Monthly Archives: December 2009

The End of a Decade…


It’s the end of a decade today, the first decade in the 2000’s.

Wow- we’ve come along way in ten years!

Do you remember Y2K, Emergency Preparedness and the run on Coleman stoves?

We lived through the horror of September 11, 2001 and saw our country go to war.

We survived Mad Cow disease and the Swine Flu.

Ten years ago I didn’t understand email. I would write my response in a Word document and my husband would cut and paste it to an email for me when he got home. Now I run an eBay business online and I have 2 blogs.

I had 4 babies, was homeschooling 2 of them, living in a hovel on the most beautiful 40 acres of God’s earth.

I carried a diaper bag and planned my days around nap time.

My phone had a long cord.

We watched VHS movies on our VCR.

Steve was Blue’s friend on Blue’s Clues and Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood was on every afternoon.

In ten years we’ve added one more child and 4 nephews and 8 nieces.

I planned 49 birthday parties and baked 49 birthday cakes to celebrate all 49 of my children’s birthdays.

I made and served approximately 10,950 meals.

I washed, dried, folded and put away approximately 14,600 loads of laundry (give or take a few).

Ten years ago I was teaching Phonics and math facts. Today our text books are much heavier and cover Chemistry and Physics.

My biggest worries then were diaper rash and how to get the little ones to sleep through the night. Now I have kids who drive cars, and 4 wheelers and fly off in airplanes to camps far away.

Wow – we’ve come along way in 10 years.

Mandie and the Secret Tunnel

As soon as my girls saw the advertisement for the  Mandie and the Secret Tunnel DVD, it went on both of their Christmas lists! They loved the Mandy books by Lois Gladys Leppard and couldn’t wait to see them on screen.

To make things even sweeter – it was also directed by Joy Chapman and Owen Smith -the same people who directed the Sugar Creek Gang movies (another family favorite!) AND it starred Lexi Johnson who played Circus in the Sugar Creek Gang and my girls loved her!

Needless to say, they were very excited to find it wrapped up under the Christmas tree!

We watched it as a family Christmas night and I’m glad to say that it lived up to their expectations.

The movie stayed close to the original story line with enough mystery and adventure to keep us all guessing.

The movie begins with the death of Mandie’s dad. Mandie (played by Lexi Johnson) runs away from her home and her very unloving mother. With the help of her Cherokee Indian friends, she is able to find the mansion of her rich Uncle John, only to discover that his ship had been lost at sea.

The caretaker of the estate, Jason Bond, played by the legendary Dean Jones, allows her to stay on and enlists her help to find her uncle’s hidden will.

Things get complicated when strangers start arriving claiming to be the rightful heirs. Mandie and her new friend Polly are in a race against time and through hidden passages to locate the missing will and discover the mystery of her heritage.

This is a great family night movie! It’s wholesome but full of fun and adventure.

This one gets the Country Gal Seal of Approval!

Pecan Fudge Torte

My parents have been pretty much snowed in the last week, thanks to the “Christmas Blizzard of 2009”. They used their solitary confinement to work on their to-do list, which included sorting through the recipe tub.  Nana shares these thoughts…

Papa and I have been sorting the “collected” recipes in my recipe file (which has grown over the years until it is now a small plastic tub!) What a nostalgic journey!

As we sorted and discarded we discovered:

  • Our tastes changed over the years.
  • We cook with different ingredients.
  • Some of the newly-clipped recipes were identical to old ones in our file, just a different name.
  • We have developed some “cooking habits” over the years that we are not ready to give up!

The picture on a recipe clipped from a 1996 newspaper looked delicious and since it would use up the rest of a can of sweetened condensed milk that was sitting in our refrigerator, we made it.

