Monday, March 30, 2009

If At First You Don't Succeed, Bun, Bun Again

Two Christmases ago, James gave me a breadmaker, and it changed my life. I completely adore it, and I rarely to never buy bread of any kind now. It's got a dough cycle for mixing up breads that need to be shaped by hand, which is fantastic, because it cuts my work time by about two hours. I have only to put in all the ingredients, set it and walk away. It does all the initial mixing, kneading and rising. Then, when it's ready, I take it out, shape it, give it a little bit to rise one more time and then bake it. Fantastic!

I found a new recipe for rolls and buns the other day and wanted to try it. Here's how they're supposed to turn out.



And here's how my first batch looked:

There are lots of different breadmakers with different directions on the order in which you should add ingredients. Because I oopsied the order on mine, my first batch didn't rise...um...at all. They were awful looking, hard, sadly yummy rocks. Jimmy and I fed them to the ducks.



Here's how they look side-by-side. Sad.


At least I got it right the second time. And, if I may say, they were heavenly. I made homemade burgers and fries, and...yowza. Needless to say, the burgers went on bun batch 2. Bun batch 1 just hid its face in shame.

Here's the recipe I used. I found it on AllRecipes, which is a great site for...recipes.

These are listed as "Uncle White's Bread Machine Rolls"

INGREDIENTS

  • 3 cups bread flour
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 2 tablespoons packed brown sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1 (.25 ounce) package active dry yeast
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 2 tablespoons canola oil
  • stick butter

DIRECTIONS

  1. Place the bread flour, buttermilk (I didn't have any buttermilk, nor did I want to make a trip to the store just to buy some, so I subbed yogurt and a splash of milk), brown sugar, salt, yeast, and egg yolk into a bread machine. Using the Dough setting, allow the machine to mix the ingredients until moist. Pause the cycle and pour in the oil, then let the machine continue to the end of the Dough cycle.
  2. Grease muffin pans or a baking sheet, and set aside. (Because I was making buns, not rolls, I just used a Silpat on a perforated baking sheet.)
  3. Punch down the dough, and remove it from the machine. Divide the dough into 12 equal parts, form into round, smooth rolls, and place them into the cups of the muffin pans or on baking sheet, making sure the rolls don't touch each other. Cover the rolls with a kitchen towel, and let rise in a warm place until double, about 25 minutes. (Again, I wanted burger buns, so I shaped them into six rolls, rather than twelve. I could easily have done eight, as I learned when my six came out humongous.)
  4. While the rolls are rising, preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Bake the rolls in the preheated oven for 20 minutes, or until golden brown. Rub the tops of the hot rolls with a stick of butter for a soft crust (I brush on melted butter before I put them in to bake, which gives them a nice, brown top) , cool the rolls slightly, and serve warm.








S'more Please!

I'm not sure why this is, but I always think pictures of my child with food all over his face are totally adorable. I don't necessarily expect you to share this view, so instead of discussing my precious snowflake (ha), let's talk about what he's eating.
J ate a really nice supper, so I rewarded him with a throwback to my own kid-hood. My brother and I used to make microwave s'mores all the time, and when I was looking through my pantry for something suitably unhealthy, I happened upon all the ingredients for this delightful treat.




Graham crackers, chocolate chips, mini marshmallows....heaven. Ya gotta watch it though - those little suckers puff up QUICK in the microwave and burn even quicker. Then, you have to scrap it and make another one. :)

Speaking of Hair...


This photo seems fairly self-explanatory, but let me attempt to acquit myself at least a little - to be fair, he ASKED me to tie the balloons in his hair. He just wasn't happy with the result...

"Dat MY Haiw!"

I have never seen anything like my kiddo's hair. There's no taming it (unless I want to start using styling products on a two year old - which I don't), so we just let it fly free, and WOW does it provide us with endless hilarity.




These are from a day when it was actually lying down a little. :)

PS. Did you know that all the old Sesame Street stuff is on YouTube? Pretty sweet!

