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Filtering by Tag: Home Comforts

Soothing Rituals

alec vanderboom

As the eldest of the Rupp bunch, I’m the first, and so far only one, to launch my socially anxious mother into contact with a new son and new grandchildren. My sweet husband usually holds his own with his mother-in-law. We’ve had some spectacular failures, however, with the initial grandchildren- grandmother Christmas greeting over the years.

A sample failure was the first trip home after we moved to Wisconsin. My mother brought a My Little Pony for Hannah to play with in the baggage terminal. Hannah didn’t care and kept crying. “She doesn’t remember me at all!” my Mom wailed. (Hannah had last seen her eight weeks ago.) “Mom, she’s crying because she’s 20 months old, it’s two hours past her bedtime and she has been stuck on a plane for four hours. Her ears are probably hurting,” was my exasperated response. I don’t remember how that particular conflict resolved itself. Hannah either finally picked up her cast-off pony or my Mom suddenly remembered a remedy for sore ears. I know for certain, that the ruffled feelings did not become soothed by any patience, humility and meekness on my part.

This year, I’ve become more committed to my role as a homemaker. This afternoon, I found to my complete surprise, that skills I’m working on daily to ease my husband’s homecoming from work, also lay an instinctive foundation for comforting all guests.

My parents called today with a ten-minute notice of their entrance. I did a spot clean of toys on the living room floor. I made sure that Christmas cards the kids had made for their grandparents were within easy reach. I put myself and my three year old into fresh clothes. I picked up the pile of clean clothes sitting in the kids’ hallway and tossed it onto my bed.

When my parents arrived, everyone was lined up to give kisses. Then I passed the baby off to my Mom to hold while I made coffee in the sweet hand-me-down English set my sister had scored for me during my uncle’s recent move.

Nothing spectacular, Nothing dramatic. Still, I’m shocked over the power of a simple ritual of drinking coffee had on relaxing my mother. She was holding her youngest grandchild and thus had an important role to fulfill. She didn’t have to feel awkward about not “helping” or “being a bother.” I could talk to her easily while I prepared the coffee and set out the plates. My Dad was busy being entertained by the older kids by the latest changes to their bedroom. When the coffee was ready, we all had a chance to formally gather in the living room, munch on the cookies my parents brought from the Methodist Ladies Annual Christmas Cookie Walk and reconnect. This simple, simple “Christmas Tea” was the most peaceful initial greeting we’ve all ever experienced.

I’m a real “Johnny Come Lately” to the world of home making and mothering. It still touches me profoundly to see what a difference that “a big family full of children” can have in extended family gatherings. Having lots of children mean that guests can easily find a “hand hold” to grab onto when they enter. Some adults love to coo at babies. Some adults like to hold conversations with the big children. Some adults love to have an excuse to pour the tea or set out the plates. Some adults will just happily converse with the parents who are so thirsty for adult conversation, whether it be about a pending snow storm or the play-off potentials for the Redskins.

I grew up in a world where I always worried about being a “bother” as a child. I once tracked in slush in my snow boats and caused my paternal grandmother to have to spot clean her white carpets on Christmas Eve. My maternal grandmother always warned me not to spill my cherry cokes on her green velvet chairs. When I committed to becoming open to life, I worried about “inflicting” to many needy grandchildren on my parents & too many messy nieces & nephews on my two siblings. I’m so please to witness first hand what grace, ease and wonder my children add to our family gatherings. Despite all the anti-child hype out there, the truth remains that large families are comfortable families to visit.

Impatience Pie

alec vanderboom

I raided my mother-in-law's garden for all the green tomatoes that she had picked before the first frost. If you have similar bounty, here's my favorite recipe for Green Tomato & Green Apple Pie.

1 double pie crust

6 medium, tart apples (such as Granny Smith), peeled, cored, and cut into chunks
4 medium or 6 small green tomatoes unpeeled, cored and cut into 1 inch chunks
3/4 cup sugar
6 tablespoons of all purpose flour
1/4 cup of light brown sugar, firmly packed
2 teaspoons of quick-cooking tapioca
1 teaspoon of ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon of ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon of salt

3 tablespoons of unsalted butter cut into small pieces

Egg Wash and Topping- 1 large egg beaten with 1 tablespoon of milk
1 tablespoon sugar

Prepare pie dough
Preheat oven to 400 Degrees
In a large mixing bowl stir together apples and tomatoes
In a small mixing bowl mix rest of the dry ingredients
Sprinkle the sugar mixture over the fruit mixture, toss together thoroughly

Place ingredients inside unbaked pie crust, dot butter pieces on top, then cover with second crust
Brush pie crust with egg wash, Sprinkle sugar on top.

Put pie on cookie sheet. Bake 20 mins at 400. Reduce temperature to 350 Degrees and bake an additional 40 mins. Crust should be brown and filling bubbling. Let cool for about an hour before serving.

