Archive for the ‘Family Style’ Category

A number of years ago, William Bennett wrote The Book of Virtues in which he used parables, fables, and historical stories to highlight certain important character qualities. We recently ran across videos produced for PBS, 0f all places, that used animation to teach these lessons to children. Our kidlets have been  tremendously enjoying these videos, and I’ll bet yours will too.

We like them on two levels. First, each video pinpoints a specific virtue, ie. responsibility, courage, integrity, and explains both the harm of neglecting it, as well as the benefit from cultivating it. Second, the videos retell many of the classic stories that children ought to know. So far our children have become acquainted or reacquainted with stories such as Alfred the Great, Icarus, William Tell, and the boy who cried wolf.  We do like being able to refer to the stories as we talk with our kids.

NOTE: We fully understand the limitations of these videos and lessons. They only teach moralism; they do not teach Christ. We do not intend these videos to substitute for the gospel, nor do we expect our children to become godly by these means. What they do, they do well. Where they are weak, Christ is strong.

NOTE #2: If you watch the Youtube videos, be careful about the commercials that are embedded. It was rather infuriating for the kids to be watching the episode dealing with “Faith,” only to have a credit card commercial come up which included a half-naked woman jumping out of a helicopter into a lake. Thanks, Visa BlackCard, that was helpful. Not sure how that is supposed to motivate me to use your product, but let’s just say it backfired.


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1. You must love Jesus. I don’t care if you’re a “good Christian boy.” I was one of those too. So I know the tricks. I’m going to ask you specific, heart-testing questions about your spiritual affections, your daily devotional life, your idols, your disciplines, and the like. I’ll cut you a little bit of slack because you’re young and hormonal and your pre-frontal lobe isn’t fully developed yet, but I’ll be watching you like a hawk. I know you. I was you. You will think you can fool me, and you likely have fooled many other dads who didn’t pay much attention to their daughters’ suitors, but I will be on you like Bourne on that guy whose neck he broke. Which guy was that? Every guy. So love Jesus more than my daughter or go home.
2. You will install X3Watch or Covenant Eyes on your computer and mobile devices and have your regular reports sent to me.

3. I will talk to your dad and tell him I will hold him responsible if you don’t treat my daughter like a lady. If he thinks I’m a crazy person, you fail the test and won’t get to date her. If he understands what I’m saying, that bodes well for you.

4. You will pay for everything. Oh, sure, every now and then my daughter can buy you a Coke or something and a gift on your birthday and at Christmas. But you pay for meals, movies, outings, whatever else. Don’t have a job? I’m sorry, why I am talking to you again?

5. You will accept my Facebook friend request.

6. If it looks like you need a belt to hold your pants up, I will assume you don’t have a job. See #4.

7. Young people dating are putting their best face forward, so if you appear impatient, ill-tempered, or ill-mannered, I know you will gradually become more so over time. I will have no jerks dating my daughters.

8. If I am not your pastor, I will talk to the man who is. If your pastor is a woman, why I am talking to you, again?

9. You don’t love my daughter. You have no idea what love is. You like her and you mightlove her someday. That’s an okay start with me, so put the seatbelt on the mushy gushy stuff. Don’t profess your undying love, quote stupid love song lyrics to her, tell her you’d die for her, or feed her any other boneheaded lines that are way out of your depth as a horny little idiot. A lady’s heart is a fragile thing. If you play with hers, I will show you yours.

10. If you ever find yourself alone with my daughter, don’t panic. Just correct the situation immediately. If I ever catch you trying to get alone with my daughter, that would be the time to panic.

11. It may sound like I’m joking in threatening you harm, and while I might not physically hurt you if you offend my daughter or violate her honor, when I am addressing the issue with you, you will not be laughing.

12. You may think all this sounds very legalistic. That’s fine. You can be one of the many antinomians not dating my daughter.


Some things are just better left as is.

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For some reason recently I remembered Mother, every once in a while, making some sort of spice cake and a pot of warm lemon sauce. As I recall, most of my siblings weren’t too fond of the sauce in particular, because it was quite tart. But it brought back fond memories for me, so I decided to see if I could find a reasonable facsimile.

My normal search starts (and usually ends) with America’s Test Kitchen. It is usually pretty easy to find a blogger who has put their recipe on the web. ATK is helpful because they test each recipe so many times and then explain why they went the direction they did with it. The explanation makes it easy to understand the why’s and wherefore’s of the recipe, rather than just giving a list or ingredients and processes. Understanding makes it easier to personalize.

