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Sunday, December 5, 2010

Oh, the iPhone. Oh, the inescapable connectedness.

I got an iPhone for my birthday. That is, we had to get a real-grownup-not-on-anybody-else's-family-plan phone plan, we were up for an upgrade, the Mr. had been sold since he saw the StarWalk app, and I wanted a GPS. And then we saw how much they cost, and then mine became my birthday present. Of course, my anniversary present was a Nook, which the Mr promptly decided was cool and claimed. I'm seeing a pattern with the presents and the technology.

And I'm not gonna lie, there are all sorts of things I love about the iPhone. The Siri app, for instance? I can ask it out loud what sushi restaurants are open nearby right now, and it gives me a list with directions and websites. Not terribly useful if the nearest sushi is 2 hours away, but still awesome.

I'm not so much a fan of how life is turning out now that we have phones that can do so much, though. I got up this morning, and after feeding and changing the baby, I got on facebook. Then I checked twitter. Then I took some pictures and started writing a blog post. My husband is reading all the news stories that have come out with certain key words (SkyGrid, if you were wondering what app could deliver every article that mentions Lindsay Lohan or QE2 or the collapse of the Euro (and I'm going to laugh if this post shows up on his feed because of the QE2 reference)). We could be talking and drinking coffee, I could be knitting his Christmas sweater or we could be playing with our dog in the park. But we're buried in our phones. It kind of makes me nostalgic for when the super sophisticated phones could oh my goodness text.

On the other hand, I can take pictures with this phone, email it in two clicks, write some text and send it to blogger, and you can see my cute baby in many fewer steps than it ever took before. That means more baby pics for you, and that has to be a good thing, right?

Saturday, December 4, 2010

Mobile photo blogging?

And does it work? We'll try with a photo of Heidi in the antique glider that Papa fixed and the quilt that Nanny made.

Answer: YES.
Attempt at mobile blogging. Sending photos keeps failing, but does text work?

Friday, November 26, 2010

Thanks

I didn't tell anyone what I was thankful for yesterday.  Everyone at Nanny and Papa's probably shared their thankfulness before dinner started, or maybe they just said grace and dug in - I wouldn't know, because I was in a bedroom nursing my newest reason to be thankful.  I have so many things to give thanks for.  I have two sets of family now who love me, my husband, and my little girl.  In-laws are the brunt of many mean jokes, but I think it's wonderful that I have two sets of in-laws and that Heidi has six grandparents.  My family is sometimes reticent and usually soft-spoken (at least compared to my husband's family) (though just as loving as families who are louder about it), and I was overwhelmed at first to be welcomed into a family who show their love by teasing and their agreement by shouting over each other, but I'm becoming used to it.  I love that my children will grow up seeing both ways of life, and will know that being quiet isn't necessarily boring and awkward (remember the in-laws in My Big Fat Greek Wedding?), and that being loud isn't necessarily rude and uncaring, but that there is much love to be shown in both ways.  And even as I worry about QE2 and TSA gropedowns and China and Russia's new deal to bypass the dollar when trading with each other, I look into my daughter's eyes, cuddle with my husband, or call my mom on the phone, and I know that everything will be fine.  The world might change, and the change might hurt, but we'll be fine.

Today, the world changed in a silly way that hurt a little, though I'm thankful for it too.  Babies can't fit into their newborn clothes forever.  I folded up the little sleepers and packed them into a box, and watched the first piece of my girl's babyhood slip away.  There goes the yellow outfit with the farm animals that she wore in the hospital.  The brown and pink outfit that I dressed her in every third day, because who doesn't love brown and pink together?  Tan with hearts all over it - there was a diaper malfunction in that one, and I had to scrub it very hard.  Bright pink with ladybug toes.  Tiny yellow ducks.  Wait, that purple one might be big enough for little while longer.  She only wore one style of newborn clothes, the onesies with the long sleeves and the feet.  Those little pajama feet stood on my lap and bounced at 7 in the morning, while I groggily tried to burp her and put her back to sleep, to convince myself and her that it wasn't really time to get up yet, or at least that she shouldn't be awake after having woken up so many times during the night.  I always failed.  For the past two weeks, 7 am has been her time to bounce.  If I can force my eyes open, I see that her eyes are bright and her mouth is gaping in an almost-grin.  Time to get up.  Play the bouncy game, kick your feet in your little brown and pink polka dot sleeper.  That sleeper now waits for the next baby girl, and I can't help feeling sad.

