Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Old-fashioned peach pie

Peach season is a little late here because of the cold spring. To celebrate the arrival of the big peach crop (finally!) I'm going to post my favorite peach recipes this week.

You know I love you if I make you a two-crust pie. They're kind of labor-intensive and I don't get it right every time. However, this is the recipe for my favorite old-fashioned, two-crust peach pie.

My mom makes a great pie crust that I have never mastered. No matter how many times she talks me through it, it comes out horrible. This crust recipe has never failed me and it's really easy if you have a food-processor.

CRUST (makes two 9-inch crusts)...
2 cups flour
3 tbsp sugar
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp citrus zest (fruit pies only)
1 1/2 sticks butter, frozen
1 egg, separated
3-6 tbsp ice water

In a food processor with the blade attachment, add the flour, sugar, salt and zest. Pulse together. Cut the frozen butter into chunks and add, pulse until butter is broken up and crumbly (only 30 seconds or so). Add egg yolk and water, pulsing once or twice in between tablespoons of water. When the dough begins to climb the sides of the bowl and kind of fall in on itself, pinch a bit between your fingers. It should look crumbly but pinch together and hold. Wrap up in plastic wrap and let rest in the fridge for 30-45 minutes. All together this should only take you about 5 minutes. If you pulse the dough too long it will get overworked, form gluten and your crust will be tough.

5 cups peaches, peeled and sliced
1 tbsp lemon juice
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup flour
1 1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp ginger
2 tbsp butter

I estimate that 2 peaches equals a cup. Toss peach slices in lemon juice. Add sugar, flour and spices, toss to coat peaches evenly.
Preheat oven to 450.
Roll out bottom crust and place in pie pan, letting edges hang over. Let your toddler poke the crust with a fork. Add filling. Dot with the 2 tbsp butter. Add top crust. Pinch edges together to seal. Make a few small slits in pie crust to vent steam. Brush the crust with the reserved egg white and sprinkle some sugar on top to make it all shiny. Place in 450 degree oven for 10 minutes. Without opening door, reduce heat to 350 and bake for an additional 30-35 minutes or until crust is golden and filling is starting to bubble. Let cool and enjoy with vanilla ice cream, homemade whipped cream or all by itself.

I love Paula Deen and one time on her show she showed how to freeze the filling by itself to use later. She lined the pie plate with plastic wrap, poured in the filling and then covered it with more plastic wrap. She froze the filling right in the pie plate, then removed it, wrapped it in freezer wrap and stored it. Then when you want fresh peach pie in the middle of winter, make your crust, unwrap the filling, place in the unbaked pie shell, dot with butter and seal top crust. Cover the crust edges with aluminum foil. Bake in the 400 degree oven for 18 minutes, reduce heat to 350 and bake an additional 40 minutes or until done. Remove the foil for the last 10 minutes if the edges aren't getting as brown as you want.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Results from Peach Day 2008

It was a monumental undertaking and here it is, for the record.

3 - people that came to Peach Day

7 - boxes of peaches ready to be bottled

600+ - individual peaches to be blanched, peeled and sliced (mostly by Aleah, who claimed to enjoy the work)

3 - crock pots full of peach butter that needed blending and bottling

2 - hours Joe spent buying and assembling the Camp Chef stove (and we would have gone crazy without it)

6 - pots of boiling water (used for various purposes) we had going at any given time

7 - hours spent, in a row, on our feet, peeling, slicing and packing peaches

4 - peaches stolen by Little Man and left, half-eaten, around the house

6 - large bags of ice used

40 - pounds of sugar used (that's not an exaggeration, we really did go through 40 pounds of sugar for the bottling syrup and the jam). Oh, thanks to Becca's mom Valerie for telling us to put 1/2 cup sugar in the bottles with the peaches (then fill with boiling water) instead of mixing syrup separately. I think it was less messy and you didn't waste any syrup.

2 - bottles lost to unforeseen accidents

27 - little cuts Aleah has in her hand from the paring knife

1 - time we sat down and actually ate something

3 - lids we had left over (whew!)

253 - times I told Minnie that she could not use the computer/play in the street/assemble a functional rocket, until I was done with the peaches

87 - quarts of peaches successfully bottled (I don't know how many pints of jam and peach butter we ended up with. Pam?)

