After a week of…

dealing with a nasty cold that hit every single one of us, I feel it is safe to say that we’re feeling better and well on our way back to normal, whatever normal is.  James was out of town for most of last week, though dealing with his own cold all alone in a hotel room while I held down the fort at home.  I was lucky enough to only get a mild version of it so taking care of the kiddos wasn’t as bad as it could have been.  Jackson had it worst and is still recovering a bit.

One day around noon while sitting on the couch with a miserable Jack, I spotted, not one, but THREE deer walking in the side yard!  I’m amazed at all the animals we see living in the city, between the deer and the huge owl of a few weeks ago.  Even James and all of the kids got to observe these three lovely does as they made their way to wherever they were going.

We’ve been enjoying the ebbs and flows of our days.  Coming together for breakfast, circle time, lunch, tea time, dinner, and story time before bed while playing, knitting, working on schoolwork, tending to responsibilities and housework between.  It finally seems to be working for all!  Now if only the sleep patterns would get back to normal, especially for Jack and Iz (who didn’t nap at all yesterday!)

tree

Oh, and the picture is from a wind storm we had a week or two ago.  One of the trees in our neighborhood got blown over and took the ground cover with it.  We were fascinated by this and imagined it being a cave opening to the gnome world.  The tree people came a couple days ago and mulched it all up and put the grass back where it was.  It was kinda sad.

Hoping to get some of projects around the house done in the coming week so I can follow through on my promises and post pictures.  I have a couple other things to share, but I’ll save that for another post.

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Happy Valentine’s Day

I woke up early this morning to a paper trail of hearts leading to my computer with a beautiful poem written by my dear husband on the screen to wish me a Happy Valentine’s Day.  How lucky am I!?!?

Later we went “shopping” for gifts.  I got James a warm wool long-under type shirt to keep him warm on his camping trips.  He got me a wonderful 50+ year-old wooden door at the Habitat-for-Humanity Restore.  It’s exactly what I wanted!  I have a plan and it involves being crafty and I’ll share the end results in a couple of days.  Can’t wait!

Bread Recipes

Maple Oatmeal Sandwich Bread

yields 2 loaves

1 cup milk

1 cup water

1/4 cup maple syrup

1/4 cup maple sugar (may substitute brown sugar or maple syrup)

1 cup rolled oats

1 T honey

1/4 cup unsalted butter

1 T salt

1 tsp cinnamon

1 T yeast

2 cups hard red wheat flour

2 cups hard white wheat flour

1-1/2 cups AP flour

In a small saucepan, combine milk, water, syrup, honey, sugar, oats, butter, salt and cinnamon.  Warm over low heat until butter has just melted.  Temperature should be around 110 degrees (too hot and you’ll kill your yeast, no rising.  too cool and it will take much longer for the yeast to grow thus extending your rising time)

In a stand mixer with dough hook, combine yeast and flour.  Pour warm liquid mixture slowly into  flour mixture with the mixer on low.  Knead by mixer for 6-8 minutes (10-12 minutes by hand.)

Transfer dough to lightly greased bowl and cover with a cloth napkin to rise approximately 1 hour.  Many times, I turn the oven on it’s lowest setting and turn it off after the temperature is reached and then put the dough in, letting it rise in there for only 40 minutes.

Punch down and separate it in half.  Shape dough into two loaves.  I press each half into a square/rectangle and roll it into a tube, placing the seam side down in greased loaf pans.  Cover again with the cloth napkin and let rise again  for another hour.  (Again you can cheat by putting them back into the warm oven – no need to turn it on again, it’s still plenty warm- for only 30 minutes – then remove the cloth napkin and crank up the heat to bake it.)

Bake the loaves at 350 degrees for 35-40 minutes.  Remove from oven and immediately take a stick of butter and rub the tops of the loaves until they’re coated with a lovely buttery shine (you could also melt the butter and use a brush, but who wants to wash all those dishes!?)  Let cool 10-15 minutes in the pan and then remove the from the pan to a cooling rack.

Honey Wheat Sandwich Bread

yield 2 loaves

2 cups whole milk or buttermilk

2/3 cup water

1/2 cup unsalted butter

1/3 to 1/2 cup honey – depends on how sweet you like your bread

2-1/2 cups hard red wheat flour

2-1/2 cups hard white wheat flour

2-1/2 cups AP flour

2 tsp salt

4-1/2 tsp yeast

In a small saucepan, combine milk, butter, water and honey over low heat until butter is just melted.  Again, optimal temperature is 110 degrees.

