Blueberry Crumb Bars {made with Spelt and natural sugar}

These Blueberry Crumb Bars are delicious! I am craving them just looking at the pictures… thankfully there are peach bars in the oven for tonight. 😉

We’ve been using a lot of freshly ground spelt flour instead of whole wheat. The plus side, is that there is less gluten than wheat and the flavor is smooth and buttery, not too “wheaty.” The downside, is that there IS less gluten… which means baked things don’t always hold together as well. In this recipe, spelt works wonderfully and creates such a hearty, deep-flavored bar.

I’m also very pleased with the use of whole cane sugar in this recipe. The molasses taste only compliments the berries and spelt. One thing that I’m wondering about, is whether there is some alternative to the cornstarch used in the filling. I’ve heard about arrowroot powder, but we’ve never used it and it sounds strange. Perhaps for those like us, with a simpler pantry, white flour might work? Something to try next time.

One more note! I’m one who usually omits the lemon zest in recipes – it takes too long, and sometimes the flavor it adds is too strong. But in this recipe it really brings everything together with great freshness! That being said, I only had frozen lemon cubes this time, and so omitted the zest, and it was still delicious.

Okay, enough with my attempt at “food-blogging”… on to the recipe!

Whole cane sugar, baking powder, and flour.

Oh, yeah. And salt. (NOTE: if using lemon zest, now would be the time to add that, as well)

Whisk!

Cut in butter and scrambled egg until it looks something like this…

You should see small, yet distinct, chunks of butter. This is one of the biggest keys to tender, flaky pastry crust!

Pat half of the crumb mixture into greased pan.

Mix lemon juice, sugar, and cornstarch (or substitute?).

Beautiful blueberries!

Pour cornstarch mixture over berries, crushing the berries slightly as you stir together.

I wasn’t too pleased with the consistency using the spoon, so I used my hands! Sorry, no pictures of that. 😛

Distribute blueberry mixture evenly over crust.

Sprinkle remaining half of crumb mixture over top of the blueberries.

Bake at 375 degrees F and voila! Enjoy! These are best lukewarm, if you ask me.

Blueberry Crumb Bars
(adapted from http://smittenkitchen.com/blog/2008/07/blueberry-crumb-bars/)

1 cup whole cane sugar (Sucanat or Rapunzel)
2 teaspoons baking powder
3 cups spelt flour (or whole wheat)
½ teaspoon salt
1 cup cold unsalted butter
1 egg
Zest and juice of one lemon
4 cups fresh blueberries
1/2 cup whole cane sugar (Sucanat or Rapunzel)
4 teaspoons cornstarch

1. Preheat the oven to 375* F. Grease a 9×13 inch pan.

2. Whisk together 1 cup sugar, 3 cups flour, baking powder, and salt. Stir in lemon zest. Use a fork or pastry cutter to blend in the butter and egg. Blend only until the butter is in small, but still distinct chunks. Pat half of dough into the prepared pan.

3. In another bowl, stir together the sugar, cornstarch and lemon juice. Stir into blueberries, gently crushing some of the berries. Pour the blueberry mixture evenly over the crust. Crumble remaining dough over the berry layer.

4. Bake in preheated oven for 35-45 minutes, or until top is slightly brown. Cool completely
(… or not) before cutting into squares.

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Recent Days

So much time has gone by since we have posted anything! The past two months have been full with gardening, Bible Bee study and memorization, picnics, kittens getting into trouble, hot air balloon crewing, wonderful family conversations, school year planning, and more. As always, there have been spiritual battles along the way – lessons learned, hearts humbled, and thankfulness for the goodness of the Lord. How amazing to live in the joy of God’s salvation!

Lady L got eyeglasses!

And then contact lenses, too!

We spent the 4th of July with friends this year, reading the Declaration of Independence, eating red, white and blue foods, dressing up, doing an Independence themed history quiz, reading quotes from the founding fathers of our country, and more.

Having fun on E’s “mini-bike”

Daddy reading the Declaration

Attentively listening

Chocolate Chip Cookie Ice Cream Sandwiches

Two of our kittens went to their new home! It was sad in a way, but they went to live with good friends who we know take excellent care of them, and so it was bitter-sweet.

The tabby and white is Ridley, and the black one is Cameron

We did our first canning of the year! Hot Hungarian Pepper Rings – they are delicious on hamburgers, fried egg sandwiches, and pizza! The recipe and picture tutorial will be coming when we can the next batch.

