Our Favorite Pies

Thanksgiving wouldn’t feel right without pies. Growing up, we’d bake as many as 15 pies for the holiday. Whenever my dad would remind us that this was almost 2 pies each, we’d stop to consider this fact and then keep baking anyway. We’d have leftovers for a week.

I don’t make that many pies anymore. We usually whittle it down to three or four kinds we love most and that’s what we have for Thanksgiving.

Here are recipes for our three most requested pies and the pie crust recipe I use. 

I’ve never been good at pie crusts. That’s why I was so happy to get this recipe for shortbread crust in my family and friends cookbook. I use it without sugar for all my savory pies (we like quiche, shepherd’s pie, and chicken pot pie).

Shortbread Pie Crust

  • 1-1/2 cups flour
  • 1-1/2 tbsp sugar (may omit)
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 2 tbsp milk
  • 1/2 cup oil

Mix together with a fork until moistened. Press into the bottom of two 9 inch pie plates. Prick the bottom of the crust if pre-baking (10 minutes at 400°). Otherwise add filling and bake according to pie recipe directions

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The first year we were in Africa, I realized I couldn’t get corn syrup. My husband loves pecan pie and his parents had sent us some just for Thanksgiving pies. A friend who was a missionary in Russia at the time gave me her recipe for Pecan Pie made with sugar instead of corn syrup. We all think it tastes better.

We have to bring our pecans from the US. This year I’m using pecans I got in Georgia last year while we were on our way to visit my sister — and driving straight into Hurricane Matthew. 

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Pecan Pie

  • 1 cup light brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup white sugar
  • 1/2 cup butter
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tbsp all purpose flour
  • 1 tbsp milk
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 1 cup chopped pecans

Place in a 9 inch pie crust. Bake at 350° for 1 hour.

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Pumpkin Pie

  • 2 eggs
  • 2 cups pumpkin
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp ginger
  • 1/4 tsp. cloves
  • 1-2/3 cup evaporated milk or light cream (I use milk)

Add all ingredients together in a blender and blend until smooth. Pour into a deep 9 or regular 10 inch pie crust. Bake at 350° for approximately an hour or until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean.

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Sour Cream Raisin Pie is, hands down, my favorite pie ever. I’ve had people say it sounds gross and then fall in love once they tried it. The one and only time I ever won a cooking contest was with this pie recipe.

Sour Cream Raisin Pie

  • 1 baked pie shell
  • Wash 1 cup raisins
  • Add 1 cup water
  • Boil together for 5 minutes
  • In a separate bowl mix together:
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup sour cream (can use yogurt)
  • 3 level tbsp corn starch
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 2 eggs

Pour sour cream mixture over boiled raisins. Cook until thick, stirring constantly (only a few minutes). Pour into baked shell and cool.


How’s Africa? – Turkey!

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Let me introduce you to our Thanksgiving turkey. No, he didn’t have a name. We didn’t know him long enough to give him one. 

James mentioned to one of our national pastors, Zizi, that we were interested in buying a turkey or two. Zizi knew of a man in the church who had two for sale for a price we were willing to pay.

The man brought the turkeys to church so we could see them before we bought them. This guy was huge! 

I’ll spare you the gory pictures but they killed the turkeys right there at church in a storage room behind Zizi’s house. They plucked them and gutted them and we brought home two turkeys ready to cook.

I popped the turkey right into the roaster and let it slow cook all night. It filled the whole roaster full — at least 22 pounds worth of bird, maybe more! The next morning, I carved it and froze the meat. Then I made bone broth for the dressing.

That’s one thing about living here in Uganda that you don’t get to experience in the US unless you hunt for or raise your meat. You get to be up close and personal with all your food from start to finish.


A few weeks ago, when we were at Ngarama, sitting in the sun because the roof was off, I encouraged the children to pray for God’s provision for their church building. Many of the adults were already there for church so they heard me too.

I had Theogene read this verse to them: 

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Then I asked the children, “How many of you will pray for God to provide for your church to be fixed?”

