Saturday, November 23, 2013

Cooking Through ENGLAND - Hot Cross Buns!

For Reformation Day, we made Hot Cross Buns - and they were terrific!

You can read about our adventures here - though unfortunately, we have no pictures of the actual buns themselves. Blogging FAIL!

And also, alas, I have no recipe link to share - because the recipe I used is apparently no longer in existence, and I'm too tired to type it out from my original print-out. HOWEVER, recipes for this delightful recipe are a dime a dozen, so do a quick Google search and go for it!

(Additionally, I felt that my recipe was a bit heavy on the yeast, so I'd like to find a new recipe myself. Let me know if you find a good one!)

Hot Cross Buns are traditionally served during Holy Week (the week preceding Easter). I always mean to do this but am usually too busy during Holy Week - so Reformation Day will have to do.

This song is on our Mother Goose CD and is well-known even in America:

“Hot Cross Buns!
Hot Cross Buns!
One ha’ penny, two ha’ penny,
Hot Cross Buns!

“If you have no daughters,
If you have no daughters,
If you have no daughters,
Give them to your sons!

“But if you have
None of these little elves
Then you must eat them all yourselves!”

This poem isn't as well-known, but looks like it's related to the first:

“Good Friday come this month, the old woman runs
With one or two a penny hot cross buns.”

Enjoy, friends!

Monday, November 18, 2013

Cooking Through ENGLAND: Wassail Punch!

I have mentioned that I'm on a blogging break, haven't I?

(In all seriousness, I am. On a break. Really. I just don't want to fall behind the have-to posts, so I'm stopping by briefly. Then I'll leave. Really.)

I was eager to try Wassail Punch, because I've never had it. I wasn't disappointed - it was lovely!! A delightful spiced apple cider, with lots of citrus overtones. Give it a try!

(This was a non-alcoholic version, so it may or may not be true to the actual historical version.)

English Wassail Punch

5 quarts of apple cider (I cheated and used part apple juice)
7 Tbsp. brown sugar
3 sliced oranges (I used two)
4 whole cloves (I used more) 
1/4 tsp. each nutmeg and cinnamon
2 bananas, sliced

In large kettle or crockpot, heat cider slowly with sugar, sliced oranges, and spices until it is almost at a boil. (I used a crockpot and slightly adjusted all of the ingredients, as it only held four quarts.) Pour into a punch bowl if desired (or just serve from kettle or crockpot) and slice bananas into it. Serve hot.

One funny note - I made this twice last week. On the second occasion, upon noticing that I had an extra apple cider spice packet on hand, I blithely tossed that in too. If a little spice is good, more is better, right? Only problem - I ended up with so many cloves in the cider that several unsuspecting guests ended up with somewhat numb mouths - a side-effect that I had never before heard of. 'Ware the cloves, people - 'ware the cloves.

But other than that - 


As a side-note, make sure to check out the lovely Christmas songs that go along with this delightful drink! There is the well-known:

The Wassail Song (link to lyrics)

Here we come a-wassailing
Among the leaves so green,
Here we come a-wand'ring
So fair to be seen.
Love and joy come to you,
And to you your wassail, too,
And God bless you, and send you
A Happy New Year,
And God send you a Happy New Year.

We are not daily beggers
That beg from door to door,
But we are neighbors' children
Whom you have seen before
Love and joy come to you,
And to you your wassail, too,
And God bless you, and send you
A Happy New Year,
And God send you a Happy New Year.

Good master and good mistress,
As you sit beside the fire,
Pray think of us poor children
Who wander in the mire.
Love and joy come to you,
And to you your wassail, too,
And God bless you, and send you
A Happy New Year,
And God send you a Happy New Year

We have a little purse
Made of ratching leather skin;
We want some of your small change
To line it well within.
Love and joy come to you,
And to you your wassail, too,
And God bless you, and send you
A Happy New Year,
And God send you a Happy New Year.

Bring us out a table
And spread it with a cloth;
Bring us out a cheese,
And of your Christmas loaf.
Love and joy come to you,
And to you your wassail, too,
And God bless you, and send you
A Happy New Year,
And God send you a Happy New Year.

God bless the master of this house,
Likewise the mistress too;
And all the little children
That round the table go.
Love and joy come to you,
And to you your wassail, too,
And God bless you, and send you
A Happy New Year,
And God send you a Happy New Year.

Here is a lovely instrumental version by everybody's favorite, Canadian Brass, followed by a great organ/handbells/voice version of the same:

And the lesser-known Gloucestershire Wassail - one of my all-time favorite Christmas songs:

The Gloucestershire Wassail (link to lyrics)

Wassail! wassail! all over the town,
Our toast it is white and our ale it is brown;
Our bowl it is made of the white maple tree;
With the wassailing bowl, we'll drink to thee.