36 - bottles which belong to me and are stored lovingly in my food storage room to be petted, admired and gobbled up throughout the next year.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Recent books

I've had good luck with the last few books I've read and I wanted to share a few of them here.

This book has become really popular and won several awards so I imagine lots of people have read it. Even so, I just got around to it. It was a great book though! A young girl growing up in 1940's Germany discovers - amid the Nazis and the book-burnings - the power of reading and literature. A little depressing at times, it's still a powerful book full of hope, love and the power of friendship.

Definitely a lighter read after The Book Thief, this is more of a children's novel... but I enjoyed it just the same. When it's announced that the future bride of the prince will come from a small mountain town, all eligible girls are all enrolled in a "princess academy" for a year. At the end of the year the prince will choose his bride. The story follows Miri, a small girl who struggles between the desire to prove herself and the love she holds for her village and its people. The book is simple and sweet enough that young girls would like reading it (or having it read aloud) but the plot is detailed enough for an adult reader to enjoy. I think my daughter is too young to like this yet, but 7-8 years old would be a good time to read it with her.

I read this book after I watched the movie and I have to say, I don't know which I liked more. Recently-orphaned Flora Poste goes to live with the Starkadder family on their creepy farm - Cold Comfort. She makes it her mission to take every individual member of the family - from the hellfire-preaching Amos to the flighty-spritey Elphine - out of their gloomy circumstances and into a normal life. Her main obstacle is the home's matriarch, the mysterious Aunt Ada who is determined that no member of her family will ever leave the farm. The book is sarcastic, funny and sweet at the same time (plus the movie leaves you with a desire to say "I saw something narsty in the woodshed" at least 10 times a day.) Definitely my favorite of these three books, I think I'll be going out to rent the movie again soon.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

More Christmas designs

Hey, October is almost here so what time could be better for Christmas cards? I have a new page of designs that I'm really excited about. What do you think? I'm going to be doing a giveaway for these sometime in the near future.

Also don't forget that I'm filling up bookings for family portraits in Sept. and Oct. If you're interested (or know someone who is) be sure to let me know! And just to sweeten the deal, refer a booking to me and I'll do your family pictures for 25% off!

love, etc...


Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Book club blog header

After being reminded (often) by Jenny and inspired by Hannah, I finally got around to one of the many projects on my list - re-working the blog header for our book club. I'm pretty excited about what I came up with!

If only I could get around to the other things on my list - namely editing this article that was due last week!

Monday, September 22, 2008

Pinky's pigs

You may remember my sister's pottery blog from a few months ago (when I did her header design). In addition to her lovely plates, bowls, planters and serveware, she's started making these fabulous piggy banks!

I don't know if she takes custom orders or just sells them at the local craft fairs, but if you want the cutest piggy bank in the world, I'd definitely e-mail her.

Just so you can be jealous, these two little darlings now live at our house. The big one belongs to Bart and the little one is Lisa's. I'm sure they will agree - it is so nice to have a talented aunt!

Friday, September 19, 2008

You might think...

You might think that pudding would not stain a child's shirt very badly (compared to the usual suspects - berries, mud, Popsicles, dirty taxis, etc...) You'd be wrong

You might think that they would have warnings on knives like "talking on the phone while slicing peppers could be hazardous to your health". They don't.

You might think that if your daughter loves bottled peaches, you could just peel and slice one up for her right off the tree. You would be wrong. She wants them to go through the entire bottling process before she pops the lid off and slurps down a pint or so.

You might think that giving up soda (mmmmm, Pepsi....) cold-turkey would be hard. It isn't. Those handy "fat burner" green tea capsules have caffeine in them!

You might think if you accidentally lopped off part of your thumb with a butcher knife and all you had in the entire house was Scooby Doo band-aids, they might not do a good job with the whole "applying pressure and stopping bleeding" thing. You'd be right.

You might think that your lame thumb-injury isn't so bad because at least it's the left hand. You'd be wrong. Do you know how hard it is to braid hair with only 9 fingers? Minnie's pre-school teacher had to do her hair for her (it's cute!) Next time I'm going for Mr. Pinky.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Organize your craftiness

Remember Vanilla Joy? Well, she's giving away one of these.

