Pumpkin Doughnut Recipe

Fall is here with its warm days and cool nights. Football stadiums are lit up on Friday and Saturday nights across the country, and I’m digging out my jackets and thermal underwear.

And there’s just something about those cooler temperatures that make you long for soups, cider, and anything pumpkin. Yes, I’m one of THOSE people who never grows tired of pumpkin everything. So, in celebration of Pumpkin season, I’m sharing a recipe I found on Pinterest that I’m going to try, because doughnuts!!! YUM-OOOO!!

Pumpkin Doughnuts, taken from Cooking Classy’s website

Pumpkin Donuts

1 ¾ cup + 2 Tbsp all purpose flour

1 ¾ tsp baking powder

1 ¼ tsp salt

¾ tsp cinnamon

¼ tsp nutmeg

¼ tsp ginger

¾ cup granulated sugar

¾ cup packed brown sugar

½ cup canola oil

3 large eggs

1 ½ cup canned pumpkin puree

1 tsp vanilla extract

 

Coating:

1/3 cup granulated sugar

1 ¼ tsp ground cinnamon

 

Directions:

Preheat 350 degrees. Butter the wells in a doughnut pan. One batch yields 18.

 

In a mixing bowl, sift together flour, baking powder, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg, and ginger, until well mixed. In a separate large bowl, sift granulated sugar and brown sugar until well combined—breaking up the small lumps of brown sugar as needed. Add canola oil, eggs, pumpkin puree, and vanilla using a hand mixer until well combined. Spoon or pipe batter into the doughnut forms, filling each up to ¾ full.

 

Bake in preheated oven until toothpick inserted comes out clean, 13-16 minutes. Cool doughnuts slightly. In a large resealable bag, shake together the coating sugar and cinnamon until well combined. Add one warm doughnut at a time and shake until evenly coated. Place on wire rack to cool. Store in an airtight container.

 

Recipe source: adapted from King Arthur Flour.

BBC Dramas

I’ve been enjoying the bounty of my public library’s DVD section this summer. And I’ve fallen in love with BBC dramas. In particular the film adaptations of some of Elizabeth Gaskell’s novels.

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I’m sure most of you are familiar with North and South. It’s heralded as containing one of the best kissing scenes ever! And I’d have to concur. You can check it out here:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zn1lMpOrQsc

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But I have to confess that I have found a movie even more romantical — Wives and Daughters by Elizabeth Gaskell. Be. Still. My. Heart. Sublime from character to plot. There’s humour and angst and romance aplenty. I watched it twice, back to back and now that I’m writing this I think I need to borrow it again.

So, once I discovered that two of Elizabeth Gaskell novels had become BBC dramas, I thought I’d check and see if there were any more. And I fell in love with:

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Cranford – Set in a rural English village in the 1840s – a town that is ruled by etiquette where gossip is rampant and a new (and very young and handsome) doctor with cutting-edge techniques sets the town astir. It’s sweet and funny and heartbreaking. A real slice of British life

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And then comes Return to Cranford. Change is racing towards the village as the railroad draws closer and not everyone is happy about their new reality. Faith and friendship are at the heart of an intricate web of stories. More laughter. More heartbreak. More riveting storytelling.

Honestly all of these movies are amazing examples of plot and character development, they are so brilliantly done. So writers can watch without a guilty conscience.

And the fun thing about watching BBC dramas is spotting familiar faces like these:

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Not to mention the absurd…like a cow in pajamas. Really, can you ask for anything more from a film?

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Live Longer – Read Books!

Live longer – read books

Yes, a Yale study has recently confirmed what we’ve always known to be true. Reading is good for you. In fact, reading can increase your longevity. Seriously. Look at these stats: reading up to 3 ½ hours a week (that’s just 30 minutes a day) increases your life span by 17 %. Read more than 3 ½ hours a week and that percentage jumps to 23 %!

Hmmm…let’s think about that for a moment…I actually read about 3 ½ hours a day so if I times that by 7 days in a week at 23 % …well, you do the math because I sure can’t. All I know is that it means I’m going to live a loooooooooooooooooonnnnnngggggggg time. Which means I get to read more books and maybe, just maybe, someday I’ll catch up with my TBR pile.

And here’s the really cool stat: It has to be fiction! Reading non-fiction or newspapers or magazines doesn’t count…well, it counts a little bit but the results aren’t nearly as impressive as reading fiction.

ink1Why? So glad you asked. Let me shine some light on it for you!

