Lauren and Mikaela--identical twins living on opposite coasts--blog about the story of life and their adventures in faith.


A Seal Upon Your Heart

"Set me as a seal upon your heart, as a seal upon your arm; for love is as strong as death, jealousy as cruel as the grave....Many waters cannot quench love, nor can the floods drown it.  If a man would give for love all the wealth of his house, it would be utterly despised."
-Song of Solomon 8:6a, 7
Something is about to begin, and Dr. Voddie Baucham is getting ready!
There's music in the air as Mikaela and I join in setting the beautiful,
romantic atmosphere.
Then, to a rousing theme, this manly group of eleven groomsmen
strode up the aisle. 
Tiniest of flower girls, hugest of smiles!
The scene was set with the mother of the bride, bell boys' joyful ringing, and
eleven bridesmaids, elegant and stunning. 
The maid of honor and the bride's sister, Cecily, was beautiful.
"Anouncing the Bridegroom!" in a reverberating voice, and then J.R. galloped across the field on his white horse, his coat floating behind him. 
The bride, Amy Ellen Bradrick, took our breath away as she made the final journey
of her maidenhood on her father's arm. 
This was a covenant marriage, a time for this young couple to dedicate their lives wholly to God.
In heartfelt prayer, we lifted our desire to God that they would have a blessed marriage, many children, and mightily advance Christ's Kingdom!
Three of the bride's brothers--Stephen, Peter, and Phillip. 
Saved for each other in purity, the first kiss of this couple was truly their very first kiss,
and it was a priceless, precious moment not to be traded
for anything!
"Introducing Mr. and Mrs. J.R. Haas!"
After a beautiful, God-honoring courtship, Amy Ellen and J.R are enjoying their
new marriage!
With the ceremony over, it was time for the festivities to begin!  One of the most
delightful aspects of the weekend was getting to see old friends again and to meet new ones.
We were thrilled to get to see Trey and Mr. Baucham again, but were equally thrilled to meet Mrs. Baucham and all the adorable little Baucham boys.  As you can see, there were almost enough cute babies to go around!
Clockwise from top left: Mama with Mrs. G; Loyal B.--in the running for the cutest baby there;  me, Trey, Elijah, and Mikaela; Cassie and me. 
All the wee ones and even some not so wee ones flocked to the hay rides!
They have to leave already?  Check out the eyes on the windshield of that snazzy car!
We saw the new couple off with bubbles, waves, smiles, and tears. 
We have known Amy Ellen for 18 years, and it was such a joy to see her and J.R
so incredibly happy in God and each other!
Fellowship with friends!
And now...English Country line dancing!  This was our first introduction to this sort of thing,
and all four of us girls and Micah were thrilled to join in.  The dances weren't difficult--
we had a fabulous dance caller and patient partners!  Susanna is shown here sashaying down the center during the Virginia Reel!
After gleefully completing one dance, we were informed that it was the very one
that Mr. Collins danced with Lizzie in Pride and Prejudice.  Insert groans here!
Dakota is attempting to teach us a very complicated dance step, just for fun. 
I had to check my feet to make certain that I did actually have a right foot.  (-:
The sun is setting, the breeze is wafting, the chinese lanterns are lit, the scent of fresh hay fills the rustic barn, the music is cued--the dancers are ready!
Whirling, twirling, laughing, clapping.
Susanna's expression sums it up--have we ever had such a
delightful, enchanting day?

"Let them praise His name with the dance;
Let them sing praises to Him with the timbrel and harp.
For the Lord takes pleasure in His people;
He will beautify the humble with salvation."
-Psalm 149:3-4

Note: Most of these pictures taken by Mama


Big Corner, Small Corner

Before the standard of “Americanism” was compared to a nine inch pastry filled with sliced pomaceous fruit, there was another, far more extensive, touchstone. “Theodore Roosevelt called it ‘the most American thing in America,’ Woodrow Wilson described it during World War I as an ‘integral part of the national defense,’ and William Jennings Bryan deemed it a ‘potent human factor in molding the mind of the nation.’ [1]” You are certainly not alone, however, if you have never heard of the Chautauqua Circuit.

