Monday, January 31, 2011

Monday Musings

They are predicting a 'storm of the decade'.  I wish it would be like the above picture.  The stolen picture had a caption about it being the Blizzard of 1977 which I totally believe.  We had snowbanks high enough to sled off our neighbor's garage in South Dakota.  Those were the good-old-days.

Funny thing I noticed again today.  The post office had a line 18 deep (really!).  The grocery store was jam-packed.  In fact I feel very lucky.  I got the last two dozen eggs.  (No thanks to the Chicken lady who wouldn't wait for me to get done talking yesterday after g.m. and left without delivering the golden eggs.And to add insult to injury, she had the nerve to say I talk too much!)  So I stocked up for the 'storm of the decade' just like the next guy.

My parents right now are over Canada (flight tracking is sure a neat thing!)  They're a couple hours into a 14 hour and 17 minute flight to a very far away place with cheese curds in their suitcase.  They're going to have special days there on the other side of the world.  Yes, my parents don't let their suitcases get dusty.  No sirreee.  There's people to see.  Places to go.  And Spirits to cheer.

Any parents out there have experience with teeth?  What I mean is teeth that don't come in?  One of the many young people here had a tooth come out almost a year ago.  And the replacement just sits there.  The gum gets all fat and looks promising.  And then it doesn't come through.  So our little toothless wonder will remain as such until the tooth fairy decides to help it down a bit.  We have an appointment in a month to see what's going on.

Speaking of teeth, I have my first cavity (albeit a small one) in years and years.  Will have to cut down on the Laffy Taffy's I reckon.

Had a conversation with the girls last night as they were going to bed.  We were talking about people and houses and unique smells.  One said that they could walk into any friend's house with their eyes closed and know exactly who's place they were at.  And I tend to agree.  It must be a combination of the people that live there, their cleaning supplies, woodwork, pets, you name it.  Everyone's place has a special smell except ours.  We're immune from that because we don't notice it when we come home.  Weird, eh?

Better go get a snack on the island for the young people that will soon barge in the door with very sloppy boots and runny noses.  Another quiet Monday will be no more.  Very random musings I say...

A unique relationship...

It's a very unique relationship.  A mother-in-law.  We all know the stories - mostly bad.  The mother-in-law/daughter-in-law relationship that isn't what it should be.  And I'm trying to figure out why.

There's the kindly suggestions that are taken as 'meddling'.  There's the mother wanting to be with or speak to her son and it is seen as a 'threat'.  There's tips given about the children since they have experience under their belt and that's taken as being 'bossy'.  There's the ones that stop in at any moment's notice and it comes off as 'nosy'.  And so it goes...

But I want to just say how I feel.  I have a wonderful mother-in-law.  She went from a virtual stranger to a very dear lady that I feel moved to call when something goes good or bad in our life.  She doesn't meddle.  She doesn't feel like a threat.  She isn't bossy.  And she isn't nosy.

She loves her son.  And I love him too.  And isn't that the very reason why we should be close?  She loves our children equally.  And I do too.  And isn't that the very reason why we should be close?  And I know she loves me and I also love her.  I think time draws people together.  Loving the same people.  And going through some tough experiences.  And sharing our lives.

Some day if I live long enough, I will also be a mother-in-law if one or more of our children choose to marry.  I hope I don't meddle.  I hope I don't threat.  I hope I'm not bossy.  I hope to not be nosy.  I've got a good example.  And for that and for her... I'm thankful.

She probably won't be overjoyed I wrote these kind things about her because, well, that's not the kind of person she is.  She's reserved.  She's humble.  And not one to look for limelight. But on this, her birthday, I just wanted her to know that we are thankful for her and her good example.

Happy Birthday to you Mom D!

Tuesday, January 25, 2011


And nothing more.  Still thinking serious thoughts.  Thinking about life and how precious it is.  Through the gift of being more 'connected', we hear of other situations of loss.  And maybe it is a good thing.  It makes us want to reach out.  Encourage.  And intercede for help.