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Psychotic Robin

There's a room on the ground floor of our house that serves as a craft room/piano room/guest room. It's got windows on two walls, which let in lots of great light - one set of windows looks out the front of our house, the other looks out the side. The side window doesn't have much of a view, unless you enjoy looking at a fence and the side of my neighbor's house, but this is apparently the best place to stage a full scale attack on my house...at least, if you're a robin. For weeks now, this crazy bird has been perching on the fence and systematically flying at the windows, pecking and scratching. Obviously, it sees its reflection and thinks it's fighting another bird, but for all the silliness of that (you'd think he'd get it after smacking into the glass roughly 4000 times), it's a tenacious little thing. I've tried everything - taping a photo of a cat up there, covering the outside of the windows with tissue paper, putting balloons in the windows with faces drawn on them...I'm going to ridiculous lengths here, because the dadgum thing is leaving scratch marks on the glass, and I'm worried it will a) break my window or b) break its beak and die a slow, agonizing death (and while the constant assault is annoying, I don't wish the stupid thing any harm). I looked this phenomenon up online today, and it's actually not uncommon. There were several suggestions, but the one I decided to try is soaping the windows, so they aren't reflective. If my neighbors were looking out their side windows this morning, they got a curious view - me in my sweats, up on a ladder, vigorously attacking my windows with a bar of soap. And let me tell you - those babies are now what you might call "opaque". We'll see if it works.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Marry the Prince - Get the Whole Court!

I read this great blog written by a lady who calls herself the Pioneer Woman. If you've never checked it out, you should - she's hilarious. Anyway, she wrote today about her in-laws, and it got me to thinkin'. I often write about my own family, but I hardly ever mention James's. This is a bad, if unintentional oversight!

I met James's parents, Jim and Sharrel about a month into our dating relationship. I was nervous as could be, but they welcomed me in, and after my initial interview with his dad (ha ha) and swallowing my inappropriate urge to laugh, because his Grandmother's shirt matched the drapes that day (I kept having this insane thought that maybe they changed the drapes whenever she came over, so they'd match. I imagined them having lookouts on the road, relaying messages to Sharrel, as she frantically shouted, "Quick, what's she wearing today? Get the purple curtains out - THE PURPLE ONES!!!" - have I mentioned that I tend to laugh at everything, especially when I'm nervous?), I felt very comfortable with them. I learned later that the shirt/curtains thing was a coincidence. Of course. His mom even hugged me at the end of that first meeting, which meant a lot to me, as I, myself am a hugger. ;)

James and I dated for about six months, then he took a job in California and moved. I was worried at the time that this would mean a slow decline into a break-up - long distance relationships have a bad rap, you know, and I'd not had great luck with the one I'd tried. We only seemed to get closer though, and even while we were living so far apart, his family was lovely to me, and when, after about five months of flying back and forth, we made the decision to just go on and get hitched - in THREE MONTHS, James's family seriously kicked it up a notch and made me truly feel like family. His dad and I palled around, and I got to know my soon-to-be mother-in-law over some lunches and bridal showers. I never once felt scrutinized or "not good enough" for their boy, and I was so relieved to be expanding into a family that wasn't looking at me skeptically and searching for my faults.

We've been married for seven + years now, and I've gotten to know my in-laws fairly well. We differ on some things, as any family does, but they've never, ever made me feel anything but loved and wanted and welcome in their home and in their lives. My father-in-law even graced me with one of his famous (or infamous!) nicknames. I feel like I genuinely hit the in-law jackpot!



And no, James doesn't have a brother. He DOES have a lovely, artistic, flame-haired sister though, with two gorgeous kids and a skateboarding habit.



Need I Say More?

If I didn't have asthma, we would so have a cat. Just imagine all the hilarious (to me, anyway) photo opportunities!



funny pictures of cats with captions





Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Strange Visitor

What kind of bird is this?


He showed up on my fence, and all the other birds took off.






He looks like a little hawk to me, but...I haven't ever really seen a hawk close up, so what do I know?





Any idears?

Mommy Moment

Jimmy's fairly good at "independent play". He's got lots of toys and books and things to do, and he entertains himself pretty well, which is nice, because as much as I adore playing with him and reading to him, every mama likes to see her kiddo develop his own little universe of play. Sometimes though, he just wants to hang with his Mama. I was checking email or something the other night, sitting at my computer, and he came over, begged to be let "up", and proceeded to waller all around on my lap until we were both in fits of giggles.



