Tuesday, March 24, 2009

A Budding Artist

The other day, I was going to be painting some clay pots to make some flower arrangements for our living room, and Ian wanted to "help." So I put a tarp down on the table, gave him some paints on a paper plate, and let him run wild. Little did I know he'd love it so much! The whole rest of the day, and even for days afterwards, he kept talking about painting with Mommy. He even thanked God for it that night when he went to bed!

He actually did a really nice job on his little pot, and now it's sitting on our side table in the dining room, adorned with some faux hydrangea:

Sunday, March 22, 2009

All Things New

Yesterday, I was doing something or other around the house, when Eric came up to me, beckoned me with his finger, and said expectantly, "Come 'ere...I want to show you something." He led me to the front door and pointed to a spot in the front yard where three tiny crocuses were peeping up from the grass, stretching their thin purple necks toward the sun's rays -- the first ones to show themselves in our yard this spring.

Premier blossoms of spring always fill me with excitement -- not only excitement for the numerous other green and colorful things that are awaiting their debut from the cold, brown, earth, but also the excitement that comes with the newness of life, the resurrection of things that once seemed dead. In the spring, like no other season of the year, I'm reminded time and again of joyful promises like, "If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come!" (1 Corinthians 5:17) and "Behold! I'm making all things new!" (Revelation 21:5). Simple things like the first crocuses of the year remind me of the hope we have in Christ, not only for "the next life", but also for this one. Just as crocuses are little glimpses of the wide array of beauty that we will soon enjoy in late spring and summer, so too, little events throughout our days are reminders of the great peace and joy we'll one day experience in their fullness: a welcoming hug from a friend, a happy chat with one's spouse, a kind word from a coworker, a helping hand from a stranger. These types of things are indicators that life is not full of death as we often feel that it is, but instead, glimpses of life are actually all around us, pointing us toward that day when Life will reign supreme. And the more we share that life, the more evident and powerful it will be.

"Your kingdom come, Lord, Your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven." May I be a crocus to someone today.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

(75%) Success!

Many of you know that I've been trying to perfect a whole wheat bread recipe for many months now. It all started when I bought a honey whole wheat loaf from Breadsmith and realized that 1) it was made from all normal kitchen ingredients (no preservatives or dough conditioners), and 2) it was delicious! Not a brick at all! The problem was, it was $4 a loaf. Eep. This got me to thinking: "Hmmm....maybe I can make my own organic whole wheat bread, save some money, AND it'll be healthier than the organic stuff I've been buying from the store because it won't have all that crap in it!" Light bulb moment!

So I started searching for good recipes. I tried several of them. One in particular involved me practically having to prepare days in advance, do a few incantations, run around a crazy obstacle course, and finally....end up with bread that was still solid as a rock and wouldn't rise. Back to the drawing board.

I finally consulted the guru of all that is food: the Joy of Cooking, particularly my wonderfully basic 1967 edition. It had a half whole wheat, half white recipe that looked promising as well as easy, and I decided to try it "in the meantime" until I could get a good whole wheat recipe down pat. Well, it was so yummy (with a few healthy modifications on my part), that I just kept making it instead of trying out new recipes. Eric was eating so much of it that I had to resort to economic logic to get him to slow down on his bread consumption: we were spending more grocery money on bread (ingredients) than we were when I was buying the store-bought kind. Oops.

Add that experience to another: I was perusing the flour selection at my local Meijer, looking for good quality flours (as any good cook knows, it's all about the quality of the ingredients), and after trying several of their middle-of-the-road products, I took the plunge and bought the king of flours: King Arthur's Organic Whole Wheat flour, which comes in at $6 for 5 pounds. Yep, ouch. But hey, it was worth a shot.

And the shot hit the bulls-eye. Folks, this is REALLY good bread flour, even though it's whole wheat. After using it in various baking adventures, I gradually started increasing the ratio of white to wheat flours in my bread recipe, and lo-and-behold, it's still delicious! Moist yet firm, flavorful but not woody, sweet but not too much so. We love it! And Eric figured out for me that it's costing us $2 a loaf, which is actually comparable to most of the whole wheat breads in the store, but a heckuva lot healthier.

