Monday, July 25, 2022

Saltines, Butter, and Plum Jam


I'm not really sure why the kids got all dolled up for church this morning. I suppose it's because Alexander helped clean his room on Saturday morning and found his suspenders and bowtie from Auntie K, which he just knew he had to wear today, so he got ready for church, and then Zoë and Benjamin got ready for church and then I figured that I may as well put Phoebe into a dress since I never get her dressed up we are.

For the record, Phoebe did not enjoy wearing a dress because it made crawling rather difficult. So she ended up in just her onesie. And then she had a massive blow out and ended up crawling around in nothing but a diaper for the rest of the day. But these pictures are evidence that sometimes I dress her up all cute.

Alexander's outfit was already adorable, with his blue suspenders and bowtie and striped shirt...

...and then he found this blue headband that matched his ensemble and he moved into over-the-top cuteness territory.

And because I remembered that I actually have six children, not four, I figured I should snag a picture with the big girls in there, too. It's hard to get everyone smiling nicely at the same time.

(Miriam's looking all fabulous in one of the dresses that Sister Rich sent to us from her closet—a whole boxful! The girls had so much fun trying everything on the other day!)

Today was Pioneer Day, so for primary we sang some songs while we shook a jar of cream to make butter. I was honestly worried about our ability to do so without my bigger helpers (the girls go over to Grandpa's house for Sunday School and Andrew was entertaining Phoebe), but the little kids and I managed to do it all on our own!

Benjamin was clearly my biggest helper. You can see from the photos that Alexander was a slosher, Zoë was a swisher, but Benjamin was a real shaker!

I took a few turns shaking the jar as well, when it got to that point right before it breaks, where it's so full of air that it's hard to shake it at all. But we managed to push it right through the breaking point into a nice lump of butter. 

And we sang so many songs!

Here's our lovely dish of butter, with our leftover buttermilk:

We used that buttermilk to make saltines (substituting buttermilk for the water in this recipe). I don't know that pioneers often made saltines, but I do know that saltines were described in the 1838's The Young House-keeper, so it would make sense that people would be making saltines in 1847. 

And it's a super simple recipe!

Made more complicated by many helping hands, of course.

The recipe we used was so small (it only called for two cups of flour) that I decided both Benjamin and Zoë could make up their own batch of dough (another recipe I saw called for eight cups of flour and I didn't have it in me to half or quarter that recipe down to a doable amount (because it would have been, like, "add 3/4 of a teaspoon of..." and I didn't want to deal with that, so the small-yield recipe won). They were pretty excited about this!

Here they are getting down and dirty with their dough:

It was about this point where I realized aprons would have been a good idea. My mom had these red aprons with Ernie on them that we used to wear as kids. I don't know if she still has them. We used this old apron of Andrew's:

As well as one that Rachel made at a birthday party years ago:

We made butterfly- and heart- and circle- and star-shaped crackers. Andrew said we were making far more work for ourselves when we could simply cut the rolled-out dough into squares. And that's true. 

But this was was more fun.

We let Daddy cut the leftover dough into squares after the kids' batches made it into the oven and they deserted their posts (and Phoebe needed Mommy). He finished in a fraction of the time it took them to cut out all their fancy shapes. And that's okay.

Here you can see Alexander getting in on the action with the very important job of jabbing each cracker shape so that it doesn't puff up in the oven:

He took his job very seriously:

Earlier I'd given him the job of refilling the sugar container. We didn't need sugar for this recipe, but the sugar container needed to be refilled and Alexander loves refilling containers. He will sit there and scoop from the big container of [rice, flour, sugar, whatever] into the the smaller container of [rice, flour, sugar, whatever] for as long as it takes to get the job done. He's a more...meticulous...child, so although he inevitably spills some, he's not altogether irresponsible about it like some other children might be (even some of my own children come to mind). 

In short, I knew that I could set him to this task, leave him completely unattended for however long with a 99% chance that when I returned he would still be diligently scooping contents from one bin to the other rather than, like, making a flour-angel on the kitchen floor. 

Andrew was a little less confident about it and cautioned Alexander to "not make a mess." He got more and more anxious about whether or not Alexander was going to make a mess as time wore on. I suppose in his mind the probability of Alexander making a mess went up the longer he didn't make a mess, while in my mind the probability of Alexander making a mess went down the longer he managed to not make a mess. Eventually, waiting for Alexander to make a mess got to be too much for Andrew, so he said, "I can do this a whole lot faster. And then we'll just be done and we can put it away."

