Thursday, December 17, 2009

We Three Kings

Like many of you, we've been busy preparing for Christmas. There's so much to love about this time of year. One of the things I'm enjoying is the extra motivation to do some crafting, and after a busy day it's a nice way for me to relax in the evening. I usually buy the kids a Christmas ornament for their stocking when they're on clearance the year before. This year, I realized I didn't have any, so thought it would be fun to make some. Using this gnome pattern from weefolkart, I made them each a little wise man to hang on the tree. I just love the way these guys turned out, and can't wait to make some more.
I will likely not be back for a while, but want to take a moment to wish you all a blessed Christmas filled with the peace, joy, and love of Christ!

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Hello World!

I realize it's been a long, long time since I've posted anything on here. Such is life. I keep thinking I should find the time to give a good update on our life and family, but that obviously hasn't happened... yet. So, I'll just share with you the big news, the news that will likely explain the long absence. We are happily expecting Baby #4 in May! I'm 15 weeks along, and feeling much better than I was for a while there. Life is busy, between homeschooling and all the normal things that go on around here. But we are all well, and are extremely happy and thankful that God has blessed us once again. Hopefully I will write more soon, but we shall see. A blessed and happy Thanksgiving to you all!

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

The Coming of the Pilgrims


This week in school we've been learning about the coming of the Pilgrims. One of the things I've been doing with Peregrine is having him do a short narration each week. Usually it's just a few sentences summarizing what we've been learning; he dictates it to me, I write it, and he copies it. This week I told him I would type it for him and he could do a longer one. So, without further ado, here is his story. (This kid amazes me. He even told me that Mayflower needed to be in "fancy" writing.)

The Coming of the Pilgrims
by Peregrine E. B. G.
The Pilgrims left England because they were not allowed to worship God in their own way. They went to Holland, but were not happy among the Dutch. So they left in the ship Mayflower and sailed to North America. Life was hard on the ship, but finally they got to Cape Cod. They decided to build a village called Plymouth Plantation. Building the village was hard work. They must build beams and poles to build their houses. First they all lived in one big house altogether, but then they started to make their own houses. That first winter in Plymouth was extremely harsh. Illness spread through the village like a wildfire. Nearly half the people died. But the next winter was not so harsh for they had built some more houses and had more stores because the Indians had showed them how to plant corn. Corn was their main food that winter. Their village grew and grew until the Indians became worried, for perhaps Plymouth was planning a raid. But they were not, for they had signed a peace treaty. They lived in peace for many years.

Picture by N.C. Wyeth

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Memories


This is the time of year, as the days grow cooler and become golden, and the first leaves begin to flutter gently downwards, that I remember. I remember three years ago, when I had just lost a baby to miscarriage, and two years ago when I would have been giving birth to a second baby who flew away too soon. I remember long moments of waiting, watching, listening for a heartbeat that wasn't there, and long days of waiting for my body to give up the baby that I so desperately wanted to keep. I remember the horrible night I spent in the ER, as my life's blood flowed out with that tiny one, and the long weeks of recovery that followed. Then, a few month's later, learning once again that there was life within me, and waiting, hoping, praying, fearing, and then losing that baby as well.
Time goes on, and there is healing. Yes, there is still sadness for those little ones; there are still questions. I still wonder what they would have been like. I give thanks for Raphael, whose very name means "God has healed" and through whom God indeed brought healing both to my body and my heart. I give thanks for Peregrine and Alethea, my two lively, curious, and loving older children. I am glad, not for losing babies, but that God was with me through it and that I have changed, hopefully grown through the sadness and pain. I am thankful that I know those babes, Esther and Lydia, are safe and that one day we will be together. It makes me wonder more about heaven, long for my eternal home.
Little ones, Esther and Lydia, I remember you. I miss you, and am glad I got to be your mama, even if our time together here was so short. I love you, and I remember...

