Archives for November 2009

Homemade Hamburger Buns

The other day I was planning on burgers for lunch, but I was out of hamburger buns and wanted to save a trip to the store.   I decided to give homemade buns a try.  The following recipe is loosely based on one from Recipezaar. These buns rose nice and fluffy, and gave our regular hamburgers a gourmet feel.  My family liked these much better than regular store bread, and enjoyed the leftover buns the next morning in fried egg sandwiches.



Makes 24 buns

Preparation Time: 2.5 hours (mostly rising)


  • 2 cups hot tap water
  • 2 cups milk (warmed in microwave for a couple minutes)
  • 2 tablespoons yeast
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • 1 cup masa (finely ground corn flour– or use regular corn meal)
  • 1/2 c. wheat germ (optional)
  • 8-10 c. white flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • Sesame seeds and melted butter for tops of buns



Warm milk in the microwave for a couple minutes, til it is about the temperature of hot tap water.  (Between 100 and 115 degrees F.)  In a medium sized bowl, combine water, milk, sugar, and yeast.   Let sit for 5 minutes.  Yeast should foam up a bit on top of the liquid. Melt butter and add to liquid.

In a large bowl measure wheat germ, masa or corn meal, and 6 cups of the flour.  Stir to combine.  Add wet ingredients, stirring first with a spoon and then with oiled hands.  As you knead, keep the remaining 3 cups of flour handy, gradually adding as much flour as it takes to make a smooth elastic dough.

Let dough rise for 30-60 minutes in an oiled bowl.  Punch down dough and divide in half.  Roll out first half of dough about 1 inch thick on a floured countertop.  Using an inverted glass or an empty tuna can as a cutter, cut each half into twelve 3-4 inch rounds. Place on greased baking sheet.  Brush with melted butter, sprinkling with sesame seeds as desired.

Repeat with second half of the dough.  Or if you wish, you can bake half the dough one day, and leave the rest of the dough in the fridge for up to 5 days to be baked later.

Once buns are formed, cover and let rise in a warm place until doubled, about one hour. Bake at 350° for 10-15 minutes, or until lightly browned on the top.

Christmas ideas for kids

I find it a tad bit hard to blog about Christmas ideas for kids without giving away what I am doing for my kids.  So this post will be a mish mash of things that have been sent to me to review, things that my kids are requesting, things that I have stumbled across online that look cool to me, and ideas I’ve brainstormed.

One fun game that we just got and have enjoyed is Killer Bunnies . It is for 2-8 players ages 12 and up. I think the age suggestions are fair:  our 11 year old kids enjoy it, but our 7 year old needs a bit of help to play. If you object to bunnies being run over by cars and chopped by weed whackers (things humorously depicted on game cards) you might not love the game. But people at our house find it to be hilarious (except of course when it happens to your OWN bunny!) and the game is good fun. I linked above to the starter set. There are other packs that expand game further.

Another perennial favorite with me is K’Nex. I am a sucker for games that allow kids lots of creativity and options for play, and K’Nex excels at that. Recently I was able to preview the K’Nex 400 piece value tub, and was impressed with the versatility of that set. I also was given one of the Sesame Street Neighborhood collection, which is geared towards preschoolers. This set contained only a few pieces, so less versatile, but it would be a great addition to an already-existing set of K’nex.  Just a heads-up:  K’Nex is currently running a K’NEXion video contest which will net one lucky family $1000 worth of K’Nex products!

Something else that my older boys have enjoyed lately are Star Wars Minis. This game is for about ages 10 and older. There are tons of different sets, but the best way to go at first is to look for Star Wars Miniatures ‘starter sets’. Most of the sets come with several different figures.  If your kids are new to this, look for sets that include maps, since they are needed for the game.  It is a strategy game, where different Star Wars figures have different strengths and weaknesses.  Before you begin play, you try to pick characters that together will make a strong team, so the more options, the better.  The game takes quite a bit of time, both to set up and to play.  But my older boys love it.   All of my boys have minis on their Christmas lists.

Other ideas might include project or ‘experience’ gift certificates.   For example, a kid who’s been begging to learn to sew might enjoy fabric remnants, a beginner’s sewing kit, and permission/instruction to use mom’s sewing machine.  A kid who has been nagging for a different color of paint in their bedroom could be given painting supplies and a gift card good for a couple of cans of paint.  Or what about a gift card to a local amusement park?  Or a certificate good for a shopping date with mom?  One of the most memorable Christmases of my childhood was the one where my mom and dad gave me a certificate good for piano lessons.

Other ideas, anyone?