Anyway, here is the ATK recipe for the Spice Cake. I followed this closely, except the cardamom was $13 for about 2 oz and I just couldn’t justify that expense, so let’s call this Cardamomless Spice Cake.

2 1/4 Cs unbleached all-purpose flour (11 1/4 ounces), plus extra for dusting pans
1 tbsp ground cinnamon
3/4 tsp ground cardamom
1/2 tsp ground allspice
1/2 tsp ground cloves
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
16 tbsps unsalted butter (2 sticks), softened
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp table salt
2 large eggs at room temperature
3 large egg yolks at room temperature
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 3/4 Cs granulated sugar (12 1/4 ounces)
2 tbsps light molasses or mild molasses
1 tbsp grated fresh ginger
1 C buttermilk, at room temperature

1. For the cake: Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour 13- by 9-inch baking pan. Combine spices in small bowl; reserve 1/2 teaspoon for frosting.

2. Heat 4 tablespoons butter in 8-inch skillet over medium heat until melted, 1 to 2 minutes. Continue to cook, swirling pan constantly, until butter is light brown and has faint nutty aroma, 2 to 4 minutes. Add spices and continue to cook, stirring constantly, 15 seconds. Remove from heat and cool to room temperature, about 30 minutes.

3. Whisk flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in medium bowl. In small bowl, gently whisk eggs, yolks, and vanilla to combine. In standing mixer fitted with paddle attachment, cream remaining 12 tablespoons butter with sugar and molasses at medium-high speed until pale and fluffy, about 3 minutes, scraping down sides and bottom of bowl twice with rubber spatula. Reduce to medium speed and add cooled butter and spice mixture, ginger, and half of egg mixture; mix until incorporated, about 15 seconds. Repeat with remaining egg mixture; scrape down bowl again. Reduce to low speed; add about one-third flour mixture, followed by half of buttermilk, mixing until just incorporated after each addition, about 5 seconds. Repeat using half of remaining flour mixture and all of remaining buttermilk. Scrape bowl and add remaining flour mixture; mix at medium speed until batter is thoroughly combined, about 15 seconds. Remove bowl from mixer and fold batter once or twice with rubber spatula to incorporate any remaining flour.

4. Transfer batter to prepared pan. Zigzag the tip of a metal spatula through batter, pulling it to pan edges. Lightly tap pan against counter 3 or 4 times to dislodge any large air bubbles; smooth surface with spatula.

5. Bake until toothpick inserted in center of cake comes out clean, 32 to 37 minutes. Cool cake to room temperature in pan on wire rack, about 2 hours.

Lemon Sauce

I scrounged around on the web and found a number of different recipes before settling on this one, that I then adjusted.

1/2 cup sugar
1 Tbs. + 2 tsp. cornstarch
1 cup water
2 Tbs. butter
1 Tbs. lemon juice
1 Tbs. grated lemon peel
Mix the sugar and cornstarch together in a sauce pan. Gradually add the water. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly until the mixture thickens and boils. Boil and stir it for 1 minute. Remove from heat. Stir in the butter, lemon juice and lemon peel.

I bumped up the amounts of everything. Used the juice of one lemon (1/4-1/3C), plus zest of the entire lemon (almost 2tbsp?). Added probably 2 Tbsp lemon juice from the ubiquitous green bottle. Used 1 1/2C water and probably close to 2 Tbsp cornstarch. Only used 1/2C sugar even with the added lemon, but it was still sweet. Alot like thicker lemonaide. I’d like it to be still thicker, especially when warm.

Comments: We loved the aroma of the spices as they bloomed. The cake came together pretty easily and baked up nicely. I was surprised that the spice flavor was not more assertive. I might try adding more spices next time. The lemon sauce needs to be more tart for my taste, so I will likely cut back on the sugar next time.

Jill likes it, which automatically puts it into the winner-make-again category. Aubrey has adult tastes, cuz she won’t keep her hands off the cake. So now I have extra lemon sauce and leftover fresh ginger root…so I guess I’ll have to try a gingerbread cake now. Shucks:)

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family checkup

Everyone who is someone-or so it seems-has been linking or reposting Doug Wilson’s recent thoughts about curmudgeonly parenting. Jumping on the bandwagon would be aggravating if it didn’t keep coming to mind.