Had a really nice past weekend.  It started out with special company here for supper/night on Friday.  They left here on Saturday morning leaving a sweet influence behind.  Then a wonderful, packed service for a dear old man.  It was standing-room only.  He had a lot of family and a lot of friends.  He would have just shook his head slowly and smiled at the crowd.  Then we raced to Madison to surprise my much older sister and eat pasta together.  It was so fun.  The kids and I spent the rest of the weekend with them south of the border.  How neat is that!  I even 'let' her win the Scrabble game by six points.  Didn't want her to think her mind was slipping or anything.

Son #1 got his real first snowboarding experience and he loved it.  Wow... 10 years old.  He's in basketball now these days.  My heart just swells when he looks up at the stands at me with a grin.  That's my boy!  Kids are great no matter if they are boys/girls.  But I love having both.  We are lucky.

Was making the Chairman's granola today and had 4-10 minute increments to get stuff done between stirs.  And you know what?  You can get a LOT done in 10 minutes.  Believe me.  It was actually a fun way to get through tedious tasks.  Really, when you're a SAHM, so much is mundane and repetitive.  At least it's a way to make it more 'fun'.

Brought home a fresh bag of dog food today.  Now mind you Lisi met me in the driveway with he fluffy tail wagging like mad.  I thought nothing of it as I backed into the garage.  She raced to the back of the van all excited.  Is it possible that she actually smelled the dog food in the van before I even drove in?  It really appeared that way.

And the Packers!  Packer fever in these parts.  "We" are bound for the Super Bowl!  Whoooot!  The newspaper has big, fat special sections about it.  The stores are sold out of NFC champion t-shirts.  Crazy I say!  And really fun!  I think they classify me as a 'fair-weather fan', which drives the 'true' fans crazy.  Oh well.  The ride is shorter and more fun this way!

Facebook is starting to lose some luster I think.  Or maybe I'm wrong.  But I'm not seeing quite as many status updates as there were say a year ago.  True?  Or not?

Better call it a day.  And be thankful for the one I had.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Monday Musings

I don't really feel like musing much.  It's because it all seems so frivolous.  I'm sad.  For some people I know that lost someone too soon.  He was a young man.  In the prime of his life really.  And his heart gave out.  And now many hearts are broken.  And it makes me sad.  A lot of people know about him.  Are touched by this loss.  We all are sad.  Thinking of parents planning a funeral.  Siblings saying goodbye to a dear friend.  Yes, we're sad.  I remember when he was born.  He lived in my home town.  His parents, although older than I was by a few years were friends of mine.  I distinctly remember standing in a small living room rocking this little chubby dark-haired boy after he was born.  I loved to go to his parent's little place and hold this baby while his mommy worked.   He was an adorable little fellow.  And always had this little mischievous grin on his cute little face.  I wasn't around him much after those early years.  But then at another funeral a few years ago, he came up to me and wanted to be sure I knew who he was.  Well of course I did.  He looked exactly like he did when he was three. Same smile.  Same warm face.  So we're sad.  But thankful for the help his family can get from friends.  From family.  And from above.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

I make a difference...

They put the sticker on my sweater with the above saying.  But did I?

I've donated blood.  I think four times thus far.  But last time I went I was a teensy-weensy bit low in my hemoglobin (iron).  So they handed me a 'Deferral Letter' and sent me on my way.

I knew today's blood drive was coming to the school.  The kids didn't let me forget.  There was to be free coupons for custard (a frozen rich ice cream for you non-Wisconsinites) and t-shirts for children whose parents participated.  So I marked the calendar.  But that's not all.  I took my vitamins religiously.  I ate anything rich in iron I could get my hands on.  I ate a lot of beef.  I made anything with lots of different kinds of legumes.  I had not one or two but three large spinach salads this week.  And I drank blackstrap molasses by tablespoonfuls.  At least three times/day for the past week.  So I was feeling confident as I strode into the school.