Incredible, but true. So get yourself on over there and enter.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Shoe shopping - figured out!

This is last year's school-shoe shopping experience, re-posted:

After a summer of flip-flops and Crocs, it is time for some new shoes. Bart is growing out of his sandals and Lisa's shoes are all missing; some went with her cousin back to Maine and others have vanished entirely. Shoe-shopping stresses Joe out. Not that he doesn't love shoes, don't ever get that idea. The boy has more specialty footwear than the rest of our family combined (light hikers, work boots, everyday boots, Sunday boots, nice sandals, lawn-mowing sandals...)

No, the stress comes from the kids, and by "the kids" I mean "Bart".
This child turns insane in a shoe store. Having inherited his father's love for shoes, he wants to try on each and every pair in any available size. He presents his bare toes, wiggles them and demands "choos!" Newly-shod he will then run laps around the entire store. I can catch him long enough to do the traditional toe-press fitting before he's off again. And new shoes make him FAST. Bart came equipped with a turbo-boost feature that allows him to outrun the casual chaser, you have to really be determined to catch him. Although I did learn that if you only put a shoe on one foot and leave the other bare he tends to run in circles for a while, making him easier to catch. My technique is to lie in wait at the end of an aisle and snag Bart as he rushes by, change his shoes and let him continue on his way.

Meanwhile as Lisa clomps past in a size 12 pair of red Mary Janes, I can usually distract her long enough to try on a pair that is her size. But as I'm checking out all the shoe options, looking for sizes and casually searching for anything cute in my size, Joe is the main referee of the Amazing New Shoe Race. He's the one that keeps the kids from pulling down displays, bolting for the emergency-exit, finger-printing up the windows and asking passersby if they have chewing gum. Isn't he a great husband?

This year I was not so lucky. Lisa got it into her head that ONLY the most ridiculously Disney-Princess-Or-Perhaps-Dora-Themed Shoes would do. The more licensed characters and blinking lights the better. Plus they cost at least twice as much as the ballet flats I was considering. I'm sorry but... no. I may let them wear Halloween costumes to the grocery store in February but I have to draw the line somewhere. After about 10 minute she had a complete meltdown in the store and we took both kids home - sans shoes.

Fortunately Kelsey from Vanilla Joy had a great shoe-shopping tip that inspired me. Why take the kids along at all? I think all the shoe choices stress them out and turn them insane. So instead, I measured Bart's feet compared to Lisa's. While she was at school I took him to the store with me. While he contentedly clomped around in a 14-sizes-too-big pair of rain boots, I picked shoes that fit him and estimated the size for his sister. I picked shoes I knew she would like and a style that she needed. My master plan worked perfectly and when presented with only one choice of shoes, she happily switched to the new ones without argument.

Lisa loves to name her shoes - so far we have had her Kicks (pink Buster Brown slip-ons), her Steps (clompy buckle shoes), her Slides (pink and purple sandals), her SlipSlops (interestingly, they're flip-flops) and now these. These are her Taps.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008


As I'm writing this, I have a house full of noisy guys, dragging hoses through my hallways, climbing ladders in the hallway, shooting new insulation into our attic and possibly passing judgment on the state of our home.

How did I get into this situation, you ask? Well... it was quite easy. Did you know that Questar Gas and Rocky Mountain Power are offering rebates on insulation upgrades? And if you have both utility companies, the rebates will cover up to 100% of the cost? Sounds fishy, but it's true. The ulterior motive for both power companies is this: if they can save power here (by helping homes to be more energy-efficient) they can sell the power elsewhere (like California). They must be making a good profit from it because the rebates are excellent.

Whatever their reasoning, this sounded like a good deal. Especially since our home is a little older and could definitely use some upgrades in this department. A friend of ours - the handsome and talented Devin - measured the square footage, estimated the cost and helped us fill out all the rebate forms. Quite painless. You do have to pay for it up front, responsibly and correctly mail in your rebate forms and wait the 6-8 week processing time. I'm hoping that it all works out OK but from everyone I've talked to, it seems legitimate and awesome. Crossing my fingers!

