25 September 2011

Homemade Goodness

Oh my goodness.   It has taken me a ridiculous amount of time to get this post published.  I'm not quite sure what happened this last week to make us so busy/tired.   My apologies.
I've put off writing this post because according to my father/ taste-tester "we needed to sit down and have a bread-making talk."
Apparently he wasn't impressed by my pastry skills.

I'm going to write it anyway.

We're eating homemade bread starting last week now.  That's the plan anyway.
I want my daughter to grow up with a momma who cooks, bakes and has yummy homemade goodies instead of supermarket snacks.
Don't worry, I'm not so naive that I don't realize when she gets older Twinkies and Nutty Bars might make it onto her list of requests.

Besides, I went through that.

I loathed my mother for not buying us Lunchables (and for not writing notes to me on a napkin in my lunchbox)  Silly me...

I remember standing on the stool with my little apron on as my mom tried to teach me how to bake, and now I regret not paying more attention.
Cookies, brownie's, and cakes I can do.
Bread is different.  Bread is a living, breathing pastry.  It's finicky and cocks an attitude when the weather changes.
Also, I was also taught to follow a recipe religiously when it comes to baking.  It just doesn't work like that with bread.  The recipe is more like a set of guidelines.  Use your own discretion.

I don't know about you, but using my discretion was hard to do when I didn't know what the h%$# I was doing in the first place.

Okay, so first I tried a couple recipes out of the America's test-kitchen cookbook.  It's like the cookbook for dummies so I thought it was a pretty safe choice.
(If you're a visual learner, this would be a great cookbook for you.)

They were... alright.

The white bread was almost too easy to make.  It got my hopes up, then, ever so kindly SMASHED them as I attempted the wheat bread.  Thanks.
So I did a little googling.  I'm not a gambler, but Google is like Russian Roulette for recipes.  Most of the time you get lucky, but ever once in a while you get a rotten egg.
Hey, sometimes I like to live on the wild side.  .
After browsing awhile, I found an oatmeal wheat bread recipe over at Epicurious.    It looked harmless enough. Besides, I wasn't about to give up on wheat bread.  The nutritional value of white bread isn't enough to keep me around no matter how easy it is to make.

So here's how it all went down - in a nutshell.

So besides white flour and wheat flour, this is what you'll need.
Milk, yeast, honey (or sugar), butter, and Old-fashioned oats. Oh yea, and some salt.

Basically, you proof your yeast in the liquid, whether it be milk or water.  Keep your liquids around 95 to 115 degrees or you'll kill your yeast.
Then, here's the best part, throw it all together in your blender with the dough hook attachment.  No kneading here.
Your hands will thank you.
When your dough is the correct consistency (I told you I'm just skimming the surface here) let it rest a couple minutes then put it in a greased/ buttered bowl.  Cover the bowl and let it rise.

Here's where you use your discretion.  It may say 1 hour, but just let the size be the judge here.

After the dough doubles its size, think of everything your significant other has done that day to bust your chops then PUNCH that dough down (one time is enough) as you recall.

Now dump that dough out on a floured surface and flatten it out into a rectangle so you can roll it into a loaf.
This particular recipe made enough for two loaves so I decided to try one in a metal 9x5 pan, and the other in a glass 8x4 pan.
Let those loaves rise again in the pans after swiping the top with a little water/butter/oil, whatever you like.
Again, let the size be your judge here.

When they've reached their peak go ahead and brush the top with an egg wash and add some oats if you'd like.
Throw 'em in the oven, and you're done.
When they are done the bottoms will sound hollow when tapped or you can insert a themometer (not the one you use when you're sick) and if it reached 200, you're good to go.


This picture is a it deceiving.  The front loaf is about half the size of the back. 
Lets just say, I'm not a fan of baking bread in glass pans.

So that's an amateur take on bread making for ya.  I apologize if you're a seasoned baker and my directions just made your shudder, I'm sure. 

How did they taste?
Better than store bought, but nothing impressive. 
(That is what my father wanted to "talk" about.)

What is something new you've tried lately?  
How did it come out?

18 September 2011

Oh Andrew...

