Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Flo's Cakes - Pumpkin Pecan Braid

Flo blesses us with another one of her marvelous recipes. This looks like the perfect coffee cake for Thanksgiving morning.  Flo compiled this recipe from several different recipes. 

This is on my list to make this week! 

Pumpkin Pecan Braid

3 cups flour, divided
¼ cup sugar
1 pkg (¼ oz) quick-rise yeast
½ tsp salt
½ cup milk
½ cup butter, softened
¼ cup water
1 egg
In a mixing bowl, combine 2 cups flour, sugar, yeast, and salt. In a small kettle, heat milk, butter, and water to 120˚-130˚. Add to dry ingredients; beat just until moistened. Add egg and remaining flour; beat until smooth. Shape into a ball. Do not knead. Cover and let rest for ten minutes.
¾ cup pumpkin puree
1/3 cup packed brown sugar
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/8 tsp ground ginger
1/8 tsp ground nutmeg
1 egg
3/4 cup chopped pecans, divided

Mix together all the filling ingredients, using only ½ cup of the pecans. Roll dough into 14x11 rectangle on a large greased baking sheet. Spread filling down center third of rectangle. On each long side, cut 1-inch strips about 3 inches into the center. Starting at one end, fold alternating strips at an angle across filling to braid. Pinch ends to seal. Sprinkle with remaining pecans. Cover and let rise in a warm place until doubled, about 45 minutes. Bake at 375˚ for 20-25 minutes or until golden brown. When slightly cooled, drizzle with milk and powdered sugar glaze. 


Monday, November 24, 2014

Prepare - Christmas Countdown - Week Seven

For some of you, this week will be a crazy one with travel or hosting guests. I thought our family would have a rather quiet Thanksgiving holiday but somehow that has all changed. And that is not a bad thing. I'm looking forward to the events of this week. It just won't be quiet and boring!

I'm listing the same goals for this week as I had planned earlier but realize that for me they will most likely be pushed into next week. (And to be honest, not many weeks did I complete the week's goal. But if I got started I deemed it successful.)

Week Seven - Baking Week - November 24-29

In past years, Thanksgiving week for us has been the week to start holiday baking. When our children were small, every year we got together with some friends from Ed's job and made Christmas cookies together on the Friday after Christmas. Eventually as we had more children, this got too crazy to do with another family, but we still enjoyed beginning Christmas baking this week.

I like to bake several kinds of Christmas cookies and freeze them. Then they are ready to place on a plate for a quick gift or take caroling.

I also hope to make a batch or two of Bulgar Rolls. I know if I ask my mom or my mother-in-law what they want me to bring to the family gatherings at Christmas and New Years, they won't have any idea yet what their menu will be. But if the experience from past years holds true this year, the week of Christmas I'll hear, "Do you mind bringing your Bulgar Rolls again?"

I love making Bulgar Rolls and enjoy being asked to bring the same tried-and-true recipe every year. But it always annoys me to have to bake a double batch of Bulgar Rolls right in the middle of the busiest part of December.

Last year, since our baby was due at the beginning of January, I made the Bulgar Rolls early and froze them. Even though our baby was born New Year's Eve, I was able to pull out the rolls in time for the family gathering on New Year's Day. (My mother-in-law will probably never get over the shock that we showed up at her house with a one-day-old baby but we couldn't resist the chance to show off the baby and eat Chocolate Pie. And we didn't stay long.)

As I said, with the plans we have this week, I don't expect to get much baking done. But I'll be making my plans and hope to hit it next week.

What are you baking?

Preparation in Scripture

I found this interesting passage in Nehemiah.

"So they read in the book in the law of God distinctly, and gave the sense, and caused them to understand the reading.
And Nehemiah, which is the Tirshatha, and Ezra the priest the scribe, and the Levites that taught the people, said unto all the people, This day is holy unto the LORD your God; mourn not, nor weep. For all the people wept, when they heard the words of the law.
Then he said unto them, Go your way, eat the fat, and drink the sweet, and send portions unto them for whom nothing is prepared: for this day is holy unto our Lord: neither be ye sorry; for the joy of the LORD is your strength." (Nehemiah 8:8-10)

I have often heard this last line "the joy of the Lord is your strength" - I even have it hanging by my sink - but I couldn't have told you the context. Here Nehemiah has been teaching the people the law of the Lord and they were grieved by what they learned. (I'm guessing because they realized that they had not kept God's law.)

So I'm taking from this passage that joy doesn't come from a lack of sorrow or hardship. Joy comes when we have prepared our heart to seek God, when we have heard His Word and are broken from our sin, when we have accepted His forgiveness, and have extended gifts to others.

Then we have His joy which in turn brings His strength.

