Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Sourdough Starter Take II

The last time I tried sourdough was up in Nearly Canada, North Dakota. After two or three hoochie, stinky, moldy and downright nasty attempts, I gave up and just went back to standard, although delicious yeast breads.

That trendy "no knead bread" recipe came along, and is really good, and even kind of sour if you follow the Cook's Illustrated recipe which cheats by adding a bit of cheap lager beer and a tablespoon of vinegar. But now, I'm getting bored with that and I want to build some real sourdough.

So, on my counter right now is a really bad smelling (eau du barf) starter. I think I've failed again. This was a "no fail" rye and water starter. Maybe I'll go back up to The Fresh Loaf site and try the deluxe natural starter that many posters on the site say works great:


According to sourdough experts on thefreshloaf, it is exactly odiferously bad as it should be right won't smell "sourdoughy" for a couple of days. Phew....maybe I'll succeed this time!

Final 8/1/08
Starter II
b. Monday 7/28/08
d. a few days later...
RIP. I knew ye little. Back to the drawing board.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Coolest lunchboxes ever!

Ingrid starts preschool in two weeks (arghhh!!!) and she needed a lunchbox. I needed something insulated because of the heat here in Almost Mexico. After googling "modern insulated lunchbox" I found these little pieces of awesomeness. They completely unzip to create a placemat, too! And they hold up to 10 pounds of lunch...10 pounds???!!! Oh, and they cost less than the cheapo Barbie lunchbox at Target for $12.99. Check them out at the Built NY website: they only take Amex...I don't have one of those...). I did find a site (Mamas and Munchkins) that shipped two for standard shipping for $2.95, though: I got Ingrid the pink panda, and Ilsa the green bunny.

Monday, July 28, 2008

10 Things I'm Thankful For -- 7/28/08

In no particular order:

1. My Kitchenaid stand mixer
2. The bulk bins at Sunflower market
3. Popcorn
4. Cool looking security doors
5. Finding a bag of See's chocolate hearts from Valentine's Day that I hid too well in February
6. Both of the girls napping at the same time today
7. The spinning bike
8. Crayola washable markers
9. Silence
10. Motrin

Not too little, not too much. Juuuuust right.

The Lord is always juuuuust right. I was talking with a friend this morning about the past two weeks in our household: Dad's car accident and subsequent Dad hospitalization, Chad's travel, Ingrid's bike accident and ER visit, then the awful fever she developed. I was feeling a bit more than sorry for myself.

But then it hit me like a lightning bolt: if Dad hadn't have been in that car accident in Florida, would his heart anomaly (I still don't know how to spell that) have been caught? What about the partial artery blockage? He was injured in such a way that was bad enough that he had to be admitted and have a thorough check, but not so badly as to cause permanent damage. Not too little, not too much, juuuuust right.

Please Lord, don't let me doubt your perfect plan!

Does God have an opinion about coloring books?

Ingrid got a really cool coloring book yesterday of reproductions of stained glass windows from European cathedrals. The pictures are printed on vellum so you can put them up on windows to let the light shine through the colors. There are pictures of apostles, Mary and Joseph, a rose window...

and....Satan (or as they called him, Fiend). She was really interested in this picture at first, wanting to know all about his pointed teeth and horns. We explained that Satan doesn't look like that really, but probably is beautiful because he is the Father of Lies and an Angel of Light to try and deceive people. She kept saying, "hey, look at Satan, look at Satan."

After church today she could hardly wait to paint a page. She announced, "God wouldn't want me to color this picture, so Mommy, will you tear it out and throw it away? Thanks, Mommy."

