Timely Reminders

Photo by Adi Goldstein on Unsplash

September is my birthday month. This one was significant not so much because my new age sports a zero, but for the many reminders that I am loved. During the past few weeks, I have been inundated with cute cards, unexpected gifts, and well wishes from family members and friends of all ages. My siblings even flew in from two different states to help me usher in this new decade. (Thanks, Dave, for arranging that). 

I believe birthdays are one of God’s ways to remind us that relationships are important. The times we have spent with people in the past influence their likelihood to connect with us in the present. He created us to live in fellowship with others, and to enjoy this life as best we can.

These reminders also serve as a guiding light for the future. The way I interact with my grandson will affect his future, not only with me but with everyone he meets throughout life. The example I set for him today will serve to mold his outlook on the world, and more importantly, on his relationship with Jesus Christ. It’s all about bringing glory to God.

“Children’s children are a crown to the aged,
and parents are the pride of their children.”
Proverbs 17:6

It’s an important calling, this grandparent thing. But I’m loving it every step of the way. And that is one timely reminder.

A Slice of the Ol’ Apple

Baking Apples From the U of M Apple House

One of the family traditions I’ve carried through the years is making late-summer apple slices. They’re as simple as making apple pie, except this treat is baked in a jelly-roll pan instead of a pie pan. That does mean double everything, which is always a win with my family. Here’s how to do it:

Bottom Crust:
Mix up dough for a Standard 10” pie crust (enough for top and bottom crust). Use your favorite recipe, or try this one:
2-⅔ cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup shortening
7 to 8 tablespoons of ice water
Measure flour and salt into the bowl of a food processor. Pulse a few times. Add half of the shortening and pulse. Add the remaining shortening and pulse until mixture forms a mealy consistency. Sprinkle water one tablespoon at a time into the mix through the feed tube until the dough pulls away from the side of the bowl.

Cut a piece of parchment paper slightly larger than the size of a jelly roll pan and lightly dust the surface. Flour the surface of your rolling pin and roll the dough on the parchment to an even consistency, large enough to cover the bottom and sides of the pan with a little left over to crimp. Slide the parchment with the crust onto the pan. Use scrap pieces of dough to patch any holes. Pretty doesn’t matter; the bottom crust will not be seen. Set aside.

Filling:
16 cups thinly sliced, peeled, and pared tart apples
2 cups sugar
2 teaspoons nutmeg
⅔ cup all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons cinnamon
½ teaspoon salt
Mix it all together and spread it onto the bottom crust in the jelly roll pan. Dot the surface with 6 tablespoons of butter.

Top Crust:
Repeat what you did to make dough for the bottom crust. When it’s ready, either place the entire sheet of dough on top of the apple mixture (poke holes in the crust to allow steam to escape), or cut the dough into strips to make a lattice top. I like the lattice route. It looks pretty and is easier for me to achieve. Plus, you get enough leftover dough to make an extra pie shell. Pinch the edges around the perimeter to pretty it up. 

Trim away any excess parchment paper that might be sticking out around the sides of the pan. Slide the entire jelly roll pan onto the middle rack of a preheated 425 degree oven and slide a sheet of aluminum foil on the rack below it to catch any wayward drips. Give it about 40 to 50 minutes to bubble up and turn toasty brown. Cool on a baking rack. 

Icing:
To top it off, stir together 2 cups of confectioners sugar, a dash of salt, 1-2 teaspoons of vanilla and just enough milk (about 4 to 6 tablespoons) to make a runny icing; add milk one tablespoon at a time until you like what you see. Drizzle this mixture onto the apple slices and step aside to save yourself from getting run over by a stampede of hungry humans. Maybe while they’re fighting over the corner pieces you can score some vanilla or cinnamon ice cream to make the deal even sweeter than it already is.

Enjoy! And be sure to let me know how your Apple Slices turn out.

Let Your Faith Overcome Your Fears

Sometimes taking a stand for Christ is scary. But by faith we know God is faithful to fulfill His promises.

“The Lord himself goes before you and will be with you;
he will never leave you nor forsake you.
Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged.”
Deuteronomy 31:8 NIV

During the early months of the COVID-19 pandemic, many people were paralyzed with fright by its unknowns. Isolation became the norm as a measure to reduce the risk of catching the virus or infecting others. Fear and anxiety dominated social media discussions. God’s Word tells us something different.

