26 April 2017

Chocolate White Chocolate Chip Cookies

I feel like I've been sharing a lot of cookie recipes lately but what can I say? I'm two weeks overdue and when I get a craving, there's no stopping it. But, I like to change it up once in a while and this one hit the spot.


1 stick butter, softened
1 cup packed brown sugar
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla
3/4 cup flour
1/3 cup cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup white chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350F and lightly grease a baking sheet, setting aside. Cream together butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add in egg and vanilla until smooth. Sift together the dry ingredients and add into the moist, combining until well incorporated. Fold in white chocolate chips. Drop by tablespoonfuls onto baking sheet. Bake for 8 to 10 minutes. Let cool a few minutes on a baking sheet, then finish cooling on a rack.
Thanks to Broma Bakery for the recipe inspiration!

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24 April 2017

Whole Wheat Blueberry Muffins

When I can use whole wheat in a recipe, I do. If it tastes delicious, too, that's even better. These blueberry muffins hit the mark!


2 1/4 cups whole wheat flour
1 cup brown sugar
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1 cup blueberries, fresh or frozen
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1 1/2 cups buttermilk or plain (not Greek) yogurt; or 1 1/4 cups liquid whey

Preheat oven to 400F. Line a muffin tin with paper cups, then lightly grease them. Whisk together all of the dry ingredients, including the blueberries. In a separate bowl, whisk vanilla, vegetable oil, and buttermilk/yogurt/whey. Mix all the ingredients together, until just combined. Spoon equally into muffin cups and sprinkle with cinnamon sugar, if desired. Bake 18 to 20 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool for five minutes and move to a rack or serve warm.
Thanks to King Arthur Flour for the recipe inspiration!

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20 April 2017

Celebrate Ability

The artwork from the Easter Seals Crossroads patrons up for auction.
A few weekends ago, Jack was offered a pair of tickets for a charity dinner for an organization that he serves on the board for at work. We jumped at the chance for an official date and something a little more upscale than we usually do. So, we got all primped and preened in cocktail attire. Not that it probably mattered much, seeing as I have about two dresses that fit, being nine months pregnant, and Jack's face was pretty darn gnarly after being stung by one of his bees right by his eye. I guess that's the best we can do, coming from off the farm.
The organization, Easterseals Crossroads, serves individuals and families with all types of disabilities and helps them be as functioning as possible, focusing on what they can accomplish, rather than what they cannot.
We wandered the Union Station hotel, which was not too long ago, the train station. The hors d'oeruves were delicious, the artwork up for auction was beautiful, the people watching was entertaining, and the architecture was stunning.
The dinner was fantastic, although when it comes to someone cooking, serving, and cleaning up, I'm not very picky. While we ate, we caught up with a few of Jack's co-workers and enjoyed the time spent with adults.
Jen Bricker sharing some of her fascinating life story.
While I enjoyed the presentations, Jen Bricker was by far my favorite. Born without legs, she was abandoned at the hospital and eventually adopted by parents in the United States. They never held her back from anything and she participated in sports, from softball to basketball to gymnastics. I loved what she shared about finding out her sister is Dominique Moceanu, her childhood idol. Now, Jennifer is an accomplished aerialist, author, and motivational speaker and does a fantastic job showing that one can be successful in life, regardless of physical or mental capacity. Everyone has worth.
Then, she performed a pretty amazing acrobatic routine before we were turned loose. It would have been fun to stay longer but, as it always is with little kids waiting at home, we had to rush out. It was really a spectacular and special night out. I hope we get to do it again sometime.
A fantastic evening celebrating ability.

