Monthly Archives: November 2009

“Mommy Fix-it”

Sewing_toolsThe Busytown books by Richard Scarry have always been a favorite around here! One of our most beloved characters is Mr. Fix-it.

That inventive, good-natured little fox can fix anything – or at least tried too!

Sometimes as a mom I feel like I’m a “Mommy Fix-it” – trying to fix everything for everybody.

I fix the “boo boo” with a kiss and a band-aid.

I fix the hurt feelings with a hug and a few words of wisdom.

I mend the holes in the jeans, sew on the buttons, proofread the English paper, and clean up the spilled milk.

But lately my heart has been heavy over the things in this world I cannot fix.

The friend who struggles with infertility.

The family who is out of work, out of a home, and out of hope.

The little girls who just lost their precious  grandma, their rock,  to cancer, leaving them in a foster home hurting and scared.

The dear Christian sister who obeyed the Lord, doing the really big thing, and is now overwhelmed with the continual cost of that obedience.

The children all over the world who are going to bed hungry tonight.

I want to fix it. I want to make it better. I want to provide a storybook ending where everybody lives happily ever after.

But I can’t. There are some things I just can’t fix, nor am I supposed too.

Only God can heal the broken-hearted, give strength to the weary, and put the lonely into families. He has everything under control.

And my job is to pray –  to pour out my heart to Him. But as I’m praying, my heart should be tender, always ready to be a part of the answer – whatever that may be.

And the Country Gal Goes Political…

I know this may be hard to believe, but this country gal is getting political.

Yes, me. The one who would rather have a root canal than watch a political debate.

So what changed? Why now?

One man – Bob Vander Plaats.

I heard him speak in June – my husband made me – and I was blown away.

This guy was clearly addressing the problems in our state, and – even more amazingly – gave clear and concise answers on how to solve them. He made sense and I understood it! And boy did I agree with it!

I wanted to cheer!

By the time he finished I looked at my husband and said, “Everybody in Iowa needs to hear this guy! My friends and neighbors need to hear this guy!”

The next thing I know we’ve signed up as volunteers and are planning an event.


We rented a space, sent out invitations, put ads in the paper, made lots of cookies, and prayed that people would come.

They did! And I actually stood up in front of them and introduced Bob Vander Plaats. Do I look as nervous as I felt? (Don’t answer that!)

Bob Vander Plaats

It was amazing to watch the faces of the people in the crowd as Mr. Vander Plaats spoke – they went from skepticism to excitement, just like I did.

He very concisely laid out his 4 priorities as governor. His points were so clear even the 4th graders in the front row understood them! He then spent several minutes answering questions and personally spoke to every person in the room.

Bob Vander Plaats Sign

This guy is a class act  and I am honored to be a small part of his team.

So what’s the most important thing that I have I learned so far in this venture into politics?

Get involved early. Find out who’s running and get behind the one you really like. If you don’t get involved now – you have no right to complain about the name on the ballot in November.

Oh… and Republicans like cookies! 🙂

Caramel In-Between Fudge Cake

Caramel In Between Chocolate Fudge CakeA fellowship dinner at church was the perfect excuse to make a chocolate dessert.  (But then you know me- ANY excuse is good enough to make something chocolate!)

Dagmar had checked out a Pillsbury Bake-Off Desserts Cookbook from the library, and after drooling through all the amazing pictures, decided to try the Caramel In- Between Cake.

I really don’t want to confess how many pieces I ate! The chocolate- caramel combination is one of my favorites.

Caramel In-Between Fudge Cake

Best of the Pillsbury Bake-Off  Desserts


28 caramels (half of 14-oz. bag) up wrapped
1 tablespoon butter or margarine
1 can (14-oz.) sweetened condensed milk (not evaporated)


1 box (19.5 oz.) dark chocolate cake mix with pudding
1 cup water
1 tablespoon shortening, if desired
3 eggs

Frosting and Garnish:

1/2 cup butter or margarine, softened
2 envelopes (1 oz. each) premelted unsweetened baking chocolate or 2 oz. unsweetened baking chocolate melted
3 tablespoons half-and-half or milk
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 cups powdered sugar
1/3 cup sliced almonds, toasted

1. Heat oven to 350 degrees. Generously grease bottom only of 13X9-inch pan with shortening; lightly flour. In 2-quart saucepan, place all filling ingredients. Cook over medium-low heat about 8 minutes, stirring constantly, until caramels are melted.

2. In large bowl, beat all cake ingredients with electric mixer on low speed 30 seconds. Beat on medium speed 2 minutes, scraping bowl occasionally. Spread half of batter (about 2 cups) evenly in pan. Bake 20 minutes.