This was a national pastime that began in the 19th century as a Sunday School training camp in New York, but by the 20th century had morphed into a traveling education in culture, religion, politics, history, and more. The American Symphony Orchestra of Chicago, The American Jubilee Singers, and the San Francisco Ballet Company were just a few of the world famous talents to take the stage. Lecturers such as William Jennings Bryan, the former President William Taft, and Joseph McCarthy joined hundreds of other scholars, statesmen, and preachers on the stage. Debates, plays, revival meetings, and the first correspondence school were all part of this enormous circuit that continued through the first half of the 20th century.

Undoubtedly, it would have been an honor just to attend such an event—one person commented, “[our] town was never the same after Chautauqua started coming.... It broadened our lives in many ways [2]." But to speak or perform in the circuit—could you imagine? Just one speaker who was part of Chautauqua is estimated to have reached “10,000 communities in 45 states to audiences totaling 45 million people [3].” Such an audience was nearly impossible to reach in any other way during that time, and even now would be difficult to obtain. (A TV show would perhaps be the closest one could come—and 45 million hits on a YouTube clip remains exceptional and elusive).

All of these thoughts must have been going through one young lady’s head when she was invited to speak on the tour in 1912. Excitement at the possibilities for advancing God’s kingdom filled her, but nervousness surely overcame her too at the thought of speaking before so many masses. She agreed, however, and bought her tickets, and eagerly told all her friends of the upcoming tour. Commitments were finished, her lectures were outlined, and prayers were being offered for her safe journey and Spirit-filled sessions. All that remained was to pack, say her good-byes, and be on her way. But while she was in the very act of gathering the necessities she would need for the trip, the terrible news came that her father had been seriously injured in a horseless carriage. There was nothing to be done but to call the directors of Chautauqua and cancel, to throw away her tickets, to unpack her bags, and to ask all her friends to change their prayers for her father instead of her.

What a terrible blow it was to young Ina Duley Ogdon to give up what she had hailed as an opportunity from God to glorify Him. And yet, in those quiet moments at home, nursing her father back to health, God worked in her heart. Although she could almost hear the thunderous applause of the Chautauqua audience ringing in her ears, and her poor father, in pain from the accident, could barely muster a smile, God’s pleasure warmed her soul. There would always be other Chautauquas—and there would always be other lecturers to take her place. But at that time—in that place, the world would have to wait, for God wanted her most of all in a quiet, dark sickroom. Would she have brought glory to God as part of the Chautauqua Circuit? Probably—but the glory from man was just as tempting. Now, she had no glory or thanks or notice from men, but she had all those things from God, and she gave all those things back to God.

It’s little wonder that from those sober days, so far removed from the flamboyance of Chautauqua, Ina wrote “Tho into one heart alone may fall your song of cheer, brighten the corner where you are.” Ina glorified her God best when she was where He wanted her, and her corner shone bright and true indeed. How is your corner doing?

For more about Ina Duley Ogdon, please visit our Welcome page.
If you are interested in learning about how you can help preserve Ina Duley Ogdon's home, please click here

[1] Canning, Charlotte. What Was Chautauqua? University of Austin, December 2000.
[2] Canning, Charlotte. What Was Chautauqua? University of Austin, December 2000.
[3] Canning, Charlotte. What Was Chautauqua? University of Austin, December 2000.


The Book You Shouldn't Read

 We were listening to Dave Ramsey’s radio show several days ago, and “Merle” came on the air with a voice straight from a black and white Western and an accent to match.

I was enchanted for all of ten seconds.