“Do not be anxious about anything,
but in every situation, by prayer and petition,
with thanksgiving, present your requests to God.”

Philippians 4:6 NIV

Despite some trepidation, my husband and I decided to share God’s message of hope with those around us, while complying with all COVID-19 safety precautions. I constructed a rustic cross and painted the words, “Faith over Fear” across its front. My husband secured the cross prominently to the front of our house, clearly visible from the street. The response was unexpected.

Through our front window, I could see cars slow down as they drove by and riders turned their heads toward our cross. Neighbors smiled and waved as they passed by. One lady who hardly spoke to us made a point of complimenting our cross. A man from a nearby neighborhood stopped to commend our boldness in sharing this message of hope. Our grandson saw a young boy placing rocks hand-painted with images of trees and hearts on our sidewalk.

All these things happened because we chose to boldly proclaim our faith in God despite what was happening in the world. The biggest blessing for us is that our grandson witnessed God’s response to faith in action. God can be trusted to be true to His Word. It is a beautiful reminder to let hope in Christ overcome any fears we have on earth.

Quick Chicken Meatball Meal

A Grandkid-Tested Recipe

Sometimes I get tired of trying to figure out new ways to prepare chicken, especially with the added challenge of making it appeal to a child with limited food preferences. This dilemma resulted in the creation of a new recipe that may be the easiest way I know to cook a winning meal in 15 minutes. Get ready to roll!

Boil water to make four servings of pasta noodles, such as penne, farfalle, or rotini, according to directions. I like to sneak in some veggies by tossing a handful or two of broccoli tops into the boiling water during the final five minutes of cooking. Reserve about ½ cup of the cooking water before draining the pasta and broccoli. 

While the pasta is doing its thing, pull out your food processor. Toss in:

  • One pound of cubed, raw chicken
  • ¾ cup roughly chopped onion (about one medium onion)
  • ½ cup grated parmesan cheese
  • 2-4 cloves (to your preference) garlic, smashed, peel removed 
  • One or two large handfuls of fresh, roughly chopped  basil (for extra pizazz, add a sprig of rosemary leaves stripped from the stem)
  • 1 teaspoon salt 
  • ½ teaspoon pepper

Pulse the blender until everything is mixed together and pulls away from the sides of the bowl. This will take about one minute. Shape the mixture into 1-inch meatballs and fry in a pan with a small amount of olive or other oil. 

Add cooked pasta and broccoli to the pot. Add about ½ cup of Parmesan and a small amount of the pasta cooking water to create a bit of a sauce. Stir, adding more water, if needed. Toss in the meatballs and blend.

Divide into bowls and serve. I like to garnish the plates with a sprig or a chiffonade of basil for fun (that’s a fancy way of saying chop a few basil leaves into thin strips and sprinkle them on top of the pasta dish).

Trust me, this is a winner. And, of course, ask God to bless your dinner time together before you dig in.

Rise and Dine

A Grandkid-Tested Recipe from Barb Howe

My mother was known as a wonderful baker. Saturdays during my childhood typically began with the aroma of yeast rising on the kitchen counter and ended with oven-warm treats. Decades have passed since then, yet the scent of freshly baked bread always reminds me of Mom. I stood on a chair to reach the counter next to her as I learned the craft of bread making under her careful instruction.

Recently, I began experimenting with her original recipe (shown below) to include health benefiting fiber and incorporate tasty, fresh herbs from my garden. The results have been outstanding. A few simple adjustments to her original recipe yield a plethora of different flavors and uses, from herb and onion bread to better tasting hamburger buns than any I have found at the grocery store. 

Try her recipe out for yourself. Below is the Original Recipe that Mom used. Contact me via the link for some of my Grandkid-Tested Detours.

Ahh! There are days when homemade bread makes this grandma feel like a kid again. Thanks, Mom!

Original Recipe for Sweet Yeast Dough

Mix together in a medium size bowl and set aside:
2 packages dry yeast (4-1/2 teaspoons)
¼ cup warm water (105-110 degrees F)
1 teaspoon sugar

In a large bowl, combine:
½ cup butter
½ cup sugar
1 tablespoon salt

Pour over mixture:
1 cup scalded milk

When butter is dissolved and sugar and salt are incorporated, add:
2 eggs, well beaten
5 cups bread flour

Stir together and turn dough mixture onto a lightly floured surface. Knead until smooth. Form dough into a ball and place it in a greased bowl. 

