Hear Ye!

Welcome New Sisters! (click for current roster)

Merit Badge Awardees (click for latest awards)

My featured Merit Badge Awardee of the Week is … Sarah Hall!!!

Sarah Hall (#5223) has received a certificate of achievement in Make it Easy for earning a Beginner Level Let’s Get Physical Merit Badge!

“I started a new exercise regimen one month ago. I am training to run at least one 5K per month and have already completed two. I have another one scheduled for next weekend. I am not yet able to run the entire thing, but I am getting closer each time I get out there and run. I have also been doing strength training every other day to supplement my running training. So far, I haven’t missed any training days—I even ran two miles on Thanksgiving.

So far, it is going great! I haven’t done a lot of running since my high school and college days, so getting back into it has been painful and, at times, frustrating, but I have discovered a love for the sport and hope to be able to run an entire 5K by summer and then plan to start training to run 10Ks. Maybe someday, I will run a marathon! I am also hoping that my doctor visits will be a lot prettier now that I have added this sport into my life.”

Greatest Generation Merit Badge, Intermediate Level

The adorable, always humorous MBA Jane is my way of honoring our Sisterhood Merit Badge program, now with 6,129 dues-paying members who have earned an amazing number of merit badges so far—8,751 total! Take it away, MBA Jane!!! MJ 

Wondering who I am? I’m Merit Badge Awardee Jane (MBA Jane for short). In my former life   

For this week’s Each Other/Greatest Generation Intermediate Level Merit Badge, I was off to visit Gramma Barbie at the Sunny Oaks Retirement Home in Florida. Don’t get me wrong; I wasn’t just going to earn a new merit badge, I also love me some Gramma time. She’s a hoot. She promised to teach her secret family recipe for Green Bean Casserole, so I set off for Florida, my mouth watering all the way.

The drive gave me plenty of opportunities to think up new life questions for Gramma. Sometimes you know someone so well, you don’t realize what you don’t know. You know? Last time I spent time with her, she almost gave me TMI, if you know what I mean. So this time, I planned to keep her on the straight and narrow,  conversationally speaking.

Turns out, my little plan was derailed by plans of her own. The sneaky woman put me to work organizing old photographs while she gallivanted off with her friends to play bingo. Well, I admit grudgingly, this works too …


Photo by Ricardo Peralta Solis via Wikimedia Commons

By the time Gramma got back (three hours and 20 bucks richer), I had several photo albums filled with old—er, I mean to say vintage—photos, and my tummy was rumbling for some casserole. I let her thumb through my masterpiece while she talked me through her secret recipe:

Green Bean Casserole

Homemade Cream of Mushroom Soup Concentrate:
3 T unsalted butter
1 small shallot, minced (about ¼ cup)
½ cup minced crimini mushrooms
2½ T all-purpose flour
½ cup vegetable broth
½ cup whole milk
1 pinch kosher salt
2 pinches freshly ground black pepper

Start by melting the butter in a pan. Add your shallots and sauté till soft. You can add some garlic here too, if you’re feeling wild and crazy and want to stay vampire free. Sprinkle in the flour and whisk. Pour in broth and milk. Let bubble and simmer for about 5 minutes. Season.

Now it’s time to use this baby for some casserole!

Green Bean Casserole:
2 lbs haricot verts (green beans)
1 recipe Homemade Cream of Mushroom Soup Concentrate (above)
½ t kosher salt
¼ t coarse black pepper
¼ cup half-and-half
4 T unsalted butter
2 large shallots, peeled and sliced thin

Preheat your oven to 350°F.

Season a pot of boiling water with a few pinches of salt. Drop in the beans and cook for 3-4 minutes. Remove and immediately plunge the beans into icy water for a minute or two. Remove to a colander and pat dry.


Photo by Warden via Wikimedia Commons

Add the blanched beans to a large bowl. Pour the homemade cream of mushroom soup over top. Season with kosher salt and black pepper and pour in the half-and-half.

Toss the beans around until coated and place them into a 1½ to 2-qt baking dish. Pop into your preheated oven and bake for 30-40 minutes, or until the beans are fork tender. Toss the green beans once halfway through baking.