Mix flours, salt, and yeast in stand mixer.  Add warm liquid.  Beat 10 minutes.

Place dough in greased bowl with cloth napkin over it.  Let rise for 60-90 on counter or 45 minutes using the oven method explained above.  Punch down and shape into loaves.  Rise again for another 60-90 minutes on counter or 30-40 minutes in warm oven.

Bake in 350 degree oven for 40-45 minutes.  Butter tops when out of the oven like above.

In theory, you should wait until they’re cool before slicing into them, but that only happens with one loaf in our house.  The other loaf rarely makes it past buttering the top before being cut into and enjoyed by all while piping hot.  Yum – hot bread with melted butter.

Grain Storage

I love that we get can get organic wheat berries, oats, other grains, beans, and rice through our co-op at a super great price, but then we had trouble finding an affordable storage solution.  Sure, they sell these great containers at the specialty cooking stores or flour storage buckets at King Arthur Flour, but at $10-$35 for the correct size, who can afford to buy bulk when you have to front the storage container cost first!?

Many families in our co-op buy the food grade 10-gallon buckets with the gamma seal lids for approximately $12 through Something Better Natural Foods.  This works out great and is a lot more affordable when your buying 50 pounds of bulk grains.  We’re not quite at the point of being able to consume 50 pounds of something before it goes bad though.  The exception here would be dry beans since they last indefinitely (though may require more soaking time with age.)

I’m happy to say that I found a great solution for 5-10 pounds of our bulk buys without breaking the bank or using multiple Ziploc bags (which quickly clutter the pantry and get tiny holes in them that leak after a few handlings.)  I bought the 1-gallon size plastic containers for $2.30 each through Frontier, which is the ideal size for the 10-pound bags of bulk goods.  For ground flour storage and 5-pound bulk grains, I’m guessing the 1/2-gallon plastic containers at $1.75 each with work just as perfectly.    I’ll be ordering many more of these in a couple of weeks and will proudly show off before and after pictures of our pantry once they arrive.

grains

Oh, for easy identification, I cut the label off the bag and taped it on the container and will be writing the date the package was opened so I’ll know the expiration date.

Ahhh!  It’s the little things, I tell you!

The Simple Woman’s Daybook

Thank you to Peggy at http://thesimplewoman.blogspot.com/ for the Daybook.  You can stop by to see what others are up to today.

Outside My Window… it’s pitch dark and I can’t see a thing.  It’s only 6:30 in the morning.

I am thinking… of all that I will be doing today.  It’s meeting day for LLL, then I work my produce sorting shift at our co-op.  Afterwards, we go to Trader Joe’s so I can pick up a few odds and ends and the kids can find the monkey and claim their treats (they beg for this every time we leave the house.)  I’m still behind from being sick over the weekend and haven’t meal planned so I have no clue what I’m making for dinner.

I am thankful for…  my health and not being sick anymore.  The short-lived stomach bug made it’s way around to everyone, James being the last one to get it yesterday afternoon.

From the kitchen… I have a table of freshly rolled rolled beeswax candles from last night and a floor that is begging and screaming to be swept and mopped.  No yummy baking today.

I am wearing… yellow silk capri pajama pants and a grey long sleeve T-shirt.

I am creating…  a lacey scarf (and not making much progress on it these days.)  I found a beautiful cotton shower curtain on clearance and will be transforming it into a new duvet cover for my bed that actually MATCHES our quilt.  I bought enough solid-colored matching fabric to make roman shades for all the windows and a wee bit of ribbon for accenting the lamp shade.  I’m determined to have a relaxing serene retreat of a bedroom and all for less than $30!

I am going… to be all over the city today with all three kids dragging behind me, likely complaining of my sore back.

I am reading… the computer screen.  Does that count?

I am hoping… to enjoy the little things today in the midst of being busy.

I am hearing… a plane flying overhead, otherwise, complete silence in the house.  Ahhh!

Around the house… I’m not looking.  Please don’t make me.

One of my favorite things… a beautiful ball of green-blue sock yarn on my desk.  I tried all weekend to knit it into a toe of a sock.  I figured out the provisional cast-one and understood the idea of what should happened, but got conquered by the short-row wraps and being nauseous.  I frogged it several times over and decided that learning to knit socks from the toe up is not meant to be accomplished by me at this time.

A Few Plans For The Rest Of The Week:

Here is picture thought I am sharing…

Snowy Iz