Saturday, November 22, 2008

Oh, nuts. This recipe is addicting!

Many, many years ago I cut a recipe off of a box. Well, I cut lots of recipes off of lots of boxes, but the one I am looking at right now most likely came from a Pillsbury Yellow Cake Mix box, because that is the only name brand ingredient on the list.

It sounded really good, and I have thought several times about making it, but I never have. Probably because I don't normally stock yellow cake mix in my pantry "just for such an occasion." But, I was needing a recipe for tomorrow, and flipping through my notebook, I decided this one had served its time and finally deserved a chance.

Turns out, it's a winner. Not only of the 1980 Pillsbury Bake-Off, but of my taste buds.

And my heart ... (but I really shouldn't mention that because it probably sounds weird to you (but only because you haven't tried them, yet.) Oh, and because my husband might get jealous.)

The best thing about this recipe is it has no calories and no fat!! Isn't that great!? Oh, wait ... nevermind. That was water.

Anyway, I am going to let you in on my little secret because I need some accountability, people. And so you can make your own and leave mine alone. And because if I don't do something, I'm gonna sit there and eat the entire pan.

So, in this season of "needing good recipes to make and take to holiday parties" and such, I offer you:

Salted Peanut Chews

BASE: 1 yellow cake mix, 1/3 cup margarine or butter (softened), 1 egg, and 3 cups miniature marshmallows

TOPPING: 2/3 cup corn syrup, 1/4 cup margarine or butter, 2 teaspoons vanilla, 1 (10 oz. package) peanut butter chips, 2 cups rice cereal, 2 cups salted peanuts

1. Heat oven to 350F. In a large bowl, combine cake mix, 1/3 cup butter, and egg; beat at low speed until crumbly. Press in bottom of ungreased 13x9 inch pan.

2. Bake at 350 for 12 to 18 minutes or until light golden brown. Remove from oven and immediately sprinkle with marshmallows. Return to oven and bake 1-2 minutes or until marshmallows just begin to puff. Remove and cool while preparing topping.

3. In large saucepan, combine all topping ingredients except rice cereal and peanuts. Heat, stirring constantly, just until peanut butter chips are melted and mixture is smooth. Remove from heat and stir in cereal and nuts. Immediately spoon topping mixture over marshmallows; spread gently to cover. Refrigerate 1 hour until firm. Cut into bars. Store in covered containers.

The only change I would make to this is "Have your husband store in a covered container somewhere where you won't be able to find it."

Oh, wait ... Honey, don't you dare ...... I mean, just because you're jealous it doesn't mean you have to do something hasty, right? Honey ... ?

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

We've Turned a New Page

"To learn to read is to light a fire; every syllable that is spelled out is a spark." ~Victor Hugo

"The more that learn to read the less learn how to make a living. That's one thing about a little education. It spoils you for actual work." ~Will Rogers

I found it akin to a weight being lifted off my shoulder.

Don't get me wrong. I think reading to your children (well, my children, not me reading to your children, although that would be fine, too. Nevermind.) is very important. My husband read to our first born while I was still pregnant with her. It was amazing how she would react when he would read her little board books. She would get excited and jump all over the place. It was quite hysterical, albeit occasionally uncomfortable. And since then, too, we have read infinite numbers of words over countless hours to both of our kids.

Oh, to have all that time back ...

But, I digress. (And I have to insert here that even if we could get the time back, we wouldn't want it. The trade-off isn't worth it.)

My husband and I both love books, and have wanted to pass that passion on to our progeny as well. By four months old, our daughter would sit in our laps for hours and look at pictures while we read words to her. Our son, on the other hand, couldn't have cared less.

I worried about it some when he still refused to sit still for a book at a year old.

Oh, woe is me! What have we done wrong? What if he never learns to love reading??

Waah, waah, waah.

But, my self-imposed agony was premature. He did, in his own time (at about 18 months), begin to bring us books and climb in our laps to have them read to him. And last fall, at age five, he sat through chapter books meant for older elementary students and relished every adventure.

"Twenty-One Balloons," "From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler," "The Island of the Blue Dolphins," "The Cricket in Times Square," ...

Now? Not so much.

We've tried lately to renew his interest in books like that, but if it doesn't have pictures on every page, and preferably in full color, then he's not interested.

Our daughter learned to read in Kindergarten and has devoured every book put in front of her since then, including, most recently, the ominous and often intimidating "The Story of Rolf and the Viking Bow." Good story, but whoever identified that to be on a 5th grade reading level needs to have his head examined.

Our son, ironically, actually read earlier and faster than she did. By the time he started Kindergarten, he was quite adept at picking through an early reader. Fifteen months later, he is quite fluid, and can read even better. But he doesn't unless he's forced to.

