Monday, September 12, 2011

Finding Nancy Beth

Nancy Beth was my aunt.  I suppose I want you to know this, because up until a few months ago... I didn't even know it.  I didn't know Nancy Beth.  I didn't know my dad had a sister.  My dad didn't know he had a sister.  

Nancy Beth was my aunt and she had down syndrome.  

It's quite unreal how this all came to the surface.  Back in February I started researching my ancestral roots.  I joined a website ( and started rifling through census reports, obituaries, and marriage certificates online.  I felt as if I was combining my interest in history with my love of mystery novels.  I enjoyed it.

Researching my mom's family was easy, even predictable, but I knew my dad's family would yield some interesting finds.  He never knew his biological father, instead he was raised by his biological mom and his adoptive father.  He had a warm and loving childhood, but it was made clear that he shouldn't ask questions about his "real" father.  So he didn't.  

But starting this spring, I did.  I asked all kinds of questions as I unraveled the mess of secrets that had been knotted for decades.  I found that in the center of it all was Nancy Beth.

In 1939 families didn't raise "special needs" children.  Doctors advised new mothers to abandon their imperfect children to the custody of the state.  They convinced parents that the social stigma of raising an abnormal child would be too difficult for other children in the family to bare.  And often parents, still reeling from the wrenching pain and disappointment of dreams dashed,  listened to these professional advisers.  

 My grandparents listened too.  At one month of age, Nancy was entrusted to the state.  She was put into a foster home until she was two and a half.  From there she was sent to a state home and institutionalized for the rest of her life. In 1966 she was baptized, and she died in 1993 at the age of 54.  

 These are the facts as I have learned them, and I hope to discover more about her.  Someday, I hope to see a picture, but even if I never do, I have a strong suspicion that one day I will finally meet Nancy Beth.

Nancy Beth was my aunt and I'd like you to know that.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Celebration Cinnamon Rolls

Today is my baby's 12 th birthday.  My "Bubby";  my boy;  my sweetness.  Every momma should have a son as huggibly delicious as my Eric.  Can I just say... I love my kid?  This child will jump up at the chance to help you with groceries, LOVES to make you smile or laugh, and can't pass kissin' a baby's cheeks even if he wanted to. I mean, c'mon, they just don't make them like him anymore.  I s'pose I get to take some credit for him, but really, I think God just gave him to me like this.  I am blessed.

So, it's no secret that I work very hard in the garden and once in a while I get pooped before I'm really finished.  Cleaning up my tornado of weeding isn't my strongest point, so I often strike up a deal with my dear son in order to get him to clean up after my gardening garbage.
This week, the deal was a week long menu of breakfast dishes.  I'd like to be able to say that I make a piping hot breakfast for my kids every morning, but the truth is... I don't.  I'm more apt to make breakfast for dinner than for the actual slotted time for breakfast.  So I agreed to make Eric breakfast every day this week, beginning with Tuesday.
Tuesday we had french toast.
Wednesday was scrambled eggs and bacon.
Thursday saw Chocolate chip waffles.
But today is my Bubby's birthday, so we are going all out with homemade cinnamon rolls. He's beside himself.  I think he might have even had trouble sleeping last night. ;)

Celebration Cinnamon Rolls
I made the dough last night by using my "Favorite dough recipe" dough with an added teaspoon or two of lemon juice in with all the wet ingredients.  I let it cycle through in the dough cycle on my bread machine, then I went to work making the sweet rolls.      

 I rolled out the dough into a rectangle.  Betty (Crocker) says to make the rectangle 15x9...  Well, I don't have a ruler, but I guess this will do.  

Then I softened about a 1/4 cup of butter (half a stick) in the microwave and brushed it all over one side of the dough.  You don't want to get butter too close to the edge because you don't want the sugar to get in the way of the dough sticking to itself when you roll it up.  So keep a good inch or so clear of butter and sugar.  I cheat and use the cinnamon n' sugar combo you can find at wal-mart.  I hear brown sugar is a pretty incredible alternative... it's supposedly what Cinnabon uses, but we're fine with white sugar here.  

Roll the dough up so you have a really long snake of dough.

Next is a trick Betty taught me:  Use a piece of string to cut the rolls instead of a knife.  A knife will squish the dough, but a thick piece of string will just pinch the roll right off.  I like to use a thick coated piece of quilters thread, but really any kind of thread will work. 

