Thursday, January 28, 2010

Day 10

That's right, folks, it's the big day: day 10--Friendship Bread making day. I'll let you know how it turns out. I was going to bring some starter to my mom's group this morning to see if anyone wanted any, but it's probably a good thing that I have to miss the group today (due to illness)--this way I have time to actually make (and taste) the bread before I subject anyone else to my concoction. It could turn out to be Nodding Acquaintance Bread, or worse, I-Don't-Like-You Bread. Wish me luck!

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Absorbent

Some time ago I bought a product that has a new light-weight absorbent material in it. It's much more expensive than the same product made with other materials, about double, but I had some good coupons and it went on sale, so my out of pocket cost was less to buy the new product. It's OK--I actually prefer the older style, not necessarily because of absorbency, but because of other issues, but it struck me as a little funny that it's advertised as being a very light-weight material (it is much lighter than its standard counterpart), but one of its main selling points is that it absorbs 10 times its weight. Well, P&G, 10x not very much is still not very much! For a while I was trying to get Code-man to test diaper absorbency for his science fair project this year--he didn't seem too interested in that idea...

Monday, January 25, 2010

Lasagna Soup

It is rare for us to find a recipe that even 4 out of 5 of us all like, let alone all five. Lately, I've been on a roll, though. I think in the last 3 weeks, I've made 4 or 5 new recipes that everyone likes. Here's one of them--soooo yummy (from FamilyFun magazine, February 2009)!

Lasagna Soup
2 t. olive oil
1.5 pounds Italian sausage
2 onions, finely chopped
4 garlic cloves, minced
2 t. oregano
1/2 t. red pepper flakes
2 T. tomato paste
1 (28 oz) can diced tomatoes
6 c. chicken broth
2 bay leaves
8 oz fusilli pasta (our grocery store doesn't carry this, so I used rotini)
1/2 c. finely chopped fresh basil (I used about 2 t. dried basil)
8 oz ricotta
1/2 c. grated Parmesan
1/4 t. salt
pinch pepper
2 c. shredded mozzarella cheese

1. In a large pot, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the sausage and saute, breaking it up into small pieces with a wooden spoon, until the sausage in no longer pink, about 5 to 7 minutes. Drain any excess fat from the pot. Add the onions and saute until softened, about 6 minutes. Add the garlic, oregano, and red pepper flakes and saute for 1 minute. Add the tomato paste and saute until the paste turns a rusty brown, about 5 minutes. Add the tomatoes with their juice, the broth, and the bay leaves and bring the soup to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer for about 30 minutes (I simmered for longer, since it was a school day and I wanted to get it all together before the kids came home).
2. Add the pasta, then increase the heat to medium-high and boil the soup until the pasta is tender to the bite, following the time recommendations on the pasta package. Discard the bay leaves, then stir in the basil. If desired, season with salt and pepper to taste.
3. In a small bowl, combine the ricotta, Parmesan, 1/4 t salt, and pinch of pepper. To serve, place about 1.5 T of the ricotta mixture in each bowl, sprinkle with some of the mozzarella, and ladle the soup on top. Makes about 13 cups.

FYI--I was a little leery of the ricotta mixture--it sounded a little strange. I ended up making it only because I had some leftover ricotta from something else, but I am so glad I tried it. It makes the soup ooey gooey with cheesy goodness, so I highly recommend it.

You can make the soup a little healthier by using turkey sausage (or leaving out the sausage and substituting legumes or mushrooms, but you won't get quite the same Italian flavor), low or no fat cheeses, and whole wheat pasta. We ate it with garlic bread, and I broke up some of mine and dropping it into the soup, sort of like croutons. It might also taste good with green beans or carrots in the soup.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Reuse