If you are a homeowner in the Utah/Salt Lake/Davis county area and are interested in this great rebate program, please give Devin a call! E-mail me at joesgirljeri {at} gmail {dot} com and I'll give you his contact info.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Sharing is hard when you're 4

Minnie is having a hard time at school. She doesn't want to share her best friend. She gets upset when others don't share the swings. She has a really difficult time sharing with her brother. I really don't know what to do.

I try to explain the importance of sharing. When she does share, we give her lots of praise. We try to teach by example. She's so stubborn though, that she would rather sit in her room alone and be in trouble than play nicely with her brother. Since school started she seems to be worse every day.

What on earth am I doing wrong? Any great advice out there for getting four-year-olds to play nicely and share?

Friday, September 12, 2008

Peach Day 2008

A few people have expressed interesting in having Peach Day this year, where we can get together and bottle peaches for the winter. Last year Hannah and I bottled peaches and it was a lot of fun, a lot of work and very rewarding. It was so nice to have fresh and yummy peaches all winter instead of the tin can variety (you'll never go back). I have rationed out the last of our peaches and have exactly ONE bottle left. When I say "ration" I'm not really kidding. Bart and Lisa would happily slurp down a quart of peaches in one sitting... every day.

If you plan on participating in Peach Day 2008, here are some things you should know:

- Jessica recommends the Lemon Elberta peaches from Allred Orchards.

- Last year I got 3 half-bushel boxes and it was enough for bottled peaches and peach butter. Since the kids like the peaches so much, I might get 4 boxes this year.

- I've found mason jars at DI for 25 cents each. Also you can raid your grandma's old canning stuff and find a lot of bottles.

- I called Allred's today and the Elbertas will be ready after the 20th of this month (the late frost slowed down the peaches I guess). They recommended buying your peaches about 3 days before bottling and let them sit in a box to get a bit riper. They were very helpful.

- If you are interested in participating in Peach Day 2008, please e-mail me and we'll pick a Saturday that works for everyone (the 27th or 4th of October?). You will need your peaches, mason jars, lids and rings and sugar. Also bring a knife, cutting board and a few extra-large bowls/pots, just in case. If anyone has a camp chef stove, I think that would help a lot.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Too early for Christmas?

Halloween costumes are appearing in stores so... it must be that time of year. Time to start thinking about the holidays.

Barely in time for the Vanilla Joy giveaway (have you entered?) I have some new Christmas card designs out. I'll be adding more between now and the end of October. So as you get those fall portraits taken and start thinking about Christmas cards, I hope you'll keep me in mind.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Announcement giveaway

I'm giving away 25 birth announcements (4x6" size) on VanillaJoy.com! I'm really excited about it - it's my first giveaway! Anyway, go over and enter if you want to win some cute birth announcements. Post a link on your own blog and she'll give you 10 extra entries! In addition to announcements, I also do blog headers, backgrounds and buttons like this one.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Testing out a new hobby

Turns out bead necklaces are easier than you think! I work as a graphic designer for a media company who produces a bead magazine. I dug up a few of the issues, looked at the ideas, read a how-to article and just started putting things together. Easy peasy rice and cheesy. OK... the techniques took a bit to master but it was still totally do-able. Get a bead mag here.

Monday, September 8, 2008

Water storage

Joe works for the state of Utah maintaining drinking water quality for Utah County and has been asked lots of questions about emergency water filtration and storage. This is a packet of information he put together for an emergency preparedness question-and-answer session.

Have a drink…
…if you don’t you’ll be dead in 72 hours.


-How much is necessary?
A gallon a day per person is a good amount to store. You can survive on less but it varies greatly from person to person so a gallon a day is a safe bet.

-What containers should be used?
Containers should be food approved. Two liter bottles are a cheap convenient container. Water storage containers can be purchased in many shapes and sizes as well. Outdoor retailers or RV suppliers are good places to look for water containers.

Another consideration is the size of the container. For short term use, two liter bottles or commercially bottled water are good choices. For longer term the choices range from 5 gallon jugs to 55 gallon drums. Drums are large, and inconvenient to store. They are nearly impossible to move full, and taking them somewhere to get water is basically out of the question. For those reasons I think a smaller container is a better choice. 10-15 gallon containers allow you to store a decent volume and are still portable.