And that is something worth thanking God for this week.

Only one more week on this Christmas Preparation Countdown!

Saturday, November 22, 2014

Book Giveaway - Footprints on the Ceiling

Most days I don't feel much over 20. 

And even if I want to forget that I'm near 40, my children remind me.

Yesterday my daughter said, "Mom, your hair is not turning gray. It is turning white. Because that is what happens when you are old."

Well, if I am becoming old, I decided I better hang around women who are aging gracefully. Like Dorcas Smucker.

In Dorcas' newest book, Footprints on the Ceiling, she writes about the wonderful things about turning fifty including "seeing the end of the story."

And in this volume Dorcas delights us with stories. Stories of how she wrote off romance - until her footprint on the ceiling of the seed warehouse caught the eye of her future husband. Stories of teaching Grandma to send an email and a daughter to make an apple crisp.  Stories of a mother's botched Christmas plans complete with a yowling stray cat which turn out with a good ending after all.

And that is just the first three chapters.

Dorcas has that gift of seeing stories in every day happenings. And even better she sees redemption and second chances in those stories. Not every story ends with "happily ever after" but all end with the hope of seven miles of daffodils that bloom long after the death of the one who planted the bulbs. I read Footprints on the Ceiling laughing at the craziness (and interrupting Ed's book to read to him about Grandma and the Media), crying at the tender spots, and nodding as Dorcas gives a dose of encouragement.

If  you have read Dorcas' other books  Ordinary Days, Upstairs the Peasants are Revolting, Downstairs the Queen is Knitting, and Tea Cups and Trouble Brewing,  you have followed her through motherhood. In Footprints on the Ceiling, her six children are spreading their wings and moving out into the world on their own.

And since I still claim to be a younger woman - a few bends in the road behind Dorcas, I took note of her tips on parenting - teaching a daughter how to recover a blueberry muffin disaster, learning that digging through garbage might not be the best way to fix problems, and keeping connections strong when a son chooses a different path.

As Dorcas says, "I've learned to be relieved when the cookies taste awful and the car runs out of gas. It means my husband and I have managed, for the moment, to set the boundaries where our teenagers are making choices for themselves but he consequences are still manageable."

As her children grow up, Dorcas' parents are aging. She records stories from her heritage such as washing your face in dew on the first day of May. She discovers she is like her mother in the blackberry patch - and in noticing the outcasts. She sits in the ICU and considers the dividends on the long term investment of raising children.

Dorcas grew up Amish and is now the wife of a Mennonite minister in Oregon. Recently my sister-in-law  gave one of Dorcas' books to a friend who thought she understood the Mennonites and Amish by reading Amish novels. (She didn't.)  Dorcas' books are human and real and a far better glimpse of true life than a novel. From every day life in Oregon to travels to Jamaica and Thailand, Dorcas gives me hope that fifty can indeed be wonderful.

Learn more about Dorcas at her blog Life in the Shoe,

And now the good news.

I have a signed copy of Footprints on the Ceiling for one of you. Let a comment below (if you are reading this by email, click on over to Home Joys to let the comment) to enter the giveaway. If you want, you can share a brief story of how you met your husband (even if it was not with a footprint on the ceiling). Be sure to leave your email address so I can contact you.

Dorcas gave me a review copy of her book but all the opinions on this post are my own. I will never recommend a book that I do not truly enjoy.

Footprints on the Ceiling is available for $15 per book, postage included.  You can mail a check to Dorcas Smucker, 31148 Substation Drive, Harrisburg, OR 97446.  US addresses only.  To send a copy to Canada or overseas, email Dorcas at dorcassmucker@gmail.com

Giveaway will be open for one week and is for US residents. Winner chosen by Random.org.

Post contains affiliate links.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Giveaway Winner - Walking the Talk

Thanks to all of you who joined in the book giveaway.

The winner of Walking the Talk is
Karen with the email rkas94
 I emailed you, Karen, so if you send me your address, I can mail your book!

The rest of you can pick up your own copy of Walking the Talk at Amazon or from Vision.

Come back tomorrow for the next book giveaway!

Post contains affiliate links.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Prepare - A Chrstimas Countdown - Week Six

Week Six - Grocery Shopping Week - November 17-22

This week continues our shopping - but this time it is to the grocery store. Shopping is not on my favorite thing to do so I'll be glad when this task is complete.

I like to do my holiday grocery shopping the week or two before Thanksgiving to take advantage of the sales. One of the first posts I wrote was about buying turkey on sale. Since often there is a minimum amount that you need to buy to take advantage of the turkey sale, it is a good time to stockpile.

I'll try to stock up on baking supplies to take me into January - if my lists are complete. I'm sure I'll miss something and have to be back to the store, but at least I made an attempt.