All of the children and adults raised their hands. Some raised both hands. 😀

Guess what? God did just as He promised he would do. He provided for the church to be fixed!

More and more I’m coming to the conclusion that God is waiting to answer the prayers of our church people. He wants them to see that their provision comes from Him. It might come through us, but we are merely a vessel, a conduit of His blessings. We can’t do anything without Him, but as we abide in Him, He uses us. 

All I know, is that we’d been asking for God to provide for this need for months. He waited until our church folks saw the need for what it was and asked Him for it. Then he provided for them.

James contacted the engineer so he could get started. They’ve been working on the building for a couple weeks now. Last Sunday we stopped by the church for pictures on our way home from Sangano. They’d taken down the walls that were broken, and torn up the cement floor so it could be replaced. Loads of construction materials had been brought to the church and dropped off.

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They’d hoped to have the roof on by this week, but didn’t quite get that far. The church folks had to sit out in the sun for one more Sunday. 

The walls are all built and the trusses have been delivered. They have the openings ready for the metal doors and windows.

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It should be finished by the beginning of December. No one minded sitting in the sun today. They are excited and proud of how good it looks. The engineer has hired people from the church to help with the work. Their hands are helping build their church. 

The best part is, they know that God answered when they asked.


Friday Funny – Garlic Shampoo

When I wash my hair, I like to come away smelling like freshly minced garlic, don’t you?

Guaranteed to keep the vampires away – or your money back!

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(Actual shampoo/conditioner for sale at a local grocery store.)


Novel Planning – Part 7 – Draft Zero

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The final novel planning method we’re going to look at is called Draft Zero or Zero Draft. This is the draft that comes before your first draft. (Here is another downloadable document that tells about it.) It’s one step beyond “pantsing” your first draft. (Pantsing means writing your novel with little to no planning whatsoever. You start with an idea for a novel and then let the story flow from there.)

Draft Zero

  • Sit down with a blank page and write quickly everything that comes to mind. 
  • Write your main story idea in a sentence or two.
  • Jot down every thought you have about your story.
  • Note specific plot points you want to cover.
  • You can leave large sections of plot blank or use terms like “stuff happened” and come back to these later, even while you are writing your first draft.
  • Don’t get bogged down with details, unless you need to get those details written out so you can progress to another part of the story.
  • Story elements don’t have to be written in order, as long as you know where they belong in your first draft. You can rearrange them later.

Hopefully one of the novel planning methods we’ve covered will help you plan and write your novel! Have fun with it. Novel writing is work, but it is also enjoyable!


How’s Africa? – Load Shedding

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You’re sitting in your living room on a Friday night watching a movie as a family. The power blinks. You realize town power has gone off and your house is now running on the back-up battery power. You look at the clock. It’s 7 PM. You know it’s probably load shedding and the power will be off all night.

What is load shedding? you might ask.

Load shedding = turning off power to part of the grid, or load, so the rest of the grid has has full power (instead of a brown out – dim lights, not enough power to run appliances, etc.). In other words, part of the power load has been shed. So load shedding.

Load shedding is a way of life in many parts of the world. With only about 30% of the population of Uganda connected to power in the first place, electricity is often not seen as a necessity of life.

Certain times of the year, we plan to have the power off at least 3 days a week. It’s not so much of a hassle during daylight hours. We have solar power to run our house. But at night it’s more of a challenge.

We hadn’t been here long when we invested in a battery back-up system – or batteries and an inverter strong enough to power most things in our house. We can run lights, some fans, and the fridge, and even do laundry during the day because we use a power efficient washer. The batteries won’t run our water heater or dryer. We can run the freezer on them during daylight hours when the sun is shining but we have to turn it off at night if the power is off. As long as you keep the freezer shut, everything stays frozen and it’s not a big deal.

We keep flashlights handy for those times when things don’t work like they should. Thankfully, those times are rare. 