-What containers should not be used?
Milk containers should not be used. The plastic in milk jugs is often biodegradable and will not hold up to long term use. Juice containers often leave a taste no matter how much you wash them because the acids from the juice are absorbed by the plastic. Metal containers aren’t a good choice. Even if they are coated, water has a way of finding any seam, scratch etc. and causing rust.

-Where should I store my water?
It should be stored in the dark or in opaque containers as sunlight can promote algae growth. It should be stored where it won’t freeze. If at all possible, it would be nice to store the water (and food) somewhere that it will be easily accessible if your house is damaged. It’s also a good idea to store water where your home won’t be damaged if it leaks.

-How should I treat water that will be stored.
Opinions on this differ. Some say water from your tap needs no further treatment, as it contains a small amount of chlorine. This is true in the short term, but for longer term I would still add some chlorine. 5-8 drops of household bleach (~ 5% chlorine) should be good for storage. Make sure it is plain bleach with no perfumes or additives. Also "reverse osmosis" from the water filtration systems might be clean for immediate use, but the process removes all chlorine from the tap water. Without the chlorine the reverse osmosis water is a breeding ground for algae and bacteria. Regular tap water is the best.

Sugars in soda or juice containers can promote bacteria growth, so make sure containers are rinsed very well. Disinfecting containers before use is always a good idea as well. One teaspoon of bleach in one quart of water makes a good disinfectant solution. Water can get a flat taste when stored. This is because dissolved oxygen comes out of solution. The taste can be restored by aerating the water. To accomplish this, a mixer may be used or the water may simply be poured back and forth between two containers a few times.

Filtration / treatment

-Why do I need to filter/treat the water?
To filter out dirt, crud, bears, etc. The reason you get sick when you drink untreated water is that there are often harmful microorganisms in the water. Most of these can be filtered out with readily available water filters. Common pathogenic (disease causing) organisms include: Protozoa such as Giardia and Cryptosporidium, bacteria such as E. Coli, and viruses. These pathogens typically cause gastrointestinal distress with symptoms ranging from diarrhea and vomiting, to death. They are usually only life threatening to children, the elderly, or those with health problems. Healthy people are usually able to weather the illness but dehydration can become a serious issue, and at the very least it can make for a horrible camping trip.

To further motivate you to treat your drinking water, keep in mind that the main source of these contaminants is fecal matter - both human and animal. Remember, you never know who is standing in the river just upstream. That “clean” mountain stream doesn’t look so refreshing anymore does it?

-How do I make water safe to drink?
A combination of filtering and disinfection is generally the best way to make safe drinking water. Cryptosporidium and Giardia are fairly resistant to Chlorine or iodine, so disinfection alone is not a good option. These organisms can live for days in chlorine. Fortunately, filters that are available at most outdoor retailers can easily filter out Cryptosporidium and Giardia.

The minimum filter I would recommend is a 1 micron filter. This will filter out Crypto and Giardia which range in size from 3-7 microns. It will, however leave bacteria and viruses behind. Fortunately, they are very susceptible to disinfection by chlorine or iodine. 1 micron was the old standard, but new filters go as small as 0.2 microns. Since bacteria are greater than 0.45 microns, a high quality filter will take out bacteria as well as Protozoa. All that will be left is viruses. They range from about 0.1-0.2 microns. Emergency type filters can’t remove these but again, they are easily dealt with by disinfection.

Another simple way to supply water in an emergency is by boiling. Bringing water to a boil should be enough to kill pathogens. However, because boiling point varies by altitude, a good rule of thumb is to boil it for five minutes. Boiled water can taste flat because the oxygen in it is gone. You can help the flat taste by aerating the water - pouring it back and forth from 2 containers several times.

Boiling is simple, but has limitations. It requires a large amount of fuel, especially if dealing with large volumes. Also, if chemical contamination is an issue, boiling may concentrate the chemicals and lower the water quality. In other words, if you have gross, stinky water to start with, boiling will make it grosser and stinkier.

In the case of chemical contamination, the best thing to do is find a new water source. Filters generally won’t do much for chemical contamination. Activated carbon may remove the chemicals, but there is not an effective way for most people to test the water to be sure it is safe.