After the initial questions, they poked me to check the iron.  Squeeze.  Squeeze.  Squeeze.  Finally she decides on the sample.  Takes it back.  Returns within a moment.  You're low.  I'm going to try again.  Squeeze.  Squeeze.  Squeeze.  Squeeeeeeze.  Then she takes the sample.  Comes back in a moment saying brightly, 'you're 12.4!'.  That must be good I'm thinking.  So I made it?  No.  You need to be 12.5 and both samples are exactly the same.  I'll have Nicole take the next sample.  I'm sure we'll make it this time.  She's good.  In comes Nicole.  I immediately like her.  She grabs my ring finger.  Wipes with alcohol and gives me a good poke.  And then she squeezes and squeezes and squeezes and swabs and squeezes some more.  After about 8 times she finally takes the sample.  Leaves the little area.  Comes back within moments.  12.4!  I smile and say, 'at least I'm consistent!'  She laughs.  And then tells me to not be discouraged.  And hands me the 'Deferral Letter' and off I go.  Me and my low iron.

So I made a difference!  Only to our children.  You see even though I'm 'deferred', they still qualify.  They still get to bring home a very ill-fitting cheap t-shirt that says 'American Red Cross' on it.  So that's what matters in the end.

Deferred, but not deterred.  I'll be back.  To be poked and poked and possibly poked again.  Because I want to make a difference beyond a cheap t-shirt!

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Happy Birthday to my much older sister!

"Big sisters are the crab grass in the lawn of life."
— Linus Van Pelt

We called her "Lucy".  We also had other nicknames for her.  "Chubs" (ask my mean older brother about that one), "Kuni", and lately "Karne".  But even though I am a full four inches taller than her, she will always be my 'big sister'.  And I'm so thankful I have a sister.  
She was the quiet one.  And the smart one.  And the serious one.  And the one that liked to be alone reading things.  Thinking quiet thoughts.  And torturing me for years and years by breathing on my neck when we shared our double bed.  She graduated from college.  Landed a good job.  And eventually started dreaming about this skinny guy from Illinois that stole her heart and drove her away to Illinois.  He was and is her soul mate.  They had the privilege of raising three wonderful kids that are now lovely adults all in their own special way.  I loved her babies to the core.  I still do.  She has a great wisdom about things (well she's much older you see...).  I once asked in frustration about one of our children and what to do.  I love the answer she gave.  'Break their will, but not their spirit'.  Nice.  Perfect.  Another thing she mentions often now that she's already experiencing an empty nest is to enjoy the ordinary family days.  And the evenings.  Just the five of us.  Making memories doing nothing special.  Just 'being'.  I like that too.  
These days she is still very sweet and caring and giving. They have a very, very open home.  She's never met a stranger.  And do you know what else?  She will tell you with her eyes dancing in great enthusiasm that 'Great Aunt Marge's 2nd cousin on her dad's side was related to a George Whistestraight because he married Harriet who was a nephew to the 2nd cousin!  Can you believe that?  How great!  Um.  Sure.  But please don't let all this 'fluff' fool you.  She's got a competitive streak.  I know.  She's made sure that she doesn't live up to the 'Chubs' nickname.  I hear what size skirt she just bough and how teensy-weensy it is!  And that is just after I finished off a plate of pasta.  
But I love her and admire her and hope I can have some of those same sweet qualities as she does.  
Here's a few sister quotes I found and love:  
Is solace anywhere more comforting than in the arms of a sister? 
Sisters are different flowers from the same garden. 
One of the best things about being an adult is the realization that you can share with your sister and still have plenty for yourself.
An older sister is a friend and defender - a listener, conspirator, a counsellor and a sharer of delights.  And sorrows too.
A sister is a little bit of childhood that can never be lost. 

So happy birthday to you big sis!  (pssst.  This is a big one!)

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

He was family...

He was 96.  By human reasoning he was a very old man.  But to me and many others, he had the spirit of a tender child.  This morning he was released from the bondage of his body.  And we are thankful.  For him.  For his example.  And how he made us feel.

For 16 years I've known this gentle man - although it seems longer as I heard about him before that.  He and his wife had shown kindness to my own father back in 1959.  And then we started to meet with him each Sunday for our married life.  I like how we can read in the bible that those that meet together are like 'families'.  That's what he was to me.  Family.  My grandpa.  A father figure.  A friend.  This man could sing.  And he liked the hymns to last longer than they really should sometime.  He would belt out the notes and hang on to them for all he was worth.  And he knew what he was singing.  Most of the time it was by heart.  And when we came to a phrase, a thought, or something that touched him, he'd nearly break down and couldn't finish.  I will not forget that example to not just go through the motions but to really 'feel' what the words mean.

