Friday, February 26, 2010

Bread Lovin'

Is it ok to love bread? I don't mean "love" bread...I mean LOVE LOVE bread. I'm not even talking about eating it really (though I love to eat me some bread)...look at this loaf. Are you not in love with it? You should be. Alright, maybe that's not a fair question. I watched this bread grow from tiny wheat grains and yeast into this big braided beauty. I ground the wheat, hand kneaded the dough, waited for her to rise, braided her and baked her. Then when the moment came and it was time to take her out of the oven...perfection.

Here is my universal truth for the day...
No matter how busy or crazy things get, hand kneading your dough will make it all right again.
It's fun, calming, centering and it's something the kids can do with you. I forget how much I love it when I don't do it.
I'm excited to try my hand at some barn-wood projects. I've been trying to get some for free,(because I can't afford to pay for it) but I haven't been successful yet. We almost had free wood a few months ago when we found the house we loved...but we couldn't afford it at auction. Boo. This barn was one of the biggest selling points. (In fact I would not have taken the wood, I loved the barn exactly as it was) I will however ask the new owners if they plan to keep it, if not I'd be willing to to take the wood of their hands!! We shall see how that works out. In the end though, everything worked out. We bought a short-sale house with awesome potential...cross fenced and ready for animals. The house renovation is an enormous project of course, and the reason I'm in carpentry school. But I tell you's all coming it always does. Life is good.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Habitat for Humanity

I didn't know what to expect when I signed up to help the Athens Habitat for Humanity group. I figured I would show up and build part of a house. When I arrived at the H4H office the leader let me know that they aren't doing a house right now (insert sound of heart sinking). Then he started talking about all the other things they do (I had no idea); building handicap ramps, rehabbing apartments for tranistional housing, deconstructing houses to repurpose materials, etc etc etc. They do SO MUCH MORE then I realized. So we headed off to finish up a ramp that had already been started. As you can see from the pictures I was working on the stairs for the ramp. It was great fun, I got to use a bunch of new tools that I hadn't previously used, and I got to start putting some of my new found school-skills to practical use.
I am starting to see some of the skills in class becoming real-solvent skills that I will be able to use. We're almost done with floor framing and then we move on to wall framing. I can't wait to start using these skills on our reno-house!! And while I'm usually complaining that I wish we went a little faster in class...I'm thankful this week for enough rest in between classes to let my muscles heal. We've been pounding in so many nails that my arms and back hurt for several days afterwards. (But it's a good kind of pain at least)

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Reading, Playing and Spending Time with my kids...

Despite the obvious hectic schedule it seems like there has been a little more down time than usual lately. I owe a big part to the fact that we've been without cable TV for many months...and I've actually grown to dislike the TV! Finally. We still get two channels, and the kids still watch some PBS. But at night, I'd rather read a book then flip on the TV and watch whatever is on. The other thing that has slowed us down is snow. (at least for the weekend anyway) We had an excuse not to do anything but play and hang out. And that's what we did. I cooked, we played, I read, we made Valentine's, we played some was great. So I finally finished Animal, Vegetable, Miracle. I liked it a lot. Very inspiring. You have to get past the fact that the author is a bit anti-American and anti-Christian (though oddly accepting of other cultures and religions) but other than that...really enjoyable. I learned a lot, and I can't wait to move into the new house and begin starting our own mini-farm.
I also read Amanda Blake Soule's Creative Family. Ummm...not worth the full read. (And I love her blog, so don't misunderstand...I think she's great) I'll say this, the projects are cute, and some of the ideas are good. But overall, it reads like a Waldorf-style parenting manual. I'm all for Waldorf, nature, family fun, creativity...but I don't need a manual on how to do it. I guess I was hoping for more project ideas (of which she is chock-full-of) and less preaching. But, I am one of those people that believes that the skills you need to parent just come to you naturally. It's not rocket science. (Though the occasional quick kick in the rear can be finally ditching the TV) But it never hurts to have someone remind you to do the things you know you should be doing. And it worked...I took my kids on a nature hike two days in a row. (I can't tell you the last time I did that) And I was inspired to have the kids make their own Valentine's for eachother. So I guess I can't complain too much!
Today I have a similar type book coming, I just got the email from the library. But this one is more focused on nature, and less on crafts. Oh...AND, if I didn't mention before I'm signed up for my first Habitat for Humanity Build..I am so excited about it. I also went on my first "barefoot" run in my Vibram Five Finger shoes. I'm really liking them so far. Just walking around I do somehow feel more rooted to the ground. I know that sounds strange, but they do just feel right.

Monday, February 8, 2010

Valentine's 2010

I was finally forced to finish up the 2010 Valentines because they were due at school today. (I always work better with a deadline.) The design had been solidified last week, so mostly I had to print them, cut them and then Laurel and I glued on the chocolate hearts. Luke of course has no need for Valentine's since he doesn't go to preschool yet. But he was so excited about hers that I did a quick design for him too. In the end he didn't care about the Valentine, he just wanted the chocolate. (He decimated two of his four Valentines in order to get the chocolate hearts off of them.)