Last, a simple and effective way to make safe drinking water in small volumes is sodis. Sodis (soh-dees) is a nickname which means solar disinfection. This is a fairly new practice that is commonly used by travelers, and is improving living conditions in third-world countries. The technique is simple. Water is put in clear plastic bottles (such as your two liter bottles that you use for water storage) and placed in the sun. The longer it is in the sun and the hotter it is, the more effective the disinfection will be. That's it. Ultraviolet light kills the pathogens and makes the water safe to drink. This will not make it safe for storage, however, as UV has no residual disinfection ability.

-What do I use for disinfection?
The simplest thing to do is buy water purification tablets or drops. They are typically iodine or chlorine based. These are nice, because they are pre-measured, inexpensive, and easy to store or transport. Chlorine bleach is a good option as well. And once again, boiling or UV can disinfect, but will not have the added benefit of a residual disinfectant.

Consider your source water: the cleaner the source, the cleaner the finished product. Turbidity (dirtiness of water) has a “masking” effect on disinfectants. You can’t toss an iodine tablet into muddy water and expect it to be drinkable. If you have to use dirty water, pre-filtering is a good idea. You can use cloth for large particles, and something like a coffee filter for smaller particles. Settling is effective as well, if you have time. Disinfectants take time. This is important. The amount of pathogens killed is proportional to the amount of disinfectant and the time they are in contact. Give your tablets time to work







Saturday, September 6, 2008

Wiggins family pictures

I have done pictures for this family before and they are so fun! I love these little girls, they are charming and have the most vibrantly blue eyes.

She told me a million knock-knock jokes and could not stop laughing.


Mt. Timpanogos park has some beautiful flowers and it always feels so refreshing to get out in the mountains.

Friday, September 5, 2008

Minnie Chip Cookies

Cooking with your kids can be hard to get into, especially when they're really small. Minnie is 4 and while she loves to be in the kitchen with me, she can also be an underfoot, danger-to-herself, mess-making pain. However, I have great memories of cooking with my Mom, Grandma and Papa and, as I've gotten older, family recipes and meals are part of the glue that sometimes keeps us together. The kitchen can span some pretty wide gaps in age, personality and culture - even within a family. We've all got to eat!

As difficult as it can be to cook with little kids, they are learning valuable things from it. They gain an appreciation for homemade food, they can count out measures of ingredients (fractions are great for older kids) and they gain a sense of accomplishment when they get to eat what they've made by hand. So even when she's underfoot, I try to have the patience to let her help and contribute.

This is my daughter's own recipe for chocolate chip cookies. Like everything else she does, there is a little something special that makes them unique.

Minnie Chip Cookies...
1/3 cup butter flavored shortening
1 cup butter, softened
1 cup white sugar
1 cup packed light brown sugar
2 eggs
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
3 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup dark chocolate MnM's
1/2 cups semisweet chocolate chips
4 Tbsp rainbow sprinkles

Have Mom cream shortening, butter and sugars together. Crush eggs over bowl, remove bits of shell, add vanilla. Have Mom mix well. Stir in flour, salt and soda (add the last 3/4 cup flour slowly, depending on your altitude and humidity, you might not need it all). Wipe or sweep up all the extra sugar and flour that you may have scattered about.
Measure out your favorite cookie bits (MnM's, chocolate chips, peanut butter chips, nuts, raisins, craisins, coconut, candy bits, chocolate chunks, dried cherries, etc...) and mix into dough. Use small measuring cups (1/4 or 1/8 cups) so that they're easy to handle and you get to measure and pour many times. Roll cookies into loose 2-inch balls and place on an ungreased cookie sheet. Bake at 375 for 8-10 minutes.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Celebrate every day

Because I have nothing better to do at this exact moment, I decided to see what "official" holiday we are celebrating today. Turns out it's National Waffle Week! In celebration I found this recipe and plan on making waffles for dinner.

While I was "reasearching" holidays, I discovered that tomorrow is National Be Late For Something Day. So there you go. When you're late for school/work/appointments tomorrow, you're not a slacker. You're just celebrating. If I were you, I'd look at my schedule and plan out how late to be right now... just to increase that festive feeling.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Great hair styles

Minnie is starting to have a lot of hair - it is getting thicker and I have to trim the ends pretty often. I really like her hair long though, so I have never considered a short cut. I love to comb and braid her hair (and it can get pretty out of control if I don't). So when my friend Missy showed me this blog, I was really excited. If you have little girls with long hair (hello Jessica!!!) you will like this blog as well.

