Monday, January 25, 2010

My Father.....the early days

I received these pictures of my father a few years ago. They are very special, because as long as my father was alive, I never saw any pictures of him as a child, or a young man. As a man, he was married for 33 years, had seven children, and seven grandchildren at the time of his death. There have been an additional six grandchildren and 3 great-grandchildren born since he died in 1990 at the age of 56 years old. The closer I get to that age, the more I realize how young he was when he passed away.

My dad at age 4. This pic was taken in 1938. I don't know where he is at, but it looks like parents all through the ages have taken the obligatory "kid on a pony" picture.

This pic was taken in 1941. He was seven years old at the time. What strikes me the most about this one, is how much he looks like his grandson Justin.

My parents before they were married. What a handsome couple. It's cool to think about how many people are in the world today, because of them. My mom still gives that exact look whenever she is aggravated.

My dad in his Navy days. He was out of the military by the time any children were born.

My mother has this one framed in her bedroom. I would swear this man isn't even my dad, except he looks so much like his grandson Matt.

It was really nice to receive these pictures from a relative and see my dad before his "Dad" days began. I see his looks and personality carried on today in his children and grandchildren. I wish he could have been here with us longer!

Friday, January 22, 2010

Upcoming Graduation....I've earned it!

Here I am in my University of Maryland Cap and Gown. I have my Arts and Humanities Hood, and my U.M. bright red sash. It feels so good to have accomplished something so important as a college degree.

There were long, sleepless nights, some all-nighters, illnesses, attitudes, and many years of doing my absolute best to make this graduation happen.

I thought the outfit was a bit boring, so I decided to wear the hood on my head and drape the sash over my shoulder. Never did want to be too conforming.

Here is the real graduate. She caused many a sleepless night as a baby, and a teenager. The all-nighters started at birth. There was chickpox, tonsilitis, flu, colds, and fevers. Stubborn as the night is long, the attitudes were sometimes bad, but mostly she was just strong-willed and determined. Everyday she makes me proud, and I know many of my decisions along the way, were the correct ones. But, there were a few duds. (Sorry about the perm!)

Here is the future generation wearing a Univerity of Maryland cap. After years of sleepless nights, all-nighters, attitudes, and years of HER Mom doing her best, may I one day be able to attend her college graduation too!

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Virginia Beach Trip

Bill and I decided to take a weekend trip to Virginia Beach. It's not too far away, and we do miss the ocean. We got an oceanfront hotel room so we could really enjoy the view.

This was the wonderful oceanview we woke up to. I know the Atlantic is out there somewhere.

By early afternoon, the weather cleared up and it actually became nice out for a couple of hours.

We headed to the Cape Henry Lighthouse, located on Ft. Story. I wasn't sure I could climb a lighthouse, but I had been on the treadmill 3 times the week before.

This was the set of stairs we had to climb before we even got to the lighthouse. Makes me wonder how many lighthouse keepers they had over the years.

I could only get half the lighthouse in the shot. Inside was an old, iron staircase, that was actually wet. It was gross touching it. I only stopped once on the way up....for oxygen. At the top, you had to climb a ladder into the cupola.

View from the top was pretty impressive. Almost as impressive as the housing cul-de-sac on the left. Those are for the higest ranking officers on the base. Oceanfront housing is pretty sweet, especially when it's free.

This is the car Bill rented for us for the weekend. It was roomy, but lousy on gas mileage.

On the way home we stopped in Williamsburg. It was a beautiful day. I sat down next to Thomas Jefferson for awhile and glanced at what he was writing. I'm nosy that way.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Baking Bread

Today, in 1 1/2 hours I baked three 1 1/2 pound loaves of whole wheat bread. My husband eats this bread everyday for breakfast. I love it too. Other family members complain that they don't like wheat, or it makes their lips swell. Whatever!

The recipe I'm using:

3 cups of hot (120 degrees) water
1/3 cup of oil
1/3 cup of sweetner
4 cups of whole wheat flour
1 1/2 tbsp. of yeast
1 1/2 tbsp. of dough conditioner
1 tbsp of sea salt
3 to 4 additional cups of whole wheat flour

I thought I'd show you a step-by-step process for making 100% whole wheat bread using my two favorite kitchen machines.

I use the NutriMill grain mill for grinding my Prairie Gold wheat berries into flour

I use the Bosch Universal Plus for kneading my bread. It also mixes everything from cakes to egg whites and everything in between

I start with about 5 cups of wheat berries

I pour them into the top of the NutriMill

Out comes fresh ground, silky, whole wheat flour

Add all the wet ingredients first, then four cups of flour, yeast, and dough conditioner (if you use any). Turn the mixer on, till all ingredients are well incorporated. Let this mixture sit for about 1/2 hour or longer if you want. This is called the sponge, and it allows the whole wheat bran to soften so you produce a softer loaf of bread.

Notice how the mixture has climbed the center post. That is sea salt sprinkled on top, which is the last ingredient you add. Salt tends to retard the action of the yeast.

Now you begin adding the last 3 to 4 cups of flour in this recipe. Notice how the texture of the dough begins to change as the gluten is developed

Almost all the flour is added and the dough is starting to clean the sides of the bowl

The dough has kneaded approximately 8 minutes on speed 1 after all the flour was added. The dough now has a silky look and feel

You don't have to do this step, but to check if your gluten is properly developed, you can perform the "window pane" test. Take a golf ball size piece of dough and stretch it. It should not tear and you should be able to stretch it so thin, that light shows through it. I usually go by the feel and look of the dough

Out of the bowl and onto a slightly oiled countertop. Turn it a couple of times to coat, and knead it for a couple of minutes to pop any air bubbles. At this point you can do a rise to further develop flavor. If you don't have the time, it's not necessary.

