As the name of my blog indicates, I spend a lot of time thinking about home. Of course, my Heavenly Home is the one that is eternal, so that’s where I need to lay up my treasures, and that’s the one I’m striving for. But in the meantime, I have been given this tiny piece of the here-and-now—this nearly six-acre tract of land, this farmhouse, this domain—in which to serve Him. And, though this is in the earthly realm, I want the things that happen here to be investments in the Heavenly realm.


Thursday, February 28, 2013

February



Hearts


Reds


Co-op


Potpourri


And now it is time to say good-bye to February.  Ron heard spring peepers a few nights ago, so we now feel that it is fitting to think ahead to spring.  Green things, spring baskets, Resurrection Day, Bekah's birthday...all just around the corner.

Are you thinking ahead to spring?  

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Bread On Tuesday ~ Week 8 {Cinnamon Raisin Bread}


This week, I returned to The Panera Bread Cookbook: Breadmaking Essentials and Recipes from America's Favorite Bakery-Cafe.   We had enjoyed the Three-Cheese Bread that I made from this cookbook, and I was ready to try my hand at another.  

I had decided last week on the recipe that I would try.  I checked the list of ingredients and added golden raisins and cinnamon chips to my grocery list.  Alas, Walmart did not have either of the ingredients.  On Monday evening after work, Ron went on a wild goose chase to a larger grocery store about 25 minutes away from us to purchase the needed items.  He brought home golden raisins, but no cinnamon chips.  For Heaven's sake.  

Not to be defeated, I decided to omit the cinnamon chips altogether, and just add some cinnamon to the dough.  After the dough had risen and we had rolled it out into a rectangle, Bekah and I sprinkled on some cinnamon and then rolled the dough up, shaped it into the loaves, and put it in the ceramic baking pans.  

Another change that I made was to add a simple glaze after the bread had cooled.



So how did it turn out?  

There was certainly room for improvement.  Although the bread had a nice texture and a crusty outside (as did the Three-Cheese Bread also made from this cookbook), the flavor was underwhelming.  Not bad, just not great.  I suspect that it would have been delicious with the cinnamon chips, which would have provided little bursts of flavor throughout the bread.  But in the absence of the chips, I probably should have added more cinnamon to the dough, and probably a little sugar along with it.  After all, I think cinnamon raisin bread should taste like...cinnamon!  

As we sampled and reviewed the bread with our evening coffee, I came up with a couple of ideas to remedy these loaves that are already baked.  One thought is to make some cinnamon butter (kind of like the good stuff that Texas Roadhouse serves with their rolls?) to spread on the bread.  I may try this recipe by Ina Garten.  

The other thought is to use it to make cinnamon toast for breakfast.  I intend to do just that tomorrow morning.  I'll let you know what I think.  


This week's bread...



(Makes 2 loaves)


Ingredients for Starter:
1 cup warm water (95-105° F)
2 teaspoons fresh yeast
1 cup all-purpose flour

Ingredients for Dough:
3/4 cup warm water (95-105° F)
3 tablespoons honey
4 teaspoons fresh yeast
1/4 cup plus one teaspoon vegetable shortening
4 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon salt
Starter (above)
1 1/4 cups golden raisins
1 cup cinnamon chips****

To create the starter*, combine the water and yeast in a medium mixing bowl.  Stir to dissolve the yeast fully.  Add the flour to the bowl and stir until the ingredients are fully incorporated.  Cover with a clean cloth and ferment the starter at room temperature for 30 minutes.  

For the dough, combine the water, honey, and yeast in the bowl of a stand mixer.  Stir to dissolve the yeast fully.  Add the shortening, flour, salt, fermented starter, and raisins.  Mix on low speed until for 3 minutes.  Add the cinnamon chips and mix on low speed until dough is fully developed**.  Remove the dough from the mixing bowl.

Divide the dough into two pieces weighing about 22 ounces*** each.  Set aside any remaining dough and freeze for future use.  Roll each piece of dough into a smooth ball.  Place the dough on the counter or in a proofing basket and cover with a warm damp cloth, and proof at room temperature for 30 minutes.  Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Form the dough into two loaves****, cover with a warm, damp cloth, and proof at room temperature for 30 minutes.

Score the knives with a sharp knife, spray with water, and bake for 30 to 40 minutes, or until the crusts are a deep, golden brown and the middle of the loaves is 190-200° F.  

Remove the bread from the oven and place on a cooling rack for 30 minutes.  If the bread was baked in loaf pans, remove the bread from the pans before cooling.

~ ~ ~

MY NOTES:
*  The author(s) insists that the starter is a key element in both the flavor and the texture of your bread.  Don't omit this step. 

** According to the author(s), two things indicate that a dough is "fully developed."   One indication is that it pulls away from the sides of the mixer.  Secondly, a small pinch of dough should not tear, but form a translucent membrane when stretched with your fingers.  

