2010 Posted by | Nothing much | Leave a comment