He loved families.  He had tears in his eyes when we experienced our losses.  And he had tears when we brought our babies into the room for the first time.  And he loved to watch them grow.  And throw Cheerios.  And catch a smile.  He and Mira had a thing going for nearly a year.  We'd walk in and then he'd wave at her.  She grew old enough to wave back.  It happened every Sunday until I scolded Mira and said to not do that.  I shouldn't have.  It brought him joy.  And it brought her joy.  It bridged a gap that was 88 years between.  Amazing.  And sweet.

He worked hard.  I remember stories of him laying wood gym floors and he'd stop and sleep on the hard floor without nary a jacket under his head.  Just stop and sleep and keep working.  He could fix about anything you set before him.  And he loved to do it.  For himself and for others.

He experienced bitter loss.  He lost his first wife to cancer when still younger.  He had the privilege of marrying again and had a very devoted wife through these years of weakness.  It was inspiring to see their love.  To watch her hold his hand.  A smile.  A pat.  Deep and utter love until the end.  

And so another pillar is gone from our area.  We've lost a lot of dear souls the past few years.  Those that have had an influence on our lives.  Those that have encouraged us.  Made us laugh.  And made us love.  Yes, we are a family.  Sometimes it isn't blood.  Sometimes it's even richer.

Monday, January 17, 2011

If you have 11 min. to waste...

Monday Musings

Miss Responsibility.  Came down early this mornng
thinking she would be late.  Then conked out
by the fire

Big sister trying to warm up and not liking
mornings one bit

Frantically getting homework done that could
have been worked on last night

Enjoying Mr.  Grinch who we got off a clearance rack for
under $2.  Cheap dog toy that she is loving
to death.  I think Lisi is trying to bite some
happiness into him
Here we go again!  Tis a snowy morning here in dairyland.  I took four random shots of everyone but the Chairman this morning.  I didn't think he'd appreciate me taking a photo of him in the shower or eating the Chairman's granola this morning.

So we wait for Mr. Garage Door Repairman to come.  One door refuses to talk to our remotes.  Sigh.

Anyone familiar with Flylady?  I signed up, but not sure I want extra e-mails every day.  I try to run a tight ship around here anyway.  And I see the most important thing is a shiny sink.  Maybe I'll go do that now.  Not to mention the four loads of laundry and some vacuuming and... and...

A very nice past weekend.  We were without our son for all of it but about four hours.  He wanted to go out to the Chicken Farm to see his friend and gladly do chores for the Chicken Lady.  He had great fun.  And learned lots of things.  And loved to get close again last night before bed.  I like it when he is still likes to plop on my lap (even though he's only about 14 lbs. lighter than me now).  And I'm glad the "girls" out at the Chicken Farm are starting to earn their keep.  I like 4 doz. brown eggs just waiting to be used...

So we switched a vehicle on Saturday.  And while at the car place waiting for them to finish up what they do, the girls and I headed back to the restrooms.  We walked in and it was just us.  After I did my business I unlocked my stall and said very brightly as I walked out, "Wow!  Mom really had to go potty!"  Just as I finished the last word I was face to face with a middle-aged lady who looked at me in surprise.  I think she was thinking I was a bit loopy.  So I said quickly "I'm sure you really didn't need to know that!".  Then giggled quietly with the girls and skittered out of there hoping we didn't run into each other again (which we didn't).

Don't let the Chairman's low-key ways fool you.  As I was driving out of our driveway with the aforementioned vehicle, he yells 'watch it!'.  I hit the brakes.  Then he says, 'there's a car over there'.  Now mind you the car was one block away on a completely different road.  He is the back seat drivers of all back seat drivers.  That's why he drives 99.94% of the time when we're together.

If you know my Much Older Sister, you might want to get a card in the mail.  She's turning the big (well I won't say it here) on Wednesday.  And she doesn't look a day over 49!

I think there is no more musings...

