Thursday, August 30, 2012

Soft Oatmeal Bread

Here's another bread that I like to make often.  Since I use the bread machine to make the dough, it is a no-fuss recipe.   Right now I am trying to avoid dairy products to attempt to help with Grant's fussiness.  This bread contains no milk ingredients.  You can substitue sugar for the honey as well if you would prefer!

Soft Oatmeal Bread

1 1/ 4 cups plus 2 tablespoons warm water
1/4 cup honey
1/4 cup vegetable oil
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon lemon juice
3 cups flour
1 1/2 cup quick-cooking oats
2 1/2 teaspoons yeast

Place ingredients in bread pan in order suggested by the manufacturer.  Select "dough" setting.  When the cycle is complete, punch dough down.  On a lightly floured surface, roll the dough into a 9 inch by 18 inch rectangle.  Starting with a short end, roll up the dough.  Pinch ends together to seal.  Place in a greased 9 by 5 inch bread pan.  Cover and let rise in a warm place for 40 minutes or until doubled.  Bake at 350 degrees for 40 minutes or until top is brown and bread sounds hollow when tapped. (My oven tends to take longer to bake on most recipes.  You may need to adjust the baking time for your oven.)
Tuesday, August 28, 2012

"Walkin' the Beans"

Recently, I was visiting with a friend and her daughter about what they had been doing the day before.  With a sigh, her daughter told me that they had been working outside.  She seemed to think that whenever her dad was home on a Saturday, all they did was "work."  I told her that it may seem tough now, but those times will be good memories for her later.

This led me to start thinking about some of my own memories of childhood--when the "work" we did as a family seemed never-ending.  Things like painting the house, shingling the garage roof, and canning jam came to mind.  However, I think one of my favorite family work traditions would be "walking the beans."

I grew up on a small farm in south-central Kansas.  (Read:  more rain than what we get here in western Kansas!)  I prided myself on knowing a little bit about farming when I was dating and later married to my husband.  However, I learned that what I thought was a large field was, in fact, just a small patch in western-Kansas terms.

Enter "The Forty."  "The Forty" was what we called the forty-acre irrigated field  located a half mile south of the home place.  It was here that we planted soybeans every year.  I remember helping Mom set out the irrigation pipe and take it back up yearly.  Another time of what felt like endless work, but that's a story for a later date.

When the soybeans were small, Mom would control the weeds by carefully driving a small tractor through them with a cultivator attached.  The cultivator consisted of several rows of  large "hooks" which would uproot the weeds in between the rows.  Needless to say, inadvertently swerving while cultivating is a bad idea!

When the soybeans got bigger, cultivating them with a tractor was not an option.  So, we would walk the beans.  Mom, Dad, Todd (my older brother) and I would each walk down a row of beans about six rows apart from each other.  And, you guessed it, we would pull the weeds.  My big-acreage western Kansas farmer husband looked at me like I was crazy when I told him about this!
We would look across the rows for our enemy--velvetleaf and shattercane weeds.  When we spotted them, we would pull them up.  As a grade-schooler, I found this to be tough work.  Some of the weeds were up to my shoulder, and it was all I could do to get them to come loose.  I remember occasionally falling over as the roots of my leafy foe gave way.

So we would walk down one row and then another until the entire forty acre field had been gone over.  We battled the heat, the itchy plants, the bugs, and, for me, exhaustion and just plain being mad that I was out there in a field pulling weeds.  All in all, I think it took us about a day, maybe a day and a half to get through this chore.  It felt like FOREVER to me, though.

Time and age have a way of making things look different than they do at the time.  I remember singing crazy songs as a family while we worked.  I remember helping each other by pointing out a weed that had been missed along the way.  I remember the joy of the air-conditioned house when we went home for lunch and later quit for the day.

At the time, it was a misery to be endured.  Now, it is one of the memories I treasure.  Funny how that works, isn't it?

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Maddie's Party

Since we welcomed a new little one into the family just one week before Maddie's eighth birthday, we didn't celebrate her birthday right on time.  We had a party with just family, but I told her that we would invite some friends over for a get together sometime.  Well, this Thursday was it.  With a two week old, I tried to do fun activities that the girls would enjoy, but I did not want to go over the top with time-sucking preparations.  Here's what we did.

We started with the girls making personalized bead bracelets.  I bought a little kit in the kids' craft section of Walmart for $10.  The girls had a great time.  I set out paper plates for the girls to put their beads on and taped their elastic cords to the plates so the beads would not come off of the ends.  Very little prep, and the girls had a great time with it.

Next we painted toe nails--very girly and easy to set up for.  I have lots of fast dry nail polish which I highly recommend for younger people. 

They thought we needed a picture of toes and bracelets together!