Meanwhile, melt the butter in a skillet. Add the sliced shallots and stir every so often until they start crisping up. Once they’ve reached a golden color {but not too deep} remove with a slotted spoon to a paper towel lined dish, where they will continue to crisp as they cool.

With 10 minutes remaining on the clock, remove the casserole and top with the shallots. Bake for 8-10 minutes, until the shallots turn a deep golden. Watch carefully so they don’t burn. Let the casserole rest for 5 minutes before serving.


Hear Ye!

Welcome New Sisters! (click for current roster)

Merit Badge Awardees (click for latest awards)

My featured Merit Badge Awardee of the Week is … Nancy Boyd!!!

Nancy Boyd (#2508) has received a certificate of achievement in Garden Gate for earning a Beginner Level Birds Merit Badge!

“My research began with the book entitled Birds of Ohio Field Guide written by Stan Tekiela. I also went onto the Ohio Department of Natural Resources website and searched for birds native to Ohio. There, I found a Field Checklist for Birds of Ohio that was downloadable to my computer. I also printed out a copy of this book for use when I am visiting any of our state parks or the nature center at Blackwoods Metro Park here in the Columbus, Ohio, area. The birds that I have on my “wish list” for right now would be the Ring-necked Pheasant, Mourning Dove, Ruby-throated Hummingbird, any of the Owls here in Ohio, Cardinal, Blue Jay, House Finch, Purple Finch, and the Great Blue Heron.

This turned out fabulous. I now have a list of birds specific to Ohio that I was able to download from the State’s Natural Resources site. This will allow me to keep track of birds that I would like to see or have seen here in Ohio. That along with my Birds of Ohio Field Guide by Stan Tekiela will allow me to look up the birds and learn specifics on the bird.”


Carol’s Creations

If you’re a regular reader of my Raising Jane blog, you’ve probably noticed some adorable little junk sculptures in our recent “farmgirl romance” photos. They’re the creations of Carol Hill, my magazine designer. (We’ve just finished our Feb/March issue, “Celebrating 15 Years,” and Carol’s designed every issue except for the Premiere issue!)

This fall, Carol discovered a passion for repurposing all kinds of found objects into unique works of art. Carol says her interest was piqued when she discovered that a woman in her ukulele group (another of Carol’s passions is playing the ukulele), Shelly Gilmore, made beautiful large-scale yard art out of old metal findings. (You’ll be able to see Shelly’s art in an upcoming issue of MaryJanesFarm.)


Carol asked Shelly to make her a front-porch railing and promised her that she’d supply the materials. So, off to yard sales, old barns, and friends’ shops she went, and in the process, discovered lots of smaller items that were just too interesting to pass up. She wasn’t interested in drilling and welding, but thought if she could just glue things together and keep her sculptures small, it would be a good hobby to do at the dining room table. An evening spent browsing “assemblages” on Pinterest, and she was hooked.

Carol had already “decorated” her 1971 VW Bug (retired now for a few years) with year-round permanent décor using 100% silicone sealant, so she knew that would be a good choice to hold together her creations. A quick trip to the hardware store for a few staples, and off she went on a brand-new adventure.


Carol says, “I’ve always been a collector of kitschy things—my house is filled with knick-knacks and antique treasures. But I have an offbeat sense of style, so I often see the beauty in things that others may pass right by. My junk sculptures give me a chance to use things that catch my eye, but don’t have much use on their own. In the sculpture above, for instance, I started with an old bottle that had been dug up in a friend’s garden (leaving the dirt intact), added a split walnut I found on a path here at the farm that reminded me of an owl (as well as its perfect heart-shaped interior) for a head, an antique button that I turned upside-down for a hat, an old rusty nut and washer for a neck and shoulders shape, two adorable old pink cup hooks for arms, a decorative butterfly for wings, a scrap of lace from MaryJane’s stash, a Bingo number I found somewhere, and two colorful beads from my jewelry box.”