Divide into three 1 1/2 pound sections and shape into a loaf

I do the one and only rise in the oiled bread pans. I use NorPro pans. Let rise until the tops just come over the edge

Notice how all three loaves have risen to just over the top of the pans. If you rise them higher, then you will have misshapen loaves when you account for ovenspring (the rising when they first go into the oven). If you lightly touch a loaf, it should leave an imprint, which means the the loaf is finished rising

Three golden, soft, loaves of 100% whole wheat bread. I lightly oil the tops and sides to keep them soft.

Yum! The crust is soft, and the crumb is tender. This bread makes great sandwich bread and toast

Monday, January 11, 2010

Someone called "Not Me" is living in my house.......

Someone by the name Not Me has taken up residence in my house. They are responsible for a wide array of missing food, objects, undone chores, and general aggravation. Not me is to blame everytime a question is asked such as: Did you leave all these dishes in the sink? No, Not Me......Who drank all the milk? Not Me.......Who put the empty container of crackers back in the pantry? Not Me....Whose turn is it to take out the trash? Not Me.....So you see why I have to identify this person and have a serious, one on one conversation with them. I have a few likely suspects:

Now this guy looks very suspicious to me. I don't see him often, so I think he just may be guilty, since no one ever sees Not Me actually do anything.

Now this guy is trying too hard to look innocent. I know for a fact he is responsible for the bulk of the milk being consumed. He's even flaunting the fact that he's taking my cookies. But I don't see him around the house enough to blame him for the wide varieties of acts that are blamed on Not Me.

Now this guy would be my number one choice to be Not Me. He just looks like someone who would leave empty boxes and containers in the pantry and not care. But, he's also the one who makes the most complaints about Not Me. There is something about "He who protesteth much is guilty of the same" but I'm not putting my money on him.

Now I see this guy around....alot. I usually see him chewing or swallowing something. He usually has an excuse and come to think of it, that excuse is usually Not Me. But he does do his chores so he can't be responsible for everything that happens around here.

Now this one is a quiet little thing. She slinks around doing what she wants, and never makes excuses or apologies. I'm positive this kitty is not the infamous Not Me.

So, the mystery of who Not Me is deepens. I will continue to spy around the corners, watch fridge, pantry, and cabinets to see if I can catch Not Me in the act.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Adventures in Knitting-Post 3

Julie and I have been knitting, making the most of opportunities to sit down and make gifts for Christmas presents. We had plans to knit scarves, wraps, and hats for gifts. Now neither one of us had ever knitted those before, but with the help of some informative books, youtube, and determination, it was possible. Here is what I've knitted since Fall, and the few things that Julie managed to knit and crochet in the last few months.

The red scarf I knitted for myself the very first week I began to knit. It's a dream at catching leaves, and all sorts of debris. The black one I knitted for Billy as a Christmas present. Julie finally finished it for me before the New Year.

This pile doesn't include everything the human knitting machine (aka Julie)accomplished. There are four scarves and another hat missing. She did two blankets for Cassidy, all those scarves, and two hats. Each one is a different pattern, and several different yarns. She crocheted the two hats in the same evening, without even knowing what she was really doing. The one with the pink ribbon is my favorite.

We each got some bulky alpaca yarn for Christmas. Julie knitted the purple multi-colored scarf in a couple of days. I knitted the mauve colored scrap in a week. It was the hardest yarn to knit. Sort of like trying to knit poodle fur, while still attached to the dog.

These are two projects I still have on the needles. The blue one is a 100% baby alpaca wrap. I started knitting it in October. It should be finished in a couple of years if I work on it everyday. The red scarf is knitted in an alpaca and silk blend. The pattern is one Julie taught me. I've been knitting it for a month, so I'm not doing too bad with it.

This is a scarf Julie is working on. It's a raspberry puff pattern and looks very neat and clean. She's been working on it for a week. It's taking longer than usual, but she started working a job outside the home last week. A few steady hours at it, and it will be around someone's neck.

Hope you've enjoyed our knitting experiences. I'll be blogging in the future about more new and exciting projects that Julie does......and perhaps something from me. :)

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

Adventures in Knitting - Post 2

One day Julie and I were out shopping. We happened upon a local yarn shop. When we went in we were shocked at the many different types of yarn. We didn't know they weren't all made of acrylic and sold at Walmart. I fell in love with the softness of alpaca, but it was very expensive. But, I'd been working alot, so over the course of the next month, we shopped alot...........

We bought alot of yarn to work with. I even ordered alot of alpaca and alpaca blends off the internet. Shopping was the easy part of doing a project.

Since I didn't know what I was going to knit, I bought alot of needles, of all different sizes. I now know that this was the part of knitting I was really good at....buying stock :)

These are the first scarves Julie and I ever knitted. I taught her to knit in about 10 minutes and she took off like Seabiscuit after that. I knit more like the Pony Express under constant Indian attack.

This is the first scarf Julie knitted for Cassidy. We didn't know it, but she was actually knitting backwards. It ended up pretty, though.

This is the first blanket Julie crocheted. She did it in one week. It is crocheted in a soft Bernat Satin yarn.

Tomorrow I'll continue the Adventures in Knitting by showing you what I've completed since Fall, and what Julie has accomplished. Hint: Julie knits faster than a machine.....I don't.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Adventures in Knitting - Post 1

Last autumn, my daughter Julie suggested we do some sort of craft. She learned to crochet when she was 12 years old and I learned to knit when I was 9 years old. So, we each bought some yard, and I bought knitting needles and she bought a crochet hook. This is where the adventure began.......

I thought this was a yarn of Fall colors......

But I ended up knitting camoflauge. I stopped here, as there was no sense in going on

Julie began to crochet a blanket with yarn that felt like a brillo pad

The Adventures in Knitting will continue tomorrow..........