Black and White Challenge

“Hast thou entered into the treasures of the snow?” (Job 38:22)

My daughter-in-law Carlie tagged me in a Facebook challenge to post seven black and white photos in seven days with no explanation or words. At the time, my life was spinning too fast to take her up on it, but tomorrow the holiday festivities begin with the first family arriving, and between now and the New Year, we have high hopes of seeing all twelve of our children (counting our in-law kids) and eighteen grandchildren except those who live in Belgium. Therefore, my life is going to be even busier . . . possibly too busy to write my blog! So, I’m thinking to have a series of seven black and white photos that depict what life has been like over the past few weeks (albeit interrupted over the weekend with my usual recipe post on Saturday and a scripture meditation on Sunday). Perhaps over the Christmas to New Year week I can post a series of color photos that relate to our holidays and the joy of family (from another popular challenge going around Facebook these days called “Grandma”).

Because my heart is to share the Lord, I’m allowing myself one scripture verse caption for each photo, but I won’t indulge in any other explanations or words. Hope you enjoy!

HAPPY HOLIDAYS!

Pumpkin Pie Bars

Here’s a new recipe I created since it was my turn to bring treats for our Sunday school class last week. The entire pan was eaten, and several people asked me for the recipe, so here it is:

Pumpkin Pie Bars with Cream Cheese Frosting

Pumpkin Pie Bars
(Makes 40 medium-small servings)

Preheat your oven to 350°F.

In a mixer, add:
1 yellow cake mix (any regular size; I used Duncan Hines, but suit yourself)
2 eggs
1 twelve-ounce can evaporated milk
1 fifteen-ounce can pureed pumpkin
1 teaspoon cinnamon
3/4 teaspoon allspice

Spread evenly onto a large cookie sheet pan (mine is 17″ by 11″) and bake at 350°F. for 20 minutes (or until the cake springs back when touched lightly).

Cool and frost with:

Frosted Pumpkin Pie Bars

Cream Cheese Frosting

In a large mixer, add:
8 cups powdered sugar
1/2 cup softened butter
8 oz. softened cream cheese
1 teaspoon vanilla
5/8 cup milk

Beat until smooth. Spoon gently into middle of the pan and spread from the middle out toward the edges, making sure not to lift your spatula so that it lifts the frosting off the cake.

Make a joyful noise unto the Lord, all ye lands. Serve the Lord with gladness: come before his presence with singing. Know ye that the Lord he is God: it is he that hath made us, and not we ourselves; we are his people, and the sheep of his pasture. Enter into his gates with thanksgiving, and into his courts with praise: be thankful unto him, and bless his name. For the Lord is good; his mercy is everlasting; and his truth endureth to all generations” (Psalm 100).

Homemade Glazed Donuts

Every autumn, at least once, our family likes to make homemade donuts, and I’ve found a super simple way to make them so you can make 12-36 without much fuss, so even if we have a lot of our kids home, I’m not slaving for hours over homemade yeast bread, kneading it, punching it down, and letting it rise for hours.

Simple and Yummy Homemade Glazed Donuts
(feeds about 4-6 per loaf)

Start by defrosting enough frozen bread dough to suit your needs. (I defrost it on a well buttered pan covered with saran or other wrap to keep it from drying out.) One 1-pound loaf will make 12 donuts and 12 donut holes, but if you love donuts as much as we do, that really only feeds about 4-6 people. 🙂

Once the bread has completely thawed (about three hours), roll or press it out until it’s as thin as you can easily make it. Taking a donut-press, cut out 12 donuts and 12 donut holes, and line them up on well buttered cookie sheets with ample separation between them so they can rise without touching each other. Cover with waxed paper or press-n-seal wrap to keep them from drying out while they rise.

Let them rise for about an hour before frying them. This is a good time to make the glaze. For 2 pounds of bread dough (24 donuts and 24 donut holes):

Glaze for Homemade Donuts

In your mixer, combine:
4 cups powdered sugar
1 stick (4 oz.) melted butter
3/4 cup milk. Beat together until completely smooth. It will be quite thin.