*** I did not have a way of measuring 22 ounces of dough.  I hoped for the best and simply divided my dough into two pieces.

**** As I already told you, I omitted the cinnamon chips, and sprinkled a layer of cinnamon on the loaves before I shaped them.  I used two glass baking pans.



Wherefore do ye spend money for that which is not bread
and your labour for that which satisfieth not? 
hearken diligently unto me, and eat ye that which is good, 
and let your soul delight itself in fatness.
Isaiah 55:2






Looking for a recipe from another week?
Week 5: Rosemary Bread
Week 6: Cheddar Biscuits

Monday, February 25, 2013

A Special Day {In Which Gavin and Owen Visit the Lego Store}



Part 1:  "Special Days" With Papa and Gran


Part 3 



On our mother/daughter shopping trip last fall, Kati and I went into the Lego store.  Knowing that her nephews would be impressed, she called them to tell them where she was.  They were impressed, and Kati spent some time on the phone answering questions about what displays she could see.  She took a few pictures of the back wall of the store, a wall of bins and more bins of loose Lego bricks.  When the boys saw these pictures, they were further impressed.

In December, Ron and I decided that we'd take Gavin and Owen to the big city to visit the Lego store.  We normally reserve a Special Day for one child only, but this Special Day would require a road trip, and both Gavin (10) and Owen (6) love Legos.  So on Christmas day, I whispered our plan to each of them, and they both agreed!

On a bright, cold Saturday morning, Kristin brought the boys to our meeting place, they climbed into the van, and we were off on our Special Day adventure.



Gavin came equipped with his "car notebook" that he uses to draw pictures and comics when he's riding.  He also likes to talk when he's riding. ~wink~   Owen, on the other hand, was content to take in the scenery and join in the conversation now and then.  

At one point, Gavin said, "I know Owen must be bored.  He isn't doing anything."  
Me: Owen, are you bored?
Owen: No.
Me:  Gavin, are you bored?
Gavin:  No way!!
Gavin (ten minutes later):  I'm bored to tears.

We told the boys that they could choose the place for lunch.  Can you guess where we ate?  

Yep. ☺




Soon after lunch, we arrived at the mall.  As we traipsed past store after store, they asked, "Are we almost there?"

And then when the store was in sight, they slowed their pace, almost as if they were in awe.  



They paused for a photo in front of the store...



...and then we all went in for a time of looking and looking and choosing and looking and looking some more.  We had given them each a small budget, and a lot of consideration went into making those selections. Plus, there was just so much to see!



Ron pointed out this set that he would choose if he were making a purchase.  ~smile~


At this point, my camera battery lost its charge.  (Palm to forehead.  Quiet sobbing.)

Sigh...

So I will tell you that we spent a rather long time in the Lego store, although Gavin later said that it seemed to go soooo fast.  Then we took a little walk to Starbucks so that Kati and I could get Fraps.  (Hey, why should the kids have all the fun?)  And right outside of Starbucks, a Boy Scout troop was having a pinewood derby, so the boys enjoyed watching some of the races.  (See...isn't it a good thing that we wanted those Fraps?)  On our way back through the mall, we passed an artist who was sketching some ocean landscapes and the kids stopped to watch him for a while.  

But the grand finale of our mall trip was yet to come!  

While Kati and Bekah went to the restroom, the boys saw an escalator across the food court and said that they wished that they could ride it.  Papa agreed to accompany them, and off they went.  

(Yes, we had SMALL TOWN emblazoned on our foreheads.)

Returning from the restroom, Bekah discovered that Gavin and Owen had ridden the escalator without her!  So we suggested that they all ride the escalator in the Forever 21 store through which we had entered the mall.  

All three rode the escalator up to the second floor and back down, waving at us as they descended, much as if they were on an amusement park ride.  (SMALL TOWN.)  And again, they rode up and down.  (Yep.)  It was a thrill for them...and it was a thrill for us, watching three children so delighted with such a simple thing.  We were smiling as much as they were. 

Back in the van, Legos were unwrapped and play commenced.  Then the scheming began.  Plans for the boys to spend the night at our house so that they could all play with their new Legos and with Bekah's old Legos (which are really her older brother Ryan's Legos, housed here until he wants them for his children).  We had not planned for an overnight, because Gavin usually prefers his own bed at night.  But his change of mind and a quick call to his parents for permission extended the Lego fun into the night and the next morning.




That particular week, we were spending Sunday afternoon at Kristin and Brian's house, so we loaded up all of the boys' treasures after church and drove them home.  When they arrived, they were excited to show all of their things to their family.  Little brother Ben (4) watched, and then whispered to his mama, "I want a bag of stuff."   