I started to organize our photos the other night using Picasa.  This was long over due.  For example, I still haven't printed more than 5 wedding photos.
I know I know, its bad.
After almost 3 straight hours looking at the screen (ouch!) I'm disappointed to say I'm still not done.
It's my own fault.  I like to reminisce as I organize, but something blatantly obvious stood out as I worked. 
After flipping through folder after folder I started to notice a lack of a certain someone.
I'll give you a hint

Perhaps he is always the one taking the photos, I don't know.  Either way  he was definitely in the minority.

So I just wanted to leave you all this Sunday with a highlight of someone I like to call daddy; I don't want Madelin to get confused.
I know what you were thinking...shame on you.

Bird watchers

I just want you all to note, he was as long as a bald eagle.
You're impressed I'm sure.

 Feeding the goats is now one of Madelin's favorite things to do.  He's right, we should be farmers.

This is from Madelin's birthday party.  You can see more on that here if you missed it.  Mmmm chocolate orange cupcakes.

Look at that shiny black hair, perfect smile.  Clearly I married him for his looks.

No really, I'm going to have to make it a point to get some good decent pictures of him. 
Is it a guy thing not to smile in pictures?  I thought they grew out of that.

So there you have it.  The man of our house.  (Love you Andrew)

Does anyone else have a noteworthy man they'd like to share a little something about or some tips/ tricks about Picasa since I'm a newbie?

14 September 2011

Shifting Winds

Does anyone else feel like the big guy upstairs has taken pity on us and blown us a cool breeze. 

I do. 
And believe me, I thanked Him.

Then, I started packing up our summer clothes.  I needed to free up some space anyway.  Our closet is the size of a port-o-potty, maybe smaller (smells better though). 
This whole budget thing has really cut into my shopping time.  Oh leisurely Target trips how I miss you.  Instead, I have to hide my wallet and "window shop" online.  I've also had to become a little more creative about my outfit options unless I want to wear the same thing every week. 
I may be poor, but darn it, I'm going to make it look good.

Lucky for me my mother kept a good portion of her clothes from the 70's, and they just so happen to be back in style.  After flipping through this fall's edition of InStyle magazine I will promptly be pulling out her cape and sending it to the dry cleaners. 

All her jewelry and dresses have already been retrieved and stashed in my "closet."

Since I don't get to go on shopping sprees anymore I believe in buying investment pieces, if you are going to purchase a new item.
But if its 80% off hanging on the clearance rack and you really want it, then anything goes.
(Quit rolling your eyes Andrew)

Here's my fall wish list to give my wardrobe a little push in the right direction.

A saddle bag (as in purse, not my hips) is something I've been eye-balling for a while now.  I found this baby at JCPenny for 19.99.  I just can't bring myself to spend more than that on something that will be sitting on the floor for the majority of its life.  
The blouse I also picked up at Penny's (thanks mom).  It reminds me of either my grandmother or a secretary.  Either way, I like it.  I'm picturing it with a high-waisted skirt or flared jeans.

Okay, lets stop a minute.  I need to talk about something no woman wants to talk about: legs.
(You chicken-leg women don't have to listen to this)
I have small feet, but if you were judging by my calf size, you wouldn't know it.  A size 6 boot never fits over my calves!  I have longed to have a good-looking pair of boots for years now, but all the wide-calf (aka plus size) boots are, well, ugly!  Even at my lowest weight (115), my wedding weight, I couldn't have pulled on a pair of those suckers if I had wiped a whole tub of Crisco on first.  I resigned to tights and decided it just wasn't going to happen for me.
Then I saw those puppy's up there (I should stop giving my accessories pet-names huh) and knew someone special was thinking of me this year.  They are semi-stretchy, but also have a clasp on the back that loosens  (or tightens for you lucky ones).  They fit like a charm.  At 39.99 I'll take em!
Oh, and by the way...
If any of you ask me about this conversation later, I'll deny having it.

Last, but not least, the dress.  I could wear a dress every day of the week, so something long and ladylike is what I'm picturing.  Realistically, this Mango, is way out of my budget, but I'm hoping to find something a bit more affordable.   