We will remember, we will remember
We will remember the works of Your hands
We will stop and give you praise
For great is Thy faithfulness


I will remember the works of the LORD: surely I will remember thy wonders of old. Psalm 77:11-12


(video below)

Free shipping all month at Amazon

Yesterday I got up at the insane hour of 3:45 AM to hit some early sales.   Eldest and I were in and out of Target by 5:30 AM– pretty good shopping there. Next we hit Shopko, Home Depot, and JCPenneys.  We fit in a stop at Moxie Java too.  A productive morning and one that netted me some great deals, but left me whipped by bedtime. Part of that exhaustion may have been related to my 4 hour wrapping session in the afternoon! 🙂 But I’m glad that a lot of the rest of my shopping can be done online.

The other day I signed up for a free month of Amazon prime. OK, I’m already a sucker for amazon, but this makes online Christmas shopping even more appealing.  Amazon prime gives you free 2-day shipping on all orders before Christmas, no matter the size of the order.  (Thanks, Money Saving Mom!)  Just be sure to go to your account page after signing up and click on “Do Not Upgrade”.  That way your one-month membership will automatically end after the trial period with nothing ever billed to you.

I’ve been given a few books to read recently that you might be interested in if you are a book-giver. First up is Pearl Girls:  Encountering Grit, Experiencing Grace. This is a collection of stories by a variety of writers, women who found that the incredibly difficult experience in their lives were used by God to bring great blessing. My daughter and I both read this book, and found it to be both interesting and encouraging.

Another book that I read recently is one I actually bought for myself. It is called The Hole in Our Gospel and is written by Richard Stearns, the president of World Vision. Very worth the read, it talks about the disconnect between faith and actions in the lives of many of us as Christians. He includes himself in that group. The story of how his life turned around is at the heart of the book, and is both humble and humbling. Left me wondering what else I could do the be an encouragement and a help in the lives of those around me.

Oh, and here’s one more amazon deal: A subscription to REAL SIMPLE magazine for $5. Now — being honest here– I personally find that REAL SIMPLE magazine is not quite frugal enough for my budget. But I can think of a person or two on my list that it would suit to a T. So I wanted to toss this sale out there in case it suits someone on your Christmas list as well.


Photocredit: Israel Shirk

Come, ye thankful people, come,

Raise the song of harvest home;

All is safely gathered in,

Ere the winter storms begin.

God our Maker doth provide

For our wants to be supplied;

Come to God’s own temple, come,

Raise the song of harvest home.

(More pictures below.  Click to enlarge.  Family Photo by Israel Shirk.)


5 year old comes to me, wailing, limping.  She sits down before me with brimming eyes, holding out a leg to me. Same leg she cried over two days ago, hurting then with something mysterious, unseeable to my eye or my inquiring fingertips.

Today again, same leg offered.  “It hurts from here up to here”  –a gesture from toe to thigh.   Most of her leg.  Why the ache?  Same leg as before.   Could something serious be wrong?   More than growing pains?  Something internal?  Bone-deep?  Blood-deep?   Was I wrong the other day to kiss and hug and pat her bum and send her off to play again, telling her she is fine?   What if she is not fine?


What if..?

And in five beats of my mother-heart I am imagining Goliath- shadows.  Words, possibilities I don’t want to allow past my lips–  threatening my precious child.

I gather her close and scoodge up her pants leg to examine the length of her little brown leg. Scuff mark just above the knee.  Not invisible after all.   Not this time anyway.

“What happened?” I ask.

“The laundry basket fell down on it, and it hurts!” she howls, crumpling into my arms in a little bundle, her cries suddenly seeming to my mom-ears a bit forced. Dramatic.

Hmm.   She was sent to her room to fold clothes.  Not her favorite task.

Her next words support my suspicion. Pitifully:  “Can [big brother] come help me with my clothes?”

A rush of relief fills me to realize we’re dealing with garden-variety hurt, garden-variety attempts at work avoidance.

I hug her.   Kiss the hurt.  Wipe the tears.  Stand her up and swat her bum gently and send her back to finish the work.  She walks, reluctant but limp-free.

My world settles back into place.

I can breathe again.

Here’s how clueless I am

OK, here’s an utterly ridiculous story for you. Since my husband insists on growing dozens of pumpkins in his huge garden, for years I’ve considered it my patriotic duty to make pumpkin pie from the actual pumpkin. A long process, but one I took pride in mastering.

Last week my mom asked me to contribute 2 pies to a family dinner. I was swamped, crazy busy, but said yes anyway, thinking I’d find some extra time, somewhere, somehow.   Nope. The afternoon of the gathering when I realized I couldn’t make pie from a pumpkin in 2 hours flat, I caved and went to the store, deciding for once in my life to buy pie, ready-made.

I blithely pulled two pumpkin pies out of the frozen food section and brought them to the check-out.   I figured if I left them out on the counter til it was time to leave, they’d be just about thawed.

I arrived at my mom’s house just when they were ready to serve up dinner.  Opened my pie boxes.  Set them on the counter, saying something joking about letting the last of the ice crystals melt off.  Wondered absently why my mom and sisters looked puzzled.

My son looked down at what I’d just set on the counter.  “Mom, these aren’t cooked.”