Thursday, September 03, 2009

BBA Challenge #13: French Bread

The thirteenth bread in the Challenge: crusty, delicious, baguettes. I tried making French Bread years ago, and frankly, it was nothing special. This, on the other hand, was wonderful. More substantial than your typical grocery store baguette, it was a great balance of crust and crumb. The large portion of pre-fermented dough added greatly to the flavor. I took this to a family gathering and it disappeared quickly. I would definitely make this recipe again next time I want this type of bread.
Next up: Italian Bread. I'm not sure how this differs from French Bread, but I'm sure I'll find out.

Wednesday, September 02, 2009

A Rainbow of Silks

I have, for a long time, loved the idea of playsilks. My Magic Cabin catalogue, one of the very few I get, arrives, and I look at all the wonderful playthings. My kids love to dress up and are fairly bursting with imagination, and I love fabric, especially natural textiles. So while I've looked at them often and thought they'd be a lot of fun, paying $10 each for a square yard of colored silk seemed, well, a bit extravagant. Then, a few weeks ago, I came across instructions for dyeing your own silks with Kool-aid! White silk scarves were less than $4 each from Dharma Trading Company, and Kool-aid didn't add much to the cost. The project was easy and fun; the kids were able to help out. It was also quick, and before long they were happily playing.
Peregrine puts the vinegar-soaked silk into jars with Kool-Aid. If I do this again, I will do each silk in a small pot so it has more room and the color comes out a bit more even. Also, I would use three packets of Kool-Aid for each scarf for a more vibrant color.


Here's the finished rainbow.


And here are a couple of cute little pilgrim/princess/king kids in the front room. They are finding so many uses for these and really enjoying them.


After dyeing with Kool-Aid I got inspired to try some natural dyes. From left to right I used coffee, tea, coffee/turmeric, blueberry, blackberry, and turmeric. I also did one with half a bottle of liquid chlorophyl I found in the cupboard. It came out a pale green that is also really lovely.

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

The Story of Helen, Who Loved Dolls

School has begun in our humble little home. Officially, Peregrine starts first grade this year, and Poppy, at 4 1/2, is my pre-schooler. One of the great things about learning at home is that we are not bound by those numbers, and the kids can learn at their own pace and, largely, learn about things they are interested in. We are doing a combination of a few different curriculum pieces, chosen carefully by Teacher-Mama, who put great thought and care into choosing things that suited our children, their interests, and our family. I've been mulling over, for some time, my teaching philosophy and will one of these days (or months) try to put it into words.
I am very drawn to and inspired by the work of Charlotte Mason, a British educator who lived, taught, and wrote over 100 years ago. The main history and geography curriculum I'm using with Peregrine uses some of her methods, and the language arts program I'm using is also based on her ideas. It tends to be extremely gentle, and instill in children a love of learning. Yesterday we simply looked at the above painting and talked about it. Today, I asked him to tell me a story based on what he sees in the painting. I typed as he dictated to me; since he reads well he watched and instructed me when I left out an exclamation mark, or if he wanted to change a sentence. This is his story. Enjoy!
By the way, does anyone know who did the painting?

THE STORY OF HELEN, WHO LOVED DOLLS, by Peregrine E. B. G.


Once upon a time there was a little girl named Helen. She had a doll with a blue dress and loved dolls. The house dog with a white chest and orange back legs, Collie, would follow her everywhere she went. One day some friends came to her house. She asked them to play dolls with her, but they said they were going to play freeze-tag. So she decided to play dolls with Collie. She put another of her dolls, Rosie, in front of Collie. Collie picked the doll up in her mouth and ran away with Rosie! Helen put down her blue doll and began to cry. She cried for half an hour there in the corner. Then, Collie came in without Rosie! Helen said “Bad dog! You should never go away with my doll like the way you did!”

Just then, her mother came in. “Why are you crying?” her mother asked. “Because Collie went away with my doll” Helen replied. Her mother said “Never mind. I know where your doll is; Collie ran off and hid it in the bushes.” “Oh, may I get it now?” Helen asked. “Not yet, Silly! It’s lunchtime! Look at the clock!” “Oh,” replied Helen. “You can get it after lunch,” her mother said.

So after lunch her friends said “We’ll play dolls with you now!” “Hurrah!” Helen cried, and jumped up and down. Then, she ran out, got Rosie, got her doll in the blue dress, got five other dolls, and played for hours with her friends.

