Home and Baking

We’ve been home from the Prayer Conference for three hours. The house is cluttered with Christmas bins (yes, we still have Christmas decorations up, don’t rush us), suitcases, mail, library books, and assorted shoes and boots (the kids managed to find some snow while we were gone).

prayer conference groupees

What a joy it was to bring Joshua with us to the prayer conference.

What have I been doing?


I can’t help it! I’ve got this new Bosch, 25 pounds of wheat and a Nutrimill. Who cares about the mess or the details that need my attention before bed. Please don’t remind me that our homeschooling co-op starts on Friday. The kitchen just doesn’t look right without a fresh loaf of bread tucked away on the counter.

bosch is the best

Tim went to pick up the children from AWANA. I sent him off with three, still piping hot, loaves of fresh whole grain bread. Yum and double yum! I kept one here at home (it fell and didn’t look as “pretty” as the others) and I’ve got three more rising on the stove. I think we’ll have enough bread to last for the rest of the week.

I told Tim to find someone who looked like they needed a fresh loaf of bread and to share the bounty. I’m so curious as to who he came across in the church parking lot.

Was it you??

Here are the two recipes I used (I’m still experimenting with the first one as I can’t seem to get the flour measurements right, it’s too sticky but the end loaf is incredible!! Both recipes use the Bosch which is a BIG mixer and can handle a large recipe):

thank you, g'ma

My inlaws give the BEST gifts!!

Grandma’s Yummy Loaf

6 cups hot water
3/4 cup oil
2/3 to 1 cup honey
generous tbs salt
2 1/2 tbs lecithin granules
heaping 1/4 cup gluten flour
9 3/4 cup hard white wheat, freshly ground (not sure how much this makes – that’s where I’m having trouble. I need to double check. I’ve been using 11 cups of flour, or so, and it’s way too sticky. More bread making is needed to perfect this)
2 1/2 tbs yeast

Combine hot water, oil, honey, salt, lecithin, and gluten flour in heavy duty mixing bowl. Mix well. Add half of the freshly ground flour. Mix well. Sprinkle yeast on top of mixture. Add remaining flour. Mix on low speed until ingredients are just combined. Knead on medium high for 8-10 minutes until dough is cleaning itself off sides of bowl and stretches nicely.

Divide dough into 4 to 6 loaves (depending on loaf pan size). Roll and shape dough, tuck ends and place in greased pan. Cover and let rise in warm place 30 minutes or until doubled. Bake on middle rack of oven 25-30 minutes at 350. Gently remove and cool.

Because I haven’t been adding enough flour (I’ve made this three times now and keep forgetting to measure 9 cups of wheat first and then grind it) it’s been way too sticky to shape into pretty loaves. It does, however, bake into these deliciously tasty loaves. Wow! Very good.

The other recipe is one I found online. Tonight is the first time I tried it. The recipe is very similar. It drew rave reviews from my hungry crowd.

Five Loaf Recipe Adapted from a recipe from Breadbeckers.com

5 cups Hot Water
1 ¼ cup oil (half olive oil, half canola)
¾ cup honey
2 ½ Tbs. Instant Yeast
12-14 cups whole wheat, freshly milled flour
5 tsp salt
2 Tbs Powdered Milk
2 Tbs Gluten

Step 1: Combine, water, oil, honey. Add 8 cups of flour, yeast, salt, powdered milk, and gluten. Mix thoroughly. (2 minutes on setting 2)

Step 2: Add remaining flour and knead until smooth and elastic (10 minutes on Setting 2)

Step 3: Let rise for five minutes in mixer bowl. Then stir on low (Bosch level 2) for just a few seconds.

Step 4: Shape into loaves or rolls with oiled hands.

Step 5: Place into greased pans and let rise until double. (I let it rise approx 30 minutes)

Bake at 350 degrees for 25-30 minutes. Let them cool in the pans for about 5 minutes, then turn out on a cooling rack to cool completely.

I only have so many bread loaf pans, of course, and was already using four of them on the other batch, so I had to improvise with this second recipe.

bread bowls

Hopefully these will work as soup/bread bowls.

Can you say Over Achiever!!

I made six little bread bowls (draping dough over muffin cups). We’ll see if those turn out. I guess that means I need to make up a batch of some sort of tasty stew or chili tomorrow. Hmmm. Chicken tortilla soup maybe?