3. Spread filling evenly over partially baked cake; cover with remaining batter. Bake 20-25 minutes longer or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool completely, about 1 hour.

4. In small bowl, beat 1/2 cup butter, the chocolate, half-and-half and vanilla with electric mixer on medium speed until well blended. Gradually add powdered sugar, beat 2 or 3 minutes or until light and fluffy. Frost cooked cake. Sprinkle almonds over top.


Cinnamon Rolls with Squash

Nana is back with a delicious family favorite! These rolls are a great way to sneak a little more vegetables into your children!

Cinnamon RollsThe garden is done for the year – and the harvest is in. Now it was time to do some baking!

The fragrance of baking squash and cinnamon rolls linger around me as I write.

We made a tradition with the grandchildren to make Cinnamon Rolls when they came. We would roll out enough dough to cover the length of our dining room table and would have a contest to guess how many rolls we would be able to make!

We found a recipe that uses squash in the batter. It makes them extra moist & more heart healthy! It is a treat to serve when friends come for coffee so we keep a batch in the freezer ready to defrost in the microwave making them taste freshly baked!

To prepare the squash I sliced it in half and baked it in a 350 degree oven until soft.  Then I scooped it out and put it into bags for the freezer.

All except a cupful – that is what it takes to make a batch of these yummy cinnamon rolls!

Cinnamon Rolls with Squash
(From Nana Shirley’s Kitchen)

1 packet (1/4 oz) active dry yeast
2 Tablespoon warm water
1 cup mashed cooked butternut squash
1/3 cup warm milk
¼ cup oil
1 egg
3 Tablespoons brown sugar
¼ teaspoon salt
3 to 3 ½ cups all-purpose flour

In a small bowl, dissolve yeast in water.

In a mixing bowl, combine squash, milk, oil, egg, brown sugar, & salt; mix well.

Add yeast mixture and 1 ½ cups flour; mix well. Add enough remaining flour to form a soft dough. Turn out a floured surface; knead until smooth & elastic, about 6-8 minutes or use dough hook on mixer. Place in a greased bowl, turning once to grease top. Cover & let rise in a warm place until doubled, about 1 hour. Punch dough down.

Roll our to about ½ inch thickness. Spread with softened butter or margarine. Spread with brown sugar. Sprinkle with cinnamon. Roll from long side. Cut into 1” to 1 ½” sections and turn on end as you place them into a greased sheet cake or cake pan.

Let rise until doubled. Bake 350° until done. (15-20 min?) They will be brown on top and will sound hollow when you “thump” them with your finger!

Take a spatula and loosen from pan while still warm in order to get all the “goodie” from the pan.

Let cool until just warm to touch. Frost with Powdered Sugar Frosting. (Recipe below or can use canned)

Powdered Sugar Frosting:

Mix together in a small bowl 2 cups powdered sugar, ¼ cup softened butter or margarine, 2 tsp. vanilla, (1 tsp. maple flavoring—optional) ¼ cup cold milk. Add more milk or sugar as needed to make the frosting of spreading consistency. It is best if you put it on the rolls while they are still warm.

Rolls can be frozen after they are cool. Defrost and/or warm in microwave before serving to give a fresh baked flavor!

Yield:  12-18 rolls

Until next time,

Nana Shirley

Oven French Toast

Oven French Toast It was several years ago that my sister first introduced us to this yummy breakfast dish.

It is now a staple at our family reunions. Actually – I’m not sure we’d let Teresa come if she didn’t bring some! 🙂

So… when it was my turn to host my husband’s family a few weeks ago – I got the recipe and made it for them.

It was a rainy, cold and dreary morning. But the recipe was so fast to make that Aunt Julie and I had the toast in the oven and smelling delicious as everyone made their way to the table.

It was a huge hit and it sure brightened that morning!

Oven French Toast

1/2 cup melted butter
3/4 cup brown sugar
12 slices Texas toast
1 1/2 cup milk
2-3 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla

Mix together the melted butter and brown sugar. Spread it evenly over the bottom of a greased 11 x 17 inch baking pan.

Lay the Texas toast over the butter and brown sugar.

In a separate bowl mix together the milk, eggs and vanilla. Pour evenly over the toast and bake at 325 degrees for 1/2 hour.

When the toast is done, carefully remove each piece from the baking dish with a spatula and invert it to the serving platter or plate.

These can be served with maple syrup, or fresh fruit, but I love them hot out of the oven – all by themselves!