Wednesday, April 22, 2009

"Happy Two You"

The title to this post is Madeline's version of the Happy Birthday song. We have a lot of spring birthdays among our friends and family, so she has really gotten to know this song and sings it all the time around the house. Today, finally, it was sung for her.

As one of her gifts, I decided that I would allow her to do every she possibly wanted today (within reason). Maddie always wants to do so much that on an average day we really just can't fit it all in. Well, today we did a lot, and we had fun.

This was the first birthday we got to celebrate with Maddie as her parents, and it felt good. We will see her birth mother this weekend, and we had a big family celebration on Sunday (see video clips at the end), but today it was just the three of us.

When Ray got home from work we decided to pick up some food and picnic at a park.


And here she waits in anticipation for the balloons we then went and got for her at the dollar store.

I opted for the cute green balloon with flowers, so of course Ray had to get her a second one of his choosing! I think so far she has played with them equally!

Chillin like a villian once we got back home. It was a fun and low-key day, which I loved!

video
Maddie blowing out her candles.

video
Just some of her 38?ish cousins celebrating with her.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Happy

36 years ago. Age 2.

Now. Age 38.

I had a happy birthday yesterday. (This picture is actually from my mom's birthday a few weeks previous, but I couldn't be looking happier, so I used it. Leave it to me to explain everything.) Anyway, though it is difficult to be only two years away from the big 4-0, I'm trying to look at the bright side. I mean, hey, look at all the wisdom that comes with age!! (Yeah.)

Anyway, I was happy because of all the well-wishers. If you want to feel popular and loved, join Facebook and enter your birthday. I don't know how many Happy Birthdays I got via fb, but I felt remembered and loved! I don't think I've wished one person Happy Birthday on fb yet, so I need to get on that!
I was happy when my friend, Tracy, called me up the night before and asked if she could watch Maddie for me on my birthday for as long as I wanted. (Tracy really gets it.) Incidentally, I was sad when Maddie woke up with a runny nose because, a) she was sick :( and b) I could no longer take her to Tracy's, lest her baby get our germs! But in the end, we ended having a lot of fun playing of course. As always!


I was happy when my beloved came home early from work (a rare occurence) and brought me this beautiful bouquet.

I was happy when Melissa (top middle) still wanted to watch Maddie in the afternoon, even with the runny nose.

I was happy again when Ray took me to see a movie. I wasn't happy when my choice of films turned out not-so-great. Ray had predicted it (how does he always know??), but it was my birthday after all...my (lousy) choice.

I was so happy when we went to try this new Brazilian restaurant, Tucanos. It was so good. It actually made up for the movie and then some. It's fun and different, you've got CHOICES, and it's just plain tasty.


And now a word about tulips. They make me so happy. How fortunate I am that I was born right around the time that they bloom every year. It's like nature's birthday gift to me every April. They are such a beautiful, noble and still flower. Clean, simple lines. Short-living, but while they live they really pack a punch to my soul. They are a gift from God to the world, these flowers.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Rustic Artisan Bread


It's time to post about one of my most favorite things in the world, aside from Ray and Madeline, and that is BREAD. Do you ever buy the Pugliese Bread from the Costco bakery and other stores? I do, and its the best. It's large crumbed and crusty, and makes fabulous toast.

Anyway, about six months ago I was given a recipe for this bread, and here's the best part: there is absolutely NO KNEADING INVOLVED! Nor a bread machine. Simply a bowl, a wooden spoon, and a heavy, lidded pot (dutch oven, casserole dish, etc.) That and four ingredients. That's right--I said FOUR INGREDIENTS, as opposed to about 10 ingredients in the Costco bread.

Lo and behold, the recipe. And trust me, the first time you make and try this bread, you'll wonder where it's been all your life! And if you're alarmed about all the words and photos, don't be. It's me, not the bread.


Put the following in a bowl (I heard that taller bowls work better for yeast doughs, so you can see I use a 6" tall bowl. I'm sure any will work though):

•3 Cups Flour
•1/2 Teaspoon Instant Yeast (I use bread machine yeast and it works fine. DO NOT USE Active Dry Yeast. My friend tried it and it didn’t work.)
•1 1/4 Teaspoons Salt

Whisk ingredients together.


•Add 1 1/2 Cups Water (Does not need to be warm. I use cool tap water.)


Mix together with wooden spoon, then if you wish (I can be obsessive) use rubber spatula to pull remaining dough bits off sides of bowl.


Cover with plastic wrap and let rise. You can choose how long you want your bread to rise--anywhere from 11-16 hours. It's very flexible, this bread, but I usually do 12-14 hours.

Here is the dough after 12 hours. Risen up the bowl halfway-ish. Very bubbly and sticky. Just as it should be.

Turn the dough out onto a floured board and briefly bring it together to form a ball shape. It will be wet and loose.

Cover the dough and let rise for 1 1/2 to 2 hours. After about 1 1/2 hours, preheat oven to 450 degrees with covered pot inside.

Once oven is ready, uncover your dough. Should like like this.

Carefully pull out hot, empty pan, uncover and flip loaf into hot pan, cover and return to oven. No need to grease pan.

My pan is a round, covered, pyrex pan that measures 9.5" across the top, is about 4 inches tall with the lid on, and the loaf fits perfectly. But just use whatever you've got--it'll probably work. Just make sure the top of the pan lip does not curve inward, or you will have a tough time removing the baked loaf from the pan. Learned this by sad experience!

Bake for 30 minutes and then remove lid.

Continue baking bread for another 15 minutes, uncovered, then remove from oven.

Remove loaf from the pan and cool on a wire rack. Don't try to cut it too quickly. It smells so good that you'll want to, and then you'll get a mushed slice of bread. I force myself to wait at least 30 minutes. It will still be warm.

Its great with butter and honey or homemade raspberry jam.

And here's all that usually remains after a meal.

Enjoy!

***One last thing. You may be thinking what a great way this is to use wheat you might have stored. Its true. This bread works with whole wheat flour, cause I've tried it. The problem is, once you've tried it with all white flour, its just not quite as good with any percentage of whole wheat flour. A real bummer. So I would recommend trying it first with whole wheat flour. That way you'll remain unbiased.

The way I've tried to make this bread a little healthier (at times) is by adding wheat germ. Makes it just a bit chewier, but the good taste is still there. Let me know if you come up with any other good healthy variations.***