One example of this happened when we’d only been here a couple years. The power company was load shedding three days a week for 18-24 hours at a time, but they started leaving it off longer. We didn’t even have enough time with the power on to fully charge our batteries for when it would go off again.

Another example is when we’ve had a cloudy day, so there was no solar power coming in. If the power is off that night, it’s really off for us. 

Next time you flip on a light or open your freezer or throw a load of laundry in the dryer, pray for missionaries in places without reliable power that God will give them grace to handle this aspect of culture stress.


Why I Do NaNoWriMo Every Year

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NaNoWriMo has started this year! I love NaNoWriMo and look forward to it every year. I talked about my history with NaNoWriMo in a blog post last year. This year some of my children are participating with me.

I’ve read articles recently criticizing NaNoWriMo. There seems to be a lot of misunderstanding about this event. I’m hoping to clarify some of that in this post.

You might wonder why I do NaNoWriMo every year. Why put myself through the ordeal of writing a novel in a month? I have several good reasons.

1. My time is limited.

I manage to keep pretty busy the rest of the year. NaNoWriMo is one month when I can focus on my writing. I love writing. I’ve been writing since I was a small child. NaNoWriMo gives me a reason to spend a month getting novel ideas out of my head and onto paper, without compromising everything else I need to do the rest of the time. Just by writing one or two months out of the year, I’ve been able to finish 9 novels in the last 7 years. That’s pretty good, if you ask me!

2. It’s only 1667 words a day.

In reality, it only takes an hour or two to write the daily word count. To be fair, if you have something scheduled every hour of the day, fitting in that hour or two of writing is a challenge. I get that. Sundays are hard for me. We come home from church and I’m tired. My brain doesn’t want to think about 1700 words of a novel. But once I get going and the words flow, it doesn’t seem like that long before I’m done.

I try to work ahead a little every day just in case there are days I can’t write. It’s nice to have that cushion there when life rears its ugly head and gets in the way of writing time. I also try to get my NaNoWriMo writing out of the way early in the day so the rest of the day doesn’t squeeze out time I’d have for that. It doesn’t always work, but it helps.

3. It gives me a chance to teach something I love to my children.

I’ve used NaNoWriMo to teach creative writing to all my children. Some of them have even written 30,000+ words. This year I taught the class to my youngest, who is excited to get started on her novel. If it goes anything like her older siblings, she’ll do well to write 300 words. But that isn’t the point. The point is she learned how stories are made. She learned about basic plot and how to develop characters.

This isn’t only important for those who want to write. It’s good for readers to learn it too. You learn to recognize plot devices and tropes that are used in most books. You learn to be discerning about what you read, because you recognize the author had a choice when they wrote it. 

4. A first draft is a first draft.

It doesn’t matter if it takes 30 days or 30 years, a first draft is still a first draft. No one ends up with a perfect first draft. It will require editing and revising. That’s okay. 

The goal of the first draft – what you end up with after NaNoWriMo – is words on a page that you can work with. Some authors prefer to edit as they go and that’s fine. However, they still have to get words on the page, the same as someone who does NaNoWriMo and doesn’t edit until the first draft is complete.

I can spend the rest of the year editing that first draft a little at a time, but it’s harder to find the time to write it in the first place.

5. I “won” NaNoWriMo because I challenged myself, set a goal, and met it.

I’ve seen lists of books written during NaNoWriMo where the authors were referred to as “winners” of NaNoWriMo. This is a misnomer. Maybe they did win and maybe they didn’t. Their published book is not a reflection of their completion of NaNoWriMo.

Everyone who finishes 50,000 words between November 1 and 30 is a winner, whether that book ever gets published or not. Some people who participate don’t even have publication as a goal.

So, really, it’s a challenge I give myself. Every year I stare down the barrel of November 1 and think “Can I do it this year? Can I write 50,000 words this month? Did I plan enough material to finish this novel? Is it even worth writing?” Every year, I have to sit down, do the work, and meet the goal. One word after another. One sentence. One paragraph. One chapter. Until it makes a book.