Then it was time for her friends to leave. “We had a nice time here!” they called. “I’ll see you next time you come!” Helen called back.

And that is my story of a girl named Helen and a dog named Collie with a white chest and orange back legs.

THE END.


Author’s Note: Guess who wrote this story? If you’re my Grandma, or Papa, which of course you probably might not be, it was me, Peregrine! Since you couldn’t guess it was me, whoever has read this story, you will like it! And how a girl named Helen’s mother helped Helen find her doll that the house dog had hidden in the garden. You can learn a lot from this computer-written book and this exciting story!

Thursday, August 27, 2009

BBA Challenge #12: English Muffins

Here's the latest recipe in the BBA Challenge: English Muffins. These were a standard, enriched dough, quick and easy to make. Different from most breads, these bake in a skillet, then finish up in the oven. I left mine in the skillet a little too long and ended up with some rather dark tops and bottoms, but other than that they were... just okay. I'm not a super English Muffin connoisseur, but these didn't really seem like anything special to me or to Erik. We did enjoy them, however. The first night I made Eggs Benedict, and well, even mediocre bread is delicious when topped with ham and egg and smothered with hollandaise sauce. The second night we used them as hamburger buns. I didn't even eat one plain, but did enjoy them. Even so, if I'm going to make bread I'll put my energy into recipes I've enjoyed more. To be fair, I should probably try the recipe again. To be honest, I probably won't. :>
Up next: Foccacia. Yummm...

Rainbow



Here is a fun, quick, and simple little science project we did on a hot day last week. I gave each of the kids six jars, three large and three small. The large ones had water with red, yellow, and blue food coloring, the primary colors. We placed them in a row and put the smaller jars in between. Then they mixed colors to make orange, green, and purple. They, of course, enjoyed getting to pour and mix water, and also learned how the primary colors blend to make the others. After that they had fun mixing and pouring and coming up with different shades.
A few days later we dyed silk- with Kool-aid, in all the colors of the rainbow. Lots of fun!

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Foursday

Poppy: Mama, is there a Foursday?
Mama: Foursday?
Poppy: Well, there's Tuesday, and Onesday.

A Happy Twosday to all!

Monday, August 17, 2009

BBA Challenge #11: Cranberry Celebration Bread

The 11th bread in the challenge: Cranberry Walnut Celebration Bread. I left out the walnuts in my loaf, mostly due to the fact that I didn't have any. (Which seemed a perfectly reasonable reason to the likes of me.) I don't have much to say about this bread, or much time to say it. It was yummy. And there you have it.
There's milk to be skimmed, a shopping list to be made, and English muffins rising, so I'm off.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Beautiful-ler and Beautiful-lest

Poppy with Poppies

It was a quiet morning and cool air came in through the screen door that opens onto the back deck. I could hear Poppy chattering away out there, her sweet little voice floating through the air. After a few minutes she came in and related this to me:

“Mama, there is a garden spider who made the most beautiful web! And I tried to go under it, because it was so beautiful and I didn’t want to break it. But I did. So, I told him the story of The Very Busy Spider, and I hope he’ll build his web again. It was the most beautiful web! Maybe if I find him something to eat then he will be strong enough to build that web again.”

She proceeded to find a small, dead moth by the windowsill and happily tromped back outside to feed “her” spider. When the spider didn’t leap at the moth she was a little sad, but went off and found him some ants instead. I told her that maybe he would eat them when she wasn’t standing there watching. Sweet Poppy wandered off to do something else, but later in the day she remembered her spider and told me again “It was the beautiful-lest web ever! But I think now he is strong again and he will build an even beautiful-ler one!”


