Brown Sugar Cookies

Howdy, friends. Is it cookie baking season at your place, too? Seems like I have an even bigger challenge than usual, this time of the year, keeping our cookie jar filled with homemade goodies for my tribe!

Today, I would like to share with you one of my oldest and most-used cookie recipes. Brown sugar cookies are a favorite of all around here, and this recipe makes a whole bunch of cookies... plenty for sharing or gifting or decorating. And maybe-just-maybe for keeping the cookie jar full for a few days. Maybe. {smile}

Here is the recipe for you ~

Brown Sugar Cookies

Preheat oven to 350 degrees (F).


5 cups unbleached all purpose flour
4 teaspoons cream of tartar
4 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup butter, softened
1 cup all vegetable shortening
4 Tablespoons warm water
2 cups dark brown sugar, packed
1 cup granulated white sugar
2 large eggs
4 teaspoons vanilla extract
11 oz bag (about 2 cups) baking chips, optional


In a mixing bowl sift together the all purpose flour, cream of tartar, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.

In a large mixing bowl (or the bowl of a stand mixer) cream together the butter, vegetable shortening, water, brown sugar, and white sugar. Break the eggs and add them to the creamed mixture, and add the vanilla extract. Mix well. Add the flour mixture to the creamed mixture and combine all ingredients thoroughly. Add the baking chips, if you choose to use them, and stir well.

Note ~ for this particular batch of brown sugar cookies I added two cups of butterscotch flavored baking chips and they were delicious! I encourage you to try any flavor you like!

Using a teaspoon, drop balls of cookie dough onto ungreased baking sheets, spacing them about 2 inches apart. Bake in a preheated 350 degree (F) oven for about 10 to 12 minutes, or until the cookies are set around the edges and lightly browned on top.

Once the cookies are done, carefully remove the baking sheets from the oven and transfer the cookies to a wire rack to cool completely. Store cooled cookies in a covered container.

I hope you like these yummy brown sugar cookies as much as we do.


weekend on the farm

Matilda had a small herd of deer hanging out near her space over the weekend. I love how Matilda just does her own thing... she rarely pays any attention to the many deer that visit our farm.

There have been lots of mule deer in the vicinity once again. I haven't yet seen the big buck I enjoyed watching so often last summer and early fall, but there have been other bucks and lots of does wandering about.

I was thinking the other day that Matilda is starting to get up there in age, for a cow. She came to our farm almost nine years ago, when she was three years old. So that puts her at about twelve years old. We haven't milked her for several years and have no plans to have her bred again (thus, no more milk from her) but the desire for another milk cow occasionally niggles into my homesteading hopes and dreams... we'll see what the Lord has in store for us.

Our grown daughter was home for part of the weekend and brought my grand-dog with her, of course. Juno is such a sweet and quiet dog... and her quietness is perhaps most apparent when my boisterous dog Jack is around.

Oh, how I do love these two.



It did indeed bring forth a giggle... after spending much of the day cleaning and scrubbing and giving our cozy little house a nice freshening, our family fun night activity was all about sprinkles and sugar and frosting. Ha!

But the mess was worth it (as messes usually are, I think) and we had a grand time decorating the white cookies we had baked for just that purpose. We only had about three dozen cookies to adorn, so we made a small batch of white powdered sugar and egg nog icing (rather than several colors, as we often do when we have lots of cookies) and let our creativity shine.

This cookie that was decorated by one of the children was voted the evening's best dressed creation. So festive! (and tasty!)


A Grateful Heart

Happy Friday to you, friends. Mmm, it smells *so* good at our place right now... the lingering pine scent from the candle I burned earlier today mingling with the cinnamon of the pine cones in my basket atop the piano and the soup I made for our lunch. The pizza crusts for tonight just came out of the oven and my bread is baking. It blends together with the seasonal scents so nicely!

