Auntie Em's Guide to Life

A guide to all the important things in life- marriage, family, cooking, gardening, reading, travel, Christian living… And whatever else grabs my attention!


“Nature abhors a vacuum.”

 *LOL I didn’t say DON’T VACUUM!

Have you ever microwaved a plastic container without loosening the lid, then had to clean up the mess?

This happens because water heats and turns to steam. Steam takes up more space so it builds pressure till it explodes.

If you go the other way– put a lit on a hot container, then let it cool, the opposite happens. As the steam cools, less space is occupied and the container implodes upon itself. No vacuum!

A recent sermon used this illustration to show how, if we don’t fill the “God-shaped vacuum” in our souls, we will search in vain for something to fill it, and will invariably choose the wrong things.

Take it a step further and look at marriage and vacuums.

In an ideal world, the one that God designed, what fills up a marriage?

God Himself: He must become greater and greater, and I must become less and less. John 3:30

Servanthood:  Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ. Ephesians 5:21

Love: …But if we love each other, God lives in us, and his love is brought to full expression in us. 1 John 4:12

And speaking of love, let me bring us again to Gary Chapman’s Five Love Languages. (Gifts, acts of service, physical touch, affirming words, and quality time. If you don’t know your own and your spouse’s love primary love language, you need to get on that TODAY!) Chapman’s concept of a love tank is a perfect illustration here. If we allow our own or our spouse’s love tank to get low– develop a vacuum– we create space for something else to come in and fill it up. The lower it gets, the more opportunity a negative force has to put pressure on your marriage. And have no illusion about what “negative influence” will come. Our culture offers us plenty– busyness, workaholism, pornography at our fingertips, relationships outside of marriage, hobbies, even church work! When we aren’t meeting the legitimate needs of our spouse we put our marriages in a very dangerous position for something– or someone– else to meet them.

An activity might be good, bad, or neutral, but if it pushes between us and our spouses, the devil can use it to hurt our marriages.

A situation we experienced, and I would imagine is very common, was when our children were young and I began working full-time. Mr X went to college full time and worked part time. I also began having serious allergy problems (thank you moldy old school) and recurrent sinus infections.

Needless to say, we were exhausted! I needed emotional intimacy and words of affirmation. These did not come naturally to a much younger Mr X. He needed physical intimacy, which was the last thing on my list after teaching then coming home for the second shift, often being sick on top of everything else.

In a typical male/female interaction, it’s a cycle– When a woman feels emotionally intimate, she’s more open to physical intimacy. When a man experiences physical intimacy, he’s more open to emotional intimacy. (For a much better explanation, please read Sheila Gregoire’s post.) But stop one and the whole system jams up. So I withdrew into child care, house work, and teaching. He withdrew into his school work, his construction business, and video games.

It probably was a good thing we were both so tired or else we would have been easy prey for affairs!

What could we have done, short of not working and going to school? 3 things:

1. Maintained emotional intimacy— talked about the situation and the problems and challenges it presented. We would have benefited from Auntie Em’s posts about Fruits of the Spirit in marriage, particularly patience! Acknowledging the problem, realizing that it was related to temporary situations with a light at the end of a long tunnel, having a plan to deal with it, admitting what we were missing and what we needed– all this would have helped us to deal with it in a much healthier and more productive way.

2. Maintained spiritual intimacy— This was pretty much absent from our marriage for a very long time. We were always active and regular in church, but we never prayed together or shared spiritual needs until the last few years, after our children flew the nest.

3. Compromised between realistic expectations and what we needed  from one another — (of course, that could have happened only if #1 had been happening!) This is a complicated issue that requires its own post… So stay tuned.

Few people have seen really healthy marriages modeled in their childhood homes. We’ve made huge strides, but our kids missed out while they were growing up. However, countless resources are available for building healthy marriages nowadays. It’s up to us to do the hard work necessary to overcome the deficiencies we come to marriage with.

What are you struggling to overcome in your marriage?


A Fruitful Marriage- Kindness

Be kind to one another (A Fruitful Marriage)As Christians, all of us have the Holy Spirit of Christ living in us and His power available to us. If we are fully surrendered to Him, there should be evidence of it, and one of the most obvious signs is the presence of the fruit of the Spirit. The past few months I’ve been writing about the Fruit of the Spirit displayed in marriage, and now the Fruit of the month is KINDNESS.