I forgot to mention yesterday (because someone distracted me--I won't tell you who, but I'll give you a hint: her name starts with C :-), that yesterday one of the women at MOPS defined expectation as "opportunity for disappointment." That kind of says it all, doesn't it? And it's not just our relationships with others that unexpressed expectations can mess up--they also interfere with our relationships with ourselves.
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I saw a robin on Wednesday. That must mean that it's spring!
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The friendship bread starter is starting to smell friendship bread starter-y: good sign! I feed it tomorrow.
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Sometime before Christmas, we ran out of paper for our printer. OK, long before Christmas, like maybe in July, we ran out of paper, and by the time school rolled around in September, I still hadn't gotten around to buying any. In the interim, we were using cardstock or speckled paper if we needed to print something. So when school started, I decided that I was going to reuse all of the paper that comes home from school--I may have mentioned in the past that the amount is staggering. I have a little tray in which I put all of the papers that only have printing on one side. I haven't run out of paper yet, and, as a matter of fact, I'd estimate that I currently have around 60 sheets of paper in there waiting to be used. I began this effort as a stop-gap measure to buy me time until I was able to remember when I was in a store that sells paper that we needed more paper, but at this rate, I'll never be able to use it all. It's true that I have gotten a few interesting looks from store clerks who notice my child's spelling test or math homework on the back of a coupon I hand to them, and when I handed out Communion schedules to the servers, they wondered why I was giving them a Pack 168 calendar of events, but I shudder to think of all of that paper just...wasted, and I wonder how I could have ever thought that it wasn't enough to be worth saving for another use. It's interesting to note that the volume of paper coming home from school this year has been reduced by at least 2/3, because the teachers and administrators are now communicating electronically, and they post community events on the school district website rather than sending flyers home. Chip and BuBuh (sorry--I'm not quite sure how to spell that!) reuse envelopes they receive in the mail, which I would like to give a try, but I need to find somewhere to store them that doesn't offend my inner clutter-despiser, but is accessible enough that I won't forget I'm saving them. I'm thinking I'll use them to make my shopping lists and put the coupons I use inside.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Expectations

We had a "life coach" speak to our MOPS group this morning. I didn't get a whole lot out of her talk--it was a little short on substance--but I did take away one nugget, and that is this: expectations get in the way of relationships. She said it a bit more eloquently than I just did, but can you see how that would be the case? Let me give you an example, that has absolutely no basis in reality (I'm being facetious, just in case you thought otherwise). Let's say you're a woman, who has a husband, and you expect him to, oh, I don't know, read your mind regarding your feelings on a certain topic. How many times have you said (oh, I mean how many times do you think this hypothetical woman has said), "he should just know..."? This is the classic example of expectations getting in the way of relationships. Here's another example: let's say I take my children to the swimming pool or the beach and they expect to stay all day, while I expect to go home after lunch. Unless we communicate our expectations to each other, and resolve our different expectations, there are going to be some upset and frustrated people after lunch. This is why I always warn my children before transitions, and try to tell them exactly what I expect when I tell them to do something.

This expectation business can also affect our relationship with God. If we expect God to answer our prayers or respond to a situation in a certain way, we will not be open to receiving God's sometimes creative answers. In effect, we're limiting God, by assuming that our solution to the problem is the only or best solution, and we're limiting ourselves by not giving God the freedom to take our lives in directions we never could imagine. If we're knocking at the door, expecting God to open this door, we won't be looking toward that door, or the other, that God is opening instead.

If you read my blog, you know that sometimes I feel isolated and lonely, having no family nearby, and few friends. When my husband and I had been married for 4 years we moved from Minnesota to West Virginia for his job. I was looking for a job when we discovered that we were expecting our first child, so I stopped looking. At first it was exciting, but then reality set in. Being a mommy is hard, and I didn't have anyone with whom to share the burden. I felt isolated, lonely, and sorry for myself, and I started to pray that God would send me a friend, and that God would lead us to live closer to family someday. I prayed and prayed and prayed, and slowly started forming friendships, but there was no word on the living close to family front.