Next, I am going to mix up some white cookies and get them baked so we can decorate them with frosting and Christmas-y sprinkles for our family fun night activity later tonight. And then I suppose it will be time to get our homemade pizzas in the oven.

We got so much done around the house today. Homeschooling and daily tasks and more! My oldest at-home daughter was off work so together we cleaned, cleaned, and cleaned some more. We washed cupboards and cleaned appliances and deep cleaned carpets and even vacuumed inside the floor vents and washed the vent covers. Yes, it was a big cleaning day *and* a busy baking day, too. {smile}

Here are some of the things on my gratitude list today ~

:: The love of God. That God would shower me, a sinner, with His perfect unfailing love and matchless grace simply takes my breath away. My personal devotions and our family Advent readings have really brought my focus around to where it should be this season and always... on Jesus.

:: My big family. The time we spend together, our conversations, our adventures. I could never have guessed when my dear hubby and I became high school sweethearts so many years ago that we would be here now... happily married for almost thirty years, the parents of eight children, homesteading on a mountainside farm, debt-free, growing in self-sufficiency as God allows. Quite imperfect we are, and so thankful and blessed. Praise the Lord!

:: Jack. Oh, the joy my dog has brought into my life since he joined our family last December. He is such a good and loyal friend. I did indeed *need* that boisterous yellow Labrador Retriever.

:: Our barnyard. Matilda, the goats, our chickens and ducks, our oh-so-old miniature horse. Those very critters have been with us for years and years. Such happiness they bring to our farm and our lives. And so excited we are to add to our barnyard - our eighteen year farmiversary conversation was such a reminder to us that our animals add to our homesteading experience immeasurably.

Thank you for coming by my blog today. It brings me great joy to write and share in this space (and this one and this one) . . . I do hope that my words about our simple ordinary life somehow point my readers to God and His grace and goodness. That would make me very happy.



It is our farmiversary, friends! Eighteen years ago today, we packed up our then-small tribe and made the move from town to our own twenty-acre piece of land in the mountains. A real homestead of our own... I could not have been more tickled. And today, all of these many years later, I do believe that I love the simple homesteading life more than ever.

Since we moved to our farm, two of our children have grown up and moved away from home. And five more babies have been born into our family... three of them born right here at home, and two at a nearby birth center... bringing our family size to ten. Our six children-at-home now range in age from seven years to nineteen years old.

These are happy-busy years indeed. Projects and makings and doings abound. How blessed we are.

Last night around the supper table, we laughed and talked and remembered together some of the reasons we cherish our family homestead. It was quite a conversation and I thought it would be fun to record in this space some of the words and thoughts shared between us.

"What is one of the things you love about life on our farm?" I asked. And here are some of the responses I got . . .

The wildlife.
Oh my, the wildlife! Through the years on our mountainside homestead we have seen on our property ~ elk, deer, antelope, black bears, owls and lots of birds of prey, marmots, songbirds, cranes, foxes, coyotes, snakes, badgers, weasels, skunks, jackrabbits, cotton tails, and moose.

Baby animals.
Assisting with animal births, cuddling and feeding baby goats, and bottle-feeding a calf we raised several years ago. Chicks, ducklings. Kittens. Bunnies. Everyone loves babies around here.

Our barnyard.
It has been a varied barnyard through the years as we have experimented with raising different species and breeds of critters. We currently have my Jersey cow-friend Matilda, a miniature horse, a wee herd of goats, ducks, and laying hens.

In the past, we have also raised turkeys, rabbits, chickens-for-the-freezer, a steer, and lots more dairy goats. Our hopes and dreams for the near future are to get back into it . . . Lord willing, we want to increase our flocks and herds and self-sufficiency, as God allows.

The creek.
How thankful we are to have a year-round creek in our lower pasture! It is one of our favoritest places of all.