Join me at A Biblical Marriage to delve deeper into the Fruit basket!

Showing intentional kindness to our spouses is a good way to build up the love tank to overflowing. What kindness can you show to your spouse today?


Good Seed or Bad?

Good seed or bad?Jesus told them another parable: “The kingdom of heaven is like a man who sowed good seed in his field. But while everyone was sleeping, his enemy came and sowed weeds among the wheat, and went away. When the wheat sprouted and formed heads, then the weeds also appeared. Matthew 13:24-26

“The owner’s servants came to him and said, ‘Sir, didn’t you sow good seed in your field? Where then did the weeds come from?’

“ ‘An enemy did this,’ he replied.

“The servants asked him, ‘Do you want us to go and pull them up?’

“ ‘No,’ he answered, ‘because while you are pulling the weeds, you may uproot the wheat with them. Let both grow together until the harvest. At that time I will tell the harvesters: First collect the weeds and tie them in bundles to be burned; then gather the wheat and bring it into my barn.’ ”

We had a guest pastor at church yesterday and he preached a sermon geared toward preparing us for our new pastor, arriving in 2 weeks. (yay!) However, as usual, a concept that applies to a church also applies in a marriage relationship. Maybe it will give you some food for thought, too.

All of us have 2 kinds of “seed” in our lives: Good seed and bad, or “wheat and tares” as in the King James Version. The good kind is from God; the bad is from our flesh. Which one takes precedence depends on which one we care for and nurture– like the story of the 2 wolves, which one we feed. Good seeds in a spouse do 3 things: (I’m speaking from the female perspective because, well, I’m female, but it applies to both husbands and wives.)

1. Good seed SUPPORTS her spouse because he is her spouse and God said to. We uphold his position as our husband and follow his leadership. We don’t try to be the boss of the family and manipulate him to do what we want. We act in obedience to God, even when we don’t feel like it or think our spouse isn’t doing his part.

2. Good seed PRAYS for her spouse and puts his needs before her own. This is what submission means, despite the archaic connotation that many would have us believe.

3. Good seed SUPPORTS her spouse personally, speaking good things to him and about him. If we must bring up a problem or conflict, it’s done in love and with an eye toward reconciliation, not hurt.

Just as we have to “feed the good wolf” or nurture the good seeds in us, we also nurture our spouses. How do you nurture your spouse?

1. Good seed goes out of its way to be kind to her spouse.

2. Good seed makes time to pray for, with, and over her spouse.

3. Good seed looks for ways to serve her spouse, (speak his love language) whether it’s helping with a project, picking up the slack at home when his work is overwhelming him, fixing a special food, etc.

4. Good seed spends time with her spouse just for fun. Going to a football game when it’s not your favorite thing to do. Parking in a lawn chair in the garage when he’s working on the lawn mower. All those times when you could be doing something else– even when you have a thousand things you could be doing in the house– when you choose to spend time with your husband, he knows you’ve chosen him over all those things, and it blesses him.

How can you do some nurturing today?


Find your First Love

Yet I hold this against you: You have forsaken your first love. Remember the height from which you have fallen! Repent and do the things you did at first.

Revelation 2:4-5a

First loveDuring my recent difficult season I asked God to give me something when He needed me to write, and He did yesterday at church through our preacher! I love it when we can apply general Biblical truths to marriage relationships.

The church at Ephesus had some good things going for it– hard work, perseverance, intolerance of evil, discernment of teachers– but they were going through the motions of church. They’d left their first love, and I take this to mean that they were following the rules but not serving Christ out of love for Him. Marriages– especially ones in the busy child-rearing season or long-term ones– can easily fall into this. You are fond of each other; you have the same interests, activities, and friends; life is pleasant; but there is very little one-on-one intimate interaction. No meeting of the minds or spiritual oneness, nothing that couldn’t occur between you and any other friend. I’ve been there. When children, pets, and jobs are clamoring for your attention, undemanding spouses are easy to neglect. But neglect them too long and you have a dead marriage.

Brother Chuck used the words “remember, repent, and resume” from this Scripture, to apply to any relationship that needs repair. If you are in the difficult position of having an unsatisfying marriage but believe that marriage is for life and divorce is not an option, this can help.

Remember the height from which you have fallen.