Which...was probably true. Speed wasn't one of my goals here (rather, keeping Alexander occupied was my goal), but that's okay. Perhaps Andrew also felt bad having Alexander scoop sugar all afternoon while the older-little kids were making saltines (I didn't...he was out of the 

Whatever the case, Andrew decided to pick up the big bin of sugar to pour it into the little bin. 

When I told Rachel this part of the story her face fell and she said, "Oh,'s clumpy."

You see, the sugar was...clumpy. 

Rachel knew this because she had been meaning to refill the sugar bin since she'd been the last to use it (she made peanut butter cookies last night), but she only got as far as bringing the big sugar bin up from the basement was clumpy and she didn't want to deal with it, which...fair.

So, sugar started pouring out of the big bin into the little bin and then...*pop*...the entire rest of the sugar fell out of the big bin in one big lump!

The only problem with that, of course, is that the smaller bin was not big enough to accommodate so much sugar, so sugar went all over the place! This picture was taken after Andrew broke the lump of sugar on top of the little bin in half and put it back inside the bigger bin. As you can see, he spilled much more sugar than Alexander would have as he carefully scrape-scrape-scraped at that sugar lump in the big bin!

So that was a pretty funny little mishap! But Andrew cleaned up the sugar—he swept and vacuumed—and we went on with our afternoon. Our first batch of saltines turned out just lovely. The kids enjoyed them with butter (a favourite snack, as far as I recall, of my Layton grandparents)... well as with a smidge of some plum jam I made the other day when I realized there was no way we were going to eat our way through all the plums we had in the house.

The second batch of saltines was a little more exciting!

Andrew cut them into regular ol' square shapes while I was feeing Phoebe (as I mentioned), and then I moved them into the oven to bake (as one does). I set the timer for 12 minutes and when it went off I opened the oven door to peek at them. They weren't quite golden-brown yet, so I closed the oven door and there was a fantastic buzzing sound and then—with Benjamin as my witness—the oven start spitting out sparks through the top of the door!

So Benjamin and I started screaming and Andrew ran into the kitchen and, of course, by this time the oven is no longer spitting fire and he was like, "It's probably just the lightbulb. The one on the right has burnt out, see?"

That sounded like a good explanation. So we left the crackers in to bake. And they just would not turn I opened the door to check on them and I was like, "You know, I don't think this oven is as hot as it should be..."

So we got out our little heat-laser thing and found that the oven was only at 200°F (it should have been at 400°F), so clearly something was wrong. We're hoping that the element fritzed out because we'd prefer not to have to make bigger changes than that.

Because of supply chain issues, finding new appliances right now is tricky (even finding new oven elements can be tricky, from what we've heard). 

Andrew wrote about this on twitter and someone—with very good intentions—suggested we get a toaster oven to help us get through this hard time. I'm not going to lie...that might help (and I've seen a few being offered up on the "buy nothing" group I'm in). However, I can just tell that person is not used to feeding a family of eight!! 

With a toaster oven!?! 

I don't think so. 

At least I wasn't right in the middle of trying to make a birthday cake (which is what I was doing the last time I had an oven element go out on me). And Grandpa lives just around the corner so if we really need to use an oven while we're working out our oven issues, we can use his without feeling like we're imposing too much. 

Andrew's planning on just having a repair place come look at the whole unit since the microwave has also been out of commission since September (and because the top oven element looks easy to replace and the bottom element, well, we still haven't figured out how to access it). Perhaps the whole thing can be fixed at once! 

In the meantime, enjoy a picture of Phoebe working on a saltine:

I should mention that I left the second batch of saltines until the oven cooled completely and that seemed to be just enough time and temperature to cook them long enough that they were palatably crunchy. 

At any rate, they've all been gobbled up!

Andrew made noodles and tomato sauce for dinner, which everyone else ate. 

But Alexander and Zoë mostly had saltine crackers, butter, and plum jam.


  1. Alexander looks very attractive all in blue!! The crackers look yummy.

  2. It's nice seeing your children dressed up.

    I was riding my bike this morning and the thought of the Heisses having four toaster ovens lined across the counters made me chuckle. My parents have a pretty nice one that would fit a 9x11 casserole dish, but the one Andrew and I have barely fits four slices of bread. Still, I do like my toaster oven and use it quite often, but there's just the two of us. Hope your stove and microwave can be fixed fairly easily!

    1. Haha! My mom joked about that as well when I was talking to her on Sunday night. Just...a panel wall of toaster ovens! Haha!

  3. Remember the birthday cake pancakes because our Jordan oven scared us 😅

    1. I definitely do! That's one of the things I thought of as I've been considering how long we'll potentially be without an oven. Like, we've done it before and survived...haha! Perhaps Andrew will get a 100-layer cake for his birthday!