Here's to our horse, and to his right ear,
God send our master a happy new year:
A happy new year as e'er he did see,
With my wassailing bowl I drink to thee.

So here is to Cherry and to his right cheek
Pray God send our master a good piece of beef
And a good piece of beef that may we all see
With the wassailing bowl, we'll drink to thee.

Here's to our mare, and to her right eye,
God send our mistress a good Christmas pie;
A good Christmas pie as e'er I did see,
With my wassailing bowl I drink to thee.

So here is to Broad Mary and to her broad horn
May God send our master a good crop of corn
And a good crop of corn that may we all see
With the wassailing bowl, we'll drink to thee.

And here is to Fillpail and to her left ear
Pray God send our master a happy New Year
And a happy New Year as e'er he did see
With the wassailing bowl, we'll drink to thee.

Here's to our cow, and to her long tail,
God send our master us never may fail
Of a cup of good beer: I pray you draw near,
And our jolly wassail it's then you shall hear.

Come butler, come fill us a bowl of the best
Then we hope that your soul in heaven may rest
But if you do draw us a bowl of the small
Then down shall go butler, bowl and all.

Be here any maids? I suppose here be some;
Sure they will not let young men stand on the cold stone!
Sing hey O, maids! come trole back the pin,
And the fairest maid in the house let us all in.

Then here's to the maid in the lily white smock
Who tripped to the door and slipped back the lock
Who tripped to the door and pulled back the pin
For to let these jolly wassailers in.

Seriously, folks - is there anything about England that's NOT to love?


Thursday, November 14, 2013

Happy Reformation Day!

Just checking in quickly to bring you a fast "Happy Reformation Day" - because I'm not blogging, remember? I'm on a break. 


SO.... This year we participated in a small local event in honor of Reformation Day. We had so much fun!

Each family was asked to dress in costume, and each family took a booth to mimic a historical "shoppe" - for example, an apothecary's shop, etc. We took the bake shop!

(My husband told me that he was going as Scottish reformer John Knox. I asked, "How does going in street clothes qualify as dressing up as John Knox? Quoth he, "I have a beard. Therefore I am dressed as John Knox.")

The rest of us took similar trouble with our costumes. In all seriousness, getting ready for this event took a lot of time and effort - and costumes just took back seat. We dressed the 7yo in his Jedi outfit and called it a day. It's called historicity, people.

For our booth, we created a double-ended oven. Kids were given a ball of "dough" (playdough) to shape into a hot cross bun, then they put it in the oven to "bake", while I surreptitiously removed their playdough from the oven and put in its place a real hot cross bun, which they got to remove and then glaze.

It was a huge success. And not only did we have (most of) the kids fooled, but some of the parents also thought we had some sort of amazing Easy-Bake Oven going on!

The kids were all given money to spend at each of the shops, and they had a great time - though the 7yo was, as expected, totally disinterested in historical displays and preferred to spend his evening sword-fighting with the other boys. This was fine with us - there's time enough for interest in Old-World Europe!

Other highlights of the night included a potluck dinner and a narrated play-acting of the life of Martin Luther.

Unfortunately, we didn't get any pictures of the hot cross buns. But they were delicious, and we totally sold out - even some of the adults came to buy! We even sold out the gluten-free and gluten/egg-free treats we brought along, so we went home with our inventory completely exhausted.

Here are some pictures! Local friends, this was a lot of fun if you're looking for a Reformation Day event!

We used this recipe for playdough, using artificial vanilla instead of peppermint extract. We learned an important lesson - NEVER make a 6x batch of playdough. It was nearly the end of us. 


I'll leave you with this extremely addictive little ditty in honor of Reformation Day. ENJOY!

Easiest Fall Craft Ever! (And All for $1)

I'm still on a blogging break. Really! I just had to stop by and show you a super-cute homeschool craft that we finished today. It was easy, fast, not too messy, and was a hit with the 7yo! (And that last bit is huge, because finding crafts that he enjoys is a monumental task!)

Original craft, with step-by-step instructions and great pictures here.

Basic instructions:


  • Faux leaves (buy a package at the dollar store)
  • Paper towel tubes, one per person
  • Brown paint
  • Cardstock for bases
  • Glue, preferably a hot glue gun


Slit bottom of tubes (for roots) and top (for branches). Paint brown, let dry. Hot-glue roots to cardstock, and leaves to branches. Voila! (Decorate bases for extra credit.)

These were lovely! You could totally use these for a holiday centerpiece, or just some lovely Autumn decoration.


Thursday, November 7, 2013

A Quick Update!

Hello, dear friends!