But how can I be sad?  Heidi is growing and thriving.  Nourished by nothing but my milk, she has outgrown the clothes that were so big on her in her first days.  (Are any other nursing mothers completely in awe of this process?  How on earth can this work?  It's as strange to me as if I could plant a shrub on my head and have it grow.  Speaking of which, remind me to post some real-camera pictures of Heidi's mandrake hat which she wore to the Harry Potter premiere.)  Growth is part of life - I don't even want to think about the other possibility - and leaving some sweetness behind only brings more sweetness and accomplishments to rejoice in.  And yet each new accomplishment means missing the time before.  It's the most wonderful thing in the world that she can watch her Daddy walk across the room to her, but it means goodbye to the cross-eyed staring.

And it's only going to get more so.  Thank God.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Introducing... Heidi!

She's a month old already, but just now making her blogger appearance.
Bright eyes

My view every mealtime

Sunbathing, or waging war on the jaundice,...

...is not her favorite part of the day.

And she looks at me accusingly when I offer her my finger to suck on.  She's figured out that there's no milk in it.

I'm learning many things about love.  Sleep has always been the hardest thing for me to give up, but nursing means I have to get up in the night.  Getting married taught me much about love, but it's always possible to tell another adult to chill out if one feels one can't meet the other's needs right then.  My baby is making me stretch and grow, because I just can't tell her to chill out.  She can't get it, do it or fix it for herself.  And even if all she needs is to be cuddled and reassured, she still depends entirely on us for it.

Also, if you didn't notice, I HAVE A CAMERA NOW!!  Prepare for many baby photos, and occasional homemaking photos.  I know this is supposed to be a homemaking blog, but you know.  Babies happen.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Recycled Grocery Bags

I woke up this morning with an inspiration for something to do with all those plastic grocery store bags that I feel guilty throwing away but can't possibly use for trash as fast as they come in with food. I've seen these beautiful market bags made from recycled plastic bags, with magazine pictures melted into them and other such exciting touches. I'm going to find out how to do it!

Etsy Labs has a great explanation of how to fuse multiple plastic bags together to form a sturdy plastic "fabric." Not quite what I had envisioned with the magazine picture idea, but it looked cool, too. And then when I was reading the comments, I saw that somebody was warning against the fumes, because it can cause birth deformities. Their solution: adequate ventilation.

I'm sorry, but that's not enough for my baby. Opening a window may keep me from being overpowered by fumes, but even with an open window, I'm still breathing the fumes that haven't made it to outside yet.

So I guess for now I'm stuck crocheting my market bags (which I already knew how to do, but didn't like doing very much, as the result isn't particularly sleek) for the next four months. After this child is out, though, I fully intend to set up an ironing board on my front porch and get to fusing plastic!

Oh, the uses I can imagine. Liners for baby bags... cloth diaper-friendly diaper bag equipment... farmer's market totes... mmmmm.

Thursday, June 17, 2010

My sourdough is too sour!

I don't know what cooks ever did before the Google was there for them to search panicky things like "my sourdough is too sour!" at 5 in the morning.

I've been working on this bread thing, and had amazing success with the 5 minute artisan loaf, but I'm not satisfied. It's the principle of the thing. The five-minute recipe calls for yeast, and yeast is very expensive, and the widows in the Bible somehow had enough on hand to make bread if only they had enough flour for it. The very fact that there was a time in history when flour was expensive and yeast was FREE made me think that paying more for my little jar of yeast at the grocery store than for my whole bag of flour was terribly terribly wrong.

Again, it's the principle of the thing. I like sourdough, but I like many kinds of bread. I just don't believe I should ever have to pay for yeast. Sooo I started my sourdough.

Elsewhere on Mother Earth News, it says that you start a culture with 1c warm water, 1c flour, and a couple tablespoons of yeast. I've been using this starter for several weeks, and it has been making my bread rise. I just dump out all but 1/2 c of it into a bowl, add enough flour to make a decent bread texture (keeping in mind the lesson I learned from the five-minute recipe, that wetter doughs make more bubbles, and also keeping in mind that if it's as wet as banana nut bread it's too wet), let it rise all day while I'm at work, and when I come home it's ready to shape and bake. Easy cheesy.

Until my husband flat-out rejected my sourdough bread last night. It's "sour in a bad way." Now I know my starter hasn't died, and isn't growing anything dangerous, because I searched (yay the Google!) and basically found that if it smells alcoholic, isn't moldy, and makes bubbles, it's yeast. Well, mine definitely fits all those criteria, especially the smelling alcoholic part. However, we can't have our husbands buying Wonderbread because we're failing to make decent bread at home. I told him I'd throw out the starter, but somehow I can't bring myself to. They do take time to grow, after all, and I felt that I must be doing something else terribly wrong.

