Saturday, October 31, 2009

A Bread Mission

Since Patrick has arrived, I've privately been on a mission to find some "good" bread. His parents had a yummy care package shipped to our house back in September, full of authentic German bread and treats. Using the information in that package, and the help of google, I found myself venturing into the world of bread making.

{I don't make bread. I did briefly in 2000 when I had a bread machine. Briefly.}

The extent of my real bread experience is in "quick breads" like banana bread, muffins, etc., and pizza dough.

All the recipes I looked at (at least the ones with good reviews) were made from sourdough starter. If I I don't make bread, then I certainly don't make sourdough bread. I got to feed some as a teenager to help out my mom. That's it. But, hey, how hard can it be? I was willing to try. (Sometimes us moms have to make up our own challenges to take our minds off the challenges of many small children, right?).

I found a great helpful website to educate myself about the art of sourdough. Visit it at Sourdough Home. They said not to try to make my own starter if I really didn't know what I was doing. They suggested getting a starter from a friend. But I don't have any friends who bake bread! So, what else could I do? I bought some organic whole wheat flour (sure to have all kinds of microorganisms on it to grow some sourdough) and was just ready to start. Then Kristin surprised me at church the next day with some Amish Friendship Bread starter. Yeah, I know the instructions on the bag are all specific to the AFB, but I didn't care--it is still basically a sourdough! I followed the AFB instructions for the full 10 days and made the bread from it. Instead of giving away my starter, I divided it to "experiment." I didn't want my bread starter to be fed on sugar and milk, so I took part of it and fed it on only flour and water. I fed it once per day. I wasn't really excited about the results, and I was filled with doubt. So I followed these instructions on Sourdough Home. I took about 1 tsp of my starter (yes, that is all), put it in a clean jar, added 3/8 c. flour and 1/4 c. water. After 12 hours I threw away half of my starter, and fed it the same amount again. I repeated this the next day and loved how it was looking--it was doubling every 12 hours. By day 3 I stopped discarding half of the starter. I doubled what I was feeding--in the morning I still did 3/8 c. flour and 1/4 c. water. At night I fed it 3/4 c. flour and 1/2 c. water. The next morning I planned on baking, so I fed it 1-1/2 c. flour and 1 c. water. I had quite a bit of starter at this point (about 4 c.). It sort of resembled a sticky goo...not runny. See how good it looks:

I decided to use about 3 c. of my starter and put the rest in a jar to feed and grow for the next time. The recipe I wanted to use had its own starter, and I was just guessing how much to make. I really had no idea...except that I had something like 3 c. of flour and 2 c. of water in the starter (maybe more?) and I wanted to cut the recipe in half (which had 4 c. flour and 4 c. water in its starter). So I literally just guessed.

I mixed together the following:
4 c. rye flour
2 c. bread flour
1 tbsp. salt
1/2 tsp. white sugar

Then I added:
3 c. (approx.) of starter

After mixing in the starter with a wooden (???) spoon, I added:
1c. warm water

And mixed it in the mixer:
After a while (the mixer could only do so well), I moved it out onto the counter to knead it. I did that for about 15 min. until my dough was nice and smooth (whatever that means--I used a timer). I put it into a bowl and let it rise for about 2 hours. I couldn't tell if it had doubled or not, but it was definitely rising. :)

After 2 hours I again took it out to knead it, this time for 5 min. (Apparently this "activates the gluten.") Then I shaped it into a loaf. Now I know a better way to shape my loaf, so next time I will try it. I also want to remember to roll it in oats--doesn't that sound nice? Anyways, here is what it looks like. The kids all thought it looked weird. I let it rise for another hour.

Then I baked it at 425F for close to an hour. How do you know when a loaf of bread is done? Found this great blog entry to help me.

According to Sourdough Home, it is better to wait until the next day to cut the bread, but we couldn't wait. Seriously, I was about to pass out with anticipation (and worry). Also by this time Patrick was home from school saying, "It smells good." I think that made me more worried...LOL.
We didn't wait. We cut it as soon as it was cool enough to touch. The final verdict? Patrick said, "I'm impressed."