In the back of my cabinet I found a baguette pan (at least that’s what I think it is). I haven’t used it in years. No time like the present, I thought to myself, dragging it out and washing off the dust. I also found this cute little stoneware pot that is supposedly oven safe.

loaf of bread anyone?

We’re practically our own bakery! I think we’ve given away almost as many loaves as we’ve eaten but I’m not certain.

Now I had better take off the baker’s hat and go be a mom, housekeeper and homeschool teacher.

If you have a good bread recipe, PLEASE share it!! I’ve got a mixer and I’m prepared to use it.


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Swimmers and Wise Men

Joshua and Rachel have recently joined the swim team at our local YMCA. This has brought numerous things into our busy lives, one of which is a slew of new quotations:

No man drowns if he perseveres in praying to God, and can swim. ~Russian Proverb

It’s a good idea to begin at the bottom in everything except in learning to swim. ~Author Unknown

swim on, Joshua1

If one synchronized swimmer drowns, do all the rest have to drown too? ~Steven Wright

Sometimes God calms the storm. At other times, he calms the sailor. And sometimes he makes us swim. ~Author Unknown

And of course, our favorite:

When the earth floods from global warming, the swimmers will rule the world. ~Author Unknown

breathe, breathe

On Saturday Joshua swam in his first meet. Such excitement and nervous energy! We calculated Joshua was on the pool deck for 4 hours and swam for 20 minutes.

Should I be concerned? This seems like an awful lot of time on the bench. :)

waiting, waiting to swim

We were very proud of Joshua’s commitment to the team and dedication in swimming.

Excellent Job, Joshua!!

Because of our incredibly snowy Christmas, the children’s Christmas pageant was postponed until a more timely (i.e. more rain and less snow) Sunday. There is nothing quite like a children’s church program – smiling, giggling kids, parents waving and photographing like mad, lines forgotten, duets so softly sung as to be almost inaudible, crying preschoolers who suddenly don’t want to leave the stage (is that stage unfright?).

David was one of the rowdy wise men this year with some actual lines and a piece of a song. Sarah sang a portion of a duet, Daniel was the stage hand, and Rachel received special thanks for helping during the weekly practices.

smiling wise guy

David was proud to be a wise man in this year’s show.

Our family was well represented.

A fitting time, wouldn’t you say, for my camera to die? No batteries, wouldn’t even turn on.

Not a problem. That was my small camera, not crucial. Okay, so it has the video viewer in it and was going to record (live) some of the performance. Still, I wasn’t worried. I had my Nikon with me, and was prepared with not just the one lens but the zoom as well.

singing sarah

We encouraged Sarah to think of her song as a gift she could give to Jesus.

Ah, not quite as prepared as I would have liked.

The battery ran out in the middle of the show. This was after some friends came up and begged me to take pictures of their daughters as they were sitting in the back of the church.

Of course. Typical.

got a good gift?

The show must go on, and go it did. I worked hard at savoring each precious detail in my ‘living photograph’ and cheered loudly. I try to make up my lack of organizational skills with general good spirits. It usually works.


P.S. Since I haven’t been blogging very often these days, I have to tack in a little picture, or two, of Daniel’s first piano lessons. Life doesn’t slow down even if the blogging lags.

play on, Dan

where are your glasses, Dan?

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Seattle Children’s Theater

Last week a good friend called with a fun proposal; she had tickets to see Wizard of Oz, performed at the Seattle Children’s Theater, but wasn’t going to be able to attend the show. She wondered if we would like to use her tickets.

Wow! What a generous offer. I was delighted to have the opportunity and promised to call her back right away. There were six tickets available. Tim was busy on Saturday and didn’t have time to spend several hours at the theater. Rachel had plans to go to Olympia with some friends. Joshua said, “no thank you,” before I even explained the offer. Hmmm. Life becomes a bit complicated as the children get older.

sarah, rachel and jenny

Rachel and her “sisters by another mother.”

I called one friend to see if she was interested in joining me at the show. She had already seen it.

“It’s wonderful! You’ll love it,” she enthused.

