Striving to create a home strong in the foundations of love, respect, and God's truths ...

Thursday, January 31, 2013

"The Tutor's Daughter" by Julie Klassen

Filled with page-turning suspense, The Tutor'sDaughter takes readers to the windswept Cornwall coast-a place infamous for shipwrecks and superstitions-where danger lurks, faith is tested, and romance awaits.

Emma Smallwood, determined to help her widowed father when his boarding school fails, accompanies him to the cliff-top manor of a baronet and his four sons. But soon after they arrive and begin teaching the two younger boys, mysterious things begin to happen. Who does Emma hear playing the pianoforte at night, only to find the music room empty? And who begins sneaking into her bedchamber, leaving behind strange mementoes?
The baronet's older sons, Phillip and Henry Weston, wrestle with problems-and secrets-of their own. They both remember the studious Miss Smallwood from their days at her father's academy. But now one of them finds himself unexpectedly drawn to her...
When suspicious acts escalate, can Emma figure out which brother to blame and which to trust with her heart? 

Romance and intrigue abound in The Tutor's Daughter.  I never would have expected so many mysterious, crooked, and dangerous events in a Regency romance, but this one will keep you guessing!  The setting is perfect for a dark and dangerous story, while the heroine makes the best of her situation and goes about her business with bold bravery.  While Emma definitely undergoes a transformation in the pages of this book, she will become your hero, as well!

Klassen paints vivid pictures of life in the Regency era with her most recent work, much as she does in The Maid of Fairbourne Hall, but in The Tutor's Daughter the location plays a part as big as the time period.  It is not only clothing and social class that set the scene, but also the lonely cliffs, the destructive sea, and the large estate that take center stage in this book.  You can't help but picture it all as you read.

Early in the story I thought I knew the ending, which is always a bit disappointing, but Klassen through so many twists and turns into the plot that although I had one part right, I was kept guessing through the entire book.  I could never have fully imagined the story she imagined!  Finding a surprise in every chapter makes me a happy reader.

You can read other reviews in this blog hop here.  To purchase your own copy of The Tutor's Daughter, click here.

Julie Klassen loves all things Jane--Jane Eyre and Jane Austen. A graduate of the University of Illinois, Julie worked in publishing for sixteen years and now writes full time. She has won the Christy Award: Historical Romance forThe Silent Governess (2010) andThe Girl in the Gatehouse (2011) which also won the 2010 Midwest Book Award for Genre Fiction. Julie and her husband have two sons and live in a suburb of St. Paul, Minnesota. 
Find out more about Julie at

I received a free copy of The Tutor's Daughter from LitFuse Publicity in exchange for an honest review.

Whole Wheat Pinch-Me Cake

I remember helping my mom make Pinch-Me Cake as a little girl.  I loved rolling the yeasty dough into balls and covering it with cinnamon and sugar.  It smelled wonderful while it was baking and tasted even better later when we ate it.

There was something special about the eating of it, too.  Once, for a special family celebration, we made it and when the women had settled down at the table to talk, the Pinch-Me Cake went in the middle.  Everyone pinched off pieces as they caught up with what was happening in each other's lives.  It was, at least for me, the social centerpiece of the party, and I've never forgotten it.

I don't think my kids are likely to forget it, either.  They LOVED making this cake - every aspect of it.  We made it for a special breakfast, served with fresh fruit, and we sat around the table on an icy Saturday morning enjoying a breakfast together.  With only four of us, we had leftovers the next day, which made everyone happy again.

This cake's specialness doesn't happen in the blink of an eye, though.  It takes time to put together - not just concentrated time, but slow, take-a-big-part-of-your-day time.  The bread needs to rise and roll and rise again and bake, so this is a great project for an at-home day.  It does most of the work itself, but it does require frequent checks - and kids love to help make it.

Pinch-Me Cake is worth the effort, though.  It's definitely one of those meals that makes people appreciate something done well.  If, however, you really want to speed up the process, you can use frozen bread dough, and that will allow you to skip several steps.

We chose to make this now as part of our Amish studies unit - for in central Pennsylvania where I'm from, you often see a treat of this sort at Amish roadside stands.  We've lightened it up a bit here with a yummy whole wheat dough, but there's still plenty of cinnamony sweetness. Amish or not, this makes a fun treat for the whole family.