My mouth dropped open.  I looked down.   Sure enough, my pies were not only still frozen, they were also raw.  Meaning it would be a good 2 hours before anybody’d be getting a bite.

Silly me for assuming store bought pie is ….ya know….cooked.

Apparently I can make pancake syrupgrape jelly, yogurt, granolamac and cheese,  and dozens of other things entirely from scratch.  But I somehow got to the age of 42 without knowing how to make pie from a box.

Project: Family Rules Canvas

Last week my friend Molly and I got together for a craft afternoon. Our goal: to create wall hangings featuring the rules of our household. We each spent a bit of time the day before thinking about what we wanted to say. We wanted rules that encouraged the best from everyone in a lighthearted and loving way. You can click on the pictures to enlarge them and see what we each came up with.

I got there around 1:30 in the afternoon with 6 kids in tow.  Since she has 7 kids of her own, the house was immediately busy.  We’re both used to chaos, though, and worked hard all afternoon.  It turned out to be rather an ambitious project for a single afternoon, but we were determined.  We finally got it mostly wrapped up by 6, at which times the kids were all starving, and I had to pile them quickly into the car for dinner at home.

Canvas Craft

My rules:

  • Work with excellence
  • Hug mom and dad no matter how tall you are
  • Compliment the cook
  • Look for ways to serve
  • Encourage others– share in their joy
  • Keep your promises
  • Thank God for this family
  • Choose words that are true, kind, and necessary
  • Dream big, smile often, forgive always

Molly’s words:

  • Thank God for this family
  • Obey Mom and Dad
  • Dream big, smile often, forgive always
  • Count your blessings
  • Kiss the cook
  • Say I love you and give lots of hugs
  • Mind your own beeswax
  • Work hard, never give up
  • Clean up after yourself
  • No fussing, whining or complaining



  • Artist’s canvas– ours were about 18×24, and can be found at Michael’s or other craft store ($6 on sale)
  • Colored scrapbook paper in a variety of colors (if you use 12×12 you’ll have to trim it down to printer size)
  • Computer program with a variety of available fonts– you can download more off the internet if you know how
  • Printer– black and white works fine
  • Spray adhesive in a can (or Mod Podge and foam brush)
  • Scissors and paper cutter

How to

  1. Paint the front and sides of your canvas with craft paint in a neutral color and let it dry overnight. (Molly did this the day before)
  2. Choose the rules that you want to feature.   For an 18×24 canvas, 8 – 10 rules is about right.
  3. Choose 3-4 papers that will be the background of your project and cut them to fit the canvas.
  4. Choose 8-10 papers onto which you will print your rules.  The busier the pattern, the bolder your font will need to be so that it can be easily read.
  5. In a word processing or artist’s program on your computer, experiment with large fonts.  Do some trial prints on plain paper to make sure the sizes and page placement are right.  You will probably want to use a horizontal paper setup so that you can maximize the size of your letters.  You may also want to print half of a rule on one piece of paper and half on a second piece of paper.
  6. Once you get words the size you want on scrap paper, it is time to trim your scrapbook paper to fit into your printer.  Molly’s husband set her printer to accept 3 inch strips of paper (put in narrow edge first) but you can also simply trim scrapbook paper to 8.5 inch width, run it through the printer, and then trim it even more once it comes out of the printer.  We spent quite a bit of time getting words to print out just the way we wanted.   It was probably the trickiest part of the project.
  7. Once the rules are printed, trim each strip so there’s not too much blank paper above and below each rule.  This will also allow you to fit more rules onto your canvas.
  8. When you have everything trimmed, arrange it to fit your canvas.  We originally saw this craft done with the ‘Family Rules’ header at the top of the canvas.  However, we both had so many rules that we wanted to feature that we opted to run our headers down the sides of our canvases, where we had a little extra space anyway due to the size of our print-outs. When arranging we also tried to make adjoining rules not have the same color or font, just to keep it interesting.
  9. Once you have everything laid out, it is time to glue it all down.  We used a can of spray adhesive and glued things down one piece at a time.  The spray adhesive was fairly easy to work with.  A couple times we even had to lift and replace a piece of paper that got laid down crooked.
  10. The last step is to put some kind of coating over the top of the whole project to seal it.  We opted for Mod Podge, which worked OK, except that it made the paper slightly wavy.  I think if I did it again, I would use a spray-on sealer instead of Mod Podge, or I would weight down the project very firmly as it dried, which hopefully would cut down on the waves in the paper. Overall, though, it was a really fun project, one that has me thinking of where else I might be able to glue words of wisdom.
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Linky Love

My BABY’s 5th birthday is today– how can that be??  In lieu of a post I will leave you with some of my favorite links for the week.

CraftyStylish: Guitar String Bracelet

Scribbit:  No Child Left Behind

Shaun Groves:  Praying For My Family

She Laughs at the Days:  Remember Who You Are