I use my biggest frying pan filled with about 1.5 inches of cooking oil (I use canola). Heat the oil until it sizzles if you flick a drop of water into it. When it’s sufficiently hot, gently add the donuts one at a time until your pan is full. It will really only take about 1-2 minutes per side to fry the donuts, so you need to work fast and consider this a full-time job!

Frying homemade donuts

As soon as the donuts are golden on one side, flip them over (using big spoons; don’t pop the bubbles!) and fry them on the other side.

Once they’re done, take them out and lay them on cookie sheets lined with towel paper to absorb the extra grease.

Making donuts can be a family affair, although the grease and fresh donuts are dangerously hot, so I often conscript adult help for the frying and glazing. Little ones can help with cutting out the donuts, although they might end up a little misshapen. (But, who cares??)

My number # right hand man keeping the kids
happily occupied while the donuts fried

Our grand kids were busy playing Mouse Trap and Codenames, so they were content to let their parents help me in the kitchen, ’cause if you want everything to turn out “hot and now!” then it’s really ideal to have two people working: One to fry and the other to glaze.

To glaze the donuts, drop them one at a time into the bowl of glaze, make sure they’re covered on both sides, and then immediately lift them out and place them on a fresh cookie sheet (no towel paper, and no additional butter or grease).

The glaze will drip off the sides of the donuts, but that doesn’t matter!

The important thing is to serve them while they’re still warm and sticky.

Fried Donut Holes

The only down side is that they go down like popcorn, so take that into account when you’re figuring out when to make them.

We made ours late in the afternoon after having no dessert with our Sunday dinner. Actually, we didn’t need a lot of supper that night, either! 🙂

Bless the Lord, O my soul. O Lord my God, thou art very great;
thou art clothed with honour and majesty” (Psalm 104:1).

Savory Beef Stew

One of the true comfort foods on chilly nights is a good, hearty stew, and I think our family’s favorite it probably beef stew. Most everybody makes it, but just in case you haven’t “discovered” this tasty dish yet, here’s our family recipe:

Savory Beef Stew

In a large skillet, saute together until tender (about 5-7 minutes):
1 small onion
3 small potatoes cubed
1/2 cup carrots, chopped
2 tablespoons butter (or other oil)
1 tablespoon crushed garlic
1 teaspoon Montreal Steak seasoning
1/2 teaspoon Lawry’s Seasoning salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper

When the root veggies are tender, add:
4 oz mushrooms chopped (about 1 chop)
1/2 red pepper
, chopped, and continue frying until tender (about 4 minutes)

Finally, add:
8-12 oz. cubed steak
1/4 cup flour
1 cup milk
1 cup water
1/2 cup peas

Simmer covered until heated through and the flour thickens (about 5-10 minutes). Stir occasionally to keep the bottom from sticking.

Savory Beef Stew Simmering on the Stove

If you need to wait long before serving it, turn off the heat and keep it covered, but reheat at the last minute, and you may want to add a little more water to keep the consistency from becoming too thick. Salt to taste!

Serve with fresh bread or rolls and fruit.

These wait all upon thee; that thou mayest give them their meat in due season.”
(Psalm 104:27)


Creamy Pumpkin Peanut Butter Dip (or Spread)

Looking for a new twist on a dip this autumn? My sister passed on to me a recipe for a pumpkin dip she had at a party last weekend, so I thought I’d try it with my grand kids. The original recipe called for nutmeg, which my body reacts to, so I used allspice instead . . . and a little more to bring out the flavor.

Creamy Pumpkin Peanut Butter Dip

I liked it, but I wasn’t sure my grands would, so I added touch of salt and a half a cup of peanut butter. With that bit of kid magic to enhance the flavor, it was a hit, so I’m going to pass it on to you with those modifications.