Stay tuned later in the week for Part 4 of my Special Day posts, in which Ben gets "a bag of stuff."  

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Sunday Snapshots: Girlies




Bekah admiring Alaine admiring her mama's sunglasses.






Friday, February 22, 2013

Ten Minute Tidy...PLUS!




Today was the day.  

The day that something must be done about the house.  

I don't mean spring cleaning kinds of projects.  Or a hoarders kind of cluttery mess.  (Heaven forbid!)   Or even general housecleaning.  But just too many untidy and I'll-get-to-you-later kinds of zones.  


So I declared it to be a ONE HOUR TIDY!  (I'm harsh.)

The instructions were simple.  I'd set the timer for 60 minutes, and the three of us would do a ten minute tidy.  But we wouldn't stop after ten minutes.  We'd just keep going for an hour, tackling anything that needed doing to spruce up the house.  Just keep going.  If anyone ran out of ideas, just ask me...I am full of them.  

One hour later, we had
  • Sorted through the week's mail
  • Cleaned the French door windows, inside and out
  • Organized and cleaned the kitchen counter 
  • Cleaned the kitchen sink
  • Cleaned out the newspaper/magazine basket; bagged up recycles
  • Sorted out a book shelf; reshelved out-of-place books
  • Cleared kitchen table
  • Straightened up basket of Wii remotes/games
  • Washed two kitchen windows
  • Cleaned and freshened microwave (boil a cup of water and lemon for three minutes; wipe down)
  • Cleaned stove top
  • Vacuumed around wood stove 
  • Vacuumed rug under kitchen table
  • Put away shoes and boots that had accumulated near the back door
  • Took down display of Valentine cards
  • Put away craft supplies used to make Valentine cards
  • Put away old math book; got out new math book (yay for Bekah!)

Oh, it feels soooo much better!

Tomorrow we will do the regular dusting, mopping, and vacuuming.  But in the meantime, the house thanks me, and I have more peace.  I am always amazed at what can be done with a bit of concerted effort.  

As always, I remind you that our ten minutes (or one hour in this case) is multiplied by 3.  If you're working alone, it obviously takes longer to accomplish the same amount.  Although we are three slow-ish girls, so you might not really have to multiply it by 3...maybe just 2.5...or 2?  

One hour later, we proceeded with our day.  I turned on my beautiful new candle warmer (a sweet gift from Deanna) to make our spruced up house smell lovely too.  I made some tea.  And order was restored.  


Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Bread On Tuesday ~ Week 7 {Parmesan-Herb Focaccia}


Tonight's bread was kind of the best of both worlds.  While it takes only an hour to make from start to delicious finish, it is a yeast bread and thus has the wonderful flavor and consistency that makes a yeast bread sooooo good.  

And yes, I said that right...only an hour.


Kati made the soup this evening, while I was making the bread.  That is a switch for us, as she is the baker and I like to cook.  But it worked.  The soup (an old Taste of Home recipe, Lasagna Soup) was tasty, and this focaccia complemented it well.  

Don't be intimidated by focaccia.  This recipe is simple and, as I have said, quick, due to the use of fast-acting yeast.  (Rapid rise, fast-acting, bread machine yeast, fresh yeast...all terms for the same thing.  It's almost all I use these days, even substituting it for regular yeast in recipes that call for it.)





(Makes 2 rounds)

Dough Ingredients:
2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 package fast-acting yeast (2 1/4 teaspoons)
1 cup very warm water (120-130° F)
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

Topping Ingredients:
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 or 2 garlic cloves, minced
2 tablespoons freshly grated Parmesan cheese
1 teaspoon dried rosemary or thyme
1/2 teaspoon coarse salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper

Directions:
  1. In a food processor*, combine flour, sugar, salt, and yeast; pulse to mix. 
  2. With machine running**, add water and 1 tablespoon oil through feed tube. When dough forms a ball, process 30 seconds or until dough is smooth and elastic***. 
  3. Grease medium bowl. With floured hands, remove dough from food processor; place in bowl. Cover with plastic wrap; let rise in warm place for 20 minutes. 
  4. Preheat oven to 400° F. Line baking sheet with parchment paper. In small bowl, combine 1 tablespoon oil and garlic. 
  5. Punch down dough; divide in half. On lightly floured surface, roll each half into 8-inch round; place on baking sheet. Press dough with fingertips to create dimples. Brush with garlic-oil mixture; sprinkle with cheese, thyme, coarse salt, and pepper. 
  6. Bake 20-25 minutes or until golden brown. Cut into wedges. Serve warm.

~ ~ ~

MY NOTES:
*  I use my stand mixer instead of my food processor, using the dough hook to mix and "knead."  
** I add the water and oil while the mixer is running.
***  I found that I needed to add more flour in this step.  The dough was just too sticky and would not form a ball.  Maybe I didn't measure carefully, because I don't remember this happening before.    