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Sewing Machine is broke...but my shoulder is still working.

My sewing machine broke last Saturday as Laurel and I were just starting to make our new fabric flowers. I was hoping to finalize my flower design...instead we got through about 3 stitches. I've taken it apart and put it back together several no avail. I'll keep working in it, but I haven't had a chance to get back to it. I haven't had a chance to do much. Jon's been out of town the last two weeks (in and out) leaving me with the kids, a job and school. So we've seen very little of the house, done very little cooking, crafting, or anything else. So when we were all home yesterday I just figured we'd have a nice slow in-home day. First I cooked breakfast for everyone and we hung out. Kids played, Jon worked on taxes and I cleaned and read. When lunch rolled around I decided I wanted to make egg salad sandwiches. This isn't something I ever make...except maybe with leftover easter eggs. But I think between reading Animal, Vegetable, Miracle...and thinking about next year when we'll hopefully have our own eggs from our own chickens...I was imagining that the grocery store eggs were really our own free-range eggs. So the idea of my egg salad was part of a bigger imagining about our soon-to-be new life. So I boiled the eggs. Then I realized...we aren't mayo people. The only time mayo might be purchased is when my in laws come in town. And I didn't have anything closely related to ranch dressing, no sour cream, not even plain yogurt. Nothing. But then I remembered my Aunt Yvonne once talking about how she always made her own mayo when she made potato salad. (And I remember my mother saying she was crazy) My mom has always given the distinct impression that making piec crust and mayo were difficult-to-impossible endevours that almost always failed. So for years I refused to make a pie crust. It was until I started grinding my own wheat that I came up with my tried-and-true short crust recipe and never looked back. So it stood to reason that while my mom hated the idea of making mayo, that I might actually like it. Since Jon was on the computer (blocking the quickest route to the online recipe world) I did it the old fashioned way...I poured through the indexes of my cookbook collection until I found a recipe for mayo. I vaguely remembered eggs, oil and vinegar. In fact my recipe called for eggs, olive oil, dijon mustard and lemon juice. Thankfully I had all those on hand, and oddly just enough to make this recipe...after which I was out of all four ingredients. It was fate.
I started the food processor route, but as I streamed in the oil I realized there wasn't enough in the bowl of the large food processor to do anything. Then I started to panic...I had heard if it didn't start to never would. Warnings slowly at first, and then as it starts to thicken you can add more oil...made me think my mayo was doomed and my family would have to eat just hard boiled egg sandwiches...yuck. I quickly transferred it to a bowl and began to whisk. It was creamy and yellow at first, but I continued to whisk and whisk and stream just a little oil at a time. After a few minutes I realized my shoulder was about to fall off and I still had the majority of the oil to add. The pain was so intense I was laughing, which made my daughter start laughing too (she was busy peeling the eggs)...eventually that caused Jon to walk in to see what was going on. THANK GOODNESS. Men aren't just good for opening pickle jars...they're well suited for whisking mayo too. He took it to an almost militaristic level, barking to add more and more oil as it got thicker and more mayo-y. It became his personal challenge to whisk that mayo into shape. He was successful, the mayo came together, Laurel stirred it into her peeled and chopped eggs. Then we served it up and ate. It was the most satisfying sandwich we ever ate. The funny thing is, I've never made it for my kids before. We've never even spoken of such a thing as egg salad...but because Laurel (my pickier eater) was a part of the whole project she didn't even question whether she'd like it...she ate it happily and was as impressed with herself as I was with her.

Garlic Mayo

2 egg yolks
1 t dijon mustard
1 t lemon juice
3/4 C Olive Oil

Whisk egg yolks, mustard and lemon juice until smooth and creamy. Add the oil 1 tsp at a time until it starts to thicken. (In my estimatation it means you whisk until your shoulder burns so bad you have to beg your husband to take over) As it thickens you can add the oil more quickly. Once it's done you can add salt and pepper to taste. I also grated in 3 garlic cloves (WAY too much), though had they been roasted cloves it probably would have been fine. If going the raw route I'd stop at one clove.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Original Valentines

I don't know about you, but I find the store bought commercial Valentines to be tacky. It's always whatever the popular thing is...Transformers for boys and Disney Princess for girls. It's the same problem you find with commercialism in geniuses who make way too much money convincing your children they need things that they don't. So...why not make your own Valentines with your little cutie center stage?
I started this project last year and ended up with a beautifully printed (modern printers amaze me) 4 x 4 custom personalized valentine. This was around the time I was starting up my Candid Memory cards, so it was good practice. I started last years with a painted caricature of my daughter which I then scanned in and photoshopped into a card.

This year I changed it up a little and used an illustration instead. I had moved more towards the illustrations and away from the paintings toward the end, in part because I preferred the look. But I think also because the original black and white illustrations are more digitally customizable then the paintings. (take a look back at this previous post for directions on creating your own original illustration of your kids
So this years (which I won't unveil just yet) will be an illustrated version, and per Laurel's request will have her holding a chocolate heart (a real one of course).
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