Monthly Archives: November 2007

Let It Snow! Let It Snow ! Let It Snow!

Living in the Midwest allows us to celebrate four distinct seasons, and although we enjoy some seasons more that others, we try to celebrate the arrival of each one here at the homestead. Winter is one season that I don’t joyfully anticipate, but even I can get excited about the first snowfall. As an experienced Midwesterner I can feel it in the air! I remember my days in the classroom as both student and later as teacher; just as soon as the first fat flakes started coming down it was impossible to settle down for any kind of work!

That excitement happened again this year, the day before Thanksgiving with a record snowfall blanketing the capital city where we were visiting Grandma’s house. Traveling was treacherous with a layer of ice under the snow, so we gladly hunkered down with all the cousins for a day of games, hot chocolate and of course, our Snow Cake.

The tradition of Snow Cake began when I was a young mom and Matt and Laura where just little tykes. It was so exciting to see the first snow through their eyes that I decided we needed to celebrate it! We made a chocolate brownie and then cut a snowflake out of paper, laid it on top of the cooled brownie and sprinkled it with powdered sugar. When the paper was removed, the children saw the powdered sugar snowflake remaining and were awestruck!

That first Snow Cake was a hit and a new tradition was born! Now, no matter when it happens (and some years the timing was awful!) when those first snowflakes of winter start falling, we celebrate with a Snow Cake!

"Mommy, What Bird Made That Nest?"

Another glorious day in Southern Iowa! Winter seems to have forgotten the way here, or has been delayed for some reason. We aren’t complaining! We’re soaking up all the sunshine we can before the snow starts to fly!

It was the perfect day for a walk. The leaves have almost all fallen and the trees are bare. As I wondered through the woods and across the open pastures I was amazed at how many nests the children and I discovered! I’m a novice at bird nest identification, but wish I knew more! The easiest way to identify a nest is in the spring and summer when it has eggs or baby birds, but it’s a lot easier to spot the nests this time of year when they aren’t hidden by all the green leaves.

As I was researching how to identify different nests, I came across a great site that was full of excellent information on bird nest identification.

http://www.backyardnature.net/birdnest.htm

I learned the four things to look for when identifying a nest: the size, the structure, the composition and what birds are present locally. The site also has great information on the different kinds of bird nest structures and how to use Google to help you in identifying.

Sounds like we have a great home school project for this week, doesn’t it!

Unexpected Company!

It’s happened twice now in the past few weeks. We’ve had a phone call late Saturday night that some “friends or relations” (as Pooh Bear would say), wanted to drive down and enjoy a beautiful fall day in the country with us. We have a routine for calls such as this. As soon as the phone is hung up I call “all hands on deck” and everyone receives their assignment. Since these were “day-trippers” not “over-nighters” we didn’t have as much to clean, and with everybody’s help, it didn’t take long!

All the while we were cleaning, I was mentally reviewing the contents of my pantry and refrigerator trying to decide on menus. Dessert was almost a no-brainer! I have one stand-by for a quick, sure-fire dessert that always gets rave reviews, my chocolate brownie sundae. I begin with my favorite quick basic brownie, adding nuts if the “friends and relations” are nutty people, and sometimes adding extra chocolate or flavored chips. A quick 15 minutes in the oven while I wash up the few utensils I needed and I’m set.

To serve, I cut a generous brownie and place it in a pretty bowl. Then add a large scoop of vanilla ice cream and drizzle it all with chocolate syrup. Sometimes I’ll sprinkle with chopped nuts (if they’re the nutty kind of “friends and relations” of course!) A few weeks ago I was out of ice cream when the call came, so I drizzled the chocolate sauce right on the brownie followed by a large dollop of whipped cream on top of that. It was a big hit!

Fast, simple, delicious and chocolate, a winner every time!

Fudge Brownies

Combine: 1 1/3 c. flour, 2 c. sugar. 3/4 c. cocoa, 1/2 tsp. salt, and 1/2 cup chopped nuts. In separate bowl combine 2/3 c. oil, 4 eggs, 2 tsp. vanilla. Combine the wet and dry ingredients, Do not over mix! Spread into a greased 9 x 13 pan and bake 350 degrees for 20-25 minutes.

Buddy’s 7th Birthday Cake

My baby turned 7 yesterday. Made me feel a little old, but also more wise and experienced. I sat down and figured out that his birthday cake was the 54th one that I created. I learned a few things along the way, like the more involved the birthday child is, the more they will love their cake. I also learned that beauty is in the eye of the beholder and that even if my cake will never grace the cover of Better Homes and Gardens, it will make a child feel special and that’s what’s most important. And above all else, make sure it tastes great! Over the years we’ve designed some very unique cake creations, and this year was no exception. Together, Buddy and I designed an amazing Race Track Cake, complete with a NASCAR race in the chocolate oval with a TV satellite truck, ambulance and wrecker on the side lines! We made a simple chocolate sheet cake brownie, frosted it with Cool Whip (my other birthday secret! It saves time and tastes great!), then outlined the track in M&M’s before filling it with a crushed Hershey bar. The outfield grass was just green sugar sprinkles. All of the cars came from his Matchbox Cars collection. He was so proud of that cake! And it tasted great, too!

Cookie Sheet Chocolate Brownies:

Combine 1 stick margarine, 1 cup water, 1/4 c. cocoa and 1/2 c. cooking oil in a sauce pan and bring to a boil. Pour over 2 c. flour, 2 c. sugar, and 1/2 tsp. salt. Add 1/2c. buttermilk, 2 eggs, 1 tsp. soda, and 1 tsp. vanilla. Blend and pour into greased cookie sheet and bake 15-20 minutes at 400 degrees.

Enjoy!

Crazy Auntie M

My youngest sister called this afternoon.

She has 6 of the cutest kiddos and they all love me, their Auntie M. They love coming to the farm to visit me because Auntie M does crazy things. I make up crazy songs, spray whipped cream directly into my mouth, and invent fun games, like a pea blowing contest after supper.

These kids are pretty smart and have learned quickly that Auntie M loves chocolate. During one visit my sister had brought a very rich, decadent, wonderful chocolate cheesecake from the Cheesecake Factory.

We waited until after all the children had eaten (her 6 and my 5) , including a brownie for dessert and gone to play before we cut into it. This worked for a few meals, but then we were caught, red-handed with the last pieces in front of us ready to eat. Since they had already had brownies, we mothers told them they couldn’t have any. In his disappointment, my nephew was heard to say, “Auntie M doesn’t share her chocolate”. It’s been a family joke ever since.

Those same adorable nieces and nephews publish a monthly newsletter of their family happenings complete with pictures. One past publication included a very unflattering picture of me, Auntie M, floating down river in an inner tube at a family gathering. I immediately wrote a letter to the editor in complaint and demanding recompense for my emotional trauma in the form of massive amounts of chocolate. It worked, for a little while.

Then just this week, my sister had all the children along with her in Sam’s Club. It was a great day to go because many of the samples were chocolates! When she had finished shopping and all the children had sampled everything possible, including Andees Peppermint Crunch Mints, cheese cake and Dove candy bars, she loaded everybody up to head home. The four year old, Little Butter Buns, sat in her car seat pondering deeply and then said, “Auntie M eats too much chocolate, that’s why she’s so crazy!”

From the mouth of babes!