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Sick and sleepy

Miss Polly had a dolly who was sick, sick, sick...  
Yep.  The bug hit here yesterday.  I almost feel bad.  R. was acting just crabby yesterday before school.  I gave her a good tongue-lashing and sent her on her way.  Nearly forget about the incident and head to the local mall.  Some replacement plastic thingys for our blinds were in.  Picked them up.  Then decided since I'm at the mall and because I love shopping so much I might as well take a look-see.  Went to R's favorite store and found another sweatshirt on a good clearance.  Then started to mosey around like normal people do.  My cell rings.  Hi, this is the health room calling...  no fever, but she won't move off the little bed in here.  I talk to her.  Tell her in no uncertain terms that if she isn't losing breakfast or has a fever, she must stay at school and 'be tough'.  Ok she says meekly.  Continue looking around realizing how much I really don't like shopping.  But there should be good deals, right?  About 20 minutes later the phone rings again while I stand amidst a bunch of clearance racks.  "Hi Linda, this is Linda (confusing isn't it?) from the health room.  I just took Rayna's temperature and now it is 99.5 and she's looking worse."  Ok.  It's the real thing.  I'll be there in 20 minutes and turn on my heels and leave the mall.  And that was that! My shopping for yesterday!  Darling daughter came home to sleep.  Read.  Sip a few sips of water.  And sleep some more.  This morning there is no fever.  But no energy and she keeps sleeping under a throw next to the wood stove.

I forgot about taking blackstrap molasses until I saw it rolling around the cupboard yesterday.  I'm intending to give blood in another week, so better get some iron in me.  I keep getting rejected.  Kinda like my dating years.  tee-hee.

How often do you wash your hotpads?  This is riveting stuff ain't it?  I don't nearly often enough.  They hit the ga-ross factor, so last night I threw them all in.  And cleaned out the fridge.  And washed under the garbage can area.  And the oven.  So it feels cleaner again.

Just got a blog hit this morning from Romania.  Why you ask?  Because the person was searching for 'killing my first chicken' and my blog popped up for him/her!  Yowser.  I think it was from the story when Lisi about killed a friend's chicken.  Silly Google.

Wish I could meet more of you readers (well maybe not the chicken killer from Romania).

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Getting fancy...

Posted by Picasa

Always felt a bit frustrated with myself as I never have taken the time to figure out how to be creative with pictures.  Creativity and me don't belong in the same sentence.  Will see what happens from here on out.  This was done on Picasa.  Any great tips you have will be warmly appreciated.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Monday Musings

I'll admit it.  I look forward to our one-way conversations on Mondays.  It helps wrap my very small brain around life somehow.  Not sure what will be 'mused' today.  Will just have to sit back and see what words come forth.

Since the youngest at our house is now 8 1/2, we don't hear misspoken words or comments as much as we used to.  I miss that.  But I did hear a couple things.  This morning one child seriously asked, 'Who invented school?  And why do we have to go?'.  Another one was 'How did dad's computer crash?  Did it fall off his desk?'  Sometimes I like to play mind games and say an obvious wrong answer.  But they are getting smart on me.

So yes, the Chairman's computer crashed.  It was a big deal.  Files lost.  Productivity came to a screeching halt. It is his livelihood.  He writes big fat important looking reports full of charts and numbers and pictures for people.   Now he's got a new computer with new software and sundries to work through and you know what?  It's going pretty good!  I expected a high degree of frustration when the phone would ring.  But it hasn't been.  Good news!

We've been playing a lot of "Spoons" these days.  We play until one child (the loser) is just about to whack another child (the winner) on the head with a spoon and then we call it quits.

Lisi is getting all "purdy' right now.  A coupon came to my inbox for a cheaper grooming appointment.  So she'll be back with a nice trim and smell like peaches and cream.  That is until she finds some very rank thing to roll in while we're out on a walk.