Wednesday, August 05, 2009

BBA Challenge #9 & 10: Cinnamon Bread and Cornbread

Gluten Free Cornbread

The last few weeks have been crazy-busy, plus some of us have been sick, and while I've still baked, I haven't made time to post my pictures. (Let alone do any "real" blogging!)
The ninth bread in the challenge was a cinnamon raisin loaf. I used the whole wheat recipe out of Peter Reinhart's Whole Grain Breads; it was delicious. I'm pretty sure I took a picture, but if I did it has disappeared along with the bread.
The next recipe in The Bread Baker's Apprentice was for Corn Bread. This was the only non-yeasted bread in the book, so I thought I'd make it gluten free so Poppy could join us in eating it. So, as a disclaimer, it probably came out very different than the original recipe. I used brown rice flour, which I soaked overnight along with the cornmeal. I also skipped the bacon and fresh corn, so, yeah, I pretty much altered the recipe beyond recognition. But, it tasted good, especially with some cinnamon-honey-butter spread on it! Perhaps someday I'll make it again and stick to the recipe.
Up next: Cranberry Walnut Celebration Bread.

Friday, July 10, 2009

BBA Challenge #8: Cinnamon Rolls (Whole Wheat)

It's hard to believe I'm already on the 8th recipe in the BBA Challenge. While I've really been enjoying the baking and the eating of all these breads, I'm ready to stop using so much white flour! So, this week, instead of the Cinnamon Rolls recipe from The Bread Baker's Apprentice I decided to make the whole wheat recipe from a book by the same author, Peter Reinhart's Whole Grain Breads. I've made the BBA recipe before, so I thought it would be fun to try to make them whole wheat.
I started with freshly ground white wheat berries for a softer, lighter taste and texture. The recipe calls for both a biga and a soaker started the night before. This not only improves the texture of the finished loaf but serves to neutralize the phytic acid present in the whole grains, making them more digestible and unlocking nutrients that our bodies need. Instead of milk or buttermilk in my biga and starter I used kefir, since I had a lot on hand. It was a particularly strong batch and contributed a slight sour flavor to the rolls. Next time I think I'll use something other than kefir. The next day I combined the biga and soaker with yeast, salt, less than half cup unbleached flour, an egg, honey, and coconut oil to form a soft and slightly tacky dough.

Here is the dough with cinnamon sugar. Next time I think I'll roll it out a bit thinner than the half inch called for in the book so that I get more swirl.

Rising...

... and here they are drizzled with a cream cheese and honey glaze.

The verdict? Very good, especially considering they were almost entirely whole wheat. Peregrine said they were the best cinnamon rolls he's ever eaten, but I think it was because I don't normally glaze them. Erik and I enjoyed them as well. I will definitely go back to this recipe next time I make cinnamon rolls. (Which is usually once a year on Pascha (Easter)!) For a healthy version of a very decadent treat, these did not disappoint! I plan to try more of the Whole Grain Breads recipes as the BBA Challenge progresses.
Next up: Cinnamon Raisin Bread.

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

BBA Challenge #7:Ciabatta

It's hard to believe we're already on week seven of The Bread Baker's Apprentice Challenge. I decided to do a more in depth post on this week's bread since it's one of my favorites, and is possibly the recipe from BBA that I've made the most often: Ciabatta.
A few years ago I sat on a friend's couch and flipped through a library copy of The Bread Baker's Apprentice. While I was no stranger to baking bread, I'd wondered how one could achieve the soft, moist crumb, and crispy crust of the artisan breads from the bakery. And there, in my hands, was the answer. I wasted no time in requesting my own copy from the library, and devoured the first section of the book, in which Peter Reinhart goes into much detail on the art and science of bread, of yeast and enzymes, of how manipulating time and temperature produces both subtle and drastic changes. I'm just geeky enough to enjoy that sort of thing! And better yet, he was willing to walk me through it step by step, the amazing process of turning flour, yeast, water and salt into "the staff of life".
Ciabatta hails from Liguria, Italy, and has spread across the Italy, and across our country as well. It literally means "carpet slipper" as it's freeform shape apparently can resemble a slipper. It may best be known as the bread that is typically used for making panini. (And trust me, it makes wonderful panini!) It is bread in it's simplest form; water, flour, yeast, and salt. It is the magic of "time and temperature" that transform these most basic ingredients into something much, much more than the sum of its parts.

Poolish, a pre-ferment that is started at least one day prior to baking. A simple mixture of flour, water, and a small amount of yeast, the pre-ferment is key to both the texture and the subtle flavor of the bread. It is left out at room temperature for a few hours, then chilled overnight.