Space to play and explore.
Hills to sled upon, running and hiking trails, our archery range in the pasture, wildflowers . . . so many lovely things for this outdoorsy crew to appreciate. My pooch Jack Kelly loves all the space and fresh air, too. {smile}

:: Jack ::
What bliss it was to sit and savor the farmiversary conversation amongst us all. That my dear hubby and I get to raise and homeschool our big family here, that we all appreciate a slow and simple life, and that we together have learned to work hard, be flexible, be content, and ever-trusting of God who has blessed us so.

Eighteen wonderful years on our homestead! Like I said when we celebrated seventeen years here, I do hope it is merely the beginning.


Simply Christmas

It is indeed beginning to look rather festive and Christmas-y at our place! We have been decking our halls, singing Christmas hymns, doing Advent readings, and practicing familiar Christmas songs on our trusty old piano. And there is even some snow on the ground... yes!

And we did, over the weekend, make together a yummy batch of peppermint candy sprinkled white chocolate dipped pretzels. They were delicious! We plan to make them again before Christmas (maybe just maybe they will last longer than a day? with our big tribe, probably not...) *smile*

I have greatly simplified my Christmas decorating over the years. In our cozy little house that is filled to its brim with children and pets and homeschooling supplies and crafty things and ... well, it causes me to be rather choosy to display seasonal items that we truly enjoy. Things we think are beautiful and that really have meaning for us.

Not to mention that we have a Christmas Eve birthday *and* a New Year's Day birthday (so blessed to have holiday babies!) in our family, so this season of decorating and celebrating is Christmas and more! at our place, as we all focus on the birth of the Savior of the world.

Some time ago, I had several Nativity sets, but this is the one I have kept through the years. It sits in its traditional spot atop our piano. I recently picked up the cute basket at our thrift store... I will be filling it with cinnamon scented pine cones that my dear hubby found for me at a shop in town.

We put our Christmas tree in the dining room this year. I really like it and it isn't in the way as it was near the front door in the living room. This artificial tree is several years old and we plan to replace it eventually, but this year it just suited us as is. And, we aren't quite convinced that our boisterous and bouncy one-year-old Labrador Retriever won't be knocking it over a time or two. Ha! That Jack!

We added some strings of lights, candy canes, and lots and lots of homemade ornaments - some are mama-made, many are crafted by our children, a few are from friends - amongst the purchased and gifted and hand-me-down ones that remain in my collection.

Some of my girls and I sewed together felt bird ornaments from a kit a couple of years ago. The kids told me that I made this one, though I couldn't remember for sure which one I made.

Here is one of the heart-shaped ornaments we made from clay we collected from our creek earlier this year. They are some of my favorite ones on the tree. Homegrown and homemade they are!

And these are two of my oldest and most special ornaments. Our two oldest children made them when they were little... the Santa star was crafted by our soon-to-be thirty year old son when he was five, and the hand was made by our grown daughter when she was about that same age.

I don't tend to be very sentimental or spend much time dwelling on the past (so many lovely things to abide in and be thankful for right now!) but these two ornaments lovingly made for me by sweet little hands do bring back fond memories of Christmases gone by with my dear hubby and our kids.

The only decorating that remains is to hang the strings of colored lights around the inside of our house. Lights, lights everywhere... so twinkly and cheerful, especially with the shortened daylight hours of December.

Of course there is plenty of baking and making yet to do. Some shopping, yes, and a long list of Christmas movies we want to watch together. Presents to wrap, of course. Games to play. Our tradition of cookie decorating and gingerbread house decorating. Perhaps a drive to town to view all of the local holiday decor. Memories to make. Traditions to savor. And as always, so much to be thankful for. God is so good!


A Grateful Heart

Happy Friday evening to you, friends. Or perhaps it is already Saturday (and December!) by the time you will read this week's gratitude post here... I do believe this is the *latest* I have ever written a blog post to be published that same day! {smile}

We had a lovely family fun night of homemade pizza and putting up our Christmas tree. So many memories and stories to share as we unwrap ornaments and place them upon the branches of our artificial tree.