I live in the Dairyland.  There's a real culture here.  If you are going anywhere for a weekend or vacation, most frequently you'll hear that they are going 'up north'.  Or if they are from 'up north', they are going 'up nort'.  We live at the far southern end of the state so no matter where you go it's 'up north'.  Then there's deer season.  Life stops for deer opener.  Bow season.  Gun season.  Doe season.  And so it goes.  Guys go to cabins to get away from the ball and chain.  Shoot the breeze.  And shoot their guns.  I realize it's all necessary.  Maybe not so much for the venison but to thin the over population.  And I'm ok with that.  And then there is Packer season.  You must know how the Packers are doing.  It's splashed all over the front two pages of the paper and in the very thick sports section.  Packer-backers.  Cheeseheads.  Tail-gaters.  It's a culture.  To the point of nauseating.  But they won yesterday.  So it's going stronger than ever right now.

Most of you know that I'm a tightwad frugal.  And I don't like to shop.  A shout-out to DC who posted today about her not-so-much love for shopping like me!  I wish we weren't so far away so we could go and "not shop" together.  Anyway, I needed to drop off four - count them!  four bags of 'stuff' for Goodwill.  Went into the joint since the girls love to go try on high heels that look ridiculous.  And you know what?  I found a beautiful skirt for $3.99!  It's an Anne Klein.  Pretty colors.  Lovely drape.  Fits like a glove (or a touch looser).  A couple months ago I found another for the same price.  Wore it to our special gathering last Sunday.  Got several compliments.  Do I tell them it is from Goodwill?  Well some I did.  And some received a smile and 'thanks'.

I do like saving money if at all possible. You see the Chairman is the only one in this house that brings home the bacon (well I do if we need more stuff for breakfast and it's on sale).  He works hard and supports us right-well.  But waste-not, want-not.  So I plan my grocery visits around sales.  I am frequenting the store with the put-a-quarter-in-the-slot for your shopping cart.  I love that place.  Their canned goods are exactly the same and about 30 cents a can cheaper.  Their milk is a $1 less/gallon.  Their bagged baby spinach is super-cheap.  Avocados, grapefruit, peppers.  Yum.  Laundry soap was $3 cheaper than the brand name (Tide).   But you have to bag it all and schlep it out to the car and take your cart back to the cart area to get your quarter back.  Great savings!  Light bulbs.  Have replaced some with those savings kind.  I like the lower wattage idea.  Still struggle with the wait until it warms up so you can finally see what you need to idea though.  I do shop on-line.  If I see something in a store I like, I google it.  Check out lots of sites and if there's free shipping.  Well voila!  Here comes UPS!  And I like hand me downs for the kids.  Or me for that matter.  As long as they don't look thread bare. We're in business.

This is Amanda the Panda.  She is from school and
the Chairman had to take her around with him
for work one day.  Here she's relaxing after
a busy day.

Happy Girl on New Year's Eve

Happy Girl #2 on New Year's Eve

Kids playing games 
So back to the business at hand.  Loads of laundry.  Another dirty kitchen floor.  Stoking the fire.  And on it goes.  Thanks for the chat you dear friends!

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Give us this day...

... our daily bread.  We eat bread here.  For toast.  And school lunches.  After school snack with homemade strawberry jam.  Or Nutella.  Not to mention french toast, cinnamon rolls, and pizza crust.  The Chairman and I both have mothers that made bread.  My own mom made it from the time she was married up until now.  When I was about 9, I remember asking if we could buy bread like my friends did.  We did have purchased bread on occasion, but it was a rare thing.  My mom-in-law always makes a dark, whole-grain bread or dinner rolls.  It is healthy and good.  After we had been married a bit, I decided once I wasn't working full-time I better get my act together.  I used a 2-lb bread machine for about 14 years.  Never baked with it.  But made 2-1 lb. loaves about every other day.  Then it decided that it had done enough and now I have a Bosch Universal Mixer.  I was nervous about using it at first, but now I love it.  It took some getting used to.  New things scare me you know.  I never knew how much to actually knead the bread in it.  But now when 6 loaves come out of the oven in great form, I'm sold.

Yeast breads are fickle.  And addicting.  It's kind of like gambling really.  You never know if you'll score big or not.  Since it is a living thing, it doesn't always turn out exactly the same.  It is dependent on humidity, air temperatures, temperature of the liquid you put in, the mood of the baker, or what-not.  Some days it rises beautifully and is ready to hit the oven after 30 minutes.  Some days it needs lots of encouragement and talking to and some extra time and it slowly rises.  But it all gets eaten nonetheless.