Whew, what a relief!! :) By the way, the original recipe is called German Rye Bread (Bauernbrot) and you can find it here at Patrick likes to top his with jam, honey and butter, or Nutella. I'm growing my starter again and will try it again. I also want to make a white bread this time.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Spelling Fail

I hope this doesn't reflect too poorly on my abilities as a teacher!

Eden started to add a couple more words to the list, and I quickly realized she missed the point of the exercise. By now she is really embarrassed, so let all the shame fall on me, ok? :)

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Micah Measuring Up

I came across this old picture of Mitch and Micah the other day and had to post a comparison shot. The photo on the left is terrible, I know. It was taken 2 years ago when Mitch had just arrived home from Texas. His hair is ridiculously long because he didn't cut it at all during the 11 weeks he was there. I can't believe how much Micah has grown! I also found some video of Micah back then...we didn't notice his squeaky voice at the time, but it has me in stitches now. :) His voice deepened so gradually that it was hard to notice. Now if I am in another room I sometimes mistake him for Mitch, as do some people if Micah answers the phone [without saying who he is].

Some Micah stats again...

Size 30 inseam fits him perfectly...size 28 waist is terribly big.
Size 9.5 sneakers
Size 10 (men's) boots
63 inches tall (I'm only 65 inches)
Approx 94 lbs
-1, -1.25 correction in his glasses

A short interview:
Favorite subject in school: reading
Favorite sport: soccer
What he wants to be when he grows up: Something really lazy that makes a lot of money (oh boy!)
Favorite movie: maybe Princess Bride
Favorite books: Little House on the Prairie series
Favorite wii game: tie between wii fish, wii sing, and wii Mario Kart {Mitch said wii fish + wii sing = wii fishing LOL}
Would love to spend the day: fishing in Canada
Would buy with $1,000: ipod touch, and a nicer house for you (????)...change that to a wii, large screen tv, and an iphone (boy, this kid does not understand $1,000)
Coolest trick you can do: fish
Did you change your underwear today?: No. I changed my shirt, though!

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Wow, that was easy!

I want to do a little promo for one of my favorite free software programs. [No one from the company asked me to do this.] :) I have been using the program for a few years now to edit my photos.

Here are my favorite features:
  • Remarkably small file size means fast download and install
  • Easy to use
  • Wide variety of features such as red-eye reduction, special effects, reduce/resize photos, etc
  • FREE
  • (even has a Deutsche version...which, you know...anything German is cool around here)
Why do I like this program better than Picasa or even Creative Memories Memory Manager?

Well, different programs for different uses. Picasa online is good for managing my photos that I have posted on the web, creating albums to share, slideshows, etc. I like how easy it is to group and sort photos. I will not use it to edit photos, because opening the program and getting it set up is time-consuming. On the plus side, Picasa does sort images and it is also free. Irfanview does not sort or store images.

Memory Manager is the only program that I have ever spent money on to organize my photos. I LOVE Memory Manager. It does SO MUCH, and it makes backing up my photos a breeze (all my photos are backed up to DVD, which is almost the safest storage method). It's editing capabilities are superior and very easy to use, especially for most people.

Adobe is a professional level program and costs hundreds of dollars, so I won't even go there.

But let's say I want to upload pics to my blog and I need to do some fast editing? Or pics of diapers to my store or website? Or pics on ebay? Message boards? Facebook? Email? I will open Irfanview every time. It is fast to crop, rotate, resize, and anything else that I need to do. EASY!! After they are edited, then I may use photobucket or picasa online to store and share them.

So when I was creating the post of Malachi...the one with all the faces...I was just playing around. I randomly cropped his face from a series of pictures. I didn't fuss with making sure every picture was "exact", but I cropped quickly and tried to make them "about the same." As I worked, I saved each to a special folder to make them easy to find. Then I clicked on a button that Irfanview has called "create a panoramic image." I selected which photos I wanted to use in my image and voila! Irfanview created it perfectly in a nice, straight row. Wow, that was easy!