It has something to do with the positive affect on a reader’s cognitive ability and that gives us a “survival advantage.” That’s a fancy way of saying that when we immerse ourselves in a story we begin a cognitive process whereby we start making connections within the story, apply what we read to the world around us which then prompts us to ask questions. Our little brains have a hay-day processing and that leads to improved vocabulary, better concentration and increased critical thinking skills. Cool right?

And if that isn’t enough – reading fiction promotes empathy, social perception and emotional intelligence. And that, people, is why reading gives us a ‘survival advantage.’ And makes us better human beings while we live longer!

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The more you read the longer

you live…the longer you live the

more you read

I Dare you to…LOVE

Two weeks ago I dared everyone to BEGIN. In the wake of all of the violence in the news lately, I thought it was fitting that the next thing I dare everyone to do is LOVE.

LOVE

It is the power by which we can overcome adversity, break down walls, and rise above to become more than ourselves. We can become like Jesus.

John 13:34-35 LOVE one another. As I (Jesus) have LOVED you, so you must LOVE one another. It is the very essence by which we will be known as His.

LOVE is patient, LOVE is kind. LOVE does not envy or boast, LOVE is not arrogant or rude. LOVE does not insist on its own way. LOVE is not irritable or resentful. LOVE does not rejoice over wrongdoing, but rejoices in the truth. LOVE bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, and endures all things.

LOVE endures all things. It endures. All. Things.

This is the kind of LOVE that has gone missing from our world, it seems. That we can endure someone else’s opinions without insisting our opinion is correct. LOVE is not rude nor does it insist on its own way. Where we can agree to disagree without despising the other person, or striking out against them. LOVE is not irritable or resentful. And we can mourn for those who do us wrong when something wrong happens to them. LOVE does not rejoice over wrongdoing.

Give LoeWe don’t have to have a platform or a high position in life to make LOVE matter. We can be a custodian and make those around us happier from having felt our presence today. We can be the overworked waitress who joyfully serves even the touchiest customer. It may not be that customer that the waitress makes a difference for, it could be the one sitting a couple of tables away.

Like light, our LOVE only shines when we share it with others. In the small kindnesses. In the smiles we give to others. In the hope we leave in our wake. And those are just small ways we can show our LOVE. They don’t cost a thing.

I leave you with a video courtesy of Chewbacca Mom, who I think is hysterical.  And I leave you with this thought: I DARE YOU TO LOVE.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dTlYjF2gJmQ

When You Don’t Know What to Say or Do

It’s a hard time when someone we care about has lost a loved one. In some ways, it is even harder to know how to react when the loss is outside of our immediate family. We  want to express our hearts, but we are at the crossroads of doing nothing and doing the wrong thing. Here are Five lessons I have learned over years of trying to be an encourager.

  1. Put yourself in their shoes. Cut them some slack if they lash out in anger, or show frustration. Remember how you felt at a time like this, and realize it is all a part of the grieving process.
  2. Actions speak louder than words. As an old country song says: You say it best when you say nothing at all. Sometimes, a heartfelt hug, a basket of flowers, a bag of groceries brought to the house while it’s full of company speaks volumes about your concern.
  3. Less is more. When it comes to the actual words you say, a simple “I am so sorry” may be best. You may have some very profound thoughts about how beautiful heaven will be and how God walks along with us through our journey. The preacher at the funeral will say those things. I find it is so much better when the person is walking this difficult walk to just be there for them.
  4. Come back later. When the services are over and the company has gone home, don’t forget about your friend. Phone calls, invitations to attend worship services with you, encouraging messages on social media, will be so helpful as they emerge back into their daily lives. Don’t just promise to keep in touch, follow through!
  5. Pray. In these social media crazy days, we may have stayed very close to our friends during their loved one’s final illness. It is a given that when a Christian says “I am praying for you” they actually are doing just that. So, when the loved one has passed away, don’t stop praying. Your friend needs prayer more than ever. It’s the most powerful tool we have at our disposal.

It is a very good thing to want to express your feelings when someone else is hurting. Don’t be one of those people who doesn’t “Do funerals”. Take the Love of Jesus with  you, and do your best. As he assures us in Matthew 28:20, “Lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world.”Uncle Damon's service

 

15 Things to Do to Make the Most Out of Summer

Summer stepped on stage this last week with its warm temps, sunny skies, and expectations of fun. Already, the pace of life has picked up in my world. We’ve been to 14 graduation celebrations and three weddings in the last three weeks!