Nice to have an endorsement, but I still needed a decision/plan for the day. I figured I had three options:

1) Head to Seattle with the kids by myself (no other adult)
2) Forget the whole thing and give the tickets to someone else
3) Find another friend to join us

As it turns out my sweet friend, Julee, was thrilled to have the opportunity to go to the theater. She decided to bring her two daughters which left me with two tickets for my crew. I thought David (7) and Sarah (6) would probably enjoy the show the most. Joshua seemed a bit too old, Rachel was busy ice skating, and Daniel was eager to join the girls at the rink.

It was a wonderful, fantastic show! David and Sarah dressed up, of course. Sarah can never resist a chance to don her finery. We drove up to Seattle with Julee and her girls. Our seats were perfect – nice and close with a great view. The production was amazing! Julee and I were both very impressed with the way the theater handled the magic/mystical parts of the story. The songs were fun and the kids watched with wonder.

sarah my pretty

During intermission David said, “This is WAY better than I thought it was going to be.”

You have to wonder what exactly he thought it would be like seeing as 1) he’s never seen the movie or live version or 2) been to the theater before.

Ah, who knows what preconceived notions lies wrapped up in the children’s minds.

I’m so sorry Pam and her family weren’t able to take advantage of this delightful performance, but I’m very thankful she thought of me and gave us the opportunity for a very special Saturday adventure. Thank you, Pam!!

a day at the theater

My camera died right as we got to the theater, but I did manage a picture or two first.

After this experience, I can see I really must make the children’s theater a priority in our plans next year. I can’t wait to see what they have lined up for next season.

Coming up – my new Bosch, Nutrimill and recipes!

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School Starts

I would post a snapshot of my kitchen table if it weren’t so pathetic. It does not look like the organized, tidy office space of an efficient home educator. There are receipts from the first week of January in a stack next to the laptop. We have yet to close out December’s budget – there are too many loose ends floating around to be sure of our exact number and both Tim and are dreading the work of figuring it all out. I’m sure we didn’t overspend after all our hard work and determination to stick to the budget.

Wow, I almost said that with a straight face.

Can you say “DENIAL!”

.that's a LOT of snow

A picture of our street, three days before Christmas.

There’s a Vikings hat in the center of the table next to a birthday card. My birthday is in July so I’m not sure how that card found its way among all the Christmas letters. Just another sterling example of the pat rack motto we live by. A deck of cards is shoved to one side, the last remnant of our New Year’s parties. My new Nutrimill is at the head of the table, waiting patiently for me to mill some wheat.

Did I mention I was blessed with a new grain mill for Christmas??? Oh, yes!! Doing the happy dance here. I’m still in shock over the HUGE gift.

Can I ignore the start of school and just grind wheat and make bread all day? My friends and neighbors, hoping for a loaf of bread, would all shout a resounding ‘yes!’

At the other end of the table is my new, fantastic cookbook from my aunt. It’s the all-new edition of The New Best Recipe by Cooks Illustrated.

Let's Bake!

I am completely in love with this cookbook. Can I say that about a cookbook? Is that getting too personal? I’ve spent hours pouring over the pages, reading, planning and making notations. I’ve already tried the hearty beef stew and mashed potatoes. Tomorrow I hope to make the pot roast dinner. All the BEST recipes with detail and precision that can’t be beat. You can imagine Tim’s delight as I cart this 1000 page book off to read before bed. It takes up practically half the bed.

do we have to go back to school?

We had enough snow for Christmas to satisfy all our snow bunnies.

The kitchen is mostly clean with a dirty dish here or there, a box of crackers and some party plates.

Where is the schedule for tomorrow’s school day?
The ingredients for our big breakfast, celebrating the first day back at school?
Fresh assignments for all the children?

Nope, no, nada.

All that you would see, beyond the mild chaos of a lived in house, is a squinting, tired mother who has stayed up too late the last three days ringing in the New Year.

Between the parties and the general fun, I’m exhausted.

david hits the snow flying

The slide served as a little sledding hill, right in our own backyard.

I need a mini vacation to rest up from the holidays. Sadly, even the snow that fell this evening doesn’t bring any respite. Homeschoolers don’t really get snow days.

I had better get to bed. That alarm is going to ring VERY early for this night owl crowd.

Happy New Year – shall we jump into 2009 with poised pencils and cheerful attitudes?

It’s gonna be a stretch but I’m always up for an adventure.


