Sunday, March 4, 2012

Baby Louis, who lives on the Farm

Meet Baby Louis Grant. He is a very special baby, notably because he was born just in time for his Grandpa Bontrager to meet him just before he went to heaven. Louis has been a great source of joy and comfort for the whole family.

But we also like him just for him, too, not just for the events surrounding his birth. He's nice to hold and cuddle. He is warm and soft and very sweet. So far, his eyes are blue, but the brownish specks in them suggest that they will turn brown eventually.

Levi has discovered a special way to hold Louis. They both like it very much. It makes Levi look kinda like a pregnant sow, but it's a cozy hiding place for Louis, who likes very much to be held. No swing for him, thank you. And no crib, either.

Levi can get a surprising amount of work done with Louis in his coveralls. Even on a cold day, little Louis is safe and warm in his daddy's bosom.

Then it was my turn to carry Louis. Levi's coveralls had more extra room than mine did. I think maybe I looked worse than a pregnant sow.

Of course, the little girls were outside with us to do the chores, as well as two dogs (Benny and Nora) and a goat (Amani). Alice wanted to "hold the string." It took a little coercion to get Benny pointed in the way he should go. He eventually popped out of his harness and went his own way. Imagine Alice's sadness at holding an empty "string" and harness.

A Hedgehog Birthday

Happy Birthday, Angie!

I saw this little critter online and badly wanted to make it for someone. Angie's birthday is on Tuesday, so she got to be the lucky recipient of The Hedgehog. (Double lucky, because last year she got the duck cake.)

Alice called it "The Warthog."

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

How-to: Ducky birthday cake

This idea is not original with me. I wish it were because I could probably make a lot of money on it. I found it in the book What's New, Cupcake? by Karen Tack and Alan Richardson. I liked the ducky idea so well that I couldn't stand not using it at my next opportunity.

Since we had a lot of people at our party, I decided to make a cake and cut holes in it (I used a small glass) so I could sink the cupcakes into it. It then looked like the little duckies were swimming on the pond. It worked really nicely, especially since all my handling of the cupcakes kinda squished their bottoms and made them look ugly.

It was a big mess and took me most of an afternoon. But in the meantime, I listened to The Color Purple, read by the author.

The ducky heads are doughnut holes, and the tails are large marshmallows, snipped catty-corner. Since I overfilled the cupcakes, the duckies have sorta tall backs, which necessitated some extra snipping on the marshmallows so their tails looked right.

Everything then gets dipped into yellow frosting (white frosting + yellow food coloring) for a very duck-like coating.

Their eyes are simply a dot of white frosting with tiny chocolate chips in the middles, and their bills and feet are both made of circus peanuts. It turns out that circus peanuts can be melted, just slightly, in the microwave (as in several seconds), and they are then pliable. I rolled them out and used a scissors to cut the shape of the feet. I had to hold the bills on with toothpicks, and I added them just before I served the cake because I was afraid the bills would fall off.
I wanted the cake to look like water, so I made some cream cheese frosting (I used butter pecan cake mix, so I had to have cream cheese frosting!) and put blue food coloring in it. Then I used a spatula and just kinda messed with the top so it looked kinda like waves.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Happy Birthday, Angie!

For Angie's 24th birthday, we had a slam-dunk family party for her. It began as a surprise party, but Mom managed to accidentally give her the email in which I had lined out the entire party plan. That was the end of the surprise, but the party went on anyway. We had her parents and brother there, as well as our entire family. We began with a men's brunch at Levi's house (for which Mom and I made casserole and cinnamon rolls) and a women's brunch at Carolyn's. We women had a jolly time in our own little party room, giving her gifts and eating biscuits and gravy and eggs and other yummies.

We all worked (well, I was more of a Brer Rabbit, to be honest) at Levi's in the afternoon. The men and Angie and Mamie and Rosina cleaned up brush and old barbed wire outside. Ange and Maria (with Lyle's help moving freezers and such) cleaned and decorated the store. Rosina and I were planning to make a little herb garden and front step outside the store, but both jobs turned out to be too difficult; Lyle and Sheldon did them instead.

<<< (I took this photo after they were done working. :) Note all the freshly-cut wood and the smoke from the bonfires.)

We had a late lunch-- a crockpot potluck. It turned out very nice with just the right ratio of vegetables to meat. And then I presented the happiest secret of all-- the secret I had been promising Angie for quite some time... a ducky birthday cake! The funny part about the duckies is that Angie was at the feed store recently, so she bought two baby ducks and two baby banties for Levi to give her for her birthday. And then I made a ducky cake-- perfect! She was delighted, and the children could hardly keep their hands away from it.

Reel Reads

Since I saw a flyer for the Reel Reads adult winter reading program with our local library, I have been eating up page after printed page. The Reel Reads program has very simple guidelines: read books which have been made into movies. After reading six books, the reader can submit an entry for the grand prize (a night at the Castle Inn Riverside!) and you will be given a "finisher's prize." I actually made it through 7.5 books in the month that I knew about the program, and believe me, I got that finisher's prize, too. The free night at the Castle (same place we went for the first two nights of our honeymoon) hasn't materialized, though. :< style="font-weight: bold;">

*The Color Purple by Alice Walker

Ooh, this one makes me MAD. I've never known another book to begin with incest. As in, the first paragraph. The book is about a black family in the South in the 1930's, I think. Marriage is looked on as an honorable thing, but then when it's time to leave, the husband or wife can do so, only to return later with "my woman," or "my man." One thing I thoroughly enjoyed about this book was that I borrowed it in audio format, and it was read by the author. Extremely well-written, but an ugly, ugly, ugly book.