  • 5 3/4 - 6 1/4 c. white-wheat flour
  • 2 1/4 c. milk
  • 2 T. honey
  • 2 1/4 t. active dry yeast
  • 2 t. salt
  • 1 T. butter
  • 1/2 c. sugar
  • cinnamon
  • 1 stick butter
  • 1 c. brown sugar + handful
  1. Combine the flour and yeast.
  2. In a small saucepan, heat milk, honey, butter, and salt until just warm, stirring constantly.
  3. Add to dry mixture and beat at low speed for 1/2 minute.
  4. Scrape sides of bowl.
  5. Beat for 3 more minutes at high speed.
  6. Slowly stir in enough of the remaining flour to make a moderately stiff dough.
  7. Knead for 8-10 minutes, until smooth and elastic.
  8. Shape into a ball.
  9. Place dough in a lightly greased bowl, turning once to grease surface.
  10. Cover; let rise in a warm place 'til double, about 1 1/4 hours.
  11. Punch dough down.
  12. Divide dough in half.
  13. Combine 1/2 c. sugar with enough cinnamon to become a warm brown color in a small bowl.
  14. Pull off dough the size of a walnut and roll gently into a ball.  Roll in the cinnamon-  sugar mixture.  Place into a buttered Bundt pan.  Repeat until you have used half the dough.
  15. Sprinkle a handful of brown sugar over the dough balls in the Bundt pan.
  16. Repeat rolling process with second half of the dough.
  17. Cover and let rise in a warm place until 1 inch from the top of the pan, about 30 - 45 minutes.
  18. In a small saucepan, melt 1/2 cup of butter and stir in the brown sugar to make a 'goo.'
  19. Pour 'goo' over the dough in the Bundt pan.
  20. Bake at 350 degrees for 30 - 35 minutes.
  21. Turn out onto a foil-covered pan.
  22. Serve warm.
The picture of only a partial cake above?  That's because people started eating it as soon as I flipped it over - there was never a whole cake to photograh.  Pinch-Me Cake is always a hit.

What's your favorite special occasion dish?

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Introducing ... Inspired Wednesdays!

How often do we make it to Wednesday, happy to have 'survived' the endless cycle of laundry and dishes and routine thus far - that we forget to find the joy in the everyday?  Have you ever scratched that fun project off your list because you didn't want to clean up the mess you knew it would make?  Make dinner yourself instead of letting the littles help because their small hands take longer to teach?  

I've been there - and so has my friend Stephanie over at Where He Leads, We Follow.  We've felt the mommy guilt when we took the shortcut instead of finding an adventure in our Wednesday.  While shortcuts can be a good thing, sometimes the problem isn't in our workload or our mess but in our perspective.  It's relishing the joy in Johnny's eyes as he makes cookies instead of stressing over the flour spilled on the floor!

So here's our plan for turning our Washed-up Wednesday into an Inspired one.  We will  start hosting a joint linky party beginning NEXT WEDNESDAY, FEBRUARY 6TH.  We ask you to link up whatever family friendly fun you might have going on.  It might be a creative school lesson, a kid-friendly recipe, a great family night activity, or maybe a funny anecdote.  You'll be able to link up from either blog but will find different fun ideas at each place.

You'll also be able to hop around and meet other Inspiring moms and glean from their idea banks, which we hope will refresh your own.  We'll pick our favorite fun ideas to feature  the next week when we open up the linky.  We have a few fun giveaways planned for you, too!  

So, we stand now at T minus 7 days and counting ... 


Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Birthday Cake Decorations

I started baking with my Big Helper when she was no more than 18 months old.  At that point I kept everything super simple and just tried to prevent any disastrous messes.  Most of her involvement was of the hand-over-hand variety - I measured or prepped, and together we dumped ingredients into bowls.

Fast forward that about six years, and now she's preparing things completely on her own.

We've been studying fractions lately, and that has enabled her to prepare things all by herself.  Still, though, when faced with a birthday cake - albeit a very simple one - I expected the kids to hop around and cheer with excitement over sprinkles, sprinkles, and even more sprinkles.

But they didn't.

Oh, they hopped, and their eyes lit up, and then they both decided that they wanted to pipe on the words, "Happy Birthday, Daddy."

So together we mixed up the icing, we spread some on the cake, and then we got our faux-piping bag ready.

Much to my surprise, my Big Helper calmly took the bag and proceeded to write her pre-planned message on the cake.  Neatly.  With no practice or advanced planning.

What happened to my LITTLE girl?  