Hence I was on Google again this morning after he went to work, convinced that if I could make one decent loaf of bread with this starter, I wouldn't have to throw it out. The Fresh Loaf (what a resource!) informed me that I should be feeding it BEFORE I make it into dough, and that if I use it when it's un-bubbly and alcoholic (guilty as charged) it would be very tangy. The secret is to use it when it's not quite to the peak of rising, because then it will be sweetest. Also that I should let it rise in warm environment, because the warmer it is the more it kills the sour flavor. Hmm. So I've mixed my 2c starter with 1c each flour and water, and am trying to resist the amateur's desire to watch my sourdough to see if it's rising enough. It has bubbles, MC, give it a rest. It's not going to be almost peaked in the 30 minutes you'd like it to be.

However, I feel victim to the fatal blunder of Googling: searching after you've found your answer. And oh no, to my horror and chagrin, I find myself completely fascinated with the idea of wild yeast starter. The page is aptly called Sourdough, plain and simple, and has me sold. I haven't even made one loaf with this new method from The Fresh Loaf, and I already have visions of wild yeast dancing in my head.

And what I really need to be doing is packing the house up, not messing with this at all. Sigh. I convince myself that if it's productive enough, it's really not procrastination.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

The blog changes direction

Food is too limiting. Maybe not for some people, but I rarely have time to cook anything worth writing about, and once I cook it, I certainly don't have time to take pictures and make a fancy post about it.

We make time for the things that are important to us. I have time to knit my husband winter socks and tat my mom and mother in law doilies for Mother's Day, but I don't have time to cook anything interesting enough to blog about. Because I am a self-aware human, I have come to the realization that instead of writing about something I never do, I should write about the things I actually do.

And then I wondered why this hadn't occurred to me in the first place. Apparently I am not as smart as I sometimes think I am.

Homemaking is important to me. I am a working wife and soon to be mother (though I desperately hope to stop working before this baby comes), but homemaking is still my sphere. I have less time than I would like, but it's good practice for when I will have little time or energy from taking care of a baby. Perhaps once I have the baby I will feel like I have all the time in the world for homemaking, in comparison.

In the meantime, I do the little things I can. I keep the dishes and table surfaces down to small battles. If I wash the dishes when there are three plates, it takes much less time than when there are fifty. Small battles. And going to bed early.

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Boring Bread 2 and 3; Wheat Bread 1

Here commences another flurry of baking! The Hubby will be starting his Super Exciting New Job this week, which means he won't have time to pick me up for lunch, which means... we need bread! Lots of bread!

I'm using my handy-dandy bread recipe from last time, with experimentations this time. (DH: So what's your control? Me: Ummm...the bread from last week? DH: You HAVE to have a control! Me: Look, if you want to make the bread, feel free. If not, leave me alone.) (Ok, so maybe I'm not the nicest person when I'm figuring something out and somebody else is poking me.)

Experiment 1: Less flour, dough was kinda sticky. However, as I kneaded it, it became smooth, which made me wonder whether I didn't just happen to put in the right amount of flour in this time, and whether in the past I haven't just used too much flour because I got impatient. Subsequent question: How wet CAN the dough be before you start kneading, and still smooth out during the kneading? Sounds like a few more batches need to be experimented on, especially as I have a sneaking suspicion that the less flour I can get in, the lighter the bread will be.
I will also be trying the method of not punching the bread down quite so much this time, to see how that works out. It's in the oven rising, with the oven off and the light on.

Experiment 2: I forgot to add less flour because I had heard that a hand mixer can work for mixing bread just as well as a spoon (go figure), and in my enthusiasm for hand mixing I didn't remove some flour before I added the wet ingredients. So I added more warm water until it was about the same level of stickyness as Experiment 1, but this batch is on the top of the fridge, where it will rise all night.

Experiment 3: isn't started yet. I'm running out of bread flour, so this time I'll be starting a whole wheat flour sponge (all wet ingredients + yeast + sugar for yeast to eat; half the flour) and letting it rise overnight as well.

To be updated as progress occurs.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Plain Boring Bread

I don't make good bread. There's always something that eludes me. Usually I end up with good flavor but a heavy, dense texture. And since bread is a fairly staple food, I'm making it a project to learn to make it well.

I found a recipe here - http://www.reluctantgourmet.com/blog/baking-recipes/basic-bread-recipe/ - for a totally basic bread recipe, the sort that tells you how to make good bread (http://www.reluctantgourmet.com/bread_making.htm), and doesn't promise that if you add this or that magical ingredient your bread will transform from dull and lifeless to fluffy and flavorful. Flour, water, yeast, salt, and a little sugar for the yeast to eat - this is how bread has been made for millenia, and this is how I want to learn to make it. Fluff can be added later, and this same website even tells you how to do it, here: http://www.reluctantgourmet.com/bread_making_ingredients.htm.