Like I said, I have been using the program for a long time. I have memorized some of the shortcut keys. For example, select an area that you want to crop with your mouse, then hit ctrl-y. Or ctrl-r to resize/resample a photo. Or 's' to save as. Or shift-g to adjust the colors and lighting. Or 'r' to rotate right, 'l' to rotate left. Or...I think you get the idea. Shortcuts do make some editing a lot faster, too. :)

So there, my long, boring tip for the day! Just one of my little secrets to how I do it "all." :)

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Re-runs Wearing Hand-Me-Downs

One day Mitch awoke from a nap. He looked to his right in the bed and thought to himself, "Micah & Eden are so cute." Then he realized what he was saying...Micah is 12 and Eden is 10. He was looking at Malachi & Tirzah. It feels a *little* (only a little, mind you) like watching a re-run of a really good show. So I devised a photo shoot to try to capture their likeness. It didn't turn out exactly as I'd hoped, but it was a lot of fun. One thing that it does for me is it least blessed we are. It was a special privilege to do this the first time around, and to get to do it twice, well, it just takes me breath away! [bummer I couldn't find the little head's been laying around here for months, and disappeared right when I needed it, of course]

{"Smile, Tirzah"}

{Daddy making his girl happy}


{click to see larger}

More to come...

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Mall of America

We took a trip down to the Mall of America in Bloomington yesterday. Besides dealing with traffic and a nasty detour on I494 that nearly drove {no pun intended} me crazy, we had a GREAT time!

We took Holly & Kyle with us...we were driving two vehicles already anyways, and they are a lot of fun. :) Not to mention a big help with the kids!
The kids were especially excited to see the Legos.

Tirzah did great pretty much the whole day. She went to sleep when Holly took a turn carrying her.
Probably the most fun was in the Air Traffic store that sells juggling stuff. Patrick was juggling diabolos and Mitch was juggling clubs. We got some of the store people to "play" with us. Mitch got some coaching on passing clubs, and at one point there were 4 of them all together passing clubs--it was insane to watch (and the store wasn't that big). I took video, so maybe I'll have to put it up later.

I also liked the Old Navy store. I found a pair of pants on clearance and a pink fleece shirt that just had to come home with me. Patrick and Micah found some things too. The bathroom at Old Navy was great...and so was the one in Nordstrom--it had couches. :)

I got to make a special stop in the Ritz Camera store to play with their Nikon D90 and 5000D. I have been researching digital SLR cameras for a few months now and simply can't wait until we can afford to buy one. I have already done a lot of research, but it was fun to hold a camera in my hand and ask questions from a clerk who knows a lot about them. Lucky me, I happened to find a guy who owns a Nikon D80, Canon 50D, and a Sony. So I could get his opinions on each brand. Later in Best Buy I got to "hold" a Canon T1i and XSi to compare them side by side to the Nikon. That was helpful too, but their batteries were dead and there was no helpful clerk nearby (!!!!). It was also the end of the day, and I only had about "30 seconds" to look. I always have been, and still am, leaning towards Nikon, but Canon is so much cheaper! Ahhhhh...someday!

Anyways, it was a fun way to spend our day. Church was fantastic today (as usual), too. Back to the normal grind tomorrow.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Tirzah is 6 months old!

Tirzah, at 6 months you

~weigh 16 lbs 7.5 oz (with clothes on)
~are 26" long
~have 2 teeth
~love your brothers

~can get around well on the floor by army crawling
~have some new BabyLegs that I bought on Ebay

~can push up on all fours

~eat oatmeal (infant cereal), carrots, and squash
~still breastfeed
~bit me once
~bit your own thumb once
~always chew on Patrick's ipod cord

~look JUST like Eden at 6 months

~still wear size 3-6 mo clothing (barely)
~still wear size small Pampered Cheeks diapers
~have never worn shoes
~prove why a child should never be left alone in a Bumbo seat

~wake up once or twice at night
~no longer take reflux meds (and rarely spit up)
~suck your thumb
~have a runny nose (which makes it hard to suck your thumb)
~"talk" when it gets too quiet around here

We are so thankful God gave you to us!!