Cover and let rise until doubled in bulk in a warm, draft free area. Punch down dough and shape it into a loaf. Let rise until doubled in bulk. 

Separate dough by half. Then separate each half into four equal parts and roll into long rolls. Braid the rolls together and tuck into a loaf pan. Repeat with remaining dough to make a second loaf.

Allow to rise until doubled in bulk in a warm, draft free area. Bake about 30 minutes at 325 degrees. Cool and remove from pan to cool completely (Or, pull the braids apart and eat while warm the way I used to do.)

Ask for Grandkid-Tested Detours from Mom’s original bread recipe at barbhowe.org.

Take a Break

Photo by Barb Howe

It surprised me to count the number of grandparents I know who are involved with raising their grandchildren. I’m not talking about the ones who get to see them during occasional holiday visits. I’m talking about the ones who are on the front lines of child rearing, supporting their adult children. It’s a tough job to keep up with the energy level of anyone younger than 20 years of age when you’re sporting a crop of grey hair. 

Allow yourself to take a break. It’s a good idea for everyone involved, including those grandchildren. Breathe deeply, take in the splendor of all the good things God has given. Genesis reminds me that He placed the first man and woman in a garden, so gardens are where I like to be when rejuvenation is what I need. A large, public landscape garden near my home is where I go to find year-round periods of refreshment.

“Yes, my soul, find rest in God; my hope comes from him.”
Psalm 62:5 

Visiting this place also reminds me that any challenges I am facing have already been resolved by the Creator of all things. It gives me pause to recall the many times He has carried me through trials of many kinds. My job is to allow Him to work in me, to continue the transformation of my heart, so I can be more like Jesus. It is a huge task.

His reward to me is the blessing of peace, joy, and love. Perhaps that is why, in the first chapter of Genesis, God rested on the seventh day. I believe he was demonstrating to us the need for periodic moments of down time. It’s as if He is telling us to “take a break” so we can be reminded that our grandchildren truly are a blessing from the Lord.

“Return to your rest, my soul, for the Lord has been good to you.”
Psalm 116:7 

Read more posts at barbhowe.org.

Compare Notes

Photo courtesy of Alvaro Serrano on Unsplash

Admit it, the world we live in doesn’t always make sense. A quick glance at the news reminds us that our country is undergoing a long season of trepidation and rebellion. Given the conflicting deluge of messages thrust upon us daily, it’s nearly impossible to know what to believe. Thankfully, there is one source of information we can rely upon for absolute truth: the Bible. Eternal wisdom flows from its pages.  

“Know therefore that the Lord your God is God; he is the faithful God,
keeping his covenant of love to a thousand generations
of those who love him and keep his commandments.”
Deuteronomy 7:9

We probably all have concerns for our grandchildren’s physical and spiritual well being. Having many decades of experience, we’re reminiscent of the Farmers Insurance ad tagline, “We know a thing or two because we’ve seen a thing or two.” Our perspectives and collective wisdom are vital for these young ones. That old cliche’ reminding us “it takes a village to raise a child” hits home here. Please, allow God to be at the center of it all. 

It is a blessing to have friends that share the same concerns for their grandchildren as I do for my grandson. We support one another with prayer, encouragement, and advice, much as mothers of young children do amongst themselves. Think of it as comparing notes with other people whose ultimate goal aligns with yours: to spend eternity with our grandchildren and other believers in heaven. Be sure to bring a notebook the next time you meet.

 “Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances;
for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.”
1 Thessalonians 5:16-18

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Life At the Speed of Age

Image Courtesy of NASA

My grandson cannot wait until his next birthday. His anticipation begins the day after his current birthday, meaning he dedicates approximately 364 days to the task. Several decades ago, I felt the same way. For children, the months between birthdays seem to travel at the speed of snail. For those who have been practicing adulthood for many years, time seems to pass at the ever-increasing speed of age, more akin to the speed of sound. 

In my youth, I considered life to be a long journey that would culminate in death at some inconceivable future date. Then reality hit home after a few friends and family members died with unexpectedly short numbers of years. All the observations from members of past generations about the brevity of life suddenly became real. 

James 4:14 says,
“What is your life? You are a mist
that appears for a little while and then vanishes.”