Every three weeks during the Summer we had a Bible Bee practice and fellowship meeting. Amanda was a volunteer with the Primary age division (ages 7-10), reading the test to some young ones and listening to them recite. I volunteered to help with Juniors and was placed in charge of the Junior/Senior practices. What an experience! As the person leading, you have to make decisions and come up with answers, and be responsible… not forgetting where you put things. 😛

My best baking experiment so far this year was Blueberry Crumble Bars! SO delicious! It’s a great recipe for your frozen blueberries, too. I took pictures, and hope to post the tutorial soon.

The end of July and beginning of August found us crewing at two balloon festivals, learning some very valuable lessons about priorities and relationships… learning to set lightly by the world and it’s offerings. It is such a blessing to have a God-honoring family where we can hold each other accountable and encourage one another in serving the Lord!

I got to fly! 😀

Round bales dotting the fields below

balloon field sunsets

One night, our neighbors came out and went on a tethered balloon ride. Nighttime tethers give you a really interesting perspective of the surrounding area.

During our local fair Amanda and Lindsey also show some things in the handwork and craft show, the vegetable and herb show, and the flower show. Most of their items placed this year!

Gathering produce to enter

Entering flowers

One day we went to the fair with some friends so Lady L and “E” and “N” could go on the rides together.

They were all a little nervous getting on this ride, and as bystanders, this is what we saw on their faces as they first hit the high point! {this is a crop from a larger image} Each one’s expression is so typical of them, that it’s really quite hilarious!

watching in the relative cool of the shade afforded by a nearby ride

I was given a free ride, and it was for my favorite one, too! My hair was NOT in the right style to hold up to the forces acting upon it!

We saw this bug. Although, we almost didn’t!

A regional recipe for crumb cake!

Calvin (the white one) is such a goofy kitten!

Our friends adopted two precious girls from China, and had a dedication and picnic for them. They are doing really well in their new family, and are very friendly once they warm up to you.

They were throwing water at me!!

Calvin again, in a picture we never thought we’d see – being cleaned by Twinkles, the “grumpy aunty”!

Both my parents lived in NC for awhile, and actually met there, so I wanted to try to make a close copy-cat version of western NC pulled pork/barbecue and hush puppies for them, and this is the meal we had.

Last week we crewed quite a few engagement flights! It almost seems like it’s “engagement season” or something. We also went to a friend’s birthday party.

The birthday boy

Some of us stayed late and sang hymns around the fire

Lady L wearing one of her beautiful hair flowers

Father and son

Dwayne, a friend from church

At our monthly church fellowship last Sunday, Dwayne took the time to listen to Lady L, “E” and “N” recite their Bible Bee verses. Lady L really appreciated it and was very encouraged by his interest.

The adorable and wonderfully happy baby J

N and Lady L sang the Acts 10:38-43 passage together

“N” pretending to be really nervous in front of her Bible Bee judge, and Lady L pretending to be her worried mother!

The Bible Bee was this past Saturday! Pictures coming soon…

Our Favorite Homeschool Convention

We had a wonderful time last weekend at one of our favorite homeschool conventions. Our family has volunteered at their used curriculum sale for many years, and this year Lady L also had a “young entrepreneurs” booth selling crocheted hair flowers!

I had taken this picture and noticed nothing amiss (besides uncooperative subjects), but when I got home Thursday evening and put them on the computer, I noticed a crazy friend in the background… how he must have laughed when we didn’t even notice him!

With her booth fully set up Thursday evening!

If you’re interested, you can see Lady L’s business “website”, Hooked On Blooms, and also visit her business blog for more pictures.

Part of our job at the used curriculum sale is to sort the consignment tags by seller ID so that if there is any problem with the online system, or a question arises, the tags are in order. In the past couple of years, we have also gotten a few other families that we know involved, and it’s been a joy to work together!

“E” with a handful of tags to sort

Our three families taking a break and having lunch together on Friday

Friends and helpers at Lady L’s booth Saturday evening right before packing up – from L to R, “N”, Lady L, myself, Amanda, siblings “D” and “J”, and “E”

Our friends, Mr. and Mrs. L, also the parents of “N” and “E” [Photo credit: Mama – it’s a really nice picture!]