See. :)

Keep the thickness of each cinnamon roll the same.  You want to make them a little thicker than you might first think.  I like to squish them down a bit once I put them into the pan to rise.  

Now, cover these and let them rise for an hour, or cover them and put them in the refrigerator to bake the next day.  If baking them the next day, take them out an hour before baking, and continue as normal.  They won't rise quite as much after they have been refrigerated, but it sure beats trying to do everything early in the morning!!

Bake at 375 degrees about 25-30 minutes.  Spread rolls with glaze while they are still warm.  

Simple Glaze:  
1 cup powdered sugar
1 TBS milk 
1/2tsp. vanilla. 
 Mix until smooth.  Remember the glaze will thin out when poured over hot rolls, so leave it a little on the thicker side.

Cinnabon cream cheese glaze:... should be illegal it's so good. ugh!

4 tablespoons softened butter
3 ounces cream cheese
1 1/2 cup powdered sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/8 teaspoon salt

ENJOY and Happy Birthday Eric!!!

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Dogs Will Be Dogs

“Going to church doesn’t make you a Christian any more than sitting in a dog house makes you a dog…”  I’ve heard this said many times.  Usually by someone trying to justify why they don’t regularly attend church.

Okay, so  it might be shocking to hear that I  agree.  Sort of.

A dog barks… a dog scratches its ears with its hind legs…  A dog wags its tail.  These are all things a dog DOES, but doing them doesn’t MAKE him a dog.

I can bark.  I might be able to scratch my ear with my leg.  I could even wag my… tail.  But DOING these things doesn’t MAKE me a dog.
A dog is a dog, not because of what he does… but he’s a dog because of how he was MADE.  He’s only doing the things which he was created to do; the things God created him to do.

So, sitting in a church doesn't MAKE you a Christian....But it is what Christians DO.

Within His creation of man, God has built in certain designations; meaning, we were designed a certain way for certain tasks.   Sin has DE-formed us and has led us away from those things which God created for us to do and be.

No, going to church doesn’t make you a Christian… but it is where you hear God’s Word. It is where you receive God's Word. By God’s Word, faith is created in us.  God's Word is the antidote to the sin that infects us.  When we have faith, we are restored and are able once again to DO the things which we were created to go to church, love our neighbor, train our children. It is the Creator who MAKES us to believe and it is HE who continues to CREATE and strengthen the faith within us.

So, going to church doesn't make you a Christian anymore than sitting in a dog house will make you a dog... However, you stand a better chance of becoming a Christian by going to church, than you would of becoming a dog by sitting in a dog house.

Just sayin’.

GIANT Chocolate Chip Cookies

I was on a quest for the best Giant chocolate chips cookies, EVER. 
 I decided to gather information from across cyber space and see what I could do in my very own kitchen.

 Here's what happened.  
After reading several articles on what makes the best cookie... I opted to stick with a tried and true to nearly every American household recipe.  Yes, I speak of the TollHouse cookie recipe on the back of your Nestle chocolate chips package.  Remaining true to my collage-kind of cooking... I took the recipe and added a bit from here and there and everywhere. 
 Here are my alterations:


  • Instead of all purpose flour, I used 1 cup cake flour and  1 and 1/2 cups bread flour.  
  • I sifted all the dry ingredients together.
  • Instead of Nestles chips, I used Ghirardelli's bittersweet chips. (really any 60% cocoa chip works)

  • I grated the cold butter in order to get it to room temperature faster.
  • I put the two eggs into warm water (inside their shells..duh) in order to get them to room temperature.
  • I refrigerated the dough for 36 hours.  (at least 24 hours).

  • I used a silpat baking mat. 
  • I used an ice cream scooper to scoop the dough.  Yes, they were THAT huge. 
  • Before baking, I sprinkled each ball of dough with a little sea salt.
  • I baked them until the outside ring was golden brown and the middle ring was golden and the center wasn't quite golden.  In my oven it took 11-12 minutes.  
  • Test your own oven temps by watching the first batch carefully.
  • I made 15 giant cookies.

After baking, transfer the entire silpat off the cookie sheet and onto a cooling rack.  I meant to take a picture of all the cookies piled high on a platter, but I wasn't fast enough.  They were gobbled up! :)