Merle revealed that he and his wife—a 77 and 72 year old couple—had recently become addicted to gambling. His wife would sneak out at night to gamble and had racked up $280,000 in debt, and yet somehow he still gambled because it was "just so good." I was flabbergasted and horribly depressed. Somehow, when you are nineteen, you imagine that when you are 77 you will have it all together. You will have defeated your besetting sins, you will no longer be tempted to get angry or to lie or to be selfish.  You will be that 58 years closer to Heaven, and just by virtue of proximity you should be well on your way to perfection.  I know this cannot be the case, as I misplaced my rose-tinted glasses years ago, but Merle drove that point home with a stronger and more bitter stroke than I would have liked.

But one question Dave Ramsey asked pointed my thoughts in a different direction. “Merle,” he said. “Do you go to church?” “Well, no,” Merle drawled. “Me and my wife—we haven’t been going.”

He was leaving God out. He was trying to solve his problems, conquer his addictions, and get back on track, but he was leaving God out.  He was 77 years old, with nothing figured out except that he was doing something wrong.

This devastating story instantly took my mind to the book I have been reading for the last several months—The Pursuit of Holiness by Jerry Bridges. I just finished it today, and I had to take to my keyboard right away to share its richness with you all. The foreword states: “In the Declaration of Independence, Thomas Jefferson declared that one of the inherent and unalienable rights of men is ‘the pursuit of happiness.’ Professing Christians must be brought to realize that the preeminent desire and demand of God for us is that of the continual pursuit of holiness of life, and the reflection of His own holiness. ‘Be ye holy, for I am holy.’i

Puritan writers richly influenced Jerry Bridges, and this book is filled with their quotes and steeped in their phraseology. He tackles confusing questions, and one of the most powerful sections of the book (which I had to read aloud to Mikaela and now must share with you!) says:

“In our search for answers to our sin problems, a troublesome question arises: “What should I look to God for and what am I responsible for myself?” Many are confused at this point. When we first start to live the Christian life, we confidently assume we will simply discover from the Bible what God wants us to do and start doing it. We fail to reckon with our tendency to cling to our old sinful ways. After experiencing a great deal of failure with our sinful nature, we are told that we have been trying to live the Christian life in the energy of the flesh. We need to ‘stop trying and start trusting,’ or to ‘let go and let God….’ Having experienced failure and frustration with our sin problem, we are delighted to be told that God has already done it all and that we only need to rest in Christ’s finished work….

“But after a while, if we are truly honest with ourselves, we discover we are still experiencing defeat at the hands of our sinful natures. The victory seemingly promised us still eludes us. We still struggle with pride, jealousy, materialism, impatience, and lust. We still eat too much, waste our time, criticize each other, shade the truth just a little, and indulge in a dozen other sins, all the time hating ourselves for doing them.

"Then we wonder what is wrong. ‘Why can’t I,’ we ask ourselves, ‘experience the victory described in all the books that others seem to have experienced?’ii

The Pursuit of Holiness is a relatively short book, one that I read while waiting for a music student to arrive, or while riding in the car to the grocery store, or in the early morning right after I woke up. But it’s one that I will read again, because in finishing it I realized that I am so far from holiness that I need another dose! Jerry Bridges somehow knows all the little tricks my own wicked heart comes up with to rationalize sin. “This will be the last time.” “God will forgive me.” “It’s in God’s hands to prevent me from this sin.” Or how about the trick of mentally agreeing with this article or that book, but then changing our habits not a whit? Jerry Bridges shattered my complacency with conviction. He convicted me when he wrote that “our attitude toward sin is more self-centered than God-centered. We are more concerned about our own ‘victory’ over sin than we are about the fact that our sins grieve the heart of God. We cannot tolerate failure in our struggle with sin chiefly because we are success-oriented, not because we know it is offensive to God.iii” He convicted me when he pointed out how often we purpose not to sin very much rather than, “Lord I will make it my purpose not to sin.” He asked, “Can you imagine a soldier going into battle with the aim of ‘not getting hit very much’?iv”  As much as a book like this could tend to lean towards a works-based salvation, Jerry Bridges presents a Biblically sound, balanced view of sin, holiness, God's power, our responsibility, and faith. 