"Hello, mother. I would like to request that you allow me "UP!!!!"






"Pleeeeeeeease!!"





"Ah, here we are. Now...let us wrassle."





"This is not quite what I had in mind"





"First, you may enjoy my stinky socks"





"What's with the camera?"





Leg lifts.







"You like photos? Photo THIS!!!"






"What do you mean, 'Sit still'?!?!"





SMOOCH!!





"I love you, Mama. There's nowhere else I'd rather be. Oh, and did I mention....?"





"I have nakey buns!!!" (we call that birthmark "the place his tail fell off") :)

Funny little moments like this always make me feel so lucky that this little boy is mine. If I've never said it before (yeah, right) I LOVE being a mama!

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Fraud

Oh, how Oregon has changed me. Jimmy's been soaking through his cloth diapers at night, no matter how little water I let him drink in the hours before bed. This results in his a) having a sore bottom and b) waking up early and cranky (I would too). Because no amount of stuffing seems to work, we're temporarily putting him in disposable diapers just at night. Anyway, I hadn't bought disposables in well over a year (since we started using cloth), and I didn't have any left, so I ran to Fred Meyer to pick up a pack of diapers (GOOD LORD THEY'RE EXPENSIVE!!!) and a few groceries. We had friends coming over, and I was in a hurry, so I forgot to take my cloth shopping bags into the store with me. The clerk very kindly bagged everything for me, but she did it in plastic bags before I could ask for paper (which is recyclable). Anyway, I came walking out of Fred Meyer with a cart full of plastic shopping bags and disposable diapers, and I found myself feeling genuinely guilty and embarrassed about it - something I NEVER would have felt even a few years ago. It struck me then how, little-by-little a person can change. Even me! :)

Saturday, March 21, 2009

My Little Parrot

Here's a thing I knew was coming but find funny anyhow about my own little two year old: Jimmy. Repeats. EVERYTHING. Drop a hammer on your toe within his earshot? Better watch what you bellow, because he'll say it right back to you and anyone else who wants to listen. Not sure if the show you're watching is kid appropriate? You wait, the ONE borderline word that's said on-screen will instantly be appropriated and chirped in that sweet little voice over and over again, until you swear never to watch anything but Sesame Street while he's awake ever again. It's not always bad though. He loves to tell me, "Good job, Mom!" when I'm doing something he likes, and I often hear, "Luh YOU! Luh YOU! Luh YOU!!" (love you), which is possibly the best thing ever. The other day, Jimmy and I were getting out of the car at the grocery store, and an ambulance went rushing by on the street, sirens wailing. It definitely captured his imagination, and all of his cars now have an optional siren. ;)





Ambulance Driver from The Houxes on Vimeo.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Boo

These are to accompany my previous post. This is my sister, Olivia (whom I have called "Boo" since she was tiny, and she and I would watch Yogi Bear in the mornings, while she had her bottle) at about the age Jimmy is now, doing the exact same thing he's been doing.



Some things never change.

PS. How do you like my totally awesome ankle friendship bracelet there? Yeah...I was pretty hip.

HA

Ebay Find!

I have this thing about dressing little kids like little kids - basically...I think they SHOULD be. They get such a short time to be small and innocent, and I don't particularly think it's cute when I see little ones running around with snarky or vulgar sayings on their shirts (or rear ends) or dressed up like tiny teenagers.

Whew. Stepping off my soap box now.

Anyway, I finally joined the ranks of Ebay shoppers, and I found some cute little things for Jimmy for this summer. Comfort and coolness (as in temperature) are especially important, since he and I will be spending five weeks in Kansas (aka: the center of the sun) while it's hot there. I've gotten several little things, but THIS...


...is definitely my favorite. :)

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Irish-y Goodness

Here's what I made for our St. Patrick's Day supper and how: (PS - It was good!)


The menu included a beef roast (from our frozen stash), roasted, seasoned potatoes and some Irish soda bread.