After writing her entire message, she was concerned about wasting the remaining icing, so as I replied that she could decorate with it, I thought to myself, Here we go.  She's going to put as much of that icing on the cake as she can.  Icing being one of her very favorite things, of course.

But she didn't.

She framed the cake with squiggly lines, drew two balloons, and put down the piping bag.  

It was beautifully neat.

It was perfectly recognizable, even to my husband, and I don't think the same could be said of her first piping attempt.

So I learned a few things from yesterday's birthday cake making session:
  • Somebody's growing up.  Rapidly.  I suppose that this is the way that it works, but I'm not sure I like it.
  • I might soon be out of a cake-decorating job.  This could be a really good thing - have you ever seen my cakes?
  • My Big Helper is one neat kid - but then, I already knew that.

For more GratiTuesday, visit Heavenly Homemakers.

Monday, January 28, 2013

Menu Plan Monday - January 28, 2013

Happy birthday to my husband!  He's turning 41 today.  :-)  

We're going out for dinner to celebrate his special day today, and I'm going to try to prepare a few of his favorites over the next few days.  We're also wrapping up our Amish unit, so we'll do just a bit more baking - and then we'll move on to our next topic.  I do have some more yummy Amish recipes to share with you, though!

Here's our plan:


We're also planning to make these things this week:
What are you cooking up this week?

For more Menu Plan Monday, visit OrgJunkie.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Win a “Glacier Bay” Prize pack from Tricia Goyer and Ocieanna Fleiss

Celebrate with Tricia and Ocieanna by entering their "Glacier Bay" Giveaway and RSVPing for their Facebook Party on Feb. 12th!


One fortunate winner will receive:
  • A gorgeous handmade “Glacier Bay” bracelet
  • A handmade cowl in "Glacier Bay" blues and greens
  • A bottle of custom-made "Glacier Bay" sparkle polish in blue
  • Love Finds You in Glacier Bay, Alaska by Tricia Goyer and Ocieanna Fleiss and their two other “Love Finds You” titles {Love Finds You in Lonesome Prairie, Montana, and Love Finds You in Victory Heights, Washington}
Enter today by clicking one of the icons below. But hurry, the giveaway ends on February 11th. Winner will be announced at the "Glacier Bay" Author Chat Party on February 12th. Connect with authors Tricia and Ocieanna, get a sneak peek of their new book projects, try your hand at the Alaska trivia contest, and chat with readers just like you. There will also be great giveaways—gift certificates, books, and more!

So grab your copy of Love Finds You in Glacier Bay, Alaska, and join Tricia and Ocieanna on the evening of February 12th for a chance to connect with the authors and make some new friends. (If you haven't read the book, don't let that stop you from coming!)

Don't miss a moment of the fun, RSVP todayTell your friends via FACEBOOK or TWITTER and increase your chances of winning. Hope to see you on the 12th!

Friday, January 25, 2013

"Love Finds You in Glacier Bay, Alaska" by Tricia Goyer & Ocieanna Fleiss

Singer Ginny Marshall is one signature away from the recording contract of her dreams-a deal that would guarantee success for the former foster child, who still struggles to bury the memories of her painful childhood. But Ginny needs advice from the one person who will look out for her best interests-her former fiancé, Brett Miller. She travels to the remote town of Glacier Bay, Alaska, where the town's colorful characters and stunning scenery provide respite from LA's pressures.

In Glacier Bay, Ginny discovers a box of old letters and is swept up in the love story between Clay, an early missionary to Alaska Territory, and Ellie, the woman who traveled there to be his children's governess. When Ginny is reunited with Brett in Glacier Bay, will she discover-as Ellie did-that healing and love are sometimes found in the most unexpected places?

Goyer grabs you from the very first scene with Ginny's unhappy, secretive past.  You can't help but be nosy and want to know what she's not telling her wanna-make-you-rich boyfriend.  Her discomfort with him makes you cheer for Brett's clean-cut, love-you-forever image from the get-go.  

The word pictures of the Alaskan countryside painted by Goyer and Fleiss are breathtaking.  These two women excel at setting the scene.

As you may know, however, my very favorite kind of story is one in which a history mystery comes to life in modern times, and this is one of those.  When Brett's grandmother gives Ginny some mysterious letters to read, she brings to light a local mystery that might well impact Ginny's plans for the future.  Ellie is a determined, faithful woman stuck in an impossible situation, and her story will keep you turning pages even faster than Ginny's.  