I haven't gone "all the way" and used 100% whole wheat flour in it yet; I guess I'm nervous that we won't like it and I'll have wasted $4 worth of bread ingredients. So I'm still slowly adding more whole wheat and less ultra-processed white to the mix. As of today, I was at 6 cups of wheat to 2 cups of white -- 75%! And it's still absolutely scrumptious! My next batch will probably only contain 1 cup of white flour, and we'll see how that goes. At any rate, I'm pleased with the outcome so far.

So here you are....drumroll, please.....The Bread Recipe:

Mostly Whole Wheat Bread

2 tsp. yeast
1/2 c. hot water
1 T. sugar
1 beaten egg
1/4 c. melted butter, still warm
2 c. hot water + 1/2 c. milk
1 1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 c. sugar (or 1/2 c. honey)
6 c. King Arthur’s organic whole wheat flour
2 c. King Arthur’s organic white flour

  1. Mix yeast, 1/2 c. water, and 1 T. sugar in a glass bowl and let sit for about 10 min. or until foamy, while you mix the other wet ingredients.
  2. Mix together egg, butter, water, salt, and sugar; add the yeast water. Add the flours and blend well.
  3. Let rest for 10 min. Knead on a flat surface (or in a KitchenAid stand mixer with a dough hook) until smooth and elastic, about 10 min.
  4. Place into a greased bowl and turn over. Cover w/ a damp towel and let rise in a warm place for 1-2 hours, or until just doubled in size. (I put it in a slightly warm oven that has been turned off.)
  5. Punch the dough and place it on a flat surface. Knead again for a minute or two.
  6. Roll out the dough with a pin or your hand until about 1” thick. Fold the sides up, then fold the ends up to form a loaf pan shape. Place in 2 greased pans, sprinkle w/oats and cover with damp towels. Let rise another 45-60 min., or until almost doubled in size (again, in a barely warm oven).
  7. With the bread still in it, turn the oven heat to 400 degrees. After 15 min., reduce heat to 375 degrees, rotate the pans, and bake 20-25 minutes longer. Test for doneness by removing from pan and knocking on the bottom; if a hollow sound emerges, the bread is done. Let cool completely on a wire rack before storing. (I refrigerate one loaf, and freeze the other.)
Good luck!

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

What the Bugger-Boo is NOT doing right now

This picture is taken from a week or two ago and is the opposite of what transpired today during nap time. Instead, this is the wide-awake face that greeted me following this afternoon's nap time:
Sigh....What's a mother to do?

First post

Should this be our new blog home?

Friday, March 06, 2009

RIP, Audrey

176,141 and 4,872.

That's the number of miles our old 1996 Pon
tiac Sunfire clocked and the number of days she "lived" before she passed away yesterday on a routine shopping trip to Walmart.

"Audrey," as I affectionately called her (in remembrance of Audrey Hepburn), was a sleek, dependable, low-maintenance coupe that we acquired 6 1/2 years ago for a very reasonable price from Eric's brother Rob, who bought her brand-spankin' new on November 3rd of 1995. She lived a full, mostly well-cared for life (modulo the many years she sat outside in th
e wintery driveways of both of her owners), and died quickly and painlessly at a stoplight, never to run again.

(Note: She probably could run again; we just don't want to pay more than twice her worth to fix her when we were planning on selling her anyway.)

So, alas, she will spend the rest of her days in various pieces in a
junkyard, and we will go on living without her....which is what our plans were in the first place! We were kinda hoping to get a couple hundred bucks out of her before this happened, but oh well! We're thankful for the many years and miles she's given us and will always think of her fondly.

R.I.P., Audrey.
Eric and I sitting in the car together for the last time. The purple flowers and Hebrew character necklace that used to grace the rearview mirror were also celebrating with us and will be put away in a memory box.