“I call the girl above ‘Zaza Zen.’ She’s made from a little vase of a girl’s torso that I’ve had for years, set atop a cut-glass votive holder, and topped with a doll head I found at a garage sale. She’s decorated with a strip of red sequins with lace peeking out the bottom to cover up the transition from the bust to the candle holder, a strip of red ribbon from a Tibetan lama, a piece of beaded holiday garland, and a precious little beaded earring in the shape of a girl that I long ago lost the mate to. Her hat is an incense burner with a quartz crystal cluster on top.”


“This tiny guy (note the scale when you notice that his arms are replacement bulbs for mini Christmas lights) came to life when a friend, hearing of my new adventures, gave me the little knob that became a head. She said she had noticed it on a walk and admired its shape and age (it looks like an old Bakelite knob), but didn’t know what to do with it. I found a little bottle for a body, added more rusty nuts for shoulders and feet, and topped it off with a souvenir thimble from Cody, Wyoming, a wild bead, and a wooden star, and called him ‘Marshall Cody’.”

“I find that making these junk sculptures are the perfect pastime for me … they combine my love of precious old things and kitschy new things and don’t require a large chunk of time all at once—there’s a fair amount of waiting involved while you’re waiting for glue to dry before you can turn the pieces over to work on another side. After using my creative juices all day to design a magazine, I find I only have small increments of time that can hold my interest for other creative projects. But for now, I’m on a roll … in just over a month, I’ve made about 20 sculptures! Coming up next? I’ll have to build a running shelf around my living room to display them all!”

Hear Ye!

Welcome New Sisters! (click for current roster)

Merit Badge Awardees (click for latest awards)

My featured Merit Badge Awardee of the Week is … Sherrilyn Askew!!!

Sherrilyn Askew (#1350) has received a certificate of achievement in Outpost for earning an Expert Level Rocks & Minerals Merit Badge!

“I have collected over 10 specimens of rocks and minerals, and identified them to the best of my and my reference books’ ability. A number of them are gemstones.

All these specimens were found within the United States (either in the dirt or the rock museum), mostly in the southeast.

Rocks 002

Left to right by column: cut stones (topaz, ruby, garnet, amethyst, tourmaline, and aquamarine), fluorite, aquamarine, silver topaz, amethyst, emerald, peridot, smoky quartz, ruby, green tourmaline, olivine, black/green tourmaline, calcite (maybe), and granite.

I found some of these rocks in Alaska. Unfortunately, someone took my favorite one, which was a perfectly round piece of granite. He was going to slice it in half for me and he never gave it back.”



Recipes Merit Badge, Expert Level

The adorable, always humorous MBA Jane is my way of honoring our Sisterhood Merit Badge program, now with 6,129 dues-paying members who have earned an amazing number of merit badges so far—8,751 total! Take it away, MBA Jane!!! MJ 

Wondering who I am? I’m Merit Badge Awardee Jane (MBA Jane for short). In my former life   

For this week’s Farm Kitchen/Recipes Expert Level Merit Badge, I hosted a lover-ly (channeling Eliza Doolittle) dinner party for my nearest and dearest. But not just your average dinner party, with take-out or delivery pizza, oh no! Never let it be said, farmgirls, that this girl doesn’t know how to party.

And by “party,” I mean—of course—eat concoctions made from passed-down family recipes until I burst. I had been collecting the recipes for some time now, preserving them (Get it? Preserves? Like Uncle Ed’s lemon preserves? HA! Just a little Farm Kitchen humor there.), gifting the results, and basically eating myself into a coma. Not really, but it was a close call the weekend I attempted perfecting Great Grandfather’s caramel torte recipe. A helpful note from me to you: too much caramel does not a happy belly make.


Julaftonen by Carl Larsson 1904 via Wikimedia Commons

Anyway …

A dear friend of mine reminded me that not all of us really have families who A. cooked, or B. passed anything down, but I could share some of my kooky family members with you, if you’d like. I mean, let’s face it, some of us have a few more than our fair share, so we’ll be generous. In the words of Cary Grant in Arsenic and Old Lace, ”Insanity runs in my family. It practically gallops.”