Ironically, it was as we were on our way to visit family that realization struck. God hadn't ignored my prayer--he had just answered it in a completely unexpected way. You see, God showed me that I was already living close to family, because I am God's daughter, a part of God's family. And I realized that God wants us to rely on our sisters and brothers in Christ in the same way that we would rely on our biological families. I had been letting my expectations get in the way of my relationship with God. I thought God was letting me down, when in reality, God has always and will always continue to provide for all of my needs, even in seemingly impossible situations. I just have to let go of those expectations and be open to experiencing all that God has to offer.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Update: Friendship Bread

So I did a little more searching and decided to try the following Friendship Bread starter recipe:

1 c. flour
1 c. sugar
1 c. milk

Mix together with a wooden spoon, then place 1 cup in each of three containers and give to three friends with the following instructions...(I won't bore you with the instructions, but if you want them, let me know).

I don't have three friends geographically close enough to give the starter to, and I wanted to keep some for myself anyway, so I just made 1/3 of the recipe.

This recipe, of course, begs the question: what is in there making it rise? In the other recipe that I posted, it's the yeast, but here, it's something that's already in there, I suspect in the milk. I may have to do a little more research to see what particular microscopic beast is making that bread so yummy (oh, right, it's the sugar! I mean what little microscopic beast's byproduct is leavening the bread). I'm interested to see if this will work. I tried making sourdough starter years ago, but it never worked.

Hmmm. I just remembered my brother talking about wild yeasts contaminating beer--apparently, they're just floating around out there waiting for some wet sugar to consume so they can multiply and take over the world. Maybe that's it, although one cannot really count on the wild yeast finding this particular batch of wet sugar, so the recipe would be terribly inconsistent.

Not to worry--I'll keep you posted on my discoveries.

Speaking of my brother, he's going to be 40 years old this year! Yikes. That means I can't be too far behind (about 3 1/2 years behind, actually).

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Friendship Bread

I found this recipe for Amish Friendship Bread starter on Cooks.com (because I forgot to get some from my M-i-L when I was visiting):

1 pkg active dry yeast
1/4 c. warm water
1 c. flour
1 c. sugar
1 c warm milk (110 degrees)

Day 1: Soften the dry yeast with 1/4 c. warm water for 10 minutes. Stir with a wooden spoon. In a non-metal bowl, combine 1 c. flour and 1 c. sugar. Mix, slowly adding 1 c. warm milk and the softened yeast. Cover loosely with clean cloth and leave at room temperature until bubbly. When mixture has lots of bubbles, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate.

Days 2, 3 & 4: Stir with a wooden or plastic spoon until mixture is smooth. Do this once each day.

Day 5: At this time, 2 cups of starter can be removed to bake Amish Friendship Bread.
Replenish starter by stirring in 1 c. flour, 1 c. sugar, and 1 c. milk; stir; allow to sit at room temp for 1 hour, then refrigerate.

Days 6, 7, 8, 9: Stir with wooden or plastic spoon until smooth. Do this once each day.

Day 10: Repeat

So I have two problems with this recipe. First, I don't know what "repeat" means...like how much of the process I need to repeat. I'm choosing to believe that day 10 is the same as day 1, so after day 10 I do day 2...it's been a while since I've been given any starter (don't have very many friends), so I can't remember if you usually feed it once or twice during the 10 day cycle. I guess I could look it up. Do any of you know?

The second problem is, it doesn't give me a bread recipe. This is where you all come in. Please send me your favorite recipes using Friendship starter! You have 5 days...go!

This is the first friendship recipe that I've seen that calls for refrigerating the starter...I guess we'll see what happens.

Olympics

My husband filled my love tank last night by hanging 13 pictures on the wall in our entryway for me (thanks for the frames, Beaver-ly :-). I know some of you are shuddering at the thought of 13 new holes in the wall, but I'm very happy with how the grouping looks, and if the next person to live in our house doesn't like it, they can fill in the holes (FYI they look a bit crooked in this picture because I took the picture on a angle to reduce glare on the glass of the frames. And we're painting that top one black sometime--it's a little funny looking being the only wood grain frame). It always impresses me how patient Hubby can be as I'm changing my mind for the 217th time...And by the way, aren't we a terrific looking family? * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *
We've got some future Olympic athletes in our midst. Here's a short video of our two-man bobsled team preparing for the upcoming winter games.

video


And the skeleton/luge rider is so fast, even the camera couldn't keep up with him--all three of the videos I took of him showed up as "unrecognized format." So here's a picture of him after one of his runs.