He has to read a minimum of fifteen minutes a day for school, and I'm telling you, in August, when school started, it was like pulling teeth. Not that he couldn't do it. No, he was very good at it. He just didn't want to.

Until now.

I don't know how long it will last, but yesterday I found him snuggled up in our bed with a stack of Berenstain Bears books. You know the ones ... "The Berenstein Bears and the Green-Eyed Monster," "The Berenstein Bears Visit the Dentist," "The Berenstein Bears and the Prize Pumpkin," "The Berenstein Bears Go On the Campaign Trail for Sarah Palin ..." (oops - that last one's not out yet.)

I secretly watched him as he read with intensity on his cute little face. I could see his lips forming the words as his eyes scanned the page back and forth. He was ... READING! WILLINGLY!

And I have proof. Bwaaaa haaa haaaaa!

Last night he brought me the stack of books and asked me to read to him. (Yes, the same books.) I made a deal with him - that I would read some to him if he read one to me.

Now, I don't know about you, but I have a difficult time staying awake when I am reading out loud. I don't think it is the books that do it, though if I am reading them out loud, it's pretty safe to bet they aren't actually that stimulating. One exception: I used to go to a nursing home to read the Bible to a blind, elderly lady and I would yawn every nine or ten verses. It was pathetic. I think, and this is just my theory, that it's the reading out loud that is the problem. I believe it has something to do with taking quick, shallow breaths and not getting enough Oxygen for long periods of time.

Of course, it doesn't help when you're expected to lie in a bed, snuggled up to a little heater child, and read ... while actually staying awake. That could be the problem, but (and Mom, stop laughing at me), I am sticking with the Oxygen theory.

It's much more sophisticated.

OK, so I read him three books, and even stayed awake for 2 1/2 of them. (The kids always know when I start falling asleep because my normal reading style takes on more, shall we say, dramatic pauses. Oh, and my brain makes up bizarre, random stuff that my mouth then says without me knowing it. That might clue them in, too.)

So, anyway, I finally muddled to the end of the third book and passed the baton to my son. He decided he would read to me "The Berenstein Bears Lend a Helping Hand."

I breathed a sigh of relief and snuggled up to his shoulder to watch him read. That was a mistake. Next thing I knew, he was shoving me off from where I was drooling on his arm and crawling out of bed.

"Hey, buddy, where you goin'?"

"I quit. You keep falling asleep."

Hey, give me a break. I'm sleep deprived from all those years of lending you a helping hand. And, oh yeah ... from writing a novel ... which, by the way, I might want someone to read someday, so you'd better keep practicing, boy ...

Friday, November 14, 2008

New Math

Just because it's hilarious ...

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Writer's Block

"One reason I don't suffer Writer's Block is that I don't wait on the muse, I summon it at need." ~Piers Anthony

"The number one secret of being a successful writer is this: marry an English major." ~Stephen Ambrose

"Any fool can write a novel ..." ~J. G. Ballard

You may not have noticed, but I haven't posted in about three weeks. It's not because I have nothing to post about. No, this family has plenty of fodder. It's that I couldn't construct acceptable paragraphs with which to share that material. I have an unwritten rule that I only want to post stuff that ... wait. It's unwritten for a reason. Nevermind.

Anyway, I am a little bit of a perfectionist (okay, a lot of a perfectionist) and I couldn't string together words to make a single sentence that worked for me.

I definitely had writer's block.

So, what's the best thing to cure writer's block? How about creating a 50,000 word novel (approximately 175 pages) in 30 days?

Yeah, that's what I thought, too.

But the dry-witted coordinators over at won me over. As they put it, "[NaNoWriMo values] enthusiasm and perseverance over painstaking craft. ... Because of the limited writing window, the ONLY thing that matters in NaNoWriMo is output. It's all about quantity, not quality. The kamikaze approach forces you to lower your expectations, take risks, and write on the fly."

I decided that is just what I need: a reason to write junk; a method by which I can foil my own perfectionistic tendencies; an insane goal that will steal my sleep. You know, 'cause I have nothing else to do.

I registered my intent last Thursday.

I am just shy of 10,000 words.

But it occurs to me now that if I make one of my characters blog about writer's block, I can copy and paste this entry and add 276 words to my total. Yeah, so, um, excuse me. I have a novel to write. See you in December.

We are missionaries serving God and the task of Bible translation by serving the missionary community in Papua New Guinea through Personnel Administration and MK Education. We thank you for your prayers!

For the Bibleless Peoples of the World ...

(Updated 13 April 2013)