What is something you are looking forward to getting this fall?  Better yet, name something in your wardrobe that is a must-have.  Please people, I like to hear what's on your minds too!

11 September 2011

Little bits from here and there

As the title states, these are just some tid bits that aren't really worthy of their own blog post, but regardless, I'd like to share.

This week I've been on a bread-making kick. 
Am I good at it?

In a word...no

Just like the phrase goes: Necessity is the mother of invention.
(That is how it goes isn't it?)

We were out of bread and I'm too cheap to go buy some.  When you're short on cash and have two hands plus all the supplies, why not?  I'd be lazy not to, right?  Right.

I was originally going to have a whole post about it, pictures and all, but according to my taste-tester dad, the recipe needs some tweaking.
Or I need a new one.
Either way, its going to get eaten, darn-it, because I'm not throwing it away.

On another note, we picked up some free wood the other day.  Old fence posts to be exact. 
Head-board here we come!
I would like to make a cross between this:

 and this

Picture the boards going vertical instead of horizontal (like the top picture).  Then jigsawed into the shape of the second picture. 
That's the plan anyways.

So, as soon as we get those babies boards cleaned up a bit, I'll let ya know.

This was for Jackson's first birthday.  He likes wheels.

Okay it may not be my best, but I was a little out of my element on this one. 
Along those lines, I'd like to start painting more, and selling them. (If they are worthy, which they may not be)
So, if anyone would like to rent me out (so to speak), I'd love too. 

Or, if you'd like to see more/ better examples of what I've done before I'd be happy too.

On one last note, we're going to the fair tomorrow.
Hooray for people watching (and funnel cakes)!

06 September 2011

Allow me to share...

This is a product review.
I was not asked or told to give you this information.
(I'm also not being compensated in any way, I assure you.)

I'm just the kind of person who likes to pass on products I like.
Which brings me to this:

Dr. Bronner's Magis Soap
Specifically the Almond Castile Soap.

I've used this soap a couple times before, but we've just recently started using it as a family to replace all our other soaps. It is the most mild, hard-working cleanser I've come across.  In addition, it is made with certified fair trade and organic oils; all the Dr. Bronner's products are.

"A combination of organic extra virgin coconut, olive, jojoba and hemp oils, together with pure essential oils, creates a unique soap that cleans effectively without being aggressive and produces a velvety-lather that leaves the skin silky-smooth and refreshed," as stated on their site.

I don't typically buy "green" products because either they are too expensive or they just don't clean as well (in my opinion).
This product, hands down, takes the cake.

We're slowing replacing our body wash, face wash, and shampoo all with this one soap.  (Sorry, I can't justify throwing away products we've already paid for)  It smells great and leaves you feeling squeaky clean, but doesn't leave your skin dried out, as so many chemical cleansers do.

P.S. I've also been known to clean my bathroom with this when I've run out of Lysol.

According to Dr. Bronner it also has 18 different uses (in just one soap). You can see more on that here.

Liquid soap isn't the only product they carry though.

They also carry a conditioning rinse (for those of us who use the liquid soap as shampoo), bar soap, body and hand wash, lotions, lip balm, and shaving creams.

I've yet to try any of their other products, but after using the liquid soap I'm excited to give them all a try.

Excuse me.
Let me get off my soap box now.

So there's my new find. I hope you give it a try and enjoy it as much as I do.
Now tell me, what is something you've picked up lately on a whim and have been pleasantly surprised with?

04 September 2011

Madelin's Buddy

As I've said before...
We're dog people.
My mother will never understand.

Either you get it or you don't.

Our first baby dog was Pierre. He was a Cairn Terrier that Andrew gave me for Christmas about four years ago. He was a wild little thing, and that's putting it nicely.   It was my own fault.  I should have trained him (other than to sit).
He never cared for Madelin.  Even when she was just a tiny thing he'd try to squeeze in between us to cuddle.
He was also very loud and that doesn't mix well with a sleeping baby.

He had to go. He was growing old and crotchety and Madelin just didn't understand. So he went to a home with no small children and Tosha grew very lonely.
Tosha was our second dog.  We were smarter by then and bought a rescue dog.  One that was already potty trained.
So after Pierre left with our neighbors (Justin and Toby) she grew depressed.
She didn't play anymore, didn't want to go outside, and just laid by the front door.
It was sad.