So here’s a book you shouldn’t read if you plan on holding onto that one sin your flesh cherishes. Don’t read it if you don’t want tears, and heart-wrenching truth, and difficult repentance. Don’t read it if you don’t want to live a life of holiness, and don't read it if you want to be like Merle at 77, dying in sin. And don’t read it if you don’t want to step into joyful victory that's as refreshing as a warm and dewy July morning.

Just don’t say I didn’t warn you.




  Note: If you happen to decide to purchase this book, and click through the above link to do so, you would help me out greatly!  I will receive a small percentage which will not go towards iphones or nail polish or new earrings, but will instead add to my textbook, sheet music, and new books-to-review fund.  (-:

i Jerry Bridges, The Pursuit of Holiness. 2006, Nav Press, Colorado Springs, CO. Foreword, page 8, by Lockyer, Dr. Herbert.

ii Ibid. Pages 50-51.
iii Ibid.  Page 16. 
iv Ibid. Page 93.


A Little Taste of Heaven

We are home from an exhausting but delightful weekend of camping near the ocean with our church family. It was a beautiful, exhilarating few days.

With three adorable babies under the age of two, there was always a little body to hold and cuddle!

We had planned as well as impromptu music sessions, and what an encouragement it was to praise the Lord with others.

Then there was "The Great Canoe Race." Notice Lauren's determined expression, and my firm grip on the oar behind her. We weren't going to give up without a fight!

Even if that fight was against three boys with equally determined facial expressions.

Oh! Neck and neck! Who is going to make it to the dock first?

Well, the boys won, but we still had plenty to smile about after such a fun time on the lake.

Delicious food, soccer, frisbee, volleyball, dirt, achy muscles, and seven excellent sessions on Romans 6 combined to make our third annual Family Camp the best ever. I have a feeling that, come next week when the suitcases are unpacked, and the laundry is completed, and the grogginess from three consecutive late-nighters has dissipated, and the muscle aches have relaxed, we will all be looking forward to the fourth camp with great anticipation. As one man commented to me: "This must be something like heaven--constant fellowship, feasting, and worshipping God." I can't help but think he's right--though heaven will be exponentially better than any earthly comparison possible.

All pictures taken by Mama.


Tightrope Walking

We are people who take risks where they don’t count.
We are people who have misplaced fear and false courage.
One person can proudly declare his love of sky-diving, yet the same person shakes in his boots to go up to someone and say, “I love you.”
One person can brazenly risk the known consequeces to take the Lord’s name in vain, yet the same one fears to shout “Praise the Lord” in church.

We don’t mind haggling and arguing for hours wih a weary customer service phone operator when we feel the company has slighted us, yet we fear to voice our opinion and say, “Oh—you think women should have the right to choose? Well what about the baby’s right to live?”
We risk smelling milk that is two days past the expiration date, and we’ll go upside down and around in circles at an insane speed on a roller coaster (and enjoy it!), but we’re too worried about how our voice will sound to join the choir.

We’ll sure risk hurting someone’s feelings if they cut us off on the road or take advantage of us or lie to us, but we would never dare to give a saddened response to a dirty joke and say, “I don’t think that’s funny.” It could offend.
We’ll risk embarassing a friend to warn her that her slip or undergarment is showing or to tell someone he has food stuck in his teeth, but never could we conquer our fear and actually, lovingly, and Biblically warn a friend of a sin he or she has fallen into.
We’ll risk losing our very womanliness to prove we can do whatever a man can, yet we fear to do what men cannot.