While I hope for many more years, each day that passes brings me closer to the brink of eternity. Experience reminds me that not one of us knows what will happen tomorrow. We can only put it to use in the present what we have learned from the past. 

The awareness of this life’s brevity and the permanent home that follows ignited an urgency that I am running out of time to fulfill my most important task: sharing my reason for hope with the people in my life. How sad it would be to know I missed an opportunity to share that hope with the ones I love. It’s all about living at the speed of age.

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The Blue Bike

God’s timing is perfect. We know that from Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 which tells us there are seasons for every activity under heaven, including teaching a child how to ride a bike. From our perspective, it is a matter of patience, strategy, and persistence. I can attest to this.

My grandson is cautious by nature, more cautious than his friends I have come to know. He is also a bit of a perfectionist. It shows in his reluctance to participate in any activity publicly until he has at least mastered the basics. This is where the blue bike comes in. 

Two summers ago, I encouraged him to learn how to ride a bike. He dismissed any consideration of it, opting instead to try scootering. I agreed, figuring it would at least give him practice balancing on two wheels. Did I mention his hesitancy to get back up on wheels after a fall? Luckily, our neighbor’s son also had a scooter and did a better job of teaching the fine art of maintaining an upright stance while mobile. Having a friend also made it mandatory to get up and ride again, or look like a wimp.

For us, that scooter became a regular part of every neighborhood walk. The next step was to get him enthused about riding a bike. My expectation was that he would be gung-ho for a bicycle by the following summer. Wrong! He simply hopped on his scooter and scooted off.

The challenge was on. I launched into a full-out marketing campaign, touting all the benefits of bicycle riding: speed, his dislike for walking (too hard on his feet), bike riding with friends, and riding some of the popular trails in our neighborhood. Slowly, he began to express interest in bicycle riding, until he began asking for a bike. 

My husband and I spent an entire afternoon checking out potential bicycle shops. We wanted to get one that would be the perfect size and fit for our grandson, hopefully with the option of trading it in for an adult-size bike within the next few years. We found it: a 24-inch hybrid model in bright orange. Finally, we were ready to make the purchase. 

Because of restrictions due to COVID-19, only two people per family were allowed in the shop at one time. I opted to wait outside while my husband accompanied our grandson into the bike shop. About 20 minutes later, my grandson emerged from the shop sporting a huge grin and guiding a blue bike toward our car. I literally rubbed my eyes to be sure I was not going color blind. It turns out, this model is ideal for neighborhood streets, sidewalks, and paved trails. 

Within a half hour, our grandson was balancing his way down the street astride his new blue bike. By the end of the day, we were all riding our bikes around the neighborhood, greeting friends from a safe distance and thanking God for giving us patience and persistence to see our efforts come to fruition. It was a wonderful way to see how all things work according to God’s perfect timing, just like it says in Ecclesiastes.

Read similar blog posts at barbhowe.org.

A Timely Book Review

One of my favorite writers to grandparents is Dr. Josh Mulvihill. His most recent book, Discipling Your Grandchildren, is another fine example of his depth of insight and passion to communicate simple, yet profound Christian messages in an easy-to-use format. Discipling Your Grandchildren is the kind of book you will pull from your personal library shelf throughout your grandparenting years.

Discipling Your Grandchildren is the kind of book you will pull from your personal library shelf throughout your grandparenting years.

Based on solid biblical principles, each chapter covers one specific aspect of discipleship. Calling upon the expertise of Jen Mulvihill and Linda Weddle, this book encourages older generations to prioritize the spiritual growth and development of their grandchildren. Methodologies include purposeful prayer, communication, meal time, and family time, as well as intentional Bible study with grandchildren of every age. Learn creative ways to share such things as long distance dinners, gifts of experiences, and a virtual tour of Israel.

Eleven topics address the intricacies of communicating with grandchildren, near or far, from birth through adulthood. Each is written with respect to the primary role of adult children, and the nuances of dealing with those whose faith may not be strong. Chapters include tips and lists of resources to enhance your effectiveness at sharing the truth of God’s Word.

My endorsement of Discipling Your Grandchildren corresponds with such notables as Valerie Bell, CEO of Awana; Cavin Harper, founder of Christian Grandparenting Network; and Dr. Rob Reinow, founder of Visionary Family Ministries. 

Discipling Your Grandchildren, which is part of the Grandparenting Matters series, is available for purchase at Bethany House Publishing,

Or at Amazon.com.