After weeks of ridiculously intense blogging, I am finally finished with completing all of the half-finished blog articles that were cluttering up my account. Almost, that is. There are a few still sticking around, but I find myself wanting to wait on those (they're the most difficult articles, so naturally I have left them till last).

I actually still have tons to write. I want to share pictures and adventures from Reformation Day, update you all on our unemployment situation (especially now that we've passed the year mark), post my unit study of Britain (it's almost finished!), and express opinions - valid or no - on a variety of subjects!

However, right now I feel the need for a bit of a break - from blogging and from Facebook.

Lately, I've felt... scattered. Unable to think clearly, and perhaps not as serene emotionally as I'd like to be. I've learned that that almost always means that I need to severely back off from internet time. Running up against all of the issues, arguments, controversies, etc., that one finds on the internet is very stressful, and though I try to minimize exposure for my own sanity, sometimes I just need to take a break - a complete one. So over the next couple of days, I am hoping to back off of blogging, blog-reading, and Facebook, and focus more on prayer, Bible study, and keeping my mind more intensely on my home and my family (which is where it needs to be anyway!).

I'm also hoping to do some improvement in several areas of my life that need improvement: regular cleaning and organizing, enforcing a chore system (I am soooo bad on that last one), and also keeping up with email. Not only am I a dreadful email correspondent right now, but my turn-around time is horrible. I am forever running across "urgent prayer request" emails that were several weeks old before I got to them. In other words, the person is either dead or better before I remember to pray for his situation! My goal is to spend 20 minutes a day answering and filing email, but I'm not doing it - I've been getting distracted with Facebook and blogging instead. I need to improve in that area.

I'll still be around - I do want to share some pictures, and I'm also going to share my experiences and thoughts on the article I linked to earlier today - The Cause and Cure of Morning Sickness and Hyperemesis Gravidarum. It has been very exciting to watch this cure work for a friend, and I have also experienced some (indirect) success with it, so I'm really excited to share about that. Watch for both of those over this coming week. (Before I write my own post I will be posting a long list of comments on the original post itself, so watch for that - and please come over yourselves to that site to join the comment threads there!)

But on the whole, I'm hoping to lay low on blogging for a bit while I gather myself back together - and hopefully I won't drive myself absolutely crazy with mental blogging and the biting back the impatience to get back to writing (I tend to do a lot of both of those!).

While I take a break, I will be spending a good time pondering this article by Cindy over at "Get Along Home," one of my favorite blogs (if you don't read it already, you should!). In writing about how honest we are willing to be in telling truths while blogging, she really nailed me:
"I will not try to manipulate you (as I’ve seen many homeschool bloggers do) by reiterating ad nauseum in every hard-hitting blog post that I write how I think it is perfectly ok for you to ignore what I say, or that I’m sure that what you’re doing is right “for your family,” so please don’t be mad at me for believing some things. *sniff*"
Oh, no. She got me. I must admit that I do this. I may have serious truths to express, but I also want to be liked. And I do not like receiving bucketloads of internet hate-mail. Thus, I usually (1) avoid hard topics completely as a rule of thumb, or (2) soft-peddle them as: "Choice X is the choice we're making, but it may not be right for you, and that's okay, etc. etc. etc." (I'm not talking about any choice in particular, but just TRUTH in general.) I just can't stand conflict, and I don't deal with it well - so I avoid it.

But how does that combine with the need to speak and proclaim truth boldly?

Some of you ladies deal with conflict beautifully (yes, I'm talking to YOU, you-bloggers-who-know-who-you-are). I do not. I am simply eaten alive by it, mentally and emotionally. But I also don't want to be guilty of concealing or avoiding truth-telling.

Something to ponder, for sure. (Feel free to chime in, dear friends!)

I will also be working on several other projects over the coming couple of weeks. The first is starting a new unit study - China! I had fully intended for us to stay on England through the end of this term, but I experienced a sudden lull in my flow of ideas at the same time that our 7yo said, "I'm tired of England! Can we do China now?"

(Before you are impressed with our eldest's desire to study Asian cultures, I should mention that his desire stems almost entirely from his goal of having me make homemade Panda Express Orange Chicken more often!)

But the timing was perfect! So we are now tying up loose ends while I begin planning our next country study. It won't be nearly as long, or as ridiculously complicated, as our study of England was, because - much as I hate to admit to favoritism - England is my favorite country in the world, and I could spend the rest of my life studying it. Any other country will be a much shorter and more prosaic study! However, I expect that it will be fun (and filled with Orange Chicken!). I'll publish my England unit study as soon as I finish updating it, and I hope it will be of use to you!