It does require several steps, but it is as good as the picture!

pecan fudge tortePecan Fudge Torte

1/3 cup sweetened condensed milk (not evaporated)
1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

1 pkg Devils Food Cake Mix
1/3 cup oil
1 (15 oz) can sliced pears, drained
2 eggs
1/3 cup chopped pecans
2 tsp water

1 (17 oz) jar caramel ice cream topping
1/3 cup milk

Heat oven to 350 degrees. Spray 9″ or 10″ round layer pan with nonstick cooking spray.
Combine filling ingredients and microwave for 1 minute or until melted. Stir to combine. Set aside.  In large bowl, combine cake mix and oil; blend at low speed for 20 or 30 seconds or until crumbly. (Mixture will be dry).  Place pears in blender or food processor, cover & blend until smooth.  In another bowl, combine 2 1/2 cups of the cake mix mixture, pureed pears and eggs. Beat for 2 minutes. Spread batter evenly in pan.  Drop filling by spoonfuls over batter.  Stir nuts and water into remaining cake mix mixture. Sprinkle over the filling.  Bake at 350 degrees for 30 to 40 minutes or until top springs back when touched lightly in the center.  Cool for 1 1/2 hours before cutting.  Combine sauce ingredients and microwave for 20 to 30 seconds.
To serve: Spoon 2 tablespoons warm sauce on to each serving plate; top with wedge of torte.  Add a scoop of vanilla ice cream or frozen yogurt.

Wasn’t sure at first glance if this was a “keeper”  – but after tasting it – it will definitely go back in file!

Until next time,

Nana Shirley

Good- bye Mary

Our December included a funeral this year.

We went to say good-bye to Mary, the special daughter of some old church friends.

Mary had born 58 years ago with Down’s Syndrome. That was back when it was acceptable – even encouraged – to institutionalize your special needs child. But Mary’s parent’s didn’t.

They took her home and loved her.

They made her a part of the family.

When she needed schooling, her mom helped start a special class for her and a few others in the area. They encouraged her and watched her grow to be a very special adult. She had a crazy sense of humor and loved to sing – especially the song Silent Night – no matter what time of year it was!

Mary loved life and lived it to the fullness.

Her siblings grew up and married, giving Mary new playmates – her nieces and nephews. They loved her dearly. There wasn’t a dry eye in the church on that cold Saturday afternoon at her funeral as one of her nieces told funny Mary stories.

Her death left a huge hole in that family.

A few years ago my niece Annie was born with Down’s Syndrome. I caught Mary’s mom after church one Sunday to tell her, knowing she – of all people – knew what our family was feeling.

Mary’s mom just gave me a hug and smiled. “Honey, it ain’t all bad. She’ll be a blessing, just you wait.”

Oh – how very right she was!

Little Annie is a blessing – a joy – a delight!

She makes our life – our family – richer because she is there.

Just like Mary did in her family for the least 58 years.

Good-bye sweet Mary. You have blessed us here for so long. Enjoy your first Christmas in glory singing Silent Night with the angels.

Thank you for showing us all that life is best lived with the joy and wonder of a little child.

You will be missed.

Chocolate Mint Cake

Chocolate Mint CakeThere’s something about chocolate and mint that just goes together – like Abbott and Costello or burgers and fries.

And there’s something about mint that definitely tastes Christmas to me.

Dagmar and I jazzed up a plain box cake mix to make this yummy Christmas treat. It was easy to make and looked very festive on the buffet table.

Chocolate Mint Cake

1 box chocolate cake mix (we used a butter recipe)

1 small box of white chocolate pudding mix

1 stick of butter

3 eggs

1/2 teaspoon peppermint extract

1 bag of York Peppermint Patties baking pieces

1/2 cup chocolate chips

3 Tablespoons milk

1/4 cup crushed peppermint candies (ie: candy canes)

Place the cake mix, pudding mix, eggs and soft butter in a large mixing bowl. Mix until well blended. Add the peppermint extract. Stir in the Peppermint Patty baking bits.

Pour into a well greased Bundt pan.

Bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes or until a toothpick placed in the center comes out clean.

Cool for 10 minutes on a cooling rack. Remove from Bundt pan and cool completely.

Melt the chocolate chips with the milk in a microwave safe bowl. Slowly drizzle over the cake as a glace. Sprinkle with the crushed peppermints.