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Gaming Out the Old Year

Now that our cumulative 14″ of snow has completely melted, and the presents are (mostly) opened, we have a moment of respite from our hectic Christmas schedule. We drove out to the Duckabush to spend Christmas evening with my folks, and stayed for a couple of days. It is never long enough, when we go out, and we slighted a few friends, for which I am sorry. :(

Sledding at the Duckabush
Happily, since the time of this photo, Daniel has acquired manly black snow pants.

The snow was still heavy on the ground, and had begun to melt by the time we were ready to leave. There was about 6″ of slush on the road, and I was very much afraid we would get stuck or slide off the road as we left the valley. I worked myself up into a fearful tizzy, and was quite short-tempered with Kathy — I just wanted to get the van down the two hills and get it over with, so I wouldn’t be afraid anymore.

I don’t think I’ve been that scared, since my Army days as a paratrooper. Funny how the mind can play tricks — we drove down both hills safely, and made it home with no trouble.

As soon as there was some quiet, Kathy rushed to fill the void: “How ’bout we have a New Years’ Eve party?”

I reluctantly agreed. As an introvert and a parent of five children, I treasure my hard-won peace and tranquility. “Couldn’t we just have a quiet evening at home?” I begged, querulously.

Kathy was relentless. “Let’s see, I’ll make Mesa Manna rolls, and Spiced Cider Tea … we’ll invite some of our friends, and it will be great!” One of the things I love best about my Kathy is her enthusiasm for life.

Killer Bunny Girls
Rachel’s good friends, Sarah and Jenny, came over before the party

We decided to host a game party, and phoned ’round to gather some friends. As is often the case, we forgot a few people (for which we apologize) but we still ended up with a houseful — 13 adults and 24 kids. We permitted guests to stand around and talk a little, but pretty soon we got the game tables going. We played many games:

King Don presides
A friendly game of Scum

The party divided into various groups: people who wanted to run around wildly, a few who wanted to hide from the wild people, social folk who wanted to play loud party games, and the intelligentsia, who wanted to do some serious bean growing.

A quiet book nook
There’s one in every party — a person who just wants to curl up with a good book.

“Stop running around wildly,” Kathy scolded me. So I spent the evening growing beans with a few like-minded deep-thinkers.

I’m sure they had fun at the “loud party game” table, but I lost interest in that table when I was relegated to Scum (the lowest-ranked player). Nobody says I have to be a graceful loser. :)

Bean Farming Bohnanza is a fun and addictive game in which you try to plant various bean crops, and are compensated according to the number and rarity of your beans. Some players tried to build bean empires on the rarest of beans, cashing in on Cocoa, Garden and Red Beans. I developed an occasionally-winning strategy with the mid-class beans, including Soy, Green and Chili Beans (although I dabbled in Garden Beans when the opportunity presented itself).

Bean Farmer's Anonymous
The Bean Futures Exchange

Our friend Steve lost a couple of rounds, so he decided to invest in the cheapest and most common beans, including Coffee, Wax and Blue Beans. Building an empire on bean donations, he managed to eke out a victory a little after midnight, much to the relief of his family. “We’re not leaving until I win,” he growled after the third round.

An assortment of cookies
Showing heroic diligence, I was careful to sample each of the cookie varieties.

I had a lot of fun, and there were many delicious things to eat. Julee brought a delicious Prime Rib soup and Cheesy Sausage dip, and cookies abounded. Don and Jennifer brought meatballs, and even set some aside that were ‘clean’ (no sugar added) for Kathy. There were brownies and Grape Fanta for the kids. Michelle brought some Chex mix and a white chocolate pretzel mix, and a chicken lasagna in a crock pot. There was a huge veggie tray and frosted pumpkin bars. Someone brought several bags of chips, and I broke out the last of my hoard of Banana Punch.

The next morning, we talked about the fun we had, and how many food items we forgot to offer to our guests. “We should have another party,” I enthused, momentarily abandoning my introverted ways. “Why don’t we do Game Night every Friday”? I asked, conveniently forgetting the all-day cleaning frenzy that had preceded this party.

Kathy smiled at me patiently.

“Or maybe we could just invite people for whom we don’t need to clean … ? ” I suggested tentatively.

Happy New Year!


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