I really loved the way that Ellie's story dovetailed with Ginny's.  Both women struggled with finding love, healing from the past, and the faith to step into the future with confidence, and readers will be able to pull from the lessons in the story and make them their own.

Before reading this story, I didn't realize that there were so many titles in this series.  With an incredible love story set in a fascinating locale, I'm now hooked - I can't wait to travel around the country with the authors of the Love Finds You in ____ series!  I'm definitely seeking out more of these.

To read other reviews in this blog hop, check them out here.  If you'd rather just can purchase Love Finds You now, go here.

Tricia Goyer is the award winning author of over thirty books including Beside Still WatersRemembering You, and the mommy memoir, Blue Like Play Dough. Tricia is a regular speaker at conventions and conferences and is the host of Living Inspired. She and her family make their home in Little Rock, Arkansas where they are part of the ministry of FamilyLife.

Find out more about Tricia at

Ocieanna Fleiss is a published author and editor. She lives with her husband and their four children in the Seattle area.
Find out more about Ocieanna at

I received a free copy of Love Finds You in Glacier Bay, Alaska from LitFuse Publicity in exchange for an honest review.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

Secretly Smitten | An Evening of Giggle, Gab & Prizes

The "gals" are celebrating the release of Secretly Smitten with a fun Live Webcast on February 5th. They'll be debuting the *NEW* animated Smitten trailer, giving away tons of prizes, dishing on the book and their friendship. They'll also be wrapping up the Secretly Smitten blog tour, answering audience questions and testing your trivia skills. Don't miss the fun and bring your friends. Click here to RSVP and set up a reminder.

Whole Wheat Cinnamon Rolls

Our favorite Sunday morning breakfast is homemade cinnamon rolls.  I can mix these up on a Saturday afternoon, throw everything into the bread machine, and then have them rolled out and assembled in minutes.  With some fruit on the side, we can have a special breakfast without too much fuss.

So if you'd like to make your own whole wheat bread machine cinnamon rolls, here's what you do.

Dough Ingredients:
  • 1 c. + 2 T. warm milk
  • 3 T. melted butter
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 c. sugar
  • 4 c. white-wheat flour
  • 1 t. salt
  • 1 T. yeast
  • 1/2 c. brown sugar
  • 2 T. softened butter
  • sprinkling of cinnamon
  • 1 c. powdered sugar
  • 1 T. milk
  • dash of salt
  • 1 t. vanilla

  1. Put ingredients into bread machine pan in order listed.
  2. Select the 'dough' cycle.
  3. When the dough is mixed, roll out into a large rectangle.
  4. Spread the softened butter onto the dough.
  5. Sprinkle the brown sugar and cinnamon (to your liking) over the butter.
  6. Roll tightly.
  7. Slice into 3/4" rolls and place on a buttered cookie sheet.
  8. Bake at 325 degrees for about 20 minutes.
  9. Drizzle icing over the rolls immediately.
  10. Serve warm.
What's your favorite Sunday morning breakfast?

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Snow Day!

Last week we had a pretty rare event happen here - it snowed!  We went for a late-night walk in the snow as it was falling, and then we got up early the next morning and headed out to play.

We had a few inches of snow at that point, and the kids had a blast playing in it.

My Big Helper couldn't stop smiling!

After making a snow angel, some fort construction, and a snowball fight, we headed back inside to get warm.  Although it felt cold outside, the temperature was rising and the snow melted rapidly.  It only lasted for about 18 hours, but we made the most of it while it lasted.

What about you?  Did you see snow last week?

For more GratiTuesday, visit Heavenly Homemakers.

Monday, January 21, 2013

”The Tutor’s Daughter” by Julie Klassen! Enter to win a “Downton Abbey” Kindle Prize Pack

Julie is celebrating by giving away one of the new Paperwhite Kindles, Downton Abbey (season 3) and hosting a fun Author Chat Party on Facebook. (January 31st)


One fortunate winner will receive:
  • A Kindle Paperwhite
  • Downton Abbey, Season 3
  • A Julie Klassen library (The Tutor’s Daughter, The Maid of Fairbourne Hall, The Girl in the Gatehouse, and The Silent Governess)
Enter today by clicking one of the icons below. But hurry, the giveaway ends on January 30th. Winner will be announced at "The Tutor's Daughter Author Chat Party on January 31st. Connect with Julie, get a sneak peek of her next book, try your hand at the trivia contest, and chat with readers just like you. There will also be great giveaways - gift certificates, books and season 3 of Downton Abbey!