We’ll risk an eternity in hell every day that we put God off. We’ll risk our lives everyday by flying down a mounain on pieces of wood or flying over a mountain in an airplane or flying up a mountain’s cliff-edged roads in a car, or simply by ambling up a path—but we’re afraid of death.
We’ll risk what people think to commit a wrong-doing, but we would be too afraid to look a person in the eyes and say, “I have something to confess to you.”

We’ll risk the trust others put in us when we renege on a promise, but we still expect them to trust us. Nevertheless, we fear to allow a sister to borrow our white shirt.
We’ll risk our purity to watch or read something questionable, but could never risk our appearance of purity by staying accountable.

You and I take these risks because we have weighed the possible benefits and very real consequences and have calculated the benefits to outweigh the consequences so heavily as to make the risk worthwhile. But of what real worth are any of the benefits for which we risk so much? Believe you me, every idle word, every day of unrepentance, every sin is a calculated risk that we take, but we grossly miscalculate the benefits by one factor: cowardice. Taking these risks against the right is just as wrong as not risking doing the right thing at all. And taking useless risks simply shows how much energy we could channel into risking obedience. Let’s call a spade a spade: failing to do the right thing is not fearfulness but cowardice.

You’ll walk a tightrope a dizzying height above the ground, with all of the rest of the world cheering you on, so long as a pot of gold or a newspaper headline or a pat on the back waits on the other side. But pose a tightrope with no fame, fortune, or glory at the end, and you are suddenly alone and overwhelmed by fears. Suddenly you’re teetering on the edge, staring down at the bald heads of skyscrapers—you see nothing but a microscopic cable, and on the other side you spot Mockery and Embarassment waiting as your reward. You turn away—impossible. Suddenly, though, the voice of Jesus fills your ears with a calm power: “Do not be afraid; only believe. (Mark 5:36)” You take one step onto the tightrope—it shivers under you, and as your arms flail you desperately turn your eyes to the other side, and suddenly Mockery and Embarassment are gone and only One is visible there—your Redeemer Jesus. The rope firms, your arms steady, and you step out in faith, your eyes fixed on sovereign Jesus who took the greatest risk--humanly speaking--in the history of the world: He loved you.

This time, the risk is worth it.

Picture Credit


What Do You Want to Be When You Grow Up?

I live in a world where everybody has a mother, and yet it seems as though anybody who is somebody with a choice has no desire to be a mother. Some girls, perhaps, are born with a natural aversion to the role, but most girls grow into their loathing, pressured by outside influences and a world screaming into their ears, saying that motherhood is petty and trifling.

I was almost that girl.

Before I hit my teens, I had no other desire than to grow up and be a mommy—just like my mommy! But with age comes self-awareness, and I suddenly began to realize that when people asked me what I wanted to be when I grow up, “Mommy” was not an acceptable answer.

“Oh, of course, honey,” they would say, “but what do you really want to be—besides that?”

There had to be a besides that? I contemplated the conundrum for awhile, and finally concluded that I would pick something else I loved in addition to motherhood. So for the next several years, my pat answer was, “A beautician.” If I felt especially brave, mommyhood might get tacked on…or it might not. It all really depended on who I was talking to and how I thought they would perceive my ambitions. I went through this so much, that I really began to believe that motherhood just might be last on my priority list. I would do everything else that needed doing in the world, and settle down in my middle age, perhaps to have 1 or 2.5 children.

However, God showed my family and I verses such as Psalms 128:1, 2: “Blessed is every one who fears the LORD, who walks in His ways. When you eat the labor of your hands, you shall be happy, and it shall be well with you.” Isn’t happiness the ultimate search of so many people, as they flit from one thing to another like bees on a quest for nectar? As my parents and I talked, I knew what God’s way was for me, and although a beautician is a respectable job by all means, it was not to be a part of my life. The moment I realized that God’s way for me was to be a Proverbs 31 woman (“Who can find a virtuous woman? For her worth is far above rubies….She watches over the ways of her household, and does not eat the bread of idleness. Her children rise up and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praises her: ‘Many daughters have done well, but you excel them all.’ Charm is deceitful and beauty is passing, but a woman who fears the LORD, she shall be praised [Proverbs 31:10, 27-30].”), was the moment I became free. The moment I submitted myself to God’s expectation for my life and threw away the world’s expectations was the moment I gained purpose for my life. And the moment I embraced motherhood as the greatest calling in the world for a woman, was the moment I truly became happy.