From: "The Artful Pie" by Lisa Cherkasky, 1993 (40 original pie recipes show-cased with 40 original works of art)

Made from Scratch: Martha Washington’s Shortbread Recipe

alec vanderboom

This original colonial shortbread recipe comes from my four year old’s “Lady Washington’s Bake Set” purchased at Mount Vernon gift shop by a generous grandmother. I made it one day when we were bored. Now it’s my favorite cookie recipe. The dough is super thick and easy for preschool kids to handle. Without any raw eggs, impatient kids can munch on the dough. The end result is so yummy that only a few lucky cookies make it until Dad returns from work. These cookies are perfect for tea time, especially topped with whipped cream & fresh strawberries.

4 cups flour
1 cup light brown sugar
1 pound of butter

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Mix flour and sugar; add butter. Place on a floured surface and pat to a 1/2 inch thickness. Cut in desired shapes with cookie cutters. Bake 20-25 minutes.


alec vanderboom

I first tasted this delicious French Canadian meat pie during the St. Nicholas festival at my husband's childhood church. (His hometown in Northern New York is just 30 miles from Montreal). I finally taught myself how to make it last week. Here are my notes to share.

This meal passes my "can be cooked with a colicy child on my hip" test. If you have any similar recipe gems please leave the name of the dish on my comment section!

Tourtiere (meat pie)

Notes: Serves 8, easy to freeze, easy to save for leftovers

1- 1 1/2 lb ground pork
1 large potato
1 large onion, minced
1/2 t ground cinnamon
1/2 t ground cloves
dash of all spice (optional)
1/2 cup of water

9 inch double pie crust (I buy mine frozen since arrival of newborn)
1 egg (optional)
dash of paprika (optional)

1. Bake potato in microwave or oven. Peel & Mash.
2. Place mashed potato, ground pork, onion, spices and water in frying pan. Stir at a simmer until very thick. Traditionally this takes one hour, but I cheat and just do it until the pork is dark brown (15 mins.)
3. Spoon mixture evenly into pie crust. Cover with top pie crust. Brush with a beaten egg and sprinkle paprika if you have time.
4. Bake for 50 min in a pre-heated oven at 350 degrees.
5. Serve with a dish of formerly frozen peas for a complete meal.

Recipe- Shoo Fly Pie

alec vanderboom

My trip to Amish country made me curious to try "Shoo Fly Pie." My only exposure to this curious classic pie has come form the song lyrics of Ella Fitzgerald. It's a favorite of the Pennsylvania Dutch as was served all over Archbold. Unfortunately, Miss Newborn never let me make it to dessert without needing to be walked, so I'll have to create it myself over the weekend. Here's a recipe I culled from the internet and lyrics to the song that keeps going around in my head.

Recipe Shoo Fly Pie

Mix for crumbs: (reserving ½ cup for topping)
2/3 cup brown sugar
1 Tablespoon solid shortening
1 cup flour

1 cup molasses (good and thick)
¾ cup boiling water
1 egg beaten
1 Teaspoon baking soda

Combine soda with boiling water, then add egg and syrup. Add crumb mixture (this will be lumpy). Pour into unbaked pie crust and cover with reserved crumbs. Bake at 375 degrees Fahrenheit for 10 minutes, then reduce heat to 350 degrees Fahrenheit and bake for an additional 35-45 minutes (until firm). When cut into, the bottom may be "wet." This is okay, and is called a "wet bottom shoo fly pie."

Song Lyrics from Ella Fitzgerald

If you wanna do right by your appetite,
If you're fussy about your food,
Take a choo-choo today, head New England way,
And we'll put you in the happiest mood. with:

Shoo Fly Pie and Apple Pan Dowdy
Makes your eyes light up,
Your tummy say "Howdy."
Shoo Fly Pie and Apple Pan Dowdy
I never get enough of that wonderful stuff.

Shoo Fly Pie and Apple Pan dowdy makes the sun come out
When Heavens are cloudy,
Shoo Fly Pie and Apple Pan Dowdy,
I never get enough of that wonderful stuff!

Mama! When you bake,
Mama! I don't want cake;
Mama! For my sake
Go to the oven and make some ever lovin' Sh,

Shoo Fly Pie and Apple Pan Dowdy
Makes your eyes light up,
Your tummy say "Howdy,"
Shoo Fly Pie and Apple Pan Dowdy
I never get enough of that wonderful stuff!

Made From Scratch - Kid's Fisherman Knit Sweater

alec vanderboom

My grandmother taught me how to knit as a remedy for itchy hands during her Tv movie nights. I never advanced beyond the basic "knit two, purl two" pattern for winter scarfs until finding this sweater pattern for my kids. I taught myself how to do a basic cable knit by reading instructions on the internet. It is super easy and extremely rewarding. I've made this sweater for girls and boys in all kinds of colors. The sweater looks great for church and is also sturdy enough, (and easily washed) for rough outside play.

Models: The unhappy Alex (age 2) and always sunny Hannah (age 4) were also "made from scratch"

Sweater Pattern Link:,frameless.htm