‘Christmas Comes But Once A Year’ by Charles Green via Wikimedia Commons

Gramma Barbie’s Famous Horseradish Deviled Eggs


6 eggs
3 T mayonnaise
1½ T prepared horseradish
¼ t black pepper
¼ t salt

1. Place eggs in a medium saucepan and cover completely with water. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat; boil for 2 minutes. Remove from heat, cover, and let stand for 10 minutes. Rinse with cold water.
2. Using a sharp knife, cut off the top third of one unpeeled egg. Carefully scoop out both the egg white and yolk from both sides of the shell into a medium bowl, reserving the larger portion of the shell. Repeat with all eggs.
3. Add remaining ingredients to eggs and mash together until smooth.
4. Spoon or pipe mixture into the reserved shells and decorate as desired.

Aunt MJ’s Glamping Asian Chicken Slaw

This recipe can be made ahead of time and put in your cooler, or it can be assembled at your campsite.

2 skinless chicken breasts, cooked and diced
4 cups Napa cabbage, thinly sliced
½ cup green onions, thinly sliced
3 T rice vinegar
2 T peanut oil
1 t sesame oil
1 T fresh ginger, peeled and minced
1 t sugar

1. In a large bowl, combine chicken, cabbage, and onions.
2. Add remaining ingredients and toss to blend. Add salt and pepper to taste.
3. Serve as a salad or fill pita pockets.

Light the Way Merit Badge, Expert Level

The adorable, always humorous MBA Jane is my way of honoring our Sisterhood Merit Badge program, now with 6,129 dues-paying members who have earned an amazing number of merit badges so far—8,751 total! Take it away, MBA Jane!!! MJ 

Wondering who I am? I’m Merit Badge Awardee Jane (MBA Jane for short). In my former life   

For this week’s Make It Easy/Light the Way Expert Level Merit Badge, I rolled up my flannel sleeves, channeled my inner lumberjack, sharpened my ax (Yes, I have an ax! Farmgirl here, dontcha know?) and got to chopping. Yes, I know, mid-winter isn’t exactly the time of year to be thinking of this chore, but to be honest, I underestimated how much lumber I would need and, truthfully, I can only store so much at one time, right? I mean, I need room on my back porch for craft projects, too. Like my Automatic Needle Threading Machine 3000 (it takes a lot of space).

But now, I’m about to break my own Wood Chopping and Stacking record, all in the name of Merit Badges! And a little in the name of Warm Toes, if we’re honest. Just like Honest Abe.


The Railsplitter. Abraham Lincoln here despicted as a young man chopping wood, 1909, via Wikimedia Commons.

First—since I’m not a young whippersnapper anymore—I stretched. Yes siree, I recommend a good loosening up of the ol’ pectorals, biceps, triceps, and uh … elbowceps? Is there a badge for learning anatomy?

After my short but sweet warm-up session, I did a quick jog around the house a few times to keep my adrenaline pumping and my metabolism working. And by “a quick jog around the house a few times,” I naturally mean, a quick tour of the fridge and the contents therein. Nourishment found and hunger abated, I resolved to get started for real this time.

After a quick cuppa tea.

A girl needs her strength, okay?

Okay, seriously now, I’m down to two pieces of kindling and a demolished chair someone left out by their curb. I really need some firewood, stat.

Stop distracting me, already!

I settled into my chopping with reckless abandon. (That’s just a literary term. Don’t chop wood with reckless abandon, peeps—that would be … well, reckless).


Photo by Kreuzschnabel via Wikimedia Commons

After laying down a good foundation, I started getting fancy with my stacking skillz. That’s right, folks, you’re looking at a Lincoln Log Queen, so don’t think I’m just going to stack the regular way. Leave that to the amateurs! I won’t settle for anything less than a high-quality, awe-inspiring, Taj Mahal of pine. The Eiffel Tower of ponderosa. The Buckingham Palace of fir.

Buckingham Palace? Now I need a tea break.


Isidore Verheyden – Afternoon Tea, 1905 via Wikimedia Commons

*several hours later*

It’s starting to shape up. My pectoids and my trapezius cuffs (??) are burning, but my masterpiece is looking aMAYzing. A little crooked, but that’s alright. Esthetics aren’t everything in this art form. There’s also form, shape, size, weight, imagination, and creativity. And the little dance you do when you get too much bark in your socks. Or when a rogue squirrel flies outta nowhere.