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17 April 2017

Prince of Peace

Happy Easter from the Elikers!
As usual, this weekend was quite busy.
This past Monday for family night, we dyed eggs for our activity. It's one of those things that the girls had been looking forward to for weeks and could barely contain their excitement. Everyone got their own dozen and quickly went to work creating beautiful masterpieces.
It goes without saying that Henry had a FANTASTIC time coloring eggs, especially when he tried a new method with Jack involving shaving cream. Those boys were in heaven, making a quite impressive mess.
Ah, Henry watering the garden means he's dirtier than the garden beds when he's done.
Jack had Friday off for Easter and we enjoyed spending the extra time with him. We ate lunch with the girls at school, ran a few errands and got a good start planting the garden. Speaking of messes, Henry was particularly "helpful."
The horses got their first turnout on the green pasture. They thoroughly appreciate more space and scrumptious grass and run to greet it.
In the evening, some of the Boy Scouts from church came over to camp. Since we usually have pizza and movie night, we conveniently transferred everything outside. Jack cooked everyone their very own pizza in his beloved cast iron pans and instead of a movie, they were happy with roasting marshmallows and playing in the hammock. Henry and I headed to bed inside, while Jack and the girls spent the night in our new mansion tent.

Come to think of it, I kind of like camping where I get the s'mores and the bonfire without having to wake up sleep deprived and on the lumpy, unforgiving tent...
Found one!
Saturday was filled with cleaning and chores and fun stuff before retiring to bed early to counter the crabbiness from their late Friday night camping. Despite me encouraging them--no, pleading with them--to sleep in, they were up at the crack of dawn to search for their Easter baskets. We got ready for church, Kate gave her first talk in primary, I was able to keep up with the kids in nursery for one more week, and we came home to find the Easter bunny had hidden the eggs up front this time instead of in back.
Who needs to go to a public egg hunt activity when you can have a massive one in your very own front yard? The kids happily ran off and found eggs, eggs, and more eggs!
Kate getting creative when she spotted an egg atop the last round bale.
For a good half an hour, the eggs were pretty easy to find but they eventually became harder and harder to spot. Inevitably, we can never find them all though out of forty-eight hidden this year, we found forty-six of them. The silly Easter bunny should really make a map of where they're all hidden because even he can't remember where he put them (ahem, Jack).
Um, let's try that again.
Though the eggs and candy and bunnies are all good and fun, I'm grateful for the true meaning of Easter, at the heart of which is our Savior. He is the Prince of Peace, who conquered death and offers His grace, love, and atoning sacrifice to all. We're grateful for Him and all He has done to allow us to find joy in this life and everlasting life in the next.

Hope you all had a fantastic Easter with family and friends!
(And happy due date to me--wish me luck!)
Now everyone's happy!

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15 April 2017

The Grand Staircase

They're so pretty!
Because nesting is in full swing but it's getting difficult for me to do some of my normal activities (while trying to keep an eye on Henry, who is a fearless wanderer), I decided to tackle something that would be a bit more accessible and not require lots of backbreaking work. So, I set my sights on the great room stairs, now that it's been painted.
First, I put in a few more balusters so that the stairs wouldn't be oozing kids. I know for a fact someone would've slipped through and landed on the unforgiving concrete floor beneath had I not. Now, the trouble is keeping them from sliding down the banister...really though, is there any way to keep the kids from doing that? Probably not. Then, while my in-laws were visiting during and after our cruise and they volunteered their help, I happily asked if they'd mind helping Jack put in the newel posts at the top and bottom of the stairs.
Raven wasn't thrilled at the sound of the tool Jack had to use to put the newel post plate into the concrete floor. It basically sounded like a shotgun, which is Raven's worst nightmare. She did her best to hide.
Poor girl.
Raven survived without having a heart attack and the banister was put together beautifully. Then, it was up to me to make the grand staircase really shine. When we moved in, the stairs were hidden by a rather disgusting brown carpet, which was one of the first things to go. Underneath was a decent set of wood steps that I could imagine looking really gorgeous, though there were some gaps to fill and unevenness that'd have to be addressed. I considered tearing out the tread and replacing it or covering it with a veneer but in the end, it was easiest to sand and redo them.