So grab your copy of The Tutor's Daughter and join Julie on the evening of the January 31st for a chance to connect with Julie and make some new friends. (If you haven't read the book - don't let that stop you from coming!)

Don't miss a moment of the fun, RSVP todayTell your friends via FACEBOOK or TWITTER and increase your chances of winning. Hope to see you on the 31st!

Menu Plan Monday - January 21, 2013

The temperature is dropping here and, with colds bothering both kids, we're sticking close to home and staying warm.  I hit a great deal on chickens over the weekend, so here's our plan for the week:


Come back on Wednesday for a great whole wheat, bread machine cinnamon roll recipe!

For more Menu Plan Monday, visit OrgJunkie.

"Secretly Smitten"

There's a secret in Grandma Rose's attic-a forgotten set of dog tags belonging to her first love. But David Hutchins was killed in action and never returned to Smitten. How did the dog tags end up in the attic?

The mystery intrigues Rose's three granddaughters-Tess, Clare, and Zoe-and they decide to investigate, though their mother, Anna, warns against meddling. But as the seasons turn and the mystery unravels, the three young women and their mother encounter some intriguing mystery men of their own. Has a sixty-year-old puzzle sparked something new for this close-knit family of women?

Summer, fall, winter, spring-Smitten, Vermont, is the place for love . . . and mystery!

I loved the first Smitten book, but this one is much, much better!  The common theme in each of the stories - besides love, of course - is a history-mystery-romance, brought into the modern day and just begging to be solved.  There's nothing I like better than when characters stumble upon a long-lost love and have to decide how - and if - they should investigate.

Written by four authors who just happen to be best friends, these stories are woven seamlessly to create one large book, spanning a year in the life of Smitten residents.  The way that each story began in the one prior and then continued on throughout the others really made this book feel like one large novel.  That's probably my next favorite thing about it.

When a book is really well written, you fall in love with the characters.  You're not ready to say goodbye to them when you turn that last page, and no matter how long the book is, it's just not enough.  The genius of the Smitten series is that you don't have to.  Because each story is set in the same town among the same cast of characters, you continue to learn about the previous story's main character and how their lives are progressing all while meeting new ones.  The same may be said of some book series, but with Smitten you don't have to wait around for the next book to be published - you have it in your hand!  If you find yourself wanting to share a recipe or invite a certain character over for dinner like I do, this is a major advantage - and you'll want to befriend the women in this book.

While the stories are romantically dramatic, you won't need your tissue box to read this book, but you will need your funny bone.  I appreciated the drama and the sweet notes written into the plot, but even more than that, there are real life lessons inherent in this book: things that all women struggle with at one time or another.  Are we worthy of love?  How do you forgive a major hurt?  I'm working for a good cause - and so the rules don't apply to me, right?

I can't wait to meet the next cast of Smitten characters.

To buy Secretly Smitten right now, click here, or you can read more reviews from this blog hop here.

RITA-finalist Colleen Coble is the author of several best-selling romantic suspense novels, including "Tidewater Inn", and the Mercy Falls, Lonestar, and Rock Harbor series. * Christy Award finalist and two-time winner of the ACFW Book of the Year award, Kristin Billerbeck has appeared on The Today Show and has been featured in the New York Times. Her books include "A Billion Reasons Why" and "What a Girl Wants." * Denise Hunter is the award-winning and best-selling author of several novels, including "A Cowboy's Touch" and "Sweetwater Gap." She and her husband are raising three boys in Indiana. * Diann Hunt has lived in Indiana forever, been happily married forever, loves her family, chocolate, her friends, her dog, and, well, chocolate.
Find out more about Coble, Billerbeck, Hunter, Hunthere.

I received a free copy of Secretly Smitten from LitFuse Publicity in exchange for an honest review.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

"Where God Finds You" by Anita Higman & a GIVEAWAY

Where God Finds You: 40 Devotions Bringing Bible Characters to Life  -     
        By: Anita Higman

What does it feel like to walk on water?  How did Pilate's wife sway his decision?  What must Mary, Jesus' mother, have felt when visited by the angel?  