Why did you fall in love? What attracted you? Reminisce about fun or funny (or even sad) times that you experienced together. We have a digital picture frame with many of our vacation pictures, and we love watching and remembering. When our kids get together we laugh our heads off over the same funny stories. Share what you remember about happy times. Many times in dead marriages, both partners have withdrawn, and both are afraid to take the first step toward reconciliation. Reminiscing about positive shared experiences will soften hearts.

Remind yourself and your spouse of times when they were wonderful for you. When my mother was in the hospital, comatose for a week before she died, I dropped everything. I knew I could count on my husband to handle everything and everyone at home; I didn’t even consciously think about it. He’s buried dead pets, dug in the sewer, called principals when I couldn’t, opened jar lids, and bought me really nice jewelry! Don’t just think about those nice things, thank him out loud!


God ordained marriage to represent the union between Christ and his church. He said we were to be one flesh. When we neglect or abuse our marriages, we are being disobedient to Him, and we need to repent. Ask God to reveal what you have done to add to the problem, and ask His forgiveness. You might not be to the point where you feel safe enough to ask your spouse for forgiveness. That’s okay for now.

Do the things you did at first

“Any old dog likes a pat on the head.” Chances are that when you were newlyweds there were lots of sweet words and helpful actions, not to mention sexual intimacy, happening at your house. Both of you were filling up the other’s love tanks without even thinking about it. In tired marriages, many times the love tanks are running on fumes because you have both been too busy doing other things, and taking for granted that your spouse will always be there. It’s easy to do. Don’t beat yourself up about it, but STOP! (Take a minute and imagine that you don’t have them anymore. Nothing like a motorcycle accident to make you appreciate your spouse! As humans, we have a tendency to not “miss the water til the well runs dry.” That leads to so much regret. Don’t wait that long!)

What did you do for your spouse in those early days? Speak sweet words? Cook his favorite meal? Dress yourself nicely? Take better care of yourself? (ouch) Hide notes in his pockets? Do some of those things, even if you don’t feel like it. Brother Chuck reminded us of Philippians 4:8 (Whatever…) but reminded us that 4:9 says DO THOSE THINGS!

Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice.

You might ask– am I expected to do things I don’t really feel like doing? (YES) Isn’t that hypocritical? (NO) It’s called discipline. Or good manners. But shouldn’t my spouse do the same thing? Yes, but don’t wait for them to act first. You’re the one who knows what to do now, so YOU start. Chances are, your spouse will reciprocate. But even if he doesn’t, you are doing these things because God said to, and if you are being obedient, He will take care of everything else.

Read up on restoring and nurturing marriages, even if yours is in a good season right now. Marriage is a marathon, not a sprint, and it needs constant care! There is a ton of good information online. Click on my Christian Marriage Bloggers button to see many good blogs. I highly recommend Sheila Gregoire’s To Love, Honor, and Vacuum. I have a “Revive your marriage” series with some practical ideas. (Three Little Changes is the last one, with links to the 4 others.)

Remember that your spouse is not your enemy. The devil hates marriage and especially hates a happy Christian marriage. You are fighting a spiritual battle when you are fighting for your marriage. Use all the resources and “armor” at your disposal. If you are new to Auntie Em’s, click on my “marriage” category and find many posts. I pray for success in your battle! Please let me know how to pray for you, and share with my readers things you have done to build up your marriage. We have a wonderful community of brothers and sisters who are here to help and support one another.


Armor Up your Marriage

armor up your marriageIn my last post I wrote about my husband’s motorcycle accident at the end of November, and how his riding gear– a full face helmet, riding gloves and boots, and an armored jacket– saved his skin, and I believe, his life. (Read “Armor Up!” if you missed it.)  I got to thinking how God provides protective armor for us spiritually, and also in our marriages.

Put on the full armor of God, so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms… Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place,  and with your feet fitted with the readiness that comes from the gospel of peace. In addition to all this, take up the shield of faith, with which you can extinguish all the flaming arrows of the evil one. Take the helmet of salvation and the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God. Ephesians 6:11-12, 14-17

Stand against the devil’s schemes

It’s important to remember that God created and ordained marriage, and it is meant to be an earthly representation of the relationship between Christ and His church. Marriages that follow God’s rules are the foundation of healthy families, which in turn build a Godly society. And our enemy hates everything about marriage. Humans can do plenty of wrong, selfish things on our own, but remember when your spouse has stepped on your last nerve that the devil is scheming against your marriage. Your spouse is not your enemy— Satan is, and all the authorities and powers of this dark world. The armor that protects our spirits can also protect our marriages.