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Make your's better ya know

My girls love popcorn, and I calculated the cost of microwave popcorn in individual bags to a one-time purchase of a popper. So, about a week ago, I bought a microwave popcorn popper from eBay stores. It was about $10 plus a nominal shipping fee. No moving parts; as simple as simple can be. A bowl and a lid. We have made popcorn almost every day since it arrived. I bought a jar of bulk Orville Redenbachers popcorn at Target for about $3. (I know there is way better popcorn out there, and I'm intent upon finding it. Know of any? Comment me!)
I also noticed something else; I don't want to be gross, but I had always been hesitant to eat popcorn myself because my stomach was not the same for 3 or 4 days afterwards. No problems now. All of this to say.........what in the world do "they" put in boxed microwave popcorn? It can't be good for you!
Get one. It's nifty.
For 3 1/2 years now, I've been baking my own bread. At the beginning I used a bread machine; now I just use my stand mixer. I've even found no-knead recipes that only require a big bowl and a wooden spoon. I lost about 5 pounds the first month of breadmaking, and I was eating the same sandwiches that I did before. What in the world is in commercial breads, even so-called "healthy breads"? I can count on my hands and feet the number of loaves we've purchased since then.
When Ingrid was an infant, at the suggestion of a good friend, I decided to make her baby food -- I made 95% of what she ate, only purchasing prepared stuff for trips or emergencies. She really hated the Gerber jarred food after getting a taste of mommy's! I gave her regular rolled oats instead of the boxed powdered kind, just as soon as she could physically handle the texture. She still eats them for breakfast and she's 4 1/2. Think about the cost of a pound of sweet potatoes versus the cost of a jar of Gerber. A pound made enough to feed her for a couple of months.
I also made my own yogurt for a while (I gave that up because I found really good, organic and reasonable yogurt had become readily available even at the Base commissary - you civilians, that's just the grocery store on Base). Read this article by Dr. Sears about how to know good yogurt from not so good. It's really enlightening, and you may never buy Yoplait again: I always keep two big tubs of yogurt in my home: a Stonyfield flavored (strawberry or vanilla) and a nonfat plain, which I use all the time for salad dressing, smoothies, as a sour cream substitute and in baking.
We make our own fruit smoothies instead of buying them in little bottles.
I make my own salad dressing. Good grief, this is a 1 minute way to save a ton of money if you eat salads! Here's a simple beginning recipe which works as a springboard for lots of flavors:
  • 1 part olive oil
  • 1 part vinegar of your choice (balsamic, white, cider, wine, red wine, japanese)
  • Some dijon mustard
  • a bit of sugar (raw is great)
  • Dried herbs
  • Maybe some garlic (powder or fresh)
  • Salt and pepper to taste
Okay, you bored yet? I better stop, besides Chad is telling me he's "seven minutes" away from walking out the door, and the girls are still napping...

Extreme backyard gardening

This is really cool. Chad found this video about a family in Pasadena who has, on 1/10th of an acre, built a garden that provides pretty much 100% of the produce, grain and chicken that the family eats. They even supply organic food to fancy restaurants in the area.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

10 Things I'm Thankful For (7/24 edition)

Ilsa drew her first smiley face -- unfortunately it was on an erase-board toy; fortunately I took a picture before she wiped it. Okay, on to the real post, and in no particular order:

1. The ER staff at St. Joe's -- they really cared about Ingrid were so kind
2. The drive-thru at the Donut Wheel
3. Free DVD checkout at the library
4. Friends who I can call out of the blue and carry on a conversation with them like I'd seen them yesterday, and hadn't seen them in months/over a year (KB and MF you know who you are!)
5. Online airplane ticketing
6. 1 day Netflix delivery
7. Frozen pizza
8. Monsoon rains
9. Sunblock
10. My Alltel circle

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

What a week...

Whewwwww....I'm glad THAT week is done. Dad's car accident; can't find which hospital he's in in Florida; found him; heart trouble discovered; open heart surgery??? Aaaackkk!!!! No open heart surgery...blockage fixed; has to have an escort home on the plane; Chad flies out this morning to bring him home tonight back to Seattle...

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Shirley Temple Likeness?

Ingrid was watching "Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm" today. Do you think she looks like Shirley Temple? Ingy's curls are totally "popped" in this picture, but when she's all curly, she really looks like her.

Playing Nursemaid

Ilsa was kind of itchy, and Ingrid jumped at the chance to take care of her. She ordered her to bed "right away", showered her with her own toys and begged me to let her have a cup of tea in bed (no!!).

My Dad....

My wonderful, sweet Dad is in the hospital after a car accident yesterday afternoon. He was in Florida visiting his sister after a 30 year lapse. (They had talked on the phone, but hadn't seen eachother in person.) The weather was horrible -- one of those amazing gushing downpours only possible in a tropical climate. He skidded and spun out, hitting two barriers.