Another thing I'll be working on is planning for the holiday season. Until Sunday, all of my energy and free time is going to planning a baby shower, but after that my mind will be free to enjoy the holiday season and plan accordingly. I have three goals: (1) to have fun - which is harder than one thinks during December!, (2) to spend very little money (always good when you have no money to spend!), and (3) to avoid the awful Merry Christmas Madness, also known as the holiday burnout that results from trying to do too much. Can I do it? I sure hope so! It's going to be a busy holiday season, but I want it to be a fun one, and one that doesn't leave me begging for January to please hurry up and get here so that the holidays can be over.

We'll see! I'm going to do my best, and I'm going to start now - or rather, Monday.

And now I am off to do what I should be doing - taking a shower, putting the children to bed, filing homeschool paperwork, planning a baby shower, and taking care of the million-and-one things that I have to do before bed.

I'll be around, and I'll be rejoining you fully soon!

Much love to you all, dear readers.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

"The Cause and Cure of Morning Sickness and Hyperemesis Gravidarum" (Part 1 of 2)

The upcoming article I mentioned earlier last week has been posted, and I am so excited to link to it!

The Cause and Cure of Morning Sickness and Hyperemesis Gravidarum

I have a whole bunch of thoughts and comments that I want to share with you all (Part 2!), but they will have to wait for a not-so-busy day. In the meantime, go read the article and join the comment threads there!


(P.S. I do testify again that yes, this is for real and has worked for a six-time hyperemesis mum who is an in-person friend!)

Friday, November 1, 2013

Cooking Through ENGLAND: Pasty!

We couldn't possibly "Cook Through England" without making Pasty (also called "Cornish Pasty" or "English Pasty")- that famous meat and vegetable pie so beloved of miners' lunchboxes - but this was not a new venture. Pasty is, in fact, one of my all-time favorite dishes, and I was so excited to get a chance to make it again as part of our unit study!

A quick definition of pasty, from our friend Wikipedia:
"A pasty (sometimes known in the United States as a pastie or British pasty) is a baked pastry, a traditional variety of which is particularly associated with Cornwall, the westernmost county in England. It is made by placing uncooked filling typically of meat and vegetables, without meat in vegetarian versions, on a flat pastry circle and folding it to wrap the filling, crimping the edge to form a seal. After baking, the result is a raised semicircular comestible." (visit source to read the rest of the history of the pasty)
Thus a traditional pasty is like the Italian calzone - pastry folded over a savory filling in a half-moon shape (the Italian calzone is, of course, made with pizza dough instead of pie dough). The recipe below is for a pie-dish version, but the essential concept is the same.

I was introduced to Pasty eight years ago by a dear friend of mine, Jennifer over at Sunshine and Snowflakes, and it is with her permission that I share her family's recipe for Pasty:


Ground beef, raw
Peeled, sliced potatoes (about 1/8" thick)
Peeled, sliced carrots (about 1/8" thick)
Chopped onion
Peeled, sliced rutabagas (about 1/8" thick) - drained, canned ones can be substituted (these are very difficult to peel and slice. It is easier if you cut it in quarters at least and microwave it for a couple of minutes)
Salt and Pepper to taste
One double crust pastry


Into an unbaked pie shell put the filling ingredients all mixed up together. There should be enough filling mix to very comfortably fill the pie shell and maybe even form a short mound on the top. As a shortcut, one can partially cook the vegetables ONLY, in the microwave. As for proportions, it depends on how big the pie is you want to make. For example, for a 10" pie plate, you want at least 1/2 lb. to 3/4 lb. of ground beef, approx. 5 large potatoes, 4 large carrots, 1 small onion, and 1/2 of a rutabaga. Over the filling ingredients, add 1/4 cup water and place the upper pie crust and secure the edges. Bake in a 350 degree oven for 50-60 minutes, or until the vegetables are tender when pierced with a fork. 

In the above recipe, I find the filling recommendations to make a bit much for one pasty, so use your best judgment.

When I made the pasty this past time, I was especially over-enthusiastically zealous with filling, resulting in a pie filled with enough filling for at least two pasties. I baked it anyway, being too lazy to stop and make another pie crust, and the end result was that I drastically undercooked it, ending up with crisp-tender vegetables - not what one wants for a pasty. Thus, make sure that you're not overfilling the pie, and be sure to cook completely!

One tip for making pasty-making easier is to do your mise-en-place ahead of time. Dice your vegetables, thaw your meat, and assemble your pie dough early - the morning of or the night before. When you do that, assembling the pasty is a matter of just a few minutes, and mess-free! If you leave everything to the evening-of, things are likely to be both messy and time-consuming.

I can't overstate how awesome this dish is - I'm already planning to make it again when we have Christmas house-guests!

(While doing research for this dish, I found that there is actually a restaurant devoted to pasty - and it's located five minutes away from us in Tempe! Is that awesome, or what? Check it out - The Cornish Pasty Company! Yum. I sense a culinary field trip in our near future.)