The belt of truth

The other day a salesman counseled Mr X to buy something that was more than he wanted to spend by saying, “Well just buy it and don’t tell your wife!” (He not only didn’t buy it, but told the man that he has too much respect for his wife to do that. WOW!) I remember before I started teaching school, a close friend my mother’s age advised me to write a check for groceries a little over the amount and hold that money aside as “my” money. Telling “little white lies” to your spouse is NOT okay. Neither is neglecting to tell them something you don’t want them to know, or doing something you know they don’t want you to do and hoping they don’t find out. You’re MARRIED. You are ONE FLESH. Don’t keep secrets. Nothing about you is not their business. Deception is like a little tree that grows up between the cracks in a sidewalk; it gets bigger and bigger and eventually breaks the sidewalk to pieces.

The breastplate of righteousness

In addition to general instructions on the Christian way of life, the Bible gives Christians very detailed instructions on how to behave in marriage. (Ephesians 5:22-33; Colossians 3:18-19; 1 Peter 3:1-7 to name a few) In a nutshell: Husbands are to love their wives with Christlike love. Wives are to respect their husbands. They actually submit to one another, loving with servant love, but somebody has to have controlling interest. That’s how I see Biblical submission of wives. The husband has the ultimate authority because his is the ultimate responsibility. I rarely watch TV and one of the big reasons is that I can’t stand the way husbands and dads are belittled and made fun of. Ladies, if you badmouth your husband that is wrong. Men, if you put your own needs ahead of your wife’s, that is wrong. If we want our marriages to be protected by God’s armor, we have to operate by His rule book.

The Gospel of peace

A Christian home should be a place of safety and peace, an oasis in a dry and dusty land!

  • Husbands,  love your wives and never treat them harshly. (Ephesians 3:19)
  • Wives, remember It’s better to live alone in the desert than with a quarrelsome, complaining wife. (Proverbs 21:19) Beware of husband-bashing parties that sometimes develop when a group of girlfriends get together.

The shield of faith

I know this Scripture is talking about faith in God, but faith in your spouse is an important thing, too. Don’t assume the worst when they say something wrong; look for a different explanation. (Maybe he’s not a self-centered pig; maybe he had a really bad day at work. Maybe she isn’t totally selfish and insensitive to your needs; maybe SHE had a really bad day at work!) Often we put on a happy face out in the world, then really let our hair down at home, with the one we trust the most. Be careful not to take that trust for granted. Give a warning ahead of time if you are “out of sorts” as we say in Texas.

The helmet of salvation

I can’t stretch this one to apply to anything but God. But to put it in a marital context, if you are both believers, you are not only husband and wife, you are brother and sister in Christ. You share a common relationship with your heavenly Father. Everything that Christ exemplified and is written about relationships — selflessness, kindness, forgiveness, longsuffering, etc— also applies in marriages.

Marriages in our world today are subjected to all kinds of hazards, from sick children to leaking dishwashers to lost jobs to infidelity. The protective armor of God can deflect many of these “flaming arrows” and can give us strength to fight the battles that will come. Armor up!


12 Days (of Encouraging Your Spouse) of Christmas Part 2

12 Days of Christmas,animals,birds,characters,songs,fruits,nature,trees,pears,plants,special occasions

Have you gotten some ideas for the 12 Days of Christmas? On Monday we talked about the first six, (if you missed them, check them out here.) and today we have the last six.

6. Give a gift that keeps on giving. Sort of like the “jelly of the month” club that Clark Griswold was so disappointed to get!

However if you make it something he likes, like a pie of his choice, or a child-free date, or a “no-guilt” guys’ night, or ironing his shirts, or whatever, he will be happy. His birthdate and your anniversary date are good times to plan monthly events.

7. Take interest in something he likes but has never really lit your fire. Like college football. Or fishing.

8. Give him a full-body massage. (You can include hanky-panky if you want, but even a HP-free massage would be much appreciated!) If you’ve never had a massage, you need to schedule one so you will know how to do it! Be sure to get some kind of massage oil– dry hands just don’t work. Coconut oil works well, and I’ve heard that olive oil does too, but you might start craving spaghetti!