On the way home Saturday evening, we had a first-ever experience for our family – a tire blowout! We were on the interstate going 70mph in the left lane, and it was a bit scary, but everyone is safe and the van is fixed. The Lord provided in many different ways, with roadside assistance just added to our insurance plan in the past month, being only 10 minutes from home, having friends very close by who could pick us up, and other blessed details! It also wound up being a great photo opportunity as we were stranded there for 45 minutes or so… 😉

The rim was all bent out of shape and had to be replaced

P.S. Are all the pictures showing up? I’m having a problem with one, but cannot find anything wrong!

A Kitten Update

Wow! Time has flown and the kittens are now over 4 weeks! We’ve been away from them for almost a week, and can’t wait to see how much they’ve grown when we get home. But for now, I have 24 day-old kitten pictures from right before we left! They all have names now (we think) but I don’t have recent individual pictures, so I’ll wait to announce them till we get home.

kitten #1

#4, our runt (not so much so now!)

That’s #6 under Lady L’s finger

#2, and 5 walking past

#2

Lady L’s favorites, #’s 5 and 4

Baker Creek Seed Giveaway

Jacqueline at Deep Roots At Home is hosting a giveaway of Baker Creek heirloom seeds!

We ordered seeds from Baker Creek for the first time this year, and are really looking forward to our heirloom vegetables! I WILL be posting about our garden (with pictures) very soon!

Go on over and enter the Baker Creek Gardener’s Giveaway!

Our Adventurous Thursday

Between a crime scene investigation and the delivery of kittens (*happy dance*), Thursday was a day to remember.

Amanda and I were still half awake Wednesday “night” (actually 2:00 AM Thursday) when we heard commotion next door through our open bedroom window. From then until 5 AM we were in and out of sleep, and by 6:30 a man had been taken to the hospital, and the police were blocking the area off as a crime scene. The details are not edifying, and thus I won’t include them.

(picture “borrowed” from our local news)

The “suspect” is the man who had been living next door and talking to us for three months – asking about our garden, petting the bunny, etc. It’s not “scary,” knowing that God is in control, but it is rather heart-breaking to see what comes from rejection of God’s ways and how people’s lives are broken because of it. Please, please pray for our neighborhood and the safety of the people in it! We moved here almost 20 years ago, and it wasn’t like this then. There have been a few rather disturbing incidents recently, and in October, some guys walking down our street broke the mirror off the side of our car.

I only share these things so you can better understand our situation and the need we are feeling to move. We are praying all the time that God would show us His will for when and where. Practically the whole country stands as a possibility before us and we are unsure of what God wills for us. We do see the need for/importance of moving to a place where there is a true biblical church we can be a part of. Anyone attending a Christ-centered, family-integrated church we could consider? Seriously. We are looking into places and churches across the country. Maybe God’s will is not for us to move right now, and if so, then we continue to pray for strength and safety and submit in cheerfulness and joy.

But back to the story. Somewhere around 7 AM the CSI team showed up and the investigation got underway in earnest – little numbered markers, lots of pictures, swabs, and piecing together the actual series of events by the evidence.  At about the same time, Aurelia went into labor! So between 7:00 and 1:00 we were busy delivering kittens and and watching the fascinating process of investigation. And drinking lots of coffee.

(another picture from our local news – minus some things :P)

Aurelia was in labor for 5 1/2 hours and had 6 kittens! For a first litter that is quite a few. It explains why she was so huge and uncomfortable! She is recovering really well and adapting to being a mother. And the kittens are too cute. There are three that look like they will be tabbies, one that will either be black or charcoal gray, and two that are white with gray tabby “caps” on their heads! The whole story and many pictures will follow soon, but here are three to hold you over until then.

The second kitten, this is one of the tabbies (we think), but it also has white on it’s face, tummy, and paws!

I believe this was #4, the runt

Happy (and exhausted!) Aurelia with all of her kittens… the runt isn’t visible, it’s probably under her back leg.

In the late afternoon, some dear friends came over for a piano lesson and visit, and they brought us coffee! How sweet! Thank you, Mrs. L! It was very much appreciated and enjoyed after such a sleepless night and long day.

First Sourdough Bread

My first Spelt sourdough loaves! They turned out okay, though the flavor was a little weird – the “sour” taste wasn’t what I’m used to from sourdough. Maybe because it was only the first batch from this starter? They were also dense with some large holes, but again, I’m hoping that will improve with time. Everyone liked them anyway, and the four loaves were gone in a few days!

We sliced some for open-faced Reuben sandwiches, as a substitute for the traditional rye, and it was really good!

I kept forgetting to grind more flour, so I missed feeding the starter for two days, and therefore it’s taken me an extra week to get it back on track, but I should be making more bread today.