Mitch's Leg

Well, Mitch had another appointment with the foot specialist today. Let me recap before I give the update:

July 18, 2009 -- date of initial injury

1 week -- walked on it, did not see doctor

Next 4 weeks or so -- did not know it was broken, walked on it (most of the time) in a boot/removable cast

Sometime in August-- saw doctor for follow-up, found out it was broken

Labor Day weekend -- went camping, didn't use boot at all

Sept 10th (8 weeks after injury)-- saw specialist, said absolutely no weight on it for 3 weeks (don't use foot at all)

October 1st (11 weeks) -- still broken, 3 more weeks of no weight

After 6 weeks of not using his foot at all (and I've been watching him!)...14 weeks from the injury date...

{drum roll please}

It's still broken. :(

All the weeks after the injury really did a lot of damage, and pretty much prevented his bone from healing. So while a fresh injury begins healing right away, it's difficult to make an old injury heal. Still the doctor said that 6 weeks is a really long time.

3 more weeks.

Mitch CAN walk on it some now for the next 2 weeks.

During the 3rd week he can try to walk in a regular shoe.

If the bone is still broken in 3 weeks, then they may discuss surgery. Physical therapy is guaranteed, however they won't begin until the bone is healed.

That's pretty much it!

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Wordless Wednesday

Yes, folks, they do look a lot alike!

Monday, October 19, 2009

Where did it go?

Wow, where in the world did the weekend go?

Thursday and Friday school was out so all the teachers could go to conferences. That meant Patrick was home from school (he's a superstar, if you didn't know, inspiring hourly "Patrick Reports" from our children...who are training to be paparazzi). It also meant that we had 2 extra children in daycare...who found daycare MUCH TO BORING after the first hour. Good for their teachers at school, bad for us.

Having no school also meant that Patrick had some late nights (why else would a teenager go to bed early if there is no school the next day?)...and so did Mitch (because Mitch wouldn't want to let Patrick have fun playing AOE without him). ;) Wednesday night Patrick went to a school football game and afterwards went with friends to play dodgeball at church. We're too old for that stuff (yeah, right), so he left us a note to tell us all about it: "IT WAS FUN! 8)" He later told me that he got to play an electric guitar and really enjoyed it. It must have been fun--he went back on Sunday night and then out to Applebee's with a group of friends. Friday night was the big AOE night with Mitch. They (Mitch, Patrick, and Micah) stayed up until 4:30 Mitch slept in a little on Saturday and we didn't see Patrick until almost noon. I honestly have to say that it is fun having a teenager in our home. And I really wouldn't mind if the rest of my children would catch on and figure out that sleeping in until noon on a Saturday morning is a good idea. ;)

I felt really crummy on Saturday (just a cold...not the flu), and bummed around as much as I could. I did part of my shopping in the morning and part later at night (with Mitch's help). I'm sorry to miss out on such a beautiful day. I wish we had all spent the weekend outside as much as possible. Sunday morning I felt better, but my voice wasn't so great. We all went to church (out the door by 8:45 am). Mitch is facilitating an adult Sunday School class on marriage. We are listening to John Piper. You can find the first sermon here. [disclaimer: the fact that we are leading a marriage class does not mean that we have "arrived" and have this whole marriage thing down. On the contrary, leading the class means that we will get extra teaching and will be present for every lesson.]

Sunday afternoon I got a nap--yay! The weather was beautiful. Our high was 61. I took Micah shopping and bought him some snowpants and boots. Get ready for this sobering reality--he wears a size 10 (men's) boots. I am just barely taller than he. He will pass me within the year. He is wearing a size 28 x 30 pants, but the waist is much too big. He is more like a size 26 waist, but finding those at a reasonable price may prove to be too hard. But he can't wear size 14 in boys anymore--the waist is too large and the legs are too short. :P

Tirzah is army-crawling everywhere. Her favorite place to go is right for Patrick's things. :) Hehe. She has a particular affinity for his ipod touch cable and his laptop cable, but last night she also discovered the joy of eating his homework. We enjoyed many laughs over the thought of explaining that to his teacher. Patrick just smiled and said, "I'm going to keep it!" LOL He smoothed out what was left of his crumpled worksheet and put it away in his binder.