9. Do something just for him.  Mr X likes to listen to me play the piano. I play at church, and I play at work, so I rarely play at home for fun. Every time I do, though, he says how much he likes hearing me play. (I’ll be including this one!)

10. Go all out with an “event” plan, something that he will enjoy. Plan a movie night. Let him choose; get popcorn and movie candy. A picnic with blanket, food, dessert, and outdoor activities. Visit someplace close to you that is a tourist attraction– many times there are really neat things close to home but we’ve never seen them!

11. Wear something he likes. Very often, when we are going somewhere together, I ask what Mr X would like me to wear. He likes that; it’s a small thing that tells him I value his opinion and HE is my “audience.”

12. Plan a dream date or special weekend, centered on everything HE likes. On our half-anniversary last July, I grilled filet mignons, made a blueberry cheesecake like one he had admired in a catalog, got out the china and candles, and a new dress. I sent him texts throughout the day telling him what I was doing and sending pictures– build it up! (The whipped cream on top actually was camouflage for big cracks!)

blueberry cheesecake

Then later on in the summer, I planned an overnight to Houston, with surprise visits and photo-ops that I talked about in Three Little Changes.

Your husband (or wife, if you are a man reading this) just wants to know that he is important to you, and that he has a significant place in your plans and schedule. It’s very easy to push spouses down toward the bottom of our to-do list because of the permanence of the relationship. But, like a fire that is not tended, the fire in a marriage can slowly die away and be gone before you realize it. A little care, some priority time and effort, are small prices to pay for a huge dividend.


12 Days (of Encouraging your Spouse) of Christmas

12 Days of Christmas,animals,birds,characters,songs,fruits,nature,trees,pears,plants,special occasionsRecently I had a request for a post sharing concrete tips for how to encourage our husbands. This idea has been floating around since then, and I was trying to come up with a “12 days of Christmas” post, and finally they came together! Now you can be historically accurate and put this into practice on December 25- January 5, or go with the more Americanized (commercialized) calendar and use the days leading up to Christmas, and so begin on December 14. (If you want to read all about it, visit this Wikipedia article.)

The idea is simple: instead of random acts of kindness, do intentional ones. We should constantly be listening to our spouses, studying them, to figure out what they want and need. My husband, Mr X is hard to buy for, because he doesn’t really want much, and when he does, he buys it! But there are things I can to show him I love him and I’m thinking about him. And for him, thinking about him and taking time out of my day to do something just for him is what means the most to him.

These ideas are meant to be a springboard to get you thinking and get your creativity going. You can take any of the ideas and do that one for 12 days– for instance, if his love language is gifts, get him a gift for 12 days. Acts of service? Make his lunch for 12 days. Or you can do different ones every day, or any combination, but do SOMETHING extra for all 12 days.

Here’s what I’ve come up with:

1. Pray for him. And let him know. Send him a text or leave a note telling him how you prayed for him. (If there is a particular challenge happening in his life, if he’s traveling, if he’s been sick, etc.) Find a Scripture that you claim for him and pray for him. I like Psalm 1: 1-3.

Blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked or stand in the way of sinners or sit in the seat of mockers. But his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night. He is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither. Whatever he does prospers.

2. Give gifts. They can be as simple as bringing home his favorite candy when you go to the grocery store, but make a gift of it– put it in a gift bag; wrap it up; hide it in the glove box in his car and give clues. A classic movie on DVD… If he likes clothes, you have a few more choices. A mug or insulated glass from his favorite sports team. You don’t have to break the bank.

3. Leave him notes. If affirming words are his love language, he will absolutely love this idea, and even if they are not, he will still enjoy sweet words from his sweetheart. Say WHY you love him, WHAT you love and appreciate about him, HOW he makes you love him. Stash them around where he will find them gradually- in his bathroom drawer, in the pockets of clothes, in a book he’s reading, etc. If you have little ones, they can write encouraging notes for dad too. Mr X still has notes and bookmarks that our kids made him years ago. Those things are special!

4. Give him coupons. For anything from taking over one of his chores to making his favorite food to … *wink*wink*  Go all out and create some drama here– call it a Night of Dreams or something; build it up for several days, talking about it, sending text or email hints; arrange for the kiddos to go away; get something new to wear; eat a romantic meal; set the mood with music and candles. You will have one happy man who feels like a king.