No one else was around. And it was rush hour. And the airbags didn't go off...and the pen in his pocket shattered as he hit the steering wheel so hard. AND HE DOESN'T HAVE A BROKEN BONE OR A BRUISE ON HIM. He's very sore...

The Lord surely had his hand on his faithful servant.

I just wish either myself or my mom could be out there with him. It must be lonely in a hospital with no one to be with you...

Tuesday, July 15, 2008


This reminds me of that Jodie Foster movie where the girl lives alone in the woods and speaks her own language. And spins around dancing a lot.

Camera Shy

Ilsa really didn't want her picture taken yesterday. In fact, she told me that "cameras are naughty."

After blueberry smoothies...

"My chest is bleeding for joy! - Ingrid

I guess that smoothie was good.

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Book club wrap-up on "The Hiding Place"

Book club was today. First of all, I love my girls, but it was REALLY (can I emphasize it enough??) nice to get away for three hours of insightful and meaningful conversation. We meet bi-monthly. We've read four books now: A Severe Mercy, Whose Body?, Quo Vadis and The Hiding Place. All have been good choices (except for Whose Body, which is a fun book, but I don't think it really lends itself to discussion).

It was beneficial to read Quo Vadis (QV) and The Hiding Place (THP) in succession. Both speak to the dissolution of moral/social structure, persecution, tyranny. Both also portray selflessness in the face of the seeming need for self-preservation.

Some great discussion points:
  • Corrie's sister, Betsie was her "Aaron" -- just like Moses had doubts and fears, so did Corrie, but her beloved Betsie always put her back on track and pointed her face back to the Lord's face.
  • What could have been a source of lifelong disappointment for many women, actually made easier Corrie and Betsie's task to save hundreds of lives: neither were married; they were "spinsters". But without spouses or children, their lives were freed-up to complete this mission.
  • Corrie thought that the activities conducted within the "Beje" (their business and home) were so secret. But much of Haarlem knew! And kept their secret, too.
  • Corrie was over 50 when interned at Ravensbruck.
  • The smallest details of our lives are important to the Lord...and possibly working a good that we will only know later, or never. Corrie wanted to curse the fleas -- Betsie thanked the Lord for them. Later, those fleas kept the guards away, giving Corrie and Betsie freedom to conduct Bible studies right under the guards' noses.

Then we started talking about childrearing, adoption, storytime at the library, subtle social messages in children's books (I CAN'T STAND "The Rainbow Fish". Maybe I'll blog on that sometime.) Oh well, so much for enlightened discussion, but it was great while it lasted.

10 things I'm thankful for this week 7/6 - 7/12

In no particular order...

1. My new breadpan with true corners
2. Cinnamon swirl bread
3. Cooler temps (didn't break 100 this week)
4. My Mom and Dad's prayers
5. My husband's sense of humor
6. Ingrid's creativity
7. Ilsa cuddling
8. Breyer's natural vanilla ice cream with hot fudge, whipped cream, sprinkles and a maraschino cherry...and the spinning bike
9. Starbuck's
10. A perfect dental checkup and Ingrid's first experience at the dentist -- great!

Friday, July 11, 2008

"The Hiding Place" -- Corrie Ten Boom

The Beje - the Ten Boom watch shop on the bottom floor and family home above and behind.

I just finished "The Hiding Place" for my book club which meets tomorrow. It seems to me that I have read it before...high school maybe? Once again, in a very broad sense, the same type of literature I've been hanging onto the past few books: "Quo Vadis" (Nero's Rome -- "civilized" society in upheaval), "The Road" (see post below), "World Made by Hand" (see post below), and now "The Hiding Place" about the nightmare that was Nazi occupied Europe.

Corrie (or the author as she relayed the story to) had an easy way of telling a story. She was able to describe the horror of Nazi occupation and then the inevitable sentence to the concentration camp in a way that was not grotesque, yet did not lessen the impact of that horror. She even interjected quite a bit of humor.

The message of forgiveness is THE POINT of this book. God forgives us. We must forgive our enemies. She regarded the Word of God worth her life -- literally. She risked her life to have a Bible, or at least portions of a Bible, always with her while at Ravensbruck (women's concentration/extermination camp in what became East Germany). She "managed" to hold onto her precious Bible even through the humiliations of "medical" exams (strip searches). The Lord had His hand on her, for sure! The Bible always made it through.