For the roast, I used my Crock Pot. I think this gets the best results with the least amount of work. My Mama makes an excellent oven roast, but I needed to clean my oven, plus, I like to play around with the Crock Pot. Anyway, I used the following: onion powder, garlic powder, paprika, thyme, red pepper (a very small amount), brown sugar, a little bit of barbecue sauce, some soy sauce and some worcestershire. I added a little water, which, in hindsight, I wouldn't use again.




I cooked it with the bones and fat for six hours. By the time it was done, it had fallen completely off the bone...





...and was totally tender, delicious and flavorful.




For the potatoes, I used garlic powder, thyme, sea salt and pepper.





I laid the thinly sliced taters on a Silpat and baking sheet, seasoned them, then drizzled them with olive oil and roasted them in the oven at 450F for about 25 minutes or so.





Again - not bad at all. I'd recommend serving them right out of the oven though, as they rapidly deteriorate in goodness as they get cold. These do not reheat well, so I try to be careful only to make as many as we'll actually eat in one sitting.





And here's the soda bread. I used a new recipe I found on the internet, and I didn't think it was as good as last year's. If you're interested, let me know, and I'll post it.

I hope your day yesterday was fun and pinch-free!

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Leprechaun Gold


I really, really love my job. Staying home is the most amazing and fulfilling thing I've ever done with myself, and one of the best parts is all the creative outlets. For instance, I like to do something special for each holiday - like May Day (little paper cones of flowers and candy for the neighbors), Easter (last year, I made cupcakes decorated like Easter Eggs, put them in Easter baskets and gave them out) and St. Patrick's Day- one of my favorites! I love St. Patrick's Day. I was going to make some crazy cupcake concoctions to surprise Jimmy, but James had the better, simpler idea of a little bag of gold wrapped chocolate coins (he's so smart). Jimmy was thrilled with his little gift "from the Leprechauns" this morning. Mainly, I think, because he got to eat two of them with breakfast. Heh. There was a little bag of coins for my James, too. Nice little guys, those leprechauns. I'm going to have to make my crazy cupcake idea sometime though. They were quite elaborate...you know...in my mind...

Happy St. Patrick's Day!!

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Tee Hee

There are a few new, much heard phrases 'round these here parts these days - always in a sweet little baby voice, and almost always followed by my own giggling. The first is, "Look at that" - very carefully enunciated. I don't know why I think this is so cute, but seriously...it is. The second is "tickle". This one comes out a) when he is actually being tickled and b) when we stop tickling him and he wants us to resume said tickling. The last - and this is the one that kills me - is "No way!!". Last night, we finished up Pinocchio, and I told him it was time for bed. He spun around, fake crying, stood on his head, collapsed to the ground (all within about two seconds) and let out a sad and pathetic, "No way!". Oh...if I could tell you how hard I laughed. Then, he tried to run away from James because he didn't want to put on his diaper and pyjamas, went hurtling into his little tent in his room and smacked his head into the wall at full speed. That was less funny.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

In Like A Lion - Working On "Lamb"

Less than a week ago, my garden looked like this.




But now....




...Spring, she be a-sproingin' 'round these parts. My crocus are blooming, and all my bulbs are stretching out and poking little fingers up above the ground to test the air. The last few days have been sunny, but it's still chilly in the shade. It's Spring!










These irises will be a glorious sea of purple in a month or so.





I think Spring in the garden is like a promise. Little baby flowers peeking around tender little leaves. Oh! It's beautiful!





The "fairy house". I got this at a garage sale a couple of years ago, and though it is crumbling, I love it. I told Jimmy that there are fairies who live in it, so we look out the window every day to see if we can spot them. Some evening this summer, I'm going to put a little tea light in there to give him a thrill ;)







Checking under the hood.





Another garage sale find - a little the worse for wear for not having been garaged over the winter.




Every season in the garden is special. Summer is color and life and growth and abundance. Fall is like that winding down before you go to bed at night, each plant giving a last burst of energy before going through its bedtime ritual. Winter is sleep and rest and a gathering of strength. Spring - well Spring is all possibility. Like a new day. That time before you've really gotten moving in the morning and are just stretching out and wondering how the day will go. I love that feeling!

And that's about the extent of the poetry in my soul. :)