Tirzah's reflux is getting better to the point where I have been able to stop giving her reflux meds. She now has this same cold, however, and that is interfering with her ability to suck her thumb, which is then interfering with her ability to fall asleep. While I can use a variety of methods to get her to sleep during the day, I typically don't want to use any at 3:30 am (I want to be able to nurse her, then drift right back to sleep). So we have had a few nights now of being awake for over an hour and not going back to sleep until mommy gets up and rocks the poor girl. :( Poor mommy didn't want to wake up on this lovely Monday morning!

Well here we are on Monday. It is beautiful and sunny again and 52F. Maybe autumn did not abandon us after all. We are back to the school grind. Grind...that's a good word to describe how this Monday feels as far as motivating my oldest two to get their work done! Among other important things on our schedule this week, one of the most important is Mitch sees the doctor about his leg again this Thursday. We are praying for good news. If all is well and he can walk on it again, we are hoping to head to the Mall of America next weekend. :) that was a long and windy blog post!!

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Less than 24 hours

Please visit my friend Angel's blog to pray for them. In less than 24 hours a court hearing will take place in Ethiopia to determine if the 2 precious boys they are adopting will be forever theirs. We lift them up in prayer!

Monday, October 12, 2009

Happy Birthday, Zeke!

Zeke is 6 years old today.

Zeke, at 6 years old, you

~just learned how to read
~can count all the way to 100
~remind me of the little boy from the Family Circus cartoons--you go EVERYWHERE just to get a simple task done
~have more energy than a squirrel
~are more sensitive than any of us realize
~have a good memory
~hear everything I say
~selectively obey everything I say
~love the color yellow
~are willing to try new foods
~like to be like your daddy
~get excited about new clothes
~have a new ipod shuffle (and think you're so cool)
~don't know when to quit
~just started swimming lessons and learned to dive for rings
~have curly hair (that is not as curly as before)
~get lots of compliments about your curly hair
~have a volume level stuck on "high"
~sweat pure energy
~say "What??" when I give you "the look"
~usually know exactly "what" the look is for
~ROCK OUT at Mario Kart Wii (you can beat Mommy AND Daddy)
~are very unlikely to sit through an entire sermon
~think the church building is a gym and the service is an aerobic workout
~are loved by your Sunday School teachers
~stay dry at night almost every night (but still have an accident occasionally)
~are really good at hitting a baseball
~don't like taking naps, going to bed early, or laying down for "quiet time"
~are not camera shy
~can't smile for the camera
~run to Daddy and throw yourself on his lap while saying "Corn on the Cob, Dad"
~then giggle, "Don't get me, Dad!!"
~are most likely (of all your brothers) to jump from the couch onto Tirzah (accidentally, of course)

We love you lots and lots little Buddy!!

In other news, we received nearly an inch of snow on Saturday. It hasn't snowed that much here on October 10th since the 1950s. Mitch said I can say this: Yep, global warming. ;) Today, October 12th, we are receiving quite a bit more snow.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

Family Pictures

We got Kristin's help yesterday snapping a family picture for us yesterday. She kept pressing the shutter button...she was great...and took over 20 shots of us. Funny, the first one was my favorite! :) Then I took individual pictures of each of the kids. Just as we were done, Mitch snapped a picture of me, and Micah got a picture of the two of us. It was fairly cold out--about 45F--but this October has been so cold and rainy, it may be the best day we get. :) This morning I woke up with Tirzah around 2:30 am. I peered outside to see clouds blowing quickly away, leaving us with a dust of snow. I *think* that October 10th is the earliest we have ever had snow in my years in Central Minnesota. Blah.

{Micah, age 12}

{Eden, age 10.5}

{Caleb, age 8.75}

{Zeke, age 6}

{Josh, age 4}

{Malachi, age 2}

{Tirzah, age 5.5 months}
{Patrick, age 17}

{Steph, feeling like 29, and Mitch, age 33}

Friday, October 09, 2009


I had to take a picture of her while she was mad so that you could see what I found today...2 tiny new teeth came in at the same time. She is only 5 1/2 months old, folks. That's about 2 months earlier than my other kids!! (click on the photo to see them closer)