Now, when someone asks me what I’m doing and what I plan to do (apparently some people are under the false impression that I’m all grown up, because I don’t get the “what-will-you-do-when-you-grow-up” question like I used to), I might give them a taste of my current life—teaching music, playing music, distance Bible college, and family. But I always suck in my stomach just a little and proudly give them a taste of my future life—a wife and mother.

My life right now is in preparation for my life to come. My life right now is not some sort of purgatory or waiting period for a gloriousness to come, though—it is full, purposeful, and happy. I have no desire to leave home and go off to school for four years and tens of thousands of dollars, because I know that I will come out with not one more scrap of training towards my profession of choice. So I remain at home—learning far more in mind, body, and soul than I ever could at some university—and training for the life God has shown for me.

“[Margaret] had met brilliant women, rich women, courted women—but where among them was one whose face had ever shone as her mother’s shone today? The overdressed, idle dowagers; the matrons with their too-gay frocks, their too-full days, their too-rich food; the girls, all crudeness, artifice, all scheming openly for their own advantage—where among them all was happiness?...And suddenly theories and speculation ended, and she knew. She knew that faithful, self-forgetting service and the love that spends itself over and over, only to be renewed again and again, are the secret to happiness. For another world, perhaps leisure and beauty and luxury—but in this one, ‘whosoever loses his life shall gain it.’ Margaret knew now that her mother was not only the truest, the finest, the most generous woman she had ever known, but the happiest as well.”

Picture Credit

Scripture taken from the New King James Version. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

Quotation taken from: Norris, Kathleen. Mother. Vision Forum, San Antonio, 2006.


The Night the Stars Streaked

Mikaela and I had been sent to bed long ago, but the falling summer sun was so orange and bright through our window and our gabled bedroom was so warm and stifling that we were certainly not inclined to fall asleep. We could wield our tongues with each other for time without end, and in the course of our whispered conversation we soon had crept out of bed to enjoy the night. We carefully opened the window and breathed in the sultry summer air. Sleep was forgotten.

But the time of reckoning came. "Come down here," a voice suddenly called from the ground below the window. I slapped my hand to my mouth and stared, wide-eyed, at Mikaela. That was Mama’s voice from outside, and it filled us with dismay.

With quivering knees and longing, apologetic glances at our beds we obeyed. Our hearts beat fast, and my already sweaty hands began to drip. Why oh why oh why didn’t I just go to bed! I asked myself as we thumped downstairs. I could already almost feel the spanking that I knew I deserved. We couldn't dally forever, though, and our path led through the backdoor, across the patio, over the lawn, and soon enough to Mama and Papa.

For a moment they didn't say anything—only looked at us with raised eyebrows as we guiltily stood in the grass. Finally Mama said, with a stern edge to her voice, "Lie down next to us."
“Lie down next to us?” It all seemed rather peculiar, so we weren't quite sure what to expect. You see, our parents don't usually go outside late at night. And even if they did, they don't usually make a habit of lying flat on their backs on a ratty old blanket. And even if that were to happen, rare is the day that we would go undisciplined for staying up past our bedtime. We couldn't be sure if they were going to give us a lecture or just make us endure the suspense, so we flopped down next to them and wriggled around until we were reasonably comfortable. The musical soprano of the crickets and bass of the frogs was the only sound for a few moments; Mama and Papa lay in perfect contentment while Mikaela and I slapped mosquitoes and tried to delve into the murky depths of these odd happenings.