These questions and any more are pondered in Anita Higman's new devotional, Where God Finds You. Each reading begins with a fictionalized account of a Bible story told from the unique perspective of a key player.  The story is followed by the actual scriptural story and then by the author's thoughts and questions to  think about.

The Where God Finds You initial fictionalized account that at the beginning of each devotion resembles Jesus Calling by Sarah Young, but there the resemblance ends.  Where Young tries to imagine the words that Jesus might say in certain scriptures, Higman imagines the entire scene - what must it have felt like to be that character?  During the important event in each scripture, what might each person have seen, heard, or experienced?  How might their decision affect their futures, and what sort of role might that have played in the making of it?

I have always been fascinated by trying to imagine what it must have been like to live in Bible times and have such momentous - and often scary! - things happening all around you.  I love that Higman has incorporated this concept into her new devotional, but the best part is that it doesn't stop there.

Each devotion goes on from the fictionalized account.  That story is enough to make you think and ponder scripture, and that's important; but Higman's plan to print the scripture immediately following gives you the opportunity to compare the two and see for yourself exactly what the Bible has to say and what is Higman's imagination.  Higman's thoughts on the scripture, which follow the text itself, show that she is human.  They lead each reader in quiet contemplation.  The reading makes you feel as if you're sitting down for tea with a friend for a good heart-to-heart.

Each devotion is short enough to fit into your busy schedule but meaty enough - and creative enough - to leave you pondering it throughout the day, and isn't that what we're to do with God's Word?

I rarely use a devotional because I want to be reading straight from the Bible each day, and I rarely have time to do both. Where God Finds You is the perfect blend of both story and real scripture - and I can't wait to go back and read it again, more slowly this time, during my personal devotion time each day.

The only problem with this book?  There are only 40 devotions within.  Turning the last page leaves me wanting many more.

So, would you like to win your own copy of this fantastic devotional?  Use the rafflecopter below to enter!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

I received a free copy of Where God Finds You from Buoyancy Public Relations in exchange for an honest review.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Chocolate Whoopie Pies

When I was a kid in Pennsylvania these were my favorite treat.  My mom used to make big batches, wrap them individually in waxed paper, and hide them in tins all over the house.  When she was at work, Dad and I would hunt for them.  I distinctly remember finding a tin of whoopie pies waaayyyy in the back of their closet - and another deep in the freezer.  Those we ate even before they thawed - just let them hang out beside the wood stove for a bit and then ate them frozen.  Yum!

While Mom didn't make them nearly as often as I would've liked - I wouldn't have, either, at the rate we went through them - whoopie pies can be found at every Amish stand, market, or store at home in Mifflin County, Pennsylvania (home of the Belleville, the purest white top community in the world).  Some markets even have them in different flavors, but the basic chocolate remains my favorite.

Since my Big Helper's book club is meeting this week to discuss Suzanne Woods Fisher's Life with Lily, we decided to study Amish culture this month.  Today we made my great-grandmother's Chocolate Whoopie Pies.

These whoopie pies are chocolatey and moist.  They don't rise up super high, but they definitely grow in the oven, and that's good - a tiny one just wouldn't cut it.

Here's how to make your own Chocolate Whoopie Pies.

  • 2 c. sugar
  • 1 c. shortening
  • 2 egg yolks
  • 4 c. flour
  • 1 c. cocoa or a little less
  • 1/2 t. salt
  • 2 t. baking soda
  • 1 t. baking powder
  • 1 c. sour milk
  • 3/4 c. hot water
Icing Ingredients:
  • 3 c. powdered sugar
  • 2/3 c. shortening
  • 2 t. vanilla
  • pinch of salt
  • 5 T. milk
  1. Cream sugar and shortening.
  2. Add egg yolks and beat well.
  3. Add the rest of the ingredients and blend slowly.  (If you don't have any sour milk, you can put 1 T. of milk into a liquid measuring cup and then fill to the one-cup line with milk.  Let it sit for 5 minutes, stir, and add.)
  4. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.  
  5. Drop batter onto the parchment by the tablespoon.  Leave 2 inches between each dollop - this batter will spread!
  6. Bake for 10 minutes at 400 degrees F.
  7. Remove from tray onto a tea towel or cooling rack.
  8. When pies are completely cool, match them up with others their same size and shape.
  9. Fill each pair with icing.  (To make the icing, cream all ingredients.)  One batch of icing should be enough for one batch of whoopie pies.
  10. Store in an air-tight container.
  11. Try to keep some in that container.  Go ahead- I dare you!