5. Do something he likes. Stay off the computer– watch the fights with him– invite his friends over– Mr X likes me to play the piano.

6. Initiate intimacy. Don’t wait for him to start. Even for long-married couples, the risk of rejection is a scary thing for a man; he really does want you for more than just sex; and when his beloved wants to be intimate with him, he feels like the king of the castle. Besides the chemical rush that creates bonding between the two of you, he feels more confident to take on any challenge that come his way at work.

Okay– that’s enough to get you started. We’ll do the next 6 on Wednesday. Are you getting some ideas? Let’s share them and make our husbands feel really loved this Christmas!


Ah, November…

If you’ve read Sunshine’s “substitute” post, or my Facebook page, you know we had a little too much excitement last weekend– my husband, Mr X, was in a serious motorcycle accident while riding with a friend. He’s going to be okay; he spent 3 days in the hospital and has a broken nose and 3 broken ribs. He also had a small pneumothorax (air between the lungs and lining that can lead to a collapsed lung; fortunately his dissipated before we left the hospital) and internal bleeding leading to a large hematoma inside his pelvis. It quit bleeding and will eventually absorb. In the meantime, he’s stiff and sore, and moving slowly, but thank God, he’s moving! His friend was also injured but able to walk– stiffly– away.

I went back to work Thursday and Friday, and haven’t had a minute to write anything, or any spare brain cells that are really working that well– so I decided to do a month-end statistics report. As non-mathematical as I am, somehow I love studying statistics!

Top 5 Posts for November

lazy housekeeping                                             Cornbread dressing

1. Auntie Em’s Guide to Lazy Girl Housekeeping      2. Auntie Em’s Cornbread Dressing

Give me a man                         stormy sea

3. Give Me a Man                                                      4.    Stormy Weather?

5. He Wasn’t Always My BFF

Top 5 posts since the beginning (August 31, 2012)

1. He Wasn’t Always My BFF


2. Actually, It’s NOT All About You         3.  Three Little Changes

4. Be Anxious for Nothing

5. Auntie Em’s Guide to Lazy Girl Housekeeping

The most shared posts since the beginning

1. Actually, It’s NOT All About You

2. Auntie Em’s Grilled Pork Loin, AKA The Truth Will Set You Free


3. Granny’s Cornbread                             4.  A First-World Problem

5. Thank You, Dave Ramsey

Check out some of these posts if you haven’t yet, and hopefully this week I will get some new words down. In the meantime, I appreciate all your prayers, and please keep them up! As I said on my Facebook page, the fellowship of believers (All over the world!!) is a sweet and powerful thing!


Auntie Em’s Grandma Ballard’s Caramel Pie

You might wonder why I’m tagging marriage in this recipe post. It’s because “Speak your husband’s language” is one of Auntie Em’s rules. One of Mr X’s love languages is acts of service. And when I serve him by cooking, he has always been very appreciative. When I make his favorite pie, which is pretty easy to make now, but at first was time-consuming and complicated, it spells L-O-V-E to him! Be a student of your husband; find out how to speak his language, then speak often!

Now– on to the pie. It’s not as simple as some– It uses FOUR dishes besides the pie pan! But it’s worth it. You’ll love it! Grandma Ballard's Caramel Pie recipe

(You can see lots of trial and error here. One of my first times to make it was when we were visiting my brother- and sister-in-law; I made it without the recipe. He spent most of the night sick, and the whole family jokes about my bad pie…. however, when the truth came out, he ate most of it in one sitting, and I think THAT is why he was sick !)


  • Preheat your oven to 400 so you can bake the meringue when you’re all done.
  • Get out your food you’ll need: Flour, sugar, butter, vanilla, eggs, cream of tartar, a cooked pie shell
  • Get out your dishes you’ll need: A heavy pan for mixing the dry ingredients and cooking the custard, a heavy skillet for caramelizing the sugar; a bowl for mixing the eggs and milk, and a bowl for beating the egg whites. Plus a whisk for stirring the custard, a knife to cut the butter, measuring spoons and cups, and a spatula for applying the meringue.