I hesitate to write down tips as there are a great number of you that read this silly blog.  And there are a great number of you that are far-better cooks and bakers than I am.  But I'll share what has worked for me.  If it helps, great!  If you think I need to take lessons from you, well give me a call!

- Fresh ingredients are key - especially the flour and yeast.  My chicken farmer friend has just lately done some wheat grinding for me.  Yum.  Not only is there eggs and honey coming out of that joint.  Now there's flour!  I'm still waiting for an orange tree and a pig for bacon.

- I almost always add one or two eggs to every bread recipe.  Why you ask?  Well for some reason (and maybe a figment of my imagination), the bread seems to rise better.  It adds protein.  And it makes the crust less hard (making the school lunches more palatable).

- If a recipe asks for only water, I use half or all milk.  Lately, it's been only half.  Again, a bit more nutrition.

- I always add 'stuff'.  Flax seed.  Ground flax.  Cracked wheat.  Oat germ.  You name it.  I have lots of bags of 'stuff' sitting around.  I'll toss in a handful of whatever is close.  Also, if there's leftover oatmeal from breakfast, just dump it in!  As long as someone didn't actually eat on it.

- I made the mistake of allowing the Bosch to over-knead at first.  It made the loaves too dense (kinda like me). Now I add all the remaining flour gradually and then let it knead it for only a minute or so.  And voila!  Nice dough.

- It doesn't matter what you use for sweetener.  Some are passionate about not using sugar.  Honey is good.  But the loaves will be a bit darker.  I tend to use some honey or molasses in each recipe so if I add 1/3 cup honey, just use 1/3 cup brown sugar.

- Don't let it rise too long.  I like it to rise a bit while baking.  Helps keep the loaves a bit lighter.

- Don't wash bread pans.  Just wipe them out with a paper towel or something and put away.  They will 'season' and the bread will slip out better that way.

- For sweet breads, I just tweak either recipe.  I use mainly butter for the oil.  Add a touch more sweetener.  And leave out all the extra grains if you want a smoother texture.  For the filling, use softened butter, brown sugar, and good-quality cinnamon (I prefer our local Penzey's brand).

- And the best tip of all is share it.  Share it with your immediate family.  With your friends.  With a shut-in.  Bread is something that is very simple.  Yet satisfying.  It's no accident that it is used as an example many times in the bible.  It feeds and nurtures and shows that effort was put forth in love.  And that's what makes life worthwhile.  

Anyway, here's a couple recipes.  The first one is my old stand-by that I used with my breadmaker.  The second one is the one I've been using lately with the Bosch.  Both recipes give me a consistent result.  And that's important when the three young people come bursting in the door at 3:35 looking to fill their bellies.

getting started

dough ready to pull out of mixer

raised and ready for pans

into the oven it goes

yum!  want to come over?

The "Chef's" Bread" 

1 1/3 cups milk - warm in microwave about 2 minutes
1 egg
1/4 cup canola oil (you can use butter instead)
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
3 tablespoons sweetener (white or brown sugar, molasses, or honey) * I use a touch of molasses and the rest brown sugar

4 cups unbleached bread flour
3 teaspoons of yeast

2-3 tablespoons ground flax   \
2 tablespoons of wheat germ - none of these three are necessary, but it's what I do
a sprinkling of flax seed          /

Put in bread machine and set on dough setting. When dough beeps (often mine is ready before the dough cycle is over) take out of bread machine pan and let sit a couple minutes. Then knead it down and separate into two loaves and put in pan. Raise for 30-40 minutes (until it is over the pan rim). Bake at 350 for 24-25 minutes. Immediately remove from pans.

This recipe can easily be done by hand. And it can be doubled if you want four loaves.


The "Bosch Bread"

1/2 cup warm water
3 packages of yeast (or almost 3 tablespoons)
1/4 cup bread flour
1 tablespoon white sugar
1 egg

Put those ingredients in the Bosch mixing bowl.  Stir it up a little bit.  Let sit for 5 minutes until the yeast starts to bubble.