We’re Going on a Trip…

to the St. Louis area in May, to attend the 2013 Family Economics Conference! We’re so thankful to the Lord for enabling us to attend again this year. The past two years have been such an amazing blessing, and a great encouragement to us as a family.

As we plan for and look forward to this year’s conference, I’ve been thinking a lot about the past two, and since I never posted about 2012’s, I thought I would take you on a brief picture tour of some of the highlights.

Wheaton College was a beautiful facility…

We enjoyed getting to meet and and talk with other like-minded families…

The speakers had wonderful, challenging messages to share from their hearts…

Singing praises to the Lord with the other 1,400 or so attendees was precious. I love that the coordinators planned the singing of hymns throughout the conference!

The audience response units, with the immediate rendering of the data in the slides, was a fun way to be involved and to see some interesting (and hilarious!) information about the families at the conference. Did you know that something like 6% of the families arrived by flying in with Mary Poppins?!

The panels with families talking about their experiences were really interesting and informative…

And people watching is, of course, always great sport – as evidenced by these three men sitting in the exact same way… 😉

Watching Amanda and Lady L practice with the choir for Liberty Day…

The Liberty Day celebration, held in conjunction with the conference, was a wonderful reenactment of the 2nd Virginia Convention and Patrick Henry’s “Give me liberty or give me death” speech. The music, costumes, acting, and most of all, remembering the Providential events in the founding of our nation, was beautiful!


And then there was the Colonial Dance! Much thought and prayer went into the decision to take part in the dance, and I’m so glad we did! It was a blessed time of fellowship and fun in a pure, family-centered environment. And great exercise!!!

I thank the Lord for these experiences and times together to learn and grow as a family. We’re all really looking forward to going this year, and desire your prayers that God’s will would be accomplished in this conference – for our family, and for every little detail and moment.

Encourage Your Siblings Challenge

{click on the image to go to the challenge page!}

We’re very excited to be taking part in another challenge from the King’s Blooming Rose! 😀 We never fail to be encouraged by their challenges, articles, and the hearts of the young ladies involved in the KBR ministry.

This time, the challenge is about cultivating a deeper relationship with our siblings, and investing in their lives – especially encouraging them in their relationship with the Lord. Though I believe the challenge was designed for sisters with much younger siblings, I see how I need to be encouraging Lady L more, and how our relationship could really grow if we were more purposeful in centering it around God, in talking about spiritual things, in holding each other accountable in our use of time, and in myself setting a better example as a daughter of the King of Kings and as a daughter of our parents.

Click HERE to read more about the challenge! I hope those who are able will join in!

Meet Aurelia (and other elusive Roman cats)

^This^ is Aurelia, so named for her aquiline looks. It all started out innocently enough. She was a skinny, kittenish thing – scared of humans and desperately hungry. We took pity and left a handful of food out for her. A couple of days later, Daddy announces that he got her to eat out of his hands. A few weeks later, and Lady L has enticed Aurelia onto her lap.

She also has a bed on the back porch, and a water bowl. It’s been really cold and dark this winter, and it was difficult to watch the little thing suffer. A week or so more, and she had been allowed a couple of hours in the warm kitchen every evening. And now, a little over two months since this whole thing began, Miss Aurelia is spending most of her time indoors, including the cold overnights.

She roams the whole downstairs and part of the upstairs, finding great pleasure in slipping by into the places she’s not supposed to be. The other two cats hiss and growl at her whenever she’s near, and there’s an occasional swat exchanged, but they’re rather too lazy to put enough effort into fighting, and Aurelia doesn’t like to fight either. She seems to want their companionship. Unfortunately, she’s still a little distrustful of humans, and does NOT like being picked up or held! AND…

…the little miss has turned out to be PREGNANT! 😯 The above picture was taken a couple weeks ago, and she has grown considerably bigger and more uncomfortable since then! We’re expecting the kittens sometime during the first full week of April (in about 10 days!). This will be an interesting experience if she decides to have them inside, as we have never had kittens before.

The most likely daddy candidates are these two males, which showed up about the same time Aurelia did. We don’t like them – they’re not friendly, and are kinda scary looking, not to mention always getting into fights – so we stuck with the Roman theme, and gave them names we don’t like, Gaius and Decimus.

Gaius, always sticking his nose in other kitties business (literally…)

Decimus, who has one blue eye and one green eye and is often see with patches of fur missing

And our animals adventures continue…