For supper, I set up a "pizza bar" for the girls to assemble their own pizzas.  I had individual crusts (made and pre-baked the day before), sauce (jarred to save on energy), Canadian bacon, pepperoni, sausage, shredded mozzarella cheese, and Parmesan.  (I would love a selection of veggies to choose from, but I don't think 8 - 9 year old girls usually go for those!)

The girls each got to make their own pizza. They loved it.  See the end of this post for the crust recipe.

Next it was time for dessert.

Then we had an ice cream sundae bar with lots of different toppings to choose from. I made 2 quarts of  homemade vanilla ice cream in my Kitchenaid mixer ice cream attachment (love that gadget!).  See here for my ice cream recipe.  Yes, I could have gone with store-bought ice cream, but I've been very excited about using my new toy.  I made the ice cream in the morning and put it in the freezer so it would be ready to go at dessert time.

We had M & M 's, sprinkles, and magic shell. See here for the recipe for magic shell. I found this on Pinterest, and my kids love it.  (Also super easy to prepare.) 

Then they all headed downstairs for the movie Dolphin Tale.  Afterward, since it was 7:30 and finally not so blazing hot, they played outside until their parents came to pick them up.

I kept reminding myself that little girls do not care what my house looks like, so I only cleaned the main bathroom they would be using.  I also had the kids pick up a little bit so no one would trip over anything.  All in all, fairly easy while still being lots of fun!

Here's the recipe for the pizza crusts:

Pizza Plus

1 package active dry yeast
1 teaspoon sugar
1 cup warm water (105 - 115 degrees)
2 tablespoons vegetable oil (I use olive oil)
1 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
1 1/2 - 1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour

In a large bowl, sprinkle yeast and sugar over warm water; stir until dissolved.  Stir in oil, salt, and enough flour to make a soft dough.  Turn dough out on a lightly floured surface.  Knead until dough is smooth and elastic, about five minutes.  Place in greased large bowl, turnin gdough over to grease top.  Cover, let rise in warm place 30 minutes.  Punch dough down, turn out on lightly floured surface.  Knead until no longer sticky, about 30 seconds.  Cover and let rest 5 minutes. 

Maddie and I made the dough the day before.  She got to knead the dough, which she loves to do.  (Works well for me, too, because I don't have to do it!)

I divided the dough into five pieces and rolled out personal-sized pizza crusts.  Then I placed them on baking sheets, built up the edges a bit, and pricked holes in the bottom with a fork.  (This is a great place for little ones to help out.  Anna enjoyed poking the holes for me.)

Bake at 375 for about 12 minutes, rotating between racks halfway through baking time, until very lightly brown.  They will be going in the oven again.  I stored them in a ziploc bag in the fridge until the next day.

After pizzas are put together, follow the same baking instructions as for the crusts until the cheese is melted and bubbly.

Grant's Quilt

Okay, it's not the prettiest picture--I had to lay it out on the floor in my basement--but here is the finished quilt top for Grant's quilt.  In a frenzy of nesting energy, I got most of it done the week before he was born.  I just had to add the borders and sew the back for the quilt, a feat I accomplished one night when Matt had a meeting and I got all the kids into bed! 

I'm going to take it to my friend Kristy to get it machine quilted.  She owns a quilt shop and has great taste.  I can't wait to see how it turns out.  I will post an update when it is finished.

Our little Grant came two and a half weeks early on June 29th, 2012.  It wasn't that big of a surprise because our last two kiddos were two weeks early as well.  However, for some reason I had decided that he was going to be a while.  He was born on a Friday, and I had made plans to have Maddie's eighth birthday party the following Sunday.  Needless to say, the party was postponed.  I don't think Maddie minded, though.  She was happy to get to see her little brother.

Life has become a bit slower here.  Not that we are not busy, it just takes me more time to get anything done!  I feel very blessed to have a new little one around. 

It was this time last year that we discovered that our dear Isaiah had died.  I remember so clearly the shock of it.

I had a lot of trouble dealing with the fact that I was no longer pregnant, and I did not have a baby to hold.  We were due in January and I remember dreading Christmas--I was supposed to be pregnant during that time.

I prayed hard that, if it was God's will, that we would be able to get pregnant again.  I prayed for all my pregnancies, but I prayed for this one the most.  I cried out to God.  He answered.  We were pregnant before Christmas.  It was still a hard time, but I was so comforted to know we were expecting another baby.

Isaiah has a special place in our family.  He was our fifth child, and I still look forward to being reunited with him in heaven someday.  I don't know why Isaiah had to die, but I know God has been with us every step of the way.

Grant did not replace Isaiah.  He has been, however, a great blessing to our family and a reminder of God's goodness.  We have also experienced him with a new perspective on the fragility of life and the remarkable miracle that is a baby.  Thank you, God, for this little boy!

I prayed for this child, and the LORD has granted me what I asked of him.--1 Samuel 1:27

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