I apologize for making you copy and paste web addresses. I'm too sleepy to add hyperlinks, however, because of how long this darn bread took.

So I weighed my ingredients instead of scooping them into cups, which struck me as something I might have been able to figure out myself if I had thought about it for three seconds, since flour can be very light or very dense depending on how you scoop it, or if you're fancy, sift it. I don't sift my flour; this may be part of my problem. However, this time I weighed the flour, with a coffee filter inside a colander (which together weighed 4.2 oz, and I passed high school science lab so I remember how to take that into consideration). I was intrigued by the "window pane test" criteria for kneeding, and I kneeded the dough easily 3 times as long as I ever have before. I can see the point in it, too; up till now I've considered myself done pretty much as soon as the ingredients have completely integrated, and I still thought I was kneeding forever, but this time I really felt the smooth texture of the dough when it was kneeded enough.

Have I mentioned that this bread took forever to make? It rose for a good solid 2 hours before a poke to the side wouldn't make it bounce back. Ridiculous. It was on top of the fridge, but that obviously wasn't warm enough. Henceforth I will either let it rise overnight on the kitchen table, which is cooler, or try the trick of putting it in the oven with the light on. The good thing is, I hear that the longer it rises the better the flavor, and this bread did have a rich, almost-tangy flavor.

The instructions said to press all the gases out of the dough, and I pressed it down more enthusiastically than I have before. Maybe that was my problem. Maybe I shouldn't have taken the directions at face value like that. In the future, we shall see.

The first picture I have is of the shaping process. I was remiss. In the future I will take pictures the whole way through so better cooks than I can tell me exactly where I go wrong. Be that as it may, here it is shaped and ready to rise again:



The second rising took at least an hour, which is about right according to the instructions, but good grief! I was starting to wonder if we were ever going to have bread tonight! I admit, I may have baked it before a finger indentation didn't
quite spring back anymore, but I don't think that was my main problem.

I put a dish with ice cubes (six of them, to be exact) on the bottom rack of the oven to give it the crispy crust that my handy-dandy recipe talked about, and let it bake...and bake...and bake. It SAID it was supposed to get golden brown. You can see the picture yourself. If there was any BROWN in that crust, then I must be very misinformed about my skin color as well. MAYBE some golden. Maybe. But it looks pretty much in desperate need of a tan. I finally took it out because my husband decided it had been in quite long enough, and he was right. It certainly sounded hollow when tapped, and the crust kind of resembled those Mensa rolls that you could chip a tooth on by the time Friday came around, you remember? But no golden brown.





Annnnnnnd...it tastes great, but the texture is, predictably, heavy and dense. After reading this website here - http://www.thefreshloaf.com/node/1708/how-do-you-make-light-and-fluffy-bread - I think I may have a) added too much flour while kneeding it the first time, or b) punched it down too enthusiastically. Sigh. Well, here's to another try! It's supposed to be easier using bread flour than whole wheat, and I WILL master the easy recipe before I start substituting other stuff. I may half the recipe, though. Otherwise I'll be buying bread flour every two days and feeding most of the bread I make to the dogs. Is it possible for two people to eat this much bread and not get fat? I guess we'll find out...

The Birth of the Food Blog

I want to be good at cooking! Oh, sure, before I got married, I thought I was a GREAT cook, because occasionally something I made would turn out tasting yummy. Never mind the fact that it was always one-pot dishes that looked completely uninteresting, I still thought I could cook.

Only, I can't. Marrying someone who CAN cook often changes one's entire perspective. My husband's food always tastes exactly like it's supposed to, not the close approximation that mine is, and it always looks good. Instead of a monochromatic mush that tastes savory and spicy, his food is colorful and beautiful as well as savory and spicy. This is a whole world I never knew existed; I certainly have never cooked that way.

Plus I've recently gone vegetarian and have thus discovered that I really don't know how to make vegetables. I made curry last week, and it was bland. I've told everyone I know about the bland curry, pretty much, and I'm still in shock about it. I thought if you put the spice in and let it cook, it was a failsafe method of making sure it would be hot. But apparently I failed at even that.

So I am starting a food blog to chronicle my adventures in learning to cook, and to provide a reference (probably just for myself, because I don't know who would want to take cooking lessons from ME) of my favorite and least-favorite recipes, tweaks, and methods.

Let the cooking commence!