They've also been experimenting with new events, like bobskeleddington (the skeleton rider holding on behind the bobsled during the run), and freestyle bobsledding: Code-man did a very impressive 360 this morning while we were waiting for the bus.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Really? Baptism, continued

So I was washing my face this morning...I am God's child, God loves me, I bring God joy...and I found myself praying, "really? Really, God? I bring you joy? You're pleased with me? Really?"

Is it really true that I bring God joy, that God is pleased with me? How can that be? How can that be, when there are days when I don't even like myself? How can that be, when I make so many mistakes? How in the world can the God of the universe, creator of all things, be pleased with imperfect, miserable, human me? Seriously? This isn't some joke?

What an amazing God this is, that even in my imperfections, even at my worst, God is able to find joy in me. No matter what I've done, what I've said, what I've thought, God is pleased with me, just because...I'm me, created just how God created me to be, imperfect on purpose. What a blessing it is to be a daughter of God!

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Witness

Bubby loves to sing. He sings a lot of the time, including when he's in bed at night, supposed to be sleeping. He has a limited repertoire, including the alphabet song, "Happy Birthday (cha cha cha)," "Row, Row, Row Your Boat," and his favorite, "Jesus Loves Me." He will also sing bits and pieces of songs he's heard in Worship, but that's pretty rare. So inevitably, when we're in the grocery store or Target, he'll start singing, "the Bible tells me so, the Bible tells me so, the Bible tells me SOOoooO!" We get some interesting looks--most people think he's cute, and those who don't think he's cute have the grace not to tell me about it. I can't help but smile, as my Bubby belts out his favorite lyrics, because that little one has a mighty strong voice, and he's using it to tell the world about Jesus.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Training

At Bubby's last well-child visit with our pediatrician, I asked the doctor if he had any potty training tips. The only advice he had to offer was, "bribes are good." So, last week, armed with those helpful words, and some M&Ms, Bubby and I embarked on the adventure known as potty training. On that second, frustrating day, as we were trying to figure it all out, and failing much more often than we were succeeding, I exclaimed in exasperation, "maybe I should be getting the m&ms," (because, as we all know, potty training is a lot more work for the parents than diapers are). Bubby must have heard me, because now, whenever Bubby goes potty, mommy gets one, too. And I gotta tell you, I do enjoy at least that part of the process :-) I can see how chocolate can be very motivating in learning new behaviors.

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On Sunday we celebrated the Baptism of our Lord, which is traditionally considered the beginning of Jesus' ministry. You remember the story: John (the baptist) says that Jesus ought to baptize him, but Jesus insists that John do the baptizing. Then the Holy Spirit descends on Jesus like a dove and a voice from heaven says, "this is my son, whom I love, with him I am well pleased" (Matthew 3:17 NIV). Hubby's Bible (NLT) says, "this is my dearly loved son, who brings me great joy." Pastor Dan suggested that we remember our own baptisms each day when we wash our faces. As we bring the water to our face the first time, we can hear God saying to us, "you are my child," the second time, "you are my beloved," and the third, "I am well pleased with you" or "you bring me great joy." And we can remember, as our faces become physically clean, that through baptism, God has washed our souls clean. We are God's children, God loves us dearly, and we bring God great joy. What an inspiring way to start or end your day.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Our furry friend

Yesterday, Hubby glanced out our bedroom window to see this deer walking past, about 15 feet from us. This morning we discovered that a deer (I think it's the same one) had bedded down behind our deck. Here she is after I scared her from her bed by taking her picture.

I think she may have been eating the leaves off of our poor little rhododendron--now we know who to blame when this one dies, too. We put out some carrots for our furry friend...I hope she finds them. I think she must be hungry or sick to be sleeping so close to our house.
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