Oh, how I love the scent of real pine... but our artificial tree is very beautiful and works *perfectly* for us each Christmas season. We love it! We broke with tradition this year and set our tree up in our dining room, rather than the living room. It is a fun change, I think.

Our holiday decorating is rather minimal, actually. In all of our simplifying and de-cluttering we have honed our decorations and ornaments down to just the ones that we really like, and especially the ones that are handmade and crafted by the children... those are the extra-special ones. Only a few other decorations have endured for all of these years, I honestly don't miss the rest.

As I write these words, the Christmas tree is lovingly bedecked and twinkling its pretty lights beside me. This was an extra lovely family fun night.

Here are a few snippets from my ongoing gratitude list this week ~

:: All of the snow. I am enjoying the snow covered landscape, the occasional snowshoe walkabout, afternoon walks with Jack, and the crisp cold air.

:: My handyman hubby. He does so much to keep our homestead going... quite the competent do-it-himself guy, my man is. This week, he worked on his plow truck and kept the driveway clear. And indoors, he tended to a needed bathroom fix. 

:: Deer in the pasture. One of our girls looked out the window just in time to spot three mule deer right outside the yard. A buck and two does. She was excited with her discovery! 

:: Teamwork. I didn't make it to the grocery store last weekend as I had hoped to, but our girl who works in town did the shopping for me one afternoon this week after she got off work. What a blessing!

:: Peacefulness. It was *so* still and quiet when I was walking Jack in the pasture earlier today. It was lightly snowing and the only sound was our feet crunching on the ground. I purposed to abide in that moment, to soak that loveliness right into my skin. It was bliss.

:: Speaking of Jack... here he is in the dim light of a snowy afternoon, basking in the heat of the wood stove. Ah, what a good life he has. I love that dog.

Well, it is late friends. Time for me to say good-night or this will be my first post of December!


End of November on the Homestead

With but one day left in November, here is a look at some of this month's goings-on at our place...

Sledding! As soon as the snow flies, the wintry outdoor activities begin. The kids get out their sleds and Mama dusts off the snowshoes. Yes, homesteading and farm tending and all of the makings and doings of a simple life can be a lot of work, but we do a pretty good job of playing and simply enjoying the land that the Lord has blessed us with, too. {smile}

Here is one of our sweet goats, Coco, perched upon a rock to get a better view. I think our goats love watching us from their adjacent-to-the-yard space as much as we love watching them! (Is Coco *smiling* in that picture? Hmmm...)

One of my seven remaining hens, seemingly unsure about leaving the cozy coop. Not big fans of free ranging in the deep snow, those chickens of mine sometimes choose to stay in.

And then there were two peeking out of the open door, pondering a barnyard peck-about in the snow. They did eventually decide to hop out of the coop, but they took their time about it. {smile}

Our ducks, though, are undeterred by the weather and happy to spend a sunshine-y afternoon in their big open pen. It seems as though our ducks are filled with joy just about all of the time.

There is much to learn about happiness and contentedness and sticking together by watching our wee family of ducks. I just love them. And they do love the snow!

My cow-friend Matilda and her Shadow grazing in the snowy back pasture. She lifted her head when I called her name... likely wondering if I was offering her a treat. And how lovely those snow covered pine trees upon the mountain are, yes?

Inside... I am knitting dishcloths for holiday gifting with Christmas colored cotton yarn. So festive! I hope to make enough so that I can keep one or two for myself. Knitted dishcloths are so absorbent and my very favorite thing to use for washing dishes by hand.

And our upright freezer contains wild game meat once again. Praise the Lord for the blessing of hunting season success. One of our boys harvested an antelope and another got a mule deer. And there are still quite a few apples in the freezer alongside those packages of home-ground burger. We are thankful!

Another happy-busy (and rather snowy!) month of homesteading is nearly behind us. December, here we come!


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