This is the dough toward the end of mixing. It's a very wet, sticky dough and working with it takes a bit of getting used to.


Here is the dough after two rises, the first about 30 minutes, and the second closer to 2 hours. This recipe directs the baker to let it rise on a well-floured countertop.


I divided the dough into three portions; two I folded and placed into the folds of my "couche", which in this case is nothing more than some heavy cotton dusted with flour. It serves the purpose of providing structure for the loaves rise during their final rise. Because the dough is so wet, a lot of flour is used to prevent it sticking to hands, countertop, and couche. This is what gives the final product a rather "dusty" look. Incidentally, this dough is never "punched down"; rather, is is gently stretched and folded back together, degassing it as little as possible. This is, in part, what gives the characteristic large open holes.


The third portion of dough I divided into two pieces and formed each into a ball. I slipped these into baggies with a drizzle of olive oil (to prevent it sticking to the bag, of course!) These will become crusts for pizza in a day or two.

After about an hour in the couche, the dough is gently lifted and stretched out a bit before being placed on a floured peel. This peel was handmade as a friend and given to me as a gift.


About 15 minutes, 500 degrees, one steam pan, two baking stones (one on the lowest shelf and one on the highest; this simulates a brick oven a little more than just one stone) and three mistings later, the bread registers 205 in the center. The crust is golden and hard to the touch, but as the hot bread cools the steam inside will soften it into a lovely chewiness.

Slightly out of order here, but this is the moment the bread comes out oven, and this is the messy kitchen where all the magic happens! ('Cuz my kitchen staff are ages 6, 4, and 1, and frankly, I think they make a lot more mess than they clean up. But we're working on that...)


And here is the finished product; ciabatta!


And one last parting shot.

If you're interested in trying this recipe, you can find it here, along with quite a bit of the book. Go! Bake! Eat! Or, as they would say in Italy: Mangia, Mangia!

Just Call me Mother Goose

"Mama, we'll play Family, and I'll be the Mama, and you and Peregrine and Amy can be my kids." (Amy is a beloved doll.)
"Okay, Poppy, and will Raphi be one of your kids too?"
"No, he can be your baby. It's the first time ever that a kid layed a baby!"
Yeah, I've layed a couple babies in my time. You can just call me Mother Goose.


Tuesday, June 30, 2009

BBA Challenge #6: Challah Bread

I'm lagging a bit on my baking. (Surprise, surprise! I'm very good at starting things and slowing down to a standstill long before they're finished. I think I can, I think I can.... ) Didn't bake at all last week, so am going to try to get two breads in this week. While I'm enjoying the baking and the eating of all this bread, I must say it's way too much white flour for my liking. So, this week, I decided I would do the challah, but only half the recipe. Challah is traditionally made and enjoyed by Jewish families in preparation for the Sabbath. I've never made this recipe before, and it was a very simple and straightforward bread. Enriched by eggs and oil, it has a nice soft texture, and Peregrine appreciated the softer crust. Shaping loaves is not one of my skilz, and I usually just make either sandwich bread or slack-dough bread like ciabatta, so this was a bit of a challenge for me! I started with half the recipe, but needed some hamburger buns as well, so I made a very small braided loaf and six "flat" hamburger buns. (Just enough to hold it all together is the way we like them!) Because I was working with such small ropes for braiding I wasn't able to quite follow the instructions in the book and I didn't pinch the ends enough so they didn't all stay stuck together. In spite of that, it's a lovely golden little loaf. We haven't eaten it yet, but the hamburger buns were delicious.
Coming up next, ciabatta, one of my favorite breads to make and to eat.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Peregrine-ism

You know you live in a house with an unusually large number of speakers when Peregrine, instead of asking Poppy to be quiet, asks her to "turn down that speaker in your throat"!