Some of you have asked what kinds of Christmas cookies we will be baking. Well, nothing fancy. We tend to keep to the same old favorites!

Here is some links to favorite cookie recipes that I've shared in the past.

Molasses Cookies
Double Chocolate Cookies - I make these with Andes Mints for Christmas
Peanut Butter Blossoms
Monster Cookies
Lemon Strawberry Swirls
Gingerbread Boys
Peanut Butter Critter
Graham Cracker House - not a cookie - but a fun child's project

Also, a friend shared with me a link for a set of nativity cookie cutters. This set has been in their family for many years and she was thrilled to find them still available since all her daughters want their own set for their home.  What a fun family tradition!

Preparation in Scripture

Our family is reading through Isaiah right now. It has been a perfect preparation for Christmas, especially when the children spot passages that they remember from The Messiah. The prophecies about Christ make encouraging reading.

 Comfort ye, comfort ye my people, saith your God.
 Speak ye comfortably to Jerusalem, and cry unto her, that her warfare is accomplished, that her iniquity is pardoned: for she hath received of the LORD'S hand double for all her sins.
 The voice of him that crieth in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the LORD, make straight in the desert a highway for our God.
 Every valley shall be exalted, and every mountain and hill shall be made low: and the crooked shall be made straight, and the rough places plain:
  And the glory of the LORD shall be revealed, and all flesh shall see it together: for the mouth of the LORD hath spoken it. (Isaiah 40: 1-5)

 This passage about makes me cry. In a world with sorrow and warfare, wilderness and deserts, crooked and rough places - I long for the glory of the Lord to be revealed. And this passage gives a promise (from the mouth of the Lord, who cannot lie) that all of us shall see His glory.

And that is comfort for the bleakest of days.

Friday, November 14, 2014

Book Giveaway - Walking the Talk

Over the next couple weeks I plan to host several book giveaways.

I love to share books with you. Plus a giveaway is always good for pulling out a few lurkers! So if you have never commented - this is your chance!

The first book is Walking the Talk, Calling All Believers in Christ to Obedience by Arvin Martin.

I'm often asked questions about what the Mennonites believe. Mennonites seek to live a life of obedience to the Word of God and take literally the commands of Christ. Walking the Talk never mentions Mennonites, or any other denomination or church group, but the book is about radical obedience to Christ and His Word, so if you want to know what the Mennonites believe, this book would be a good place to start.

Walking the Talk begins with the foundation  - asking the big questions about who we are, what is our purpose, and where are we going. Following are chapters on such topics as the Word of God, the Holy Spirit, and Faith vs. Works. The last half of the book delves into practical areas of obedience such as music and finances. I like that Arvin lays down the principle before discussing the application. For example, he shares a chapter on humility before tackling the subject of modesty.

There are two things I especially liked about Walking the Talk. The first is the huge amount of Scripture the book includes. This is a Word-saturated book.

I also appreciated the short chapters. Some days it feels like I don't even have time to pick up my Bible. With the short chapters and the quoted Scripture, I could enjoy a Bible study even when I didn't have much time. Each chapter ends with some study questions to help reflect over the past chapter.

Arvin is one of the ministers at our church and I was able to read the first draft of his book several years ago. It is fun to see the book come together. I'm grateful for the huge amount of time he has put into this project.

To enter a giveaway leave a comment and tell me about a book that you enjoyed recently. (Maybe I'll get an idea for my next read!) Be sure to include your email address so I can contact you.

You can also purchase your own copy of Walking the Talk from Vision Publishers.

Giveaway is open for one week and is open to US residents. Winner chosen by Random.org.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Pumpkin Pie Squares

Our family loves pumpkin pie - and the more pumpkin the better. So these bars, which taste almost like pumpkin pie but with more pumpkin, is a winner at our house. Plus I don't have to make pie crust!

This recipe is a merging of two recipes that I received from two different friends. I liked parts of both recipes so merged the two.

Proof that I can never make a recipe exactly as it is written!

Pumpkin Pie Squares

1 cup flour
1/2 cup quick oatmeal
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup butter

Combine ingredients. I use a food processor to make it extra quick to cut in the butter. Press into a 9x13 pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 15 minutes. Cool.

6 eggs
1 1/2 cup brown sugar
2 T flour
2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp salt
1 tsp ginger
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp cloves
4 cups pumpkin puree
2 cups scalded milk (heated to hot but not boiling)

Mix all ingredients together and pour over crust. Bake at 350 degrees for 60 minutes or until a knife inserted in center comes out clean. Serve with whipped cream.

Edited to add:
Oops! I forgot to list the eggs!  A major mistake! I hope none of you tried this recipe without eggs!



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