I couldn't get a picture of the actual mixing process - they were so excited that it flew by.  They were even happier to get their fingers into the icing, though!

Our finished product.

Enter to win an iPad from @SuzanneWoodsFisher in “The Lesson” Giveaway!

Celebrate the release of The Lesson with Suzanne Woods Fisher by entering to win one of TWO iPads!
Two winners will receive:
  • A brand new iPad
  • A $15 gift certificate to iTunes
Enter today by clicking one of the icons below. But hurry, the giveaway ends on January 20th. Winner will be announced on 1/22/13 at Suzanne's Blog.

Tell your friends via FACEBOOK or TWITTER and increase your chances of winning.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

GratiTuesday - Dancing Partners

This week we have few places to be and lots of time to be home together.  Sometimes I get antsy and want to be 'out,' but right now I love the time at home with the kids.

Even more so because of their friendship.

They've always gotten along well, but over the past few months they've gotten even closer.  While I realize that there will be times of conflict ahead as they grow and mature and figure out who God means for them to be, I pray that they grow even closer.

Yesterday around dinnertime My Big Helper's new favorite song - Kings and Queens by Audio Adrenaline - came on the radio.  Both kids were in the kitchen, and she ran to turn it up.  Then she grabbed her brother's hand and yelled, "Let's dance!" as they began to spin and twirl around the kitchen.  

Seeing them smiling and laughing together, singing along to obviously Christian music - what could be better?

For more GratiTuesday, visit Heavenly Homemakers.

Monday, January 14, 2013

"Twice a Bride" by Mona Hodgson

Twice a Bride, Sinclair Sisters of Cripple Creek Series #4   -     
        By: Mona Hodgson

Widow Willow Peterson settles in at Cripple Creek, determined to support herself as an artist.  When she finally begins to freelance for a handsome young photographer, however, she realizes that staying single for the rest of her life might not be her only choice.My favorite aspect of the Cripple Creek series is how Hodgson tackles tough issues head-on.  Willow isn't sure that she's ready to trust another man with her future any more than Trenton wants to try his hand at love after being thrown over for another man.  Trust is never easy, but it's especially difficult after being hurt.  The possibility of Willow's father remarrying is also dealt with in this story from the perspective of Willow and her sisters.With all of that said, this is not a down-in-the-dumps book.  Like the other books in the Cripple Creek series, Twice a Bride has a decidedly lighthearted feel to it.  Hodgson is incredibly talented to weave these weighty issues into such a fun story.  The small details, such as Willow's fudge addiction and messy picnic dishes, give a realistic feel to each character.Most books seem to have a rather singular feel - deep or fluffy, suspenseful or placid - but Twice a Bride is full of deep heart lessons that have you laughing instead of crying.  I'm definitely watching out for Hodgson's next book!I received a free copy of Twice a Bride in exchange for an honest review.

Menu Plan Monday - January 14, 2013

We're looking forward to some fun baking to go along with our Amish unit this week.  With fewer events on the calendar than usual, we've got lots of time to work. More recipes will be coming your way!


For more Menu Plan Monday, visit OrgJunkie.

Friday, January 11, 2013

Creamy Veggie Casserole

Sometimes I get super hungry for veggies, and if the weather is cold and salad ingredients are not readily available, a dish of this casserole does this trick.  It's quick to assemble and  and full of vitamin-rich veggies.  My kids love it as much as I do.  My husband, admittedly, prefers to have meat in his, so we either add some cooked chicken or turkey to it or serve that on the side.  Either way, this makes for a quick and yummy meal.


  • 4 c. frozen veggies (I use a blend from Costco that includes broccoli, orange and yellow carrots, and cauliflower)
  • 3 T. butter
  • 3 T. flour
  • 2 T. cream cheese
  • 1 c. shredded cheddar (optional)
  • 2 c. milk
  • 1 c. chicken stock
  • 3 c. stuffing
  1. Steam the veggies until fork tender.
  2. Drain and place in a 9 X 13" casserole dish.
  3. In the empty pot, melt the butter. 
  4. Stir in the flour.
  5. Slowly pour in the milk, stirring the entire time, to create a simple roux.
  6. Add the chicken stock.
  7. Heat over medium-low heat until mixture begins to thicken, watching carefully and stirring occasionally.  Do not allow to boil.
  8. Add the cream cheese and stir until melted.
  9. Add the cheddar if desired and stir until melted.
  10. Pour the cream sauce over the veggies.
  11. Crumble your stuffing over the top.  This is a great way to use up leftover holiday stuffing!
  12. Bake at 350 for 20 minutes or until bubbly.
  13. Serve hot.
What's your favorite type of casserole?