Ten Reasons Why Your Kids Might Think You Are No Fun
1. You believe the heel of the loaf of bread has more nutrients in it because it is browner.

2. You think that kids were made for the living room and not the living room for the kids.

3. You believe that being a disciplinarian consists of using repeated commands in a professional bossy voice.

4. You think that telling stories at the dinner table is weird.

5. You think that laughter at the dinner table is even weirder.

6. You possess a bag of carob chips, which you put into cookies made out of trail mix.

7. You place a high value on “teaching them a work ethic,” but that value is not nearly as high as your “slave labor is great ethic.”

8. You don’t want them to know any dumb music.

9. You think dessert is for sissies.

10. You want them to learn to appreciate you without you ever appreciating them.

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emma’s popovers

Emma has been exhibiting quite an interest in ‘helping’ while Jill or I cook, so when Jill found a DK Children’s Cookbook, she knew we had a winner Christmas gift.

As Emma paged through the book, she decided that she wanted to make every recipe. Fortunately, she settled-with some gentle nudging-on the Sausage Popovers. And, doggone it, they turned out really good.


  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 1/4 cup flour
  • 2ish tsp chives
  • 1 Tblsp spicy brown mustard
  • oil
  • 12 sausage pieces-approximately 2″ each


  • Sift flour and salt into bowl. Make a well in center of flour.
  • Crack eggs into a bowl and mix lightly.
  • Pour milk and eggs into flour mixture. Beat together till smooth, no lumps. Add chives and mustard. Mix well.
  • Let rest about 30 minutes.
  • Heat oven to 425.
  • Pour about 1 tsp oil into bottom of muffin pan holes. Add one sausage piece to each. Heat for 3-4 minutes. (Our sausages were already cooked, just needed heating through. If they are not cooked, put them in the oven for an additional 3 minutes.)
  • Remove muffin pan and half-fill each hole with batter.
  • Bake  18-20 minutes till puffed and lightly browned on top.
We had ours with corn and onion rings. Delicious!

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Do you have conversations like this? With a 5 year old?

Emma has been regularly asking questions about God, and Jesus, and the cross. These questions usually arise on trips she takes with me, and some of them have almost caused traffic accidents. Recently, she asked “Dad?” (I am beginning to tense up when I hear that half-curious, half-plaintive tone) “Why do we need a god?”

Last week’s conversation went something like this:

(That tone again. Brief prayer. Something on the order of a slightly panicky, “Lord, what this time? Let me get it right, or at least semi-right. You didn’t give any instructions on explaining to a 5 year old.” I am sure I hear faint, divine snickers at this point.)

“Yes, Emma.”

“Did Jesus like dying for us?”

After a couple questions that are supposed to fool her into thinking I am trying to clarify her question, but in actuality are just playing for time…and more prayer, I dive into explaining that to a 5 year old.

Whereupon, I hear her comment, “Okay. That checks out.”

“That checks out!?!?!” thinks I, spluttering like Jim Mora being asked about the playoffs. But before I can process that … affirmation?, confirmation??, approval??? she asks once again, “Dad?”

‘Ohdearohdearohdear. What now? What have I done to deserve this? What former student(s) have been praying for this very event?’ Deeeeeeeep breath. Exhale. Another cleansing breath. Gasp/squeak/moan, “Yes, Emma?”

“If Jesus is God, how could God turn His back on Jesus?”

‘ohstinkohstinkohstink. How do you explain the Trinity to a kindergartener? Someone help me. Please. Pretty please.’ Another deeeeep breath, and I dive into the explanation.

And once again I hear her matter-of-fact comment, “Okay. That checks out.”

Reduced to stammering, gibbering speechlessness, I implore God that she never sit on my ordination council.

“Okay. That checks out”


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Birthday Girl!

This was your seventh year:

August: Your 6th birthday came all too close to the beginning of the school year.

September: You finally got your favorite birthday present: riding Tuff!

October-you visited your favorite soccer player. "Go Whit!"

November: we visited an Arabian horse farm where you got to sit on a beautiful Arabian mare.

December: Christmas smiles.

January: the first of several good snowfalls this winter.

February: trying on the dress that a Junior bridesmaid wore in our wedding.

March: cold and rainy days are great dress up days

April: you learned to ride your bike in just 2 days!

May: the tree ate Zaccheus! We know you didn't do it!

June-wildflowers for Mom.

July-wind, sun, and waves=ocean vacation

Losin' teeth, left...

...and right!

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