In a blender, combine:
4 oz. (1/2 cup) softened cream cream
1 cup (8 oz.) pureed pumpkin
1/2 cup peanut butter
2 tablespoons brown sugar
2 tablespoons maple syrup (or whatever you use for syrup)
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon allspice
1/8 teaspoon salt (or salt to taste)

Blend until completely smooth. (I had to open and scrape the sides down once, because the maple syrup didn’t get completely mixed in the first time.)

I served it with red pepper strips, apple slices, and bananas, but I’m sure it would taste great with most any veggie, fruit, or cracker you like. I was going to try it on fresh bread, but the bread disappeared a little too fast last night!

Peanut Butter Pumpkin Spread on a Bagel for Breakfast!

However, I put the leftovers in the refrigerator and tried some this morning on a bagel with some hot chocolate. As a spread, it’s not as caloric as cream cheese or peanut butter, nor as sugary as jam, so it made a very yummy, pretty healthy breakfast! 🙂

He knoweth the way that I take: when he hath tried me, I shall come forth as gold. My foot hath held his steps, his way have I kept, and not declined. Neither have I gone back from the commandment of his lips; I have esteemed the words of his mouth more than my necessary food” (Job 23:10-12; Job’s confession . . . and oh, that it might be ours too!).

Gentle Rains

Another day of gentle rains! I want to publicly thank God for these wonderful rains, because I’ve been praying for them!

In the process of building an addition, our yard became a muddy mess! Alan carefully sowed grass seed everywhere, but every time we turned our backs, the geese would come and gobble up the profits! One of my daily tasks has become chasing the geese away so the grass has a chance to grow. (And then, I have to scatter more seed after they leave.) I feel like Disney’s little cocker spaniel, Lady!

A Tangle of Wild Grapes and Highbush Cranberry Blossoms

Our yard covers more than an acre, and to water the lawn with a hose and sprinkler would take more time, energy, and hose-length than we possess, so I’ve been asking the Lord to bless us with gentle rains to help the grass seed sprout and take root before it all gets washed away or eaten up.

Gray Dogwood, Cornus racemosa, growing wild along our Michigan woodland lane

God has been answering my prayers! We have had one of the most wonderfully cool springs I can ever remember, with the perfect blend of sunshine and soft showers!

The grass has taken root, and we’ve become hopeful that—short of a disastrous drought—the grass may flourish. Perhaps by next summer we will have enough soft grass to support both the grazing of geese and the romping of grand children!

Wild turkeys grazing in the meadow

Well, and enough for the wild turkeys too . . .

Doe and her young fawn grazing with the geese in our yard

And the deer, especially now that the herd
has a number of new fawns to feed!

Mock orange on a rainy morning

Working hard to plant and protect the grass, and praying for rain and sunshine—which only God can provide—reminds me of a greater task we’ve been given: that of sharing spiritual “seed” (the Word of God) with others. “My doctrine shall drop as the rain, my speech shall distil as the dew, as the small rain upon the tender herb, and as the showers upon the grass” (Dueteronomy 32:2).

Fragrant wild roses perfuming the misty morning air

God has been merciful and kind to me, and he will provide for you too if you’ll surrender your heart and will to Jesus. He calls each of us with a quiet, gentle voice that can only be heard in our hearts. “It is of the Lord’s mercies that we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not. They are new every morning: great is thy faithfulness” (Lamentations 3:22-23).

White-tailed fawn in our woods

Thou hast also given me the shield of thy salvation: and thy right hand hath holden me up, and thy gentleness hath made me great” (Psalm 18:35).

Magnify

Do you ever wake up on a rainy morning and say to yourself, “I just need to go for a walk!”?

Peony crowned with raindrops

Yesterday was one of those days for me, so I donned my raincoat, grabbed my trusty umbrella (to protect my camera), and took off to see what I could see!

Orange Bearded Iris in Rain

It was as I thought—absolutely beautiful!

Peony buds in the rain

The amazing beauty of springtime
is always exhilarating and glorious, isn’t it?!

Purple Bearded Iris

First I walked along the lane to check out the woods and swamp.