Saturday, June 13, 2009

BBA Challenge #5: Casatiello

This week's Bread Baker's Apprentice recipe was an Italian version of Brioche, Casatiello. (You can click here for the recipe as it appears in the book.) It is typically baked around Easter in Italy, and while the recipe in our book called for butter, the authentic way to make it is with lard! This was the fifth recipe in the challenge, and probably the most straightforward; from start to delicious finish in about 5 hours. It was a simple dough enriched with eggs and butter and studded with bit of meat and cheese. The recipe called for salami, but I had bacon on hand, so I fried some up and chopped it coarsely. I substituted a third of the butter with some of the leftover bacon grease. (I know, I know...) That was probably partly what made this bread so good. For cheese, I chose swiss, and grated it. If, no, when I make this bread again I'll cut the cheese into little cubes instead of grating it, as I think the melty pockets left by the cheese would be nice. We thought this one was delicious, and am so glad for this challenge, as I likely wouldn't have tried this one on my own.
Do you like the "staging" of the photo? I asked Erik if he could photograph the casatiello before I put it away, so he rushed over with the camera. I was going to move it, or clear the counter at least, but he said to leave it as it would add to the character of the picture. So there you have my kitchen in a very natural state. The wooden surface is the top of a table my Dad made me; it's decorative iron on the bottom, with a shelf for my small appliances and room underneath for food-grade buckets of bulk items. The table sits a few inches lower than my countertops which is easier on the back for rolling tortillas! The vintage rolling pin is something that belonged to Erik's grandmother, BeBe. When we were newly married we were invited to go through some things they had in storage. This was one of a few items we ended up with, and I love it. In the far left of the picture you can just see the crust of Poppy's gluten free "everyday" bread that I use for sandwiches, toast, etc. And at the top is the base of my Vita-Mix, a hard working appliance that serves us very well. I'm so thankful that cooking is something I enjoy, as it's something I have to do an awful lot of!
Coming up next week in the challenge: Challah Bread.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

For the Love of Vanilla

Mise en place... everything ready.


Beginnings...

It's going to be yummy one day!

The next morning, already turning a lovely amber.
I have some sort of a love affair with vanilla. And in my mind, vanilla is tied forever with Mexico. For as long as I can remember, my family has always brought back big bottles of Mexican vanilla whenever we go there. It brings back memories of shopping on First Street in Ensenada, of dusty and cluttered shops where the overly friendly shopkeeper wants to make a "special deal for you today". Of course, if you want the really special deal you leave the tourist area and go to the big supermarket where the Mexicans shop. In more recent years, my vanilla memories take me to Zihuatanejo, and Puerto Morelos, to stifling hot days and only slightly cooler nights, geckos clicking and running across the walls, much to the delight of my children and myself, beaches and sand castles and waves, mysterious Mayan ruins rising from steaming jungles, cool clear cenotes, and more dusty shops with rows and rows of shiny bottles of vanilla.
Yes, in my familia Mexico and vanilla go hand in hand. Whenever anyone goes south of the border, they take orders for vanilla. So when I recently ran out of my big bottle of Mexican vanilla I was tempted to load up the van and head south. Seriously, it would be almost criminal to run a kitchen with no vanilla on hand! And sure, I know I can buy vanilla here; I can even go to the latin markets and buy Mexican vanilla, but it just wouldn't be the same. Instead, I began looking into making my own vanilla extract and lo and behold, it's a very, very simple thing to do. So, not one to do things in moderation, I decide I might as well just make a gallon or more so that I can have some to share as well.
The basic "recipe" for making vanilla is simply to soak vanilla beans in alcohol for at least 8 weeks, and presto change-o... vanilla extract! So, after reading up on the various origins and their properties, I ordered from The Arizona Vanilla Company a half pound of beans from Madagascar and another half pound from Mexico. The vanilla orchid originated in Mexico and Mexican beans are still considered the finest. But I was curious to see if I could tell any difference in the extract made from the two different origins.
Next stop, the liquor store. Now I was raised in a home where alcohol consumption was strictly taboo. I've relaxed a bit on this point, but still, between Erik and I, we consume maybe 1 or 2 drinks a month. (I guess this is one area where I do exercise moderation.) So when I traipsed into the liquor store, baby on my hip and two children in tow, I felt a bit out of place. A friendly employee pointed me in the direction of the vodka, and, at my request, pointed out the cheap stuff, as I'd read it doesn't really matter for making an extract. At this point Peregrine piped up, asking the man, "Isn't alcohol bad for you?" We assured him it's only bad in excess. (Like if mama went home and downed a whole lot of that vodka.) I, of course, felt compelled to explain to whoever might care that the reason I was buying two huge bottles of cheap vodkaand a bottle of rum was that I was using it to make vanilla, and that I'd be making a lot of it. As if the liquor store employees regularly pass judgement on people buying cheap alcohol. Yeah. They probably only think it's funny when people like myself seem nervous and make excuses. Yeah right, lady, we believe you're going home to make vanilla. Likely story.
So, I survived my liquor store experience and have been just waiting to put it all together. I've enjoyed the scent of vanilla that has greeted me when I walk into my kitchen and have politely ignored the brown paper bag full of cheap vodka that cluttered up my countertop. Last night I ran a knife down the length of each vanilla bean to expose the wonderfully fragrant little seeds. I dropped the beans into the jars, about 3-4 beans per 8oz of alcohol. Already this morning the clear liquid is turning a beautiful amber as the alcohol begins to extract the vanilla essence. And now, we wait. I'm excited to see how my vanilla experiment turns out. But that doesn't mean I don't want to get on a plane for more Mexican adventures!