Start with a baked pie shell. (Video instructions for a homemade one are here. It’s not as hard as you think!)

homemade pie crust cooked separate eggs

Now mix your wet ingredients together and your dry ingredients together

  • 2 3/4 C milk and 4 egg yolks. You’ll have to separate your eggs; put the whites in another bowl so you can beat them.
  • 1 C sugar and 1/2 C flour.  The recipe says “4 heaping TBS but I hate the vagueness of “heaping,” so I measured. (Believe it or not.)   I mix this in the pan I cook the custard in. Mix together well so you won’t get blobs of flour. (So says the voice of experience)

Now stir the milk and egg mixture into the dry mixture in the heavy pan. Mix together with a whisk till it’s smooth. This is the custard mixture. Heat it over medium heat. You can take a shortcut and heat it on higher heat till it begins to get warm, but watch and stir! It can burn and curdle quickly.

Then put 1 C of sugar into a heavy skillet; shake it to spread it around evenly. Heat over medium heat. Same as with the custard, you can start the heat higher but turn it down for more control.

sugar and flour mixture caramelizing sugar in skillet

Now you wait. And stir the custard. And stir the custard. And wait. Don’t stir the sugar. Just wait. After 10 minutes it looked like this, just barely beginning to melt.

sugar beginning to melt caramelizing sugar

After another 10 it looked like this. All this time I’ve been stirring the custard. If it has thickened or begun to bubble, I turn down the heat until the sugar is melted.  (At this point you can add the vanilla and butter and use this custard for a wonderful banana pudding! No jello pudding at our house!) Granny says never stir the sugar, just shake it around, so that’s what I do.

melting sugar caramelizing sugar

Once all the sugar melts it’s time to be really careful. The custard has to be VERT hot, or else the caramelized sugar will cool and harden instead of blend in. When you pour it in, it will bubble up violently. Stir, stir, stir!

caramelized sugar caramelized sugar poured into custard

Till it looks like this.

caramel pie filling

At this point, remove it from the heat and stir in 1-2 TBS butter and 1 tsp vanilla till it’s all smooth.

Pour into your cooked pie shell. You’re almost done!

Now you have to make the meringue topping. A Kitchenaid stand mixer makes quick work! Add 1/2 tsp cream of tartar and mix the 4 egg whites on high. When “frothy” like the first picture, add 4-6 TBS sugar and 1/2 tsp vanilla. Beat till stiff peaks form– that means when you lift the beater it sticks and the mixture in the bowl keeps its shape, like in the second picture.

frothy egg whites stiff peaks egg whites meringue

Now gently place blobs of meringue onto the hot pie filling. You don’t want to do a lot of stirring because that will get the filling all over the meringue plus get the air out of the meringue, which will cause it to deflate. That’s bad. Gently connect the blobs to form a solid surface, and press to the sides of the pie crust to seal.

meringe on pie meringue on pie

Now, cook the meringue till it’s as brown as you like, at 400 degrees. This was about 4 minutes.

Auntie Em's caramel pie with meringe topping

Here’s what was left: (It will be a hit at your house or church too!)

leftover pie

Auntie Em's holiday cooking Collage


Mr X’s Pastry Cinnamon Roll

Pastry cinnamon roll

Any time I make a pie crust, I make enough so I’ll left some left over… because I would have a very sad husband if I didn’t make a cinnamon roll! My mother-in-law, Granny, (of Granny’s cornbread fame)  started this tradition, and it continues to this day. It’s really funny to watch Mr X and his sister fight over it! We live very close to Granny and PawPaw, go to church with them, and eat Sunday lunch together almost every week. Aunt Kathy lives in Houston so we don’t get to see her nearly as often. When Granny makes Mr X a cinnamon roll  (or peas, or some other favorite), he will text her a picture and goad her about being the favorite child! I don’t guess you ever outgrow sibling rivalry.

Okay– you’ve made your homemade pie crust. YAY YOU! Gather up any scraps you trimmed off, and any dough left in the bowl, and roll it out in an oval or rectangular form. You never want to mix and mash it any more than necessary; it will become tough. Smear with lots of butter– melted if you want. (I didn’t use enough in the video.) Then sprinkle cinnamon sugar all over it. I mix up cinnamon and sugar and keep it in a shaker. Bake at 400 for 10-15 minutes.

Start your own family tradition of encouraging sibling rivalry!!

Auntie Em’s Video-How to make Mr X’s Pastry Cinnamon Roll

Auntie Em's holiday cooking Collage


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