Suddenly, Mama exclaimed right in my ear, "Wow! Did you see that one!"
What one? And one what?
"Yeah, it was really bright, wasn't it?" Papa answered from across the blanket.
But I didn’t see anything!
We were dying of curiosity.
Papa half-raised himself from the blanket. "Did you see the shooting star, girls?" He asked, and I could hear that exhilaration in his voice.
An impossible thrill of realization ran through me, and I was in awe. "Where? That was a shooting star?"
If only I could find a star, I thought. That would be something to talk about! I could see that my sister felt the same way.

So all four of us lay together on the ratty old blanket, dusk having chased the sun from the horizon, our toes tickling each other’s legs, mosquitoes eating us alive, and a chill driving us to snuggle closer, but our eyes were intent on the sky. At first, I wildly scanned the inky sky, desperate to spot a shooting star, but after a few moments calmness came over me. Together, Mama, Papa, Mikaela, and I were caught up in God's creation, and I felt very small under the umbrella of the infinite sky.

There would be gentle chatter with Mama and Papa about our ten-year old adventures for a few moments until someone jubilantly interrupted by calling out,"Look- there's one!" Then everyone else would sit bolt upright and frantically follow the pointing finger until they located the star. We would critique it, lovingly admire it, and follow its shimmering path with our eyes in the brief seconds before it melted into the horizon. After the star had glided from our view, we would fall into silence, overwhelmed at the spectacle we had just seen. It would not be long, though, before another one would be spotted, and the routine would be repeated.

Funny thing—I don’t remember the punishment, although I know I was better at crawling right into my little bed after that night. All I remember is the evening that I spent with Mama and Papa, curled up in their arms, following their pointing fingers to the most beautiful sight I had ever seen. And as I finally fell asleep that night, blanketed in the warm summer air, I couldn't have put it into words, but I felt loved, and I knew that as long as my parents pointed things out to me in the sky, I would follow their fingers for--somehow--they knew just what to look for.

And then, finally, sleep came.



I've eaten more s'mores in my lifetime than I can count: Honey Maid graham crackers, Jet-Puffed marshmallows, and Hershey chocolate bars add up to one tasty treat. This time, though, I decided to approach s'mores in a new way, with homemade marshmallows sandwiched between freshly baked graham crackers (I concluded that the classic Hershey bar was too good to tamper with).

This is all you need to get started making your own marshmallows!

While boiling the sugar, corn syrup, salt, and water on the stove, sprinkle gelatin over cold water and let it set for five minutes.

Once the sugar mixture has boiled for about nine minutes--without stirring (trust me!)--it's ready to get whipped into the set gelatin.

Isn't it amazing what 15 minutes of whipping can do to the confection?

Let me tell you, I could just eat this whole bowl right now. Who said I was making s'mores?

After you've achieved stiff peaks in your creme and mixed in the vanilla, spread the marshmallow in an oiled pan. I used a jelly roll pan for slightly thinner squares, but you can also use a 9 x 13 pan if you want thick cubes.

While that was firming up (either on the counter for 3 hours or in the refrigerator for 1 to 2 hours), I mixed up the graham crackers.

You would think I was making a health food by the ingredients: whole wheat flour, wheat germ, and honey make for a flavorful cracker without the least hint of healthy flavor!

The sugar and butter gets creamed together and then mixed in with the flours for a scrumptious dough. Again I found myself fighting the urge to just eat the batter and forget the goal.

There's many different ways to roll out the dough. Although it's easiest to roll between two pieces of parchment paper (or, like I used, a plastic circle meant for pie dough), you can attempt it without--just make sure you use lots of flour!

Next, refrigerate or freeze the dough until thoroughly chilled.

Finally, you get to cut them out. Use a scalloped circle cutter, a simple knife (like I did), or a pastry wheel to score the pieces and get authentic-looking rectangles.

Prick the tops using a fork to create beautiful designs and prevent the crackers from puffing up and then pop them into the oven until they are dark golden brown.