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

One Year Flashback

I was curious to go back a year in my picture folder and see what photo I came up with. Here it is, from June 10th, 2008, a little two month old Raphael sucking his thumb. The rest of us haven't changed a lot in a year, but he sure has. He was my little baldy baby, well, bald compared to Peregrine and Alethea, but people still commented on how much hair he had! He sucked his thumb from the time he was about 2 months until maybe 8 or 9 months, but only when he was tired and falling asleep. I thought it was a perfect habit. But apparently he'd had enough of it. Sweet little baby; where did you go? They grow too fast. (And I still need to write his birthday letter.)
Does anyone else want to share a One Year Flashback?

BBA Challenge #4: Brioche

Last week's recipe was Brioche, a rich, buttery bread that I'd never have made if not for taking part in the challenge. Since I don't own any brioche molds I made do with a muffin pan, which worked well enough even. There were three different options for making this bread; Rich Man's Brioche, Middle Class Brioche, and Poor Man's Brioche. The difference in the three recipes was the amount of butter. I chose the middle ground which still sounded pretty decadent with five eggs and a half pound of butter. Working with such a buttery dough was different; even straight out of the fridge the heat from my hands made it sticky. I did the traditional brioche a' tete shaping; the whole thing had a high learning curve for me. I think I could do better next time, although I'm not terribly inclined to make such a rich bread typically. That said, they are yummy, a bit reminiscent of a croissant. And spread with a little chocolate ganache they make a very nice snack.

Thursday, June 04, 2009

Blessings

A few random picture of the blessings I spend my days with! (Yes, I actually do other things besides baking bread!)
There's an awful lot of reading going on with this boy these days. I think we're going to have to get used to seeing Peregrine with his nose in a book. It's so very fun watching him catch the reading spark. He reads alone, reads to his brother and sister, and reads to Erik and me. I love it!

We got a new batch of 7 laying hens this spring. I can't wait until they start giving us eggs. Here is Poppy holding hers, a Rhode Island Red named Marigold.

You just never know what you may find in the potty!
(And I daresay this is more pleasant than some things one finds.)

And this little boy is an absolute delight! I can hardly believe he's fourteen months. He's discovered that walking is a pretty decent way to get around, and get around he does!

BBA Challenge #3: Bagels

The third recipe in the BBA Challenge is bagels. I'm not much of a bagel connoisseur; I enjoy one once in a while but I could take them or leave them. I have not spent my adult life attempting to recapture the perfect bagel of my childhood; in fact, I don't remember bagels as being part of my childhood at all. So I really can't say if this was an "authentic" bagel or not, but I did think it was pretty yummy. Chewy on the outside, soft and moist on the inside. They're not as much work as they seem and were a nice treat. I only made half the recipe, which still made 8 decent size bagels. And, I had some awfully sweet helpers.