Since  4-H camp is on the horizon, too, it got me to thinking about things I want to do this summer that could easily get overlooked in the frenzy of fun. Here’s my summer bucket list:

  1. Watch the sunrise. Yes, I know that means getting up at zero-thirty, but there is really no better way to start the day than to see what God paints for us. Grab some coffee and your Bible and start your day with Him and His handiwork. My father, who worked midnight to eight in the morning for years, used to say most of us missed the best part of the day because we slept through the sunrise.
  2. Catch or watch the fireflies. We have a lot of fireflies in our area and there is something magical about the little flickering creatures. They make me smile.
  3. Check out the newest exhibit at the zoo. I am blessed to live near Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo, voted number one zoo in the world by TripAdvisor’s Traveler’s Choice Awards (2014). They just built a $73 million African Grasslands exhibit. Along with that, elephants have returned to the zoo after a long absence. I can’t wait to see the new additions at our zoo. What’s going on at your local zoo?
  4. Fly a kite. We have a nice little nylon kite collection. Usually, a couple of times a year, our family goes kite flying and our spirits soar along with the kites.
  5. Spend time in nature. Summer should be a time to reconnect with nature. Douse yourself in bug spray and venture into the wild. Take time to marvel at God’s creation. Not a hiker? Getting your hands in the dirt in your own garden will provide a nature fix, too.
  6. Watch fireworks. Summer wouldn’t be summer without watching an explosion of color against the dark summer sky. Fireworks are amazing!
  7. Sneak out in the middle of the night for pancakes. When our kids are at camp, my husband and I love to do this. It feels so decadent and its’ fun.
  8. Make homemade ice cream. Homemade ice cream tastes like summer. Try new flavors or go back to an old favorite. It doesn’t make a difference as you enjoy every spoonful.
  9. Visit a local farmer’s market. Not only are farmer’s markets fun, they offer the freshest produce for excellent prices and allow you to support your local economy.
  10. Surprise someone with an old fashioned picnic. Wouldn’t your spouse be surprised if you showed up at his work with a picnic basket and a blanket? How about a breakfast picnic with your kids? It just spells summer.
  11. Go stargazing. Usually, we have to go outside of the city to get a good look at the stars. There’s nothing like lying on a blanket and soaking up a night sky.
  12. Create some new summer traditions. When our kids were little, we had Park Day, where we spent the whole day going from city park to city park. Another family did family night once a week with each person in the family determining what low or no-cost activity the whole family would do together. For example, they had sleepovers in the family room. Since my family is older now and scattered this summer, I need to put on my creativity hat and come up with a new tradition.
  13. Be a tourist in your own area. Where can you go within a day’s drive? What could you discover? Summer is the perfect time to enjoy a museum or festival near your home.
  14. Find the best_____________. You fill in the blank with a favorite food. One year, our family decided to find the best pizza, so every time we went out to eat, we tried a different pizza place. You could do the same with bakeries, cupcakes, shakes, or hamburgers. Make a rating scale and set your other “scale” to the side.
  15. Read a book on a beach. Oh, you knew it would be on here somewhere, didn’t you? Honestly, this is one of my favorite things to do. Summer wouldn’t summer without it.

Well, that’s my summer bucket list. Do any of those sound fun to you? What’s on your list? Let’s share some ideas to make this the best summer ever.

Planting Daily Seeds

I’m not much of a gardener. Sure, I can plant seeds, but then there’s watering and fertilizing and weeding … I guarantee, I’ll get tired of the garden long before I follow through on all the steps necessary to nurture the garden into full bloom.

But that’s not always the case with planting seeds for the kingdom of God. Sometimes planting a seed is our only job.

When you smile at a stranger, you’re planting a seed.

When you say Thank You to a grumpy store clerk, you’re planting a seed.

When you pay for the order of the car behind you at your local coffee shop, you are planting a seed.

When you help someone reach the soup can on the top shelf at your grocer, you’re planting a seed.

When you do these simple, everyday tasks, you’re showing these people that there is goodness in the world, that not everything–everyone is against them. Their ears may be open just a little bit more and may be more receptive to hearing God’s word when that seed is planted first. In sowing these simple seeds of kindness, you are pointing to The Light with no expectation of more, but the seed is planted for the next person whose job it may be to water or fertilize or more. But they can’t do their job if you don’t do yours first.

I guarantee, no smile, no Thank You, no act of kindness is too small for God to use.

What seeds do you plant on a daily basis?

Sowing the Seeds of the Kingdom

R V and the tillerWhen the current topic started on Inkspirational Messages, an old hymn would not leave my head. “Are you sowing the seeds of the kingdom, brother?” I could have written about many things that are growing (or not) in my yard, but the seeds of the Kingdom would not let me be.