Wood ducks in a swamp

At first, I didn’t see anything of particular interest, but then I saw a movement in the distance. It wasn’t until I was able to zoom in with my camera that I got a clear picture: a pair of wood ducks resting on a log, trying to negotiate the rain. They kept shaking their wings, and I smiled, thinking about the saying that something is as insignificant as “water off a duck’s back.” Not if you’re a duck! They worked hard to shake all the rain off their feathers!

Montmoreceny cherries starting to ripen in rain

I’ve been meditating my way through the Book of Psalms in the mornings lately (and I most highly recommend Charles Spurgeon’s Treasury of David for eloquent insights on the these comforting scriptures)! We need a lot of life’s drenching rains to grow spiritually. Bless God for rain; without it we would all die!

Wild roses blooming on our lane

That morning, I was meditating on Psalm 34:3, “O magnify the Lord with me, and let us exalt his name together.” I feel like just one little wild rose, but one blossom in the midst of a cluster of wild roses can still attract attention . . . and may any attention we attract always magnify our wondrous creator, who has “made everything beautiful in his time” (Ecclesiastes 3:11)!

Water droplets falling off lily pad leaves

I thought about how much more we can see when something is magnified. Without my camera, and it’s wonderful capacity for magnifying life, I would have known it was raining, but I wouldn’t have been able to recognize the distant pair of wood ducks or seen the tiny droplets of water dripping off the edge of the lily pads. May those of us who know God be like magnifying lenses for those who don’t.

Honeysuckle

Although I could smell the heady sweetness of honeysuckle, without magnification, I couldn’t really appreciate how beautiful it is. As we meditate on God’s beauty and draw near to him, may we share that sweetness with those around us!

Elaeagnus angustifolia, commonly called Russian olive, silver berry, oleaster,
Persian olive or wild olive

We have lots of Russian olives in bloom along our lane, but how could I explain to you how joyous they look without magnification?

Highbush Cranberry blossoms

We can’t “magnify the Lord” in the sense of making him anything greater than he is, because he is the Creator who holds the universe in his hands! He is already higher than the heavens and deeper than the seas . . . crowned with beauty and glory!

Mock orange budding in the rain

But, as we draw near to him and begin to appreciate his beauty, we are filled with such awe that we want to share what we’ve experienced with others, just like I love sharing my experiences with you!

Daisy

With magnification, even the common experiences of life become uncommon . . . like the daily miracles we may fail to notice—the breathe of life, color, water . . .

Nightshade

Only through the magnification of God’s Word do we learn to understand that not everything which is beautiful to look is also safe to eat. Some things are really bejeweled poison! “The Lord is well pleased for his righteousness’ sake; he will magnify the law, and make it honourable” (Isaiah 42:21).

Waterlily bud in the rain

Only with magnification can we see the tiny details, like the minuscule fly resting on the lily. (Can you see it?) “Dead flies cause the ointment of the apothecary to send forth a stinking savour: so doth a little folly him that is in reputation for wisdom and honour” (Ecclesiastes 10:1). Can you think of anywhere outside scripture where we are given so many insights about the “little” details of righteousness?

Tiny clover blossoms and a tiny slug

I realized that magnification makes me aware of the fragility of life. How easily I might have stepped on these delicate clovers growing in the middle of the road! Even more surprising, there was a miniature slug sitting in the middle of one of them, which I really did not see until I studied the photo later! Whom might we harm because they’re in the middle of our road?? Ever read the children’s book, Horton Hears a Who?

Robin Hood Roses in rain, out of focus!

Finally, I realized that the most powerful camera in the world (which I certainly don’t own . . . but for the sake of argument), with the best magnification potential in the world, would be absolutely useless if it isn’t focused properly! If we don’t learn how to use the Bible (the world’s most powerful tool for revealing and magnifying God) to focus others on the magnificence of God, we won’t have anything worth sharing with others! Instead, we’ll be much more likely to confuse or frustrate them.

Robin Hood Roses in the rain

I will praise the name of God with a song, and will magnify him with thanksgiving.”
(Psalm 69:30)