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

"The Betrayal" by Robin Lee Hatcher

The latest historical romance from award-winning author Robin Lee Hatcher and the second book in the Where the Heart Lives series, Betrayal will take readers to the high desert of western Wyoming, through the crags of the Rocky Mountains, and into the hearts of two seekers learning to trust God's love no matter the circumstances.

It's the turn of the twentieth century and drifter Hugh Brennan is a man well acquainted with betrayal. Hugh finds himself drawn to the attractive widow, Julia, yet when he looks into her eyes, he recognizes the same hurt that haunts him.
Julia Grace has little reason to trust men, but she's going to have to trust someone if she's to keep her ranch from the clutches of her dead husband's half-brother. Is it possible God had a hand in bringing Hugh to her door?

Robin Lee Hatcher's latest romance is not just a fluffy read.  Julia Grace has a tough row to hoe, and none of her options look good: should she give in to the threats for her land and sell out, losing everything, or should she trust her new hand Hugh and risk her heart?
Most of us have been heart in some sort of relationship at one time or another, and it's never easy to take a chance and reach out again.  Hatcher's realistic look at the struggle to trust again can teach a lesson to all of us.  
Julia Grace isn't the only honest person in Betrayal's cast of characters.  Hugh hasn't had it easy, either, and Julia Grace has some good neighbors.  This team worked together well and added a lighthearted edge to the story.  
Betrayal is a special book because at the root of it all, this story is about overcoming the odds.  Each character is written with kindness, love, and grace, for a seasoned story that's full of heart.  
I received a free copy of Betrayal in exchange for an honest review.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

GratiTuesday - Turkey Time

Before the holidays, a friend unexpectedly gifted us with the King Kong of all turkeys, and we didn't get to cook him for as planned due to traveling.  

We decided that his time had come.

After a significant thawing period, a turkey-cleaning wrestling match, and several hours in the turkey-sauna, he emerged golden brown and looking yummy.

Somehow my turkeys always fall apart and I never get that picture-perfect bird to grace the table, but he came out so well that I put the whole bird on a tray and placed him right in the center.  Of course, I was so excited to see him there that I forgot to take a picture, anyway.

On the other hand, My Little Man was not so shy.  Usually white-meat people, we were all astonished when he immediately asked for a leg.  Considering these legs were nearly as big as footballs, this was an especially surprising request, but he dug right in ...

and he didn't leave much on his plate besides bones when he was finished, either.

The turkey was delicious.  I enjoyed preparing this special meal when there were no traditional expectations placed on it, and My Big Helper had fun making the table a bit nicer than usual.  She also baked dessert all by herself - homemade brownies - and they were yummy.

Meal prep will be pretty simple around here the rest of the week as we'll be finishing off Tom.  For this gift from a friend, a wonderful meal, and kitchen simplicity the rest of the week, we're grateful.

For more GratiTuesday, visit Heavenly Homemakers.

Monday, January 7, 2013

Menu Plan Monday - January 7, 2012

Christmas break doesn't feel as if it's been much of a break.  We've been super busy with holiday activities and then putting away all of that holiday stuff, so we're excited to get back to a more normal schedule.  We resume school tomorrow, and both kids are happy about that.  

Since we've traveled for both of our recent major holidays, I haven't prepared a big meal at home, but I've been taking advantage of all of the great sales and stocked our freezer.  Now it's time to reap that harvest!  

Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Baked Oatmeal, oranges
- scrambled eggs, toast

Caramel Pumpkin Doughnut Hole (Muffins), fruit

Cinnamon Almond Granola, bananas


- Roasted turkey, mashed potatoes, Simple Slow Cooker Stuffing (CCC)Mom's Baked Corn, green beans, applesauce
- Turkey tacos, corn, rice
- Hot turkey sandwiches, leftovers
- Turkey and veggie casserole

- Pizza, carrot sticks, fruit
- Spicy Sausage pasta, applesauce
- Leftovers

We're beginning an Amish unit for school, so we're planning to fit in some fun baking.  We'll share our recipes soon!

What are you cooking this week?

For more Menu Plan Monday, visit OrgJunkie.