I like this blog because the styles are cute, easy to do and appropriate for little girls. Minnie scrolled through the pictures on her own until she found this style. She couldn't wait to show her "princess hair" to Daddy when he got home. What she doesn't realize is that she has to wake up 10 minutes earlier now so I can do her hair for school, instead of letting her go like this...

One time I told her "your hair is a bird's nest" and she responded "no, more like small bears". So there you go.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Cold Weather Lunch

Amy’s Creamy Tomato Soup...
1 small/medium onion
3 tbsp butter
1 large can Tomato Juice
1 8 oz. Neufchatel Cheese or Cream Cheese
1 1/2 c. Milk
1/2 tsp -1 tsp of basil
3 cloves garlic
1 can diced tomatoes or 2 medium diced tomatoes

Cook chopped onion & garlic in butter in frying pan until onions are clear and soft (but not too long). Add tomato juice and cream cheese. As soon as cream cheese is melted and blended with soup, add spices, milk and tomatoes, heat through. I like to blend it in the blender or food processor in batches to make it a smoother consistency.

Kid-friendly Wheat Bread:
2 3/4 cups bread flour
2 cups whole wheat flour
1 tbsp rapid rise yeast
3 tbsp. sugar
1 1/4 tsp salt
2 1/3 cups warm water (130 F)
3 tbsp. butter
cooking spray
plastic wrap
1 gallon-size zip-lock bag
2 loaf pans

(I'd like to say I took this picture... but I didn't. The recipe the picture comes from sounds delicious too.)

In the zip-lock bag, combine the 2 cups bread flour, yeast, sugar and water and seal the bag. Let the kids squish it for a minute or so. Add salt and butter. Squish squish squish. They're forming the gluten at this point, as well as letting the yeast proof so let them go nuts for a few more minutes.

Add the 2 cups of whole wheat flour and work until well-blended. Turn out onto a clean, floured countertop and work the remaining 3/4 cup bread flour into the dough.
You might not use it all. Things like humidity affect your flour - you'll almost never use the same amount from time to time. When the dough is just barely not-sticky enough that you can knead it without picking it off your hands each time, there is enough flour in it. It should still feel slightly tacky and might even stick to the counter a bit. Too much flour and your bread won't be all fluffy and delicious. Use a spatula or bench scrape to get the sticky bits of flour off the counter and mixed back in with the dough.

Break off a small amount of dough for each child. Together, knead the dough for about 6-8 minutes. It's very relaxing. It should start to feel smooth and elastic in your hands, with a uniform texture and no lumps of flour. Don't tear the dough because it will release all the tiny air bubbles you've trapped inside the dough. Tuck the loose ends under the dough ball so the top stretches out like a skin, and place it on the counter. Spray with cooking spray, cover with plastic wrap and let rise for 10 minutes. You can tell the dough is done if you can poke your finger about 1/2 inch into the dough ball and the impression will stay there.

Cut your rested dough into 2 halves. Press out the air bubbles (you can just roll a rolling pin down the dough one time), roll up the dough into a loaf, pinch the seam and place the dough, seam-side-down, in to a greased loaf pan and cover with plastic wrap. Let rise in a warm place for 20 minutes or until double in size. (For the perfect 'warm place' - let the oven preheat for 1-2 minutes, turn the heat off and put the bread in the warm oven with the door closed. It will be protected from drafts (and kids hands!)

Once the dough has risen, remove plastic wrap. Place in a 375 degree oven for 25-30 minutes or until golden brown on top.

When you tap the top of the loaf, it should sound hollow. Then you know your bread is done in the middle. Cool in pan for 5 minutes and turn out onto racks to cool the rest of the way. If you want, brush the top of the loaf with a bit of butter.

Monday, September 1, 2008

Rainy rainy day

While it may seem crummy that a three-day-weekend holiday is cold and rainy, it took Minnie about 3 minutes to think of the perfect solution.
It's Joe's birthday today so I have big plans for a nice lunch for him. Amy's Creamy Tomato Soup (recipe coming soon) and some homemade bread... mmmmm.