Imagine your husband telling you, "You're skinny, you're ugly, and you're not a very good cook, either." That was just a way of life for Celie.

*Dear John by Nicholas Sparks

A romance, of course, as Sparkie tends to write. I did not think it was well-written, and that scared me because, well, I feel like I need to start writing soon (hence, the blog) and what if I turn out to be a poor writer? :( Such an unhappy thought. Sparks tends to "tell" instead of "show," which means that he'll say outright that the person "felt nervous" instead of showing that the person's nails were chewed down to nubbins.

Oh, and furthermore, "John"'s character wasn't very well-rounded (literary term here). He is mostly portrayed as a loser who isn't nice to his dad, and then the heroine enters the scene and suddenly she's seeing all this honor and nobility in him, which is a total surprise because he's still just a jerk.

One thing that made me particularly mad about the book was the amount of infidelity I found in it. I thought Sparks's books were supposedly clean. Besides the outright fornication that happens, after the girl is married to Lover #2, she is shown (and this is supposedly a good thing) hanging on to her love for Lover #1. That's just plain old infidelity, and it ain't cool.

*The Fellowship of the Ring by J. R. R. Tolkien

What a delight, an absolute joy, to read a tale about small people and tall people and speaking trees and suchlike. Tolkien, who I understand was a linguist, was a true master of vocabulary and character-building. Not character-building as in generosity, faithfulness, peace, etc., but as in building fascinating, interesting characters who live in books and then spill off the page and take up residence in the reader's head for a week or two post-read. Sam Gamgee-- what a darling and loyal, sweet Hobbit. Aragorn-- so brave and watchful. I wish I could see the Elves' houses. I mourned when I realized that the Elves' kingdom (I guess it was a kingdom, of sorts at least) would fall once the ring was destroyed; remember, the queen had an elven ring, held up by the presence of the One Ring.

One of the best things about the Lord of the Rings books is that they are not allegorical. "No?" you may ask. "How so?" Well, first of all, Tolkien says so in the introduction. Read it. Secondly, the allegory doesn't hold up. People try to make it like the Bible, but it just isn't. It wasn't meant to me, and it isn't. Tolkien is just telling a story.

*The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck

Frankly, I'm a little surprised that this book is often used as a high school textbook. It has a few too many adult themes and references for high schoolers, in my opinion. But my, oh my, Steinbeck is another master of language. The Grapes of Wrath is almost as ugly as The Color Purple, but I also laughed a lot when I read it. For one thing, they called Rose of Sharon "Rosasharn," which tickled me almost every time I read the name. And then the neighbor lady said someone should take the dead baby out and bury it, for it would only cause more "trouble and sorra," and that "sorra" word tickled me, too, even though it was a very, very sad part of the book.

One thing I admired enormously about the characters in Grapes is their eagerness to work. They didn't have this modern notion that everything should be handed to poor people-- that basic necessities are our rights. No, they worked hard and willingly so they could have basic necessities.

*Chitty Chitty Bang Bang by Ian Fleming

Delightful book. I listened to this one, and the reader was excellent, with a charming British accent and lots of energy. I did not know that Chitty Chitty Bang Bang was a book before it was a movie. I did not even know that it was a book at all. But in browsing through the children's audio books at the library, I found it and was delighted.

I especially like how the daddy turned out to be such a hero. And I also like how the whole family went together on their adventure.

*Charlotte's Web by E. B. White

Another delight. And I had the pleasure of listening to a recording done by E. B. White himself! He has a very thoughtful voice, a voice well-suited for the farm. I was pleased that he just read the story and didn't give everybody their own voice, because that often does not work well.

My favorite quote from the book, which is about the Goose sitting on her eggs: "Life is always a rich and steady time when you are waiting for something to happen or to hatch."

*A Walk to Remember by Nicholas Sparks

I have read this book probably four times before, and I re-read it when I suddenly realized that the program ended on Thursday instead of the following Tuesday. As it turned out, I really didn't need the extra book. (If you counted, you might notice that it's book number seven. This was an interesting re-read, though. Somehow some of these romances don't seem quite so enchanting as they did when I was in high school. A Walk to Remember is a sweet story-- about a guy and girl who fall in love in their senior year of high school, but of course the girl has leukemia and dies... and the guy's hero-gesture is to marry her since marriage is one of her dreams. But really, who wants to read about people who fall in love and die?? I don't like to think about that. It makes me unhappy.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Old Friends

Old friends... memories of grade school... memories of high school.... Why are we so attached to old things?

My friend Nancy married a man from Pennsylvania, so when she came back for a visit, we collected the girls from our class in grade school-- except for globe-trotting Marilyn, of course-- and had lunch at my mom's house. The husbands came, too, and some of the babies.

We knotted Marilyn's wedding quilt, which I made before we both got married last summer.

Mom made cornbread and soup for lunch.

And thanks to Sheldon's suggestion, I named my blog Cornbread & Friends.