So along came Athena.

Sure Madelin likes Tosha, but Tosha doesn't care for Madelin's rough-house style of play. Her defense maneuver is to shower Madelin with "kisses" until she leaves her alone.

Hold on... If you don't agree with kids playing in close proximity to animals don't finish this post. This includes you, mom.

Yes she is part pit-bull and yes they have a very high pain tolerance (great for children).

God bless this dog. She was found under a car hood next to a dead dog because apparently the owner really cared about her.  She was burnt and starved and going kennel crazy at the Humane Society.  They didn't think she would make it but she has and she's doing great. All she wants in life is food and someone to lay on; whether that be a bed or Tosha.

Madelin just adores her.
Now we are trying to teach her that tail and face pulling are no no's.

Oh, and on a side note, dog kennels are apparently more fun to play with than any toy. They're also great babysitters.

Just kidding!

*In no way do we condone letting children play unsupervised with an animal or in the same room as an animal.  Accidents do happen and we're always with her when she's playing with the dogs.  To be on the safe side don't let your children pull on tails, faces, or play with their food.  Also, we do not use a dog kennel as a babysitter (it was a joke, people).

03 September 2011

Farmer's Market

As promised (even if you didn't want it). I'm back with a more in-depth look at our farmer's markets. First of all, I consider myself lucky even having access to local produce. Even if its only once a week and a little out of our way; it's worth it. There's a couple reasons why I prefer to buy produce from the local farmers. The first being: its cheaper (I do feel a little bad that its not to support the farmers, but that is a close second). Very quickly, let me put it into perspective for you penny pinchers out there. I usually love Dillon's for buying produce (as opposed to Walmart) when its not available at the market. They let me down last week. $5 for two bell peppers... I don't even know why I bought them. They weren't even organic. That shopping trip of peppers, broccoli, cauliflower, grape tomatoes and peas ended up being around $40. Ridiculous... I'm not surprised people look over fresh produce when they're on a budget. (That's not exactly what I wanted to say, buts its a little more PC) Well, that being said. We armed ourselves with $20 this morning. We rarely ever take more than that. With $3 to spare (that's $17 spent :) we came home with: three massive cinnamon rolls, two bell peppers, three onions, 4 sweet potatoes, two zucchini, and a bag of dog treats. Take that Dillon's! Not to mention we got two free dog treats, because our dogs are pretty. Yea pretty (and friendly) pit bulls.
and Tosha. That's for everyone who shot us a dirty look today because they thought our dogs had on muzzles. They're harnesses for pete's sake. If they really wanted to bite you they could! (not that they would) Yea, so I'm really pleading with everyone to get up early at least one Saturday a month and see what you're missing out on. Oh, I almost forgot. There is another option. Wednesday nights there is a market in Delano and in Bradley Fair from 5 to 7 pm. Now you have no excuse. Here's where you can get all the legitimate information if you'd like.
Lets see, what's in season right now? Well, this was a bad year for tomatoes. They finally came, but way past fashionably late. Apples are just starting to come in. Peaches, melons, tomatoes, peppers, and onions are all still being sold. There's also always a couple stands that have fresh herbs for much cheaper than you'll find in the store. Of course there's always the homemade baked goods no matter what month it is. We're (being Madelin and I) are partial to Great Harvest's cinnamon rolls. They're the biggest.
Another nice thing about the old town market (other than the fact that they allow dogs) is that there's always a chef on hand making a dish of what's being sold that day. So, if you aren't sure what to make with something you bought. They'd be glad to help. If you're lucky you may even catch my husband down there.
Okay so this place is pretty neat. They're at both locations and make all their goods out of recycled materials. They also just started putting out their Halloween decorations and I think I'm going to have to get at least one. *Sorry all. I forgot to take our camera this week. There's booths that sell essential oils. You know, if you want to smell like a hippie or what-not. There's also birdhouses made out of gourds, childrens clothes, homemade soaps, pottery, plants, fresh pasta... You name it, they probably sell it.
I'll see you all bright and early next week!