Corrie Ten Book was a remarkable woman. I think I will add her to my hypothetical "any-10-people-you'd-wish-to-have-for-dinner" table.

Many of the reviewers claim that the book starts out slow. I wholeheartedly disagree. It is contemplative, but not slow. It was necessary for her to set the scene explaining her idyllic and somewhat shielded childhood in Haarlem, Netherlands.

I bet your church library has a copy -- check it out.

Gamisch & Rody

The girls were out on the patio by the wading pool today. I asked them what they were doing because they kept coming in and getting kitchen tools. Ingrid told me they "are making gamisch." I asked what "gamisch" was. She said, "it's a chemical that is very dangerous. It can kill you. It's like Satan, but it's not." I find that very humorous for some reason...

I wonder if this is a safety-police approved use of the Rody???

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

"World Made By Hand", James Howard Kunstler

Reading another post-apocalyptic novel: "World Made By Hand". What's with that? This one is much less bleak, although somewhat more haunting in its plausibility. The author is James Howard Kunstler.

I'm about 75% done. I still am a little dark as to how it is going to end. Quite engaging. The characters are complex and interesting.

So far, the most compelling theme is that when societal constraints are removed, we revert back to traditional forms: agriculturally-based, traditional gender roles, etc... For example, the first person narrator comments that all on the town council are males who aren't "serfs" in the community. The women work hard, but are protected by the men. When a husband dies, the wife and children are taken in, even by a single man, who will protect her/family. One wealthy man is determined to remain comfortable in his wealth, so he has turned his estate into a medieval manor; he is the lord, and hiw workers are the serfs. He provides safety, food and shelter in exhange for performing work on his estate. The importance of beauty is another theme. As life is bleak, hard and unforgiving, and there is no electronic entertainment to divert ones mind, the people of this small village have put effort into their gardens and homes. The one church is very important to community life, and as such, is very well-maintained. When members of this community venture out beyond their immediate township, they realize that what they have is very special and unique: the rest of society has tanked.

Strip malls, suburbs and the mobile society are irrelevant. Large cities are violent pits of despair and desolation. Small, rural, interdependent communities are the only chance for any sort of positive life.

Do I know enough to maintain a home without electrity, refrigeration, running water, a grocery store? Would I be able to educate, train and entertain my children? Would we thrive or just get by?

There are aspects of the book that are bothersome:

Some social conventions seem to have disintegrated. Marriage is still an institution, however, for reproductive purposes (due to radiation, illness, communicable diseases, etc.) women and men often seek other than their spouse for "service". "Religion" (vocal Christians specifically) are all portrayed as either hypocrites or absolute nut jobs, but to be fair, so are pagans and's the sort of nominally "pious" people who are the "normal" ones. (Is this accurate? Maybe....) The clergy in this book all swear, get drunk and are morally loose or "look the other way".

Life is bleak, and food is basic, but in this town, not hard to come by, but still basic. The people welcome any sort of intoxication. I think it is a form of entertainment and escape for the townspeople. Pot grows wild; people cultivate poppies; doctors use these to create their only forms of anaesthesia -- interesting. Distilled spirits, wine, ales and other beverages are commonplace and valued. However, they don't just intoxicate themselves into oblivion every night...just sometimes.

It is kill or be-killed. There is a sense of justice, but no formal framework to maintain or pursue justice or the upholding of the law.

Okay, the next book I read is going to be happy, happy, joy, joy...

Bougainvillea in a Pot/First Hot Peppers!

My new interest (now that the backyard is "done") is my var. Scarlett O'Hara Bougainvillea on the front porch in our huge 6.5 cubic foot pot. I'm going to train it as a shrubby bush rather than as a climber. If it doesn't work out, I'll try another variety. Some varieties work better as shrubs than others. We'll see. We also plucked our first hot peppers from the backyard stock tank garden today: one jalepeno, two hungarian wax and one anaheim chile. I'll leave those up to Chad to sample. Ilsa asked to eat one of the "cucumbers". I had to decline her request, and she was mad.
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