Graham crackers in the oven, coals smoldering outside, marshmallows cut and dusted with powdered sugar--I think it's time for dessert!

Papa is showing off his creation.

These marshmallows were beautiful things. 30 seconds in the coals was all it took to carmalize the sugary outside and goo-ify the creamy inside. Some people (who shall remain nameless) attempted to purposefully burn theirs, but discovered that these beauties are virtually impossible to burn--good news for those of us who don't have much luck with marshmallow roasting!

Jonah with his treat!

Micah and Susanna prepare their s'mores.

My first bite was a little slice of heaven--a thick, crunchy, spicy-sweet cracker sheltering a crackly, milky, warm puddle of sugar with pieces of creamy chocolate scattered throughout. It doesn't get any better than this!

Grandma and Grandpa were visiting and got to join in the fun too!


Homemade Marshmallows

Vegetable oil, for brushing
4 envelopes unflavored gelatin (3 tablespoons plus 1 1/2 teaspoons)
3 cups granulated sugar
1 1/4 cups light corn syrup
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups confectioners' sugar

1. Brush a 9-by-13-inch glass baking dish (for thicker marshmallows) or a jelly roll pan (for thinner marshmallows) with oil. Set aside.
2. Put granulated sugar, corn syrup, salt, and 3/4 cup water into a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil over high heat, stirring to dissolve sugar. Cook, without stirring, until mixture registers 238 degrees.on a candy thermometer, about 9 minutes.
3. Meanwhile, put 3/4 cup cold water into the bowl of an electric mixer; sprinkle with gelatin. Let soften 5 minutes.
4. Attach bowl with gelatin to mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. With mixer on low speed, beat hot syrup into gelatin mixture. Gradually raise speed to high; beat until mixture is very stiff, about 15 minutes. Beat in vanilla. Pour into prepared dish, and smooth with an offset spatula. Set aside, uncovered, until firm, about 3 hours, or 1 ½ hours in the refrigerator.
5. Sift 1 cup confectioners' sugar onto a work surface. Unmold marshmallow onto confectioners' sugar; remove parchment. Lightly brush a sharp knife with oil, then cut marshmallow into 2-inch squares. Sift remaining 1/2 cup confectioners' sugar into a small bowl, and roll each marshmallow in the sugar to coat. Marshmallows can be stored in an airtight container.

Homemade Graham Crackers

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for working
1 cup whole-wheat flour
1/2 cup untoasted wheat germ
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 cup unsalted butter, softened (2 sticks)
3/4 cup packed light-brown sugar
2 tablespoons high-quality honey

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Whisk flours, wheat germ, salt, baking soda, and cinnamon in a medium bowl; set aside.
2. Put butter, brown sugar, and honey into the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment; mix on medium speed until pale and fluffy, 2 to 3 minutes, scraping down sides of bowl as needed. Reduce speed to low. Add the flour mixture, and mix until combined.
3. Turn out dough onto a floured surface, and divide into quarters. Roll out each piece between 2 sheets of floured parchment paper into rectangles a bit larger than 9 by 6 inches, about 1/8 inch thick.
4. Using a fluted pastry wheel, trip the outermost edges or each rectangle, and divide into three 6 by 3-inch rectangles. Pressing lightly, so as not to cut all the way through, score each piece in half lengthwise and crosswise, to form four 3 by 1 1/2-inch crackers. If you don’t have a pastry wheel, cut 3 by 1 ½ inch squares with a knife. Stack parchment and dough on a baking sheet and chill in freezer until firm, about 20 minutes.
5. Remove two sheets of dough from freezer. Pierce crackers using the tines of a fork. Transfer to large baking sheets lined with parchment paper. Bake, rotating halfway through, until dark golden brown, 8 to 15 minutes. Repeat with remaining dough. Let cool on sheet 5 minutes; transfer crackers to wire racks to cool completely.
Recipes adapted from Martha Stewart

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