I wasn’t going to stop, by golly, until a neighbor wandered over to say the magical words. You fellow choppers know the ones I’m talking about:

Nice stack you got there, Jane.


Photo by Feci1024 via Wikimedia Commons

Any time now. They’re coming. I can feel it.

Any time.


Hear ye!

Welcome New Sisters! (click for current roster)

Merit Badge Awardees (click for latest awards)

My featured Merit Badge Awardee of the Week is … Linda Van Ausdell!!!

Linda Van Ausdell (#4347) has received a certificate of achievement in Farm Kitchen for earning an Intermediate Level Recipes Merit Badge!

“After I gathered up recipes with my mom, I put them in the computer and created a recipe book. I love the way it turned out. I’m glad it’s on the computer—I think I will get requests for the recipe book from other relatives.”


Homespun Christmas Merit Badge, Expert Level, Part II

The adorable, always humorous MBA Jane is my way of honoring our Sisterhood Merit Badge program, now with 6,102 dues-paying members who have earned an amazing number of merit badges so far—8,722 total! Take it away, MBA Jane!!! MJ 

Wondering who I am? I’m Merit Badge Awardee Jane (MBA Jane for short). In my former life   

For this week’s Stitching and Crafting/Homespun Christmas Expert Level Merit Badge (Part II), I lovingly wrapped up the triplets’ homemade holiday gifts, and got to work on the grownup people of my life. There are so many friends I want to shower with presents, it’s hard to know where to start. Thank goodness for large cookie recipes, am I right? It never hurts to have extras lying around the kitchen during the month of December for those drop-ins you might have forgotten to shop for (I mean, craft for). And it never hurts to eat them.

The cookies, I mean.

Ideas …


Heat Therapy Packs for Gramma Barbie
• 1 pillowcase (will make three heat packs)
• Rice
• Essential oils or dried herbs

Cut pillowcase into three even rectangles. Sew bottom(s) closed. Stuff. Hand-stitch opening. Personalize with applique or ribbon/lace, if desired. Include directions to microwave for two minutes.


Photo, http://creativecaincabin.com/2014/07/august-felt-patterns/

Porcupine Pincushion for the sewers in your life
• Felt
• Needle and thread
• Stuffing
• Collection of pins

Cut out the shape of your porcupine, using free Internet downloadable patterns or freestyle your own. It doesn’t have to be a porcupine, of course, but they look adorable with pins … instead of disturbing.


Photo Coasters for family
• 4×4″ tiles (they’re about .16 each at home-improvement stores, such as Lowes, but I see them offered for free on Craigslist.com quite often. Or you might have a stack left over from your last tiling project)
• Mod Podge
• Sponge brush
• Felt
• Photos
• Clear acrylic spray

Trim your photo and felt to exactly match the size of your tiles. Glue felt to the bottom of the tile with regular glue, and the photo to the top with the Mod Podge and your sponge brush. Mod Podge the top of your photo as well. It will dry clear, so just use a nice, thin coat. After it dries, waterproof your masterpiece with the clear acrylic spray. Adorbs!


Coffee/Tea Hot Cup Sleeves for your warm beverage drinkers
• A coffee sleeve from your friendly neighborhood barista to use as a pattern
• Felt
• A cute button
• A small piece of grosgrain ribbon
• Hot glue, or needle and thread

Using your cardboard sleeve as a pattern, cut your felt to size. (If you’re a knitter, you could skip the felt and knit your coffee sleeve instead). Glue or sew your button on one side and your ribbon on the other. Mmm! Did somebody suggest a Candy Cane Mocha with whip?


Photo by MarissaHuber via Flickr.com

Leg Warmers/Boot Socks for the Fashion Divas in your life
• A sweater
• A bit of lace

Remove the arms of your sweater for the legs of your warmers. Attach lace to the top. (An alternative adornment to lace would be a couple large buttons.) Hem edges to prevent fraying (depending on fabric).

What’s more fun: making these gifts, giving them, or getting them? Let me know!