2 cups quick cooking oats
2 cups whole wheat flour
4 1/2 cups warm water/milk mix  (I microwave it for 3 minutes and that's about perfect.  Make sure it is 110 degrees at least.)  
1 1/2 tablespoons salt 
2/3 cup brown sugar (or replace with molasses or honey)
2/3 cup canola oil (you can use some butter in place of the oil)
10 cups unbleached bread flour (you can add additional whole wheat here if you like)

Measure oats, water/milk, whole wheat flour, salt, 2/3 cup sugar, and 2/3 cup oil into mixing bowl.  Mix on low speed for 1-2 minutes.  Increase speed slightly and begin adding bread flour 1 cup at a time until the bread separates from the bowl edge.  It is normal for the dough to be sticky on the bottom yet.  

Place dough in big bowl and rise in a warm place.  I put it in an enclosed oven that is warm with a damp towel over it.  Let rise for one hour or until double in size.

Divide dough into six pieces and put in pans.  I usually bake a few bigger and smaller loaves.  Or make some round loaves on a cookie sheet.  Cover with a towel and let rise for almost an hour.  Start oven about 30-40 minutes after you put in the pans.  

Bake at 350 degrees for 25 minutes (or longer if necessary) until the tops are brown.  Transfer to the cooling racks to cool completely (unless your family is starving and want to slice it when it's hot).  

Monday, January 3, 2011

Morbid Monday Musings

This time it actually is on a Monday!  Just back from a gruesome walk with Lisi.  You see we have these woodchucks or ground squirrels or whatever they are called about a 1/4 mile from here.  They've made a fantastic tunnel system near one of the ponds.  They are usually out.  Or "He" is usually out when we go by.  Lisi has playfully tossed Mr. Woodchuck nearly each time we go by.  The Chairman was horrified on his walk the first time it happened.  He came back to report in on how Lisi had tossed this big rodent thing high in the air.  Oh.  She does that every day when we go during daylight hours.  Well today she wasn't in a good mood.  Or Mr. Woodchuck did something.  Or dog-nature kicked into high gear.  But she first did a playful toss.  Seemed innocent enough.  Then she grabbed Mr. Woodchuck and shook and bit (presumably very had).  He landed.  Lisi stood over him.  One little paw was just shaking in a seizure-like state.  Then all was quiet.  A couple sniffs later and Lisi was ready to move on.  Mission accomplished.  And I feel sick.  I love nature and realize that is a part of life.  But still.  He was ambling about doing what they do and wham.  Death by a dog.  Ick.  Which leads me to thoughts about teeth and jaw strength and so forth.  Really for the size of that thing and the apparent instant death through a chomp, Lisi's jaw strength is scary-strong.  I'm glad in her doggy brain she doesn't relate such intent to innocent people.  I guess that's why we have a 'soft-mouthed' golden.  And why we took her to endless hours of training.  Good dog, Lisi.  Sorta.

We had a wonderful ringing in of the New Year.  A smaller crowd.  At the usual cozy home.  With some of our favorite people.  Playing games.  Sharing our lives.  And eating tasty treats.

Yesterday was a 'special' day for us.  Lots of you know what I mean.  It was one of the better ones.  One thought mentioned was that you can't share something with others if you don't possess it yourself.  I love the thought that those that are sharing such riches are not telling us to do something they aren't willing to do themselves.  They do it and go so far beyond what is expected of us.  One thing about the location yesterday.  The HVAC system was on steroids.  In the morning it got to be about 98.7 in there (I'm exaggerating slightly).  In the afternoon, it was near-blizzard conditions until someone said something to the authorities and then the temperatures started to climb.  Was fascinating watching the coats go off and on and off.  I did listen though...

I feel a bit lonely today.  Two weeks ago I was feeling a bit anxious about the very long break that was upon us. The kids like things happening.  Places to go.  People to see.  All three are extroverts (wonder where they get that from?).  We kept plenty busy.  And the bus came and the Chairman drove away and it was ominously quiet.  An empty nest for 7 hours.  I'm glad they are coming home again.

This isn't really funny is it?  I like funny.  Oh well.  There's lots of time this year yet for funny...

I haven't posted any pictures lately.  Want me to bother?  Or not.