Or what man is there of you, whom if his son ask bread
will he give him a stone?
Matthew 7:9



Looking for a recipe from another week?
Click button below to access index.



Note Card Party: Soup


Perhaps because it's a gray and chilly winter's day.
Perhaps because we are having soup tonight.
Perhaps because I love making soup.

Whatever the reason,
I settled on yummy, comforting soup to be my theme for the
February Note Card Party
over at A Haven For Vee.


Clicking on each photo will take you to the recipe.
Maybe you'll find a new recipe to try!











Do you like to make soup?  Do you have a favorite?




Do you have a blog?
Then you can join this month's party
over at Vee's Haven!

(Click the button for details.)


A Haven for Vee

Monday, February 18, 2013

A Special Day {In Which Maddie Goes to the Spa}


Last week, I promised to tell you about three of our recent "Special Days."  (If you missed it, you can read about what a Special Day is ~here~.)  

 




Inspiration for our day at the spa began when Kati gave me some homemade sugar scrub for my birthday.  When I mentioned my idea to Kati, she began brainstorming, and she and I started to gather ideas and plans from here and there and everywhere...and pinning many of them onto our Pinterest board.

On a cold day in late January, Papa-the-Chauffeur and Bekah went to pick up our guest of honor, our oldest granddaughter Maddie who is 8 years old.  Kati and I stayed behind to put the finishing touches on our spa decorations and supplies.  We set the scene for a slow, relaxing day of primping and pampering for two young ladies.





As soon as the girls had shed their coats and donned their pretty robes, 
they were treated to a cup of hot tea.


After tea, the young ladies had facials.
First was a treatment with lemon sugar scrub,



followed by a cucumber mask
and cucumber slices to reduce puffiness around the eyes.
Neither of the girls thought that their eyes were puffy (they weren't)...but doesn't every facial include cucumber slices?


Facials completed, skin refreshed, the girls then took turns having a long soak 
(Maddie's word for a long unhurried bath)
 in the tub in which red rose soap petals floated.


While Maddie was having the first soak, I told Bekah to gather a few magazines to read.  
(She chose a Martha Stewart Living and the Royal Wedding issue of People--
perfect choices for these girly girls.  ~smile~ )



Lunch at the spa included butterfly cucumber sandwiches, turkey/spinach wraps, 
and strawberry-banana smoothies.



After lunch, Aunt Kati and the girls had pedicures, via a fun little game.  I played Tchaikovsky's "Sleeping Beauty Waltz," while the girls passed around bottles of different colored nail polish.  I paused the music at random intervals, at which time each girl painted one toenail with the polish that she was holding.  We kept going until all ten toes (actually thirty toes!) were polished and the results were adorable.


Then it was time for a little refresher...
a glass of sparkling cranberry juice to sip while having their manicures.



Hand massages,
manicures,
and foot massages while relaxing, wearing the eye shades that I made for them.


The girls decided that it would be fun to give Kati a foot massage.




With most of the spa activities completed, the girls watched some movies...
all princess-themed, if you notice the pattern.



The girls had requested rag curls, so before they went to bed, Kati and I curled their hair. (Anyone remember rag curls?)  Then off they went to Kati's room (she has the double bed), taking a DVD player so that they could watch their last movie in bed.
Bottom left: Rag curls and eye shades  (Do you see that the giraffe has an eye shade too?)
Bottom right:  Results of the rag curls


Spa Day was over, but the next day was Sunday, so Maddie went to church with us, and was here when the rest of her family came on Sunday afternoon.  
When they all left in the evening, Maddie took home this basket of spa goodies
and, I hope, some good memories of a Special Day spent with Papa and Gran and the aunts.


Sunday, February 17, 2013

Sunday Snapshots: For the Birds




For the past four or five years, our family has participated in the Great Backyard Bird Count. It's a fun and easy way to be part of a big science project!  The only requirement is to count birds in your location for a minimum of 15 minutes and log your data at GBBC's web site

Last year, we went all out and made it a bird day from start to finish, adding lots of birdy activities to the bird count itself. 

This year...we counted.  

Although some of us did dress the part.  



And one of us invited a raven to read his Lego book with him.



There were bird counters all over the house...


...including these two cuties who may not have known what they were counting but wanted in on the fun!  (This may be my favorite picture of the day!)



Unfortunately, we had almost as many counters as birds this year.  Ten birds, people.  We fear that the outdoor cats have discouraged our bird population.  Ron and I had seen a cardinal this very morning, but Mr. Cardinal was nowhere to be seen when the count was on.  

So our bird count may not have been our most successful, but the sliders we enjoyed with lunch were quite the success.  (Thanks for the recipe, Deanna!)  

And then there was that rousing game of Dutch Blitz...




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