I should really say, "easiest."
So many stairs to sand...
I don't know why but I always imagine projects going a lot faster than they do, in part because I don't take into account that I'll become bored or Henry will wreak havoc and I'll have to stop or that it will just take time to complete. The steps were no exception by any means. I think at one point, I had definitely decided to cover the tread but it took me one try to discover I'm not that meticulous of a table saw user, which made me immediately regret slopping paint on the steps when I painted the balusters and risers. After several attempts at getting the paint off and out of the corners, I finally came up with a halfway decent solution involving chemical paint stripper, paint scrapers...
...a rotary tool and belt sander...
...and detail sander and maybe some child labor. Willing, not forced.
By far, the sanding took the longest--I'm talking weeks. But, I persevered and didn't bother trying to make anything perfectly smooth. Every time I leave a hammer accidentally lying around, Henry's the first to pick it up and start whacking on the closest thing, including my newly sanded stairs. Rustic-looking is in, right?
Staining was less than an hour job but there was no way to not slop in on the risers. Gah! Back to smacking myself for getting ahead of myself and painting in the wrong order. Lesson learned.
Then, it was a bit of caulking, a couple coats of polyurethane, and fixing a few risers, then repainting the risers.
Oh, and cleaning up when Henry tried to "help" paint the steps. Except he got it wrong and painted my newly refinished treads white. And got paint on his clothes...just part of the risk when working home improvements with kids who want to help. Thank goodness for baby wipes.
Yes, I need that jumble of tools at the bottom of the stairs.
The banister was the last step (heehee) and was more of the same. Sanding, staining, varnishing and touching up paint. Then, we were done! Except, we weren't quite. Those beautiful stairs were a bit slick so we got some tread tape and slapped it on to keep anyone from slipping. So far, so good! 
Thanks for the help, Kate!
Everyone got to pick out their own picture frame and we printed off a cute photo of everyone to adorn the stairs. Now, the staircase is complete!

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13 April 2017

An Angry Girl

The bees survived the winter--HOORAY! We've been seeing them buzzing about, sucking nectar from everything from the peach tree to dandelions to strawberry blossoms. While we're thrilled with the surviving hives, I couldn't help but notice Henry taking a very keen interest in the hives and has been wandering a tad too close for comfort.
So, one night, under cover of darkness, Jack suited up and drug the one hive that was near the playground and put it next to the other hive that is situated in the corner of the yard, where they could work while we could keep safe.

Except for Jack.
The girls giggled and said he looked like someone else. Agreed.
I'm pretty sure the bees remember that Jack was the one that muscled them into their new spot and have been upset with him ever since. When he went outside (after making the mistake of eating a banana) to make sure they were doing alright, they greeted him with a stinger right under his eye. A trip to the ER and a steroid shot in the hiney, he's back to looking like himself again.

An angry girl can sure cause a lot of harm. Better Jack thank Henry though. Let's hope they've forgiven Jack and that's the last of the angry girls.

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11 April 2017

More Morels

Look at that little baby mushroom!
This past weekend was a lot like it is every other weekend: we worked, we rested, we had fun together...

And then, morels were discovered.
Jack cutting up an ash tree in order to "plant" his morel spores.
The past few years, we've enjoyed exploring and as a result, foraging for lots of different free, edible finds, from black raspberries to asparagus. One thing that has eluded Jack, however, have been morel mushrooms. We first heard of people hunting for morels when we lived in Iowa but never found time to go out and test our luck. Jack's been researching and asking around, even going as far as asking for rye grass seeds inoculated with morel spores for Christmas and after buying a few morels last year from the fruit stand down the road, spreading a liquid slurry to try and get them to grow at our place. But, in four years of living here, we hadn't had any luck finding any tasty morels.
Evelyn came running in the house, shrieking that she'd found the best kind of mushroom.
Then the kids went outside and Evelyn literally stumbled upon two little mushrooms, ironically, right where Jack had dumped some of the spores from last year.
THEN, the dog ran one over and Kate nearly squashed it.

In their defense, they were awfully small.
Telltale morels: hollow stem and attached cap.
Raven was sent scrambling inside and Jack rescued the poor mushrooms, who thankfully weren't completely pulverized. They were lovingly cleaned and admired, then chopped up, fried in a bit of butter and enjoyed over steak.
Here's hoping for more morels!

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