Last week we attended a funeral visitation for a 91 year old lady in our community. I didn’t know her personally, but I have attended church with her daughter, son-in-law, grandson and great grand-daughter for many years. The son-in-law commented that this is fairly common. When you live to be 91, not many of your own friends will show up, since most have preceded you in leaving this earthly life.

So, how to pay respects to this fine lady? I started paying attention to the conversation that was taking place near her casket. My husband grew up with the son-in-law and his two brothers, since they are second cousins. As they talked, I began to see a common thread. My father-in-law (their Uncle R. V.) was mentioned often, as he was an example to these “boys” of what a Christian life should be about. They remarked on how R.V’s prayers were actual face to face conversations with God, and that he sometimes forgot he was representing the whole congregation as he poured out his daily needs to his Heavenly Father.

Then, the topic turned to our son, who is now teaching lessons at their congregation on some Sunday and Wednesday nights. I tried not to puff up with pride (not sure how successful my efforts were). I couldn’t help but think that Ms. Earlene was smiling from heaven. She would recognize from her vantage point that she and her acquaintance R.V. had done a good job of getting the message out during their lifetimes. The seeds of the kingdom had been sown, and they were bearing fruit in the hearts of the people in that visitation room. God’s message would continue into the next generation, and the next, and the next.

“Will your seeds be many, have you garnered any, for the gathering at the harvest home?”

Spring?

Seriously — there’s a season between winter and summer? I have this vague recollection of balmy days and cool nights, chirruping birds and pretty flowers like early phlox and sweet thyme and periwinkle. Alas the frigid temps (welcome back polar vortex) and looming 30 cm. blizzard have frozen all those sweet memories.

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I think lingering winters are the reason God created seed catalogues and pretty gardening books.  What? You didn’t think I could turn this blog into a book focus? Oh ye of little faith. Here are some of my favourite gardening books. They take up residence on a special chair because there’s no room for them in any of my bookcases. But that’s okay, it makes it easy for me to reach for one and dream spring dreams as I pretend the snow is really going to go away this time.

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This is when my imagination runs wild. When I become a mighty warrior gardener with mad sod turning skills and plenty of gardening muscles for all the hard tasks. In reality I doubt I could plunge a shovel into the ground let alone dig down deep enough to turn sod to make a new gardening bed. I’m less mobile than I’ve ever been and I don’t have a whole lot of strength or stamina. But my gardener’s heart cannot be crushed so I’m going to try my hand at container gardening this year.

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Of course I still have all my perennial beds to fuss over but I’m hoping that a few bags of mulch and the encouraging guidance of these classic Canadian gardening books will keep things low maintenance.

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I got these container friendly heirloom seeds last year and I’m getting ready to start them indoors now so I can plant them in my containers in late May. Can’t wait to be able to pick a salad from my own garden…if the snow and cold is ever banished from this northern land.

 

Hope For My Black Thumb

I have a black thumb. Or at least it’s a brown thumb. Most things I try to grow don’t survive to tell the tale. Once in a while I get lucky and something thrives despite my botanical deficits. But I figure somewhere along the way I’ll learn something and find a bit of green on a finger. One can hope.

Last year I was prepared. I bought a warming pad and seed holders so I could sprout the seeds I bought. I failed in this endeavor, not because of my preparations, but because last spring was a wet one. Too wet. My sprouts were getting tall and spindly before I was able to get them transferred. Only a couple of the dozens of carefully raised plants survived by the time I was able to get them in the ground.

So frustrating!

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Peonies

I ended up buying new packets of seeds to replace them. And take my advice, Okra doesn’t need any help sprouting to grow big and strong. Now I know.

Isn’t that the case for many things in life? We carefully plan and work on something, only to find it shriveling before our eyes? Or you know you’re ready for something, but the weather (or whatever) doesn’t cooperate?

What do you do? Throw in the seed tray? Of course not! You take what you’ve learned and try again, or try something different, until you get to the right season that has the right weather to sow the seeds of (insert your goal) into thriving, fruitful life.

This year I’m trying something new. My hubby and I have wanted to take down a couple of ancient, dilapidated

Plum and Cherry Trees
Plum and Cherry Trees

apple trees and plant different fruit trees to start a new orchard on the farm. I’m sure it will never match the grand scheme I have in my mind, but it will be a amazing in a couple of years to have fruit fill these twig-like baby trees.

And I’m feeling kind of lucky since the peony bushes I transplanted last year are all sprouting beautiful, red stalks. I had planted them on the farm, but they only grew a little each year. I studied and found out what I had done wrong: planted them too deep. They would never bloom if I had left them where they were. I’m excited to see what they grow into this time!

I’d love to hear what you’ve planted this year, and if you too have a not-so-green thumb as well!