Saturday, March 12, 2016

Homemaking Encouragement from the Farmhouse

 Driving home along the fields as the work season begins, I rejoiced in the new warmth and light. During this time of refreshment and renewal, the things I learn from others during my own personal season of busy family life fall like new rain on a dry garden. It's my prayer that these three memories will encourage you as we journey together. 

 Memory: It was an old style farmhouse, multi-story and planned for production, not aesthetic design. The front door opened into the living room which was tiny by today's standards. A third of it was dominated by a staircase, the rest of it cramped with furniture, laundry, and an old upright piano. Behind it was the kitchen, where the real living took place. Indeed, the couch was there and that made sense. It also held the dining set, and cluttered counters full of dishes and produce. It was summer, and the kitchen table was lovingly set with plates of tomato slices, watermelon, applesauce, bread and cheese. Because it was summer, the busiest time of the year, food splatters and preservation paraphernalia were bountiful. So were barefoot children with hard, blackened feet dressed in otherwise clean and tidy clothing. Among the domestic calamity there were excited chatter and smiles.

 That's where I learned that the best homemakers are not always the best housekeepers.

 Memory: It was a remodeled farmhouse, with a spacious new kitchen that doubled as the laundry room. Outside of the back door was a mountain of rag-tag children's bicycles in all sizes and colors. Just inside the back door, a large towel on the floor held a landscape of muddy boots and shoes. The footprint of the shoe pile was so large you could see it from space. Generic root beer sat on the counter awaiting a birthday party scheduled for later on the same day, and stainless steel bowls filled with fresh picked green beans sat on the table the kitchen table. It was suggested the oldest daughter put down her book and go outside to supervise the younger children, who were climbing a step ladder on top of a John Deere Gator for who knows what goal. She quietly set her book down and went outside, although I felt her lack of enthusiasm for the assignment. The mothers sat inside and enjoyed tea and conversation. We were too busy for this, but not too busy for one another. 

 That was how I learned that hospitality didn't have to be a perfectly clean house for a Sunday visit, but hat hospitality was a spirit, not always a distinct form.
 Memory: The swing set and trampoline just outside the back door were alive with laughter. Inside, the living room floor was strewn with toys, some of which were so old that the first children to enjoy them many very well be grandparents now.I was helping to pick them up when the screen door slammed and in a blur someone grabbed a banana off of the kitchen counter. "No, you can't ride the scooter down the slide!" The children's grandmother was sweeping up an upset houseplant, collateral damage from the fun. A bumped head and an escaped goat caused a moment of excitement before all was well again. As mothers arrived to collect their respective folds, a calm settled over the house. The vocal mirth gave way to the chirping of birds and the hum of a tractor in the distance. Grandma quietly exhaled and smiled as she sat down in an easy chair and took out a scrapbook page that she had been working on, and that was when I knew it won't always be like this. 

 We made these delicious peanut butter cup cookies one night as a special treat. They are baked in a muffin tin which makes them all the perfect size. At one point I had to leave the kitchen and the bag of candy was left unattended.
"Mom. Mom. I ate a few of these," came the guilty confession.

 Oh, that's okay. Most of us would have wiped out half the bag and blamed someone else. 

Peanut Butter Cup Temptations

1 cup butter
1 cup peanut butter
1 cup brown sugar
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon salt
1 and 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
2 and 1/2 cups flour
1 package peanut butter cups

 Cream butter, peanut butter, and sugars. Add eggs, vanilla, salt, and baking powder. Gradually blend in flour. Form dough into one-inch balls and place in tart or muffin pans. 

 Bake at 350 for 8-10 minutes. Remove from oven and place 1 peanut butter cup in each center, pressing gently into the cookie. Cool for a couple minutes and remove from tins. Finish cooling on wire rack.


  1. What a reassuring post. My house is never 'clean enough' for company but I hope I am hospitable enough for company!!

    1. I'm a pretty good housekeeper, but I hope to be an ever better homemaker! As for "company clean"? Only when company is coming. :)

  2. I love cleanliness, but I love homes with things going on, such as the ones you described. I love when people are interacting- and sometimes that can be messy. Those are the best places, aren't they?
    Next week, I am going to try your shoofly pie- but as a bar, without the crust. Then, I will try those peanut butter cookies- they look good. I made gingersnaps and a cherry upside down cake this week. I love baking for people

    1. Let me know how the shoofly bars turn out. It sounds like a good idea! I like baking for my family, and cherry anything is my favorite. I must admit that that an untidy house filled with guests is just a little sweeter for me if the house belongs to someone else, but I mind the clutter and clamor of children in my own home a lot less. :)

    2. I made the mile high shoofly pie tonight, as a bar. I cut cooking time by 10 minutes, used a glass 8 inch dish I sprayed with butter. It was wonderful! I might even have it with a glass of milk for breakfast.

    3. It sounds wonderful! If you serve coffee instead of milk, I'll be over for breakfast.

  3. Oh Monica, my 14-year-old daughter will be so excited when she finds out you shared this recipe. Our local Amish market here in Gloucester county, NJ, sells this type of cookie in their bakery and my girl absolutely loves them. When she finds out I have the recipe now to make them at home, she will flip! I have been meaning to email you; you responded to one of my comments maybe last month, but then the flu virus took up residence at our house for a few weeks, hitting us one by one instead of all at once - thought it would never leave! In any case, I hope you and your family had a blessed Easter.

    1. Sharon, I am so sorry to hear of the flu going on at your house! I can commiserate as we also had a sick family member and a child home for two days with an eye infection. I do hope everyone is feeling better, and I'm glad you like the recipe and can use it. It's simple but delicious. But what I really want to know is where your local Amish market is, Mullica Hill or Williamstown? I've been to the latter once years ago, but periodically drive by the one in Mullica. Anyway, we had a lovely Easter, and if it would just warm up a little more we'd be having my idea of the perfect spring. Let me know how your daughter likes the cookies!

  4. Hi again Monica! My local Amish market is the one in Williamstown. I have yet to check out the one in Mullica Hill, and I have been told that there is one in Bridgeton NJ as well. Will have to investigate that a little further one of these days. The Williamstown market has a wonderful bakery with homemade doughnuts that are just amazing! Since you haven't been to this particular market in a few years, you may not be aware that the restaurant, The Country Crock, has closed, and a new grill-style restaurant was put in it's place. I haven't tried it, therefore I can't comment on it, but I truly miss the wonderful Mennonite couple who ran The Country Crock - such good food and friendly personalities! Now that I can make our very own peanut butter temptations, I have less reason to stop by the bakery....oh, wait, there's always the matter of those doughnuts...haha! As for the weather, I am with you there. I plan to put my hibiscus bush outside for the 70-degree weather predicted for today, and then will have to bring it back inside for the chillier days ahead in the next week where we will be back down in the 50's. My goodness, we could get whiplash from the temperature extremes! Thank you for your kind thoughts; we did eventually show the flu-bug the door, and everyone's feeling back to themselves. I hope the same can be said in your family. I will certainly provide feedback on the cookie recipe, on behalf of my daughter, so she doesn't get peanut butter and chocolate on the keyboard, haha! Thank you as always, for your response to my comments. Have a blessed day!

    1. Yes, I well remember the family who owned the Country Crock there, and was unaware that it closed. Working those markets is a tough business. If you ever have the opportunity to visit the Bridgeton market, it's very nice, newer, and often has special events on Saturdays. Also, a first-rate doughnut bakery. Now you've discovered one of my secret hobbies, exploring farm markets. Have a great weekend!


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