"Home is the place where, when you have to go there, they have to let you in."

-- Robert Frost

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Yogurt

This one is every bit as simple as the last and will forevermore be a regular at our house.


Recently, my mom came through and in our course of conversation, she asked if I'd ever tried making yogurt. She expressed the simplicity, but the catch seemed to be the need for a dehydrator or a constantly watched oven at low temps.

A little research led me to find that yogurt is easily made in the crock pot or even sitting on a heating pad. It worked the first time to my satisfaction and now, I'll most likely do this weekly.

Yogurt:

Needs:

Greek Yogurt as a starter
2% or Whole milk (not ultra pasteurized)
thermometer (I just used ye ol' meat thermometer as an indicator)
crock pot

Put 1 quart of milk (4 cups) in the crock pot and turn it on high. Heat milk to 180 degrees. This takes about 4 hours so just leave it and wait.

Turn off crock pot and cool milk to between 108 - 112 degrees. This takes about an hour so just leave it and wait.

Whisk in 1/2 cup of Greek Yogurt. I used this kind to get the most actively natural cultures I could get. Other brands will work, just make sure there are not a whole lot of additives and that the cultures are live acting cultures.

Put the lid on and cover with a couple of towels to sit over night.

In the morning, I had a crock pot of yogurt. Apparently, the amount of milk you use will determine the amount of yogurt produced. I whisked it well right in the crock pot to smooth out any lumpiness and then poured it into jars to chill in the fridge.

You can mix in fruit, honey, or vanilla before chilling if you like. Unsweetened it tastes like sour cream and can be used as such. This morning, I put a pineapple in the blender to serve as a topping along with walnut granola.

I'm all for easy, and this one's easy!

Post editorial: I did find that taking the lid off to cool the milk, I was able to shorten the cooling process without my crock pot going entirely cold. Stir in the 1/2 cup of yogurt quickly and recover to keep in as much warmth as possible without having to reheat the crock pot. Also, make sure when the kids are snarffing it down that you keep the last 1/2 cup to make your next batch. That way, you never need to make yogurt again. Credit: "A year in slow cooking"

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

How did we get here?

Sometimes my heart really does skip a beat when I see this man coming my way. Yes, I'm aware of how sappy that sounds.

Not too long ago, he asked me out on our Friday night date but had some work to complete at the office and asked if I'd meet him there. The building was quietly empty when I arrived and he still needed a minute to finish a few things. I sat on his personal office couch enjoying the companionable silence as he wrapped up the days tasks. I couldn't help but wonder how we had gotten here.

There he sat on the other side of a desk, suit clad, serious expression fully engrossed in a world that I know so little about. He's only mine a very short part of my day and the rest belongs to clients and employees. I know him so well and yet my portion of him is actually so little.

Where did the sweat shirts with college emblems go? The backwards baseball cap? The fun before all else? When did the needs of an entire family (and an entire firm) creep in to make each decision so weighty?

And yet, he does it all so well. With exactness. With precision. He gets the job done. Impeccably so.

Yesterday, I received an email. Not just any email. A "reminder" email sent by an iphone application. You see, he's taken to making a list of things he needs accomplished during a day's time. The application sends out reminders to those on the task list. My task looked something like this:

Newel Linford uses the Action Method and has delegated an Action Step to you (this means that Newel Linford wants you to do something!).

"Hey Marlowe - When are you going to use your 24 hr fitness membership? It's costing us $50 a month."
Target Date: By 09/29/2010

Leaving me thinking, "Oh no you didn't". It's a good thing I love that man. His precision. His exactness. But today, I wonder if he's asking himself "How did I get here?"

Mayonnaise

It's in a lot of stuff we eat. Deviled eggs, Cesar and ranch dressings, chicken and tuna fish salad, not to mention it's the "glue" that holds most sandwiches together. But what's in that store bought kind? Ever looked?


When I run out, I usually run to the store. But recent discovery has lead me to the realization that I can whip up a batch faster than I can load a baby in a car seat -- almost.

Give it a try!

Mayo from Scratch

2 egg yolks
2 TBLS vinegar or lemon juice
2 TBLS water
1 tsp honey
1 tsp dry mustard
1/2 tsp salt
dash of pepper
1 cup of cooking oil (here I'm using peanut just for preference)

In a small saucepan, whisk together all but the oil. Cook on lowest heat setting so as not to scramble the eggs, stirring constantly until it bubbles around the edges of the pan. Remove from heat to cool for a minute and then pour into a blender. Blend while slowly adding the oil to whip (altering the amount of oil makes a lighter mayo but the consistency will be thinner). Put in a container and chill in the fridge.

It's that easy.

(Credit: This recipe was in a brochure by the American Egg Board that I received at the Denver Stock Show)

Monday, September 27, 2010

White Fence Farms

Our weekends used to feel so crowded with stuff. Sometimes they still are but I sure do love it when we get to fill them with family outings of our choosing instead.

This is one of our favorite places in Denver. With it's beautiful gift shop barn, live ongoing entertainment, "pig chute" slide from the top of the silo for the kids, carriage museum and rides, country grounds with peacocks and tire swing, all for the price of a fantastic family style chicken dinner -- White Fence Farms in Lakewood makes for a fun fall afternoon. It takes me back to my childhood in North Carolina as its similarities are uncanny.


Their gift shop is what they call a beam and peg construction -- not a nail in sight. It's breathtaking and its contents are dizzying.


Nickle candies, crafts on every surface. My favorite is the Christmas room. The sights and smells just speak to me. Eliza's expression mimics my every feeling:




Lots of areas to play, a duck pond, and my kids are dying for a tree house like this one:




We indulged in their dinner and because we have done so well on our natural dietary changes, we didn't feel a moment's guilt over their corn "critters" (Thanks for the laugh, Grant. Though we know they're fritters, they do look like critters!)



More cute shops in the back, Grandma's pantry and a music store.


And a petting zoo where one lucky goat thought he'd found a mound of straw.


I love a Saturday of porch rocking chairs, fall air and memories both old and new. It's time well spent.


Friday, September 24, 2010

Always room to grow

I read somewhere (I can't remember where or I'd share my source) that most arguments with pre-teen to teen-age kids could be avoided if parents would allow themselves to grow with their children.

At first I scoffed.

I don't want my children to grow up. I want to keep them as they are right now. I like moving as a group without any external interruptions. They all work well together. Bringing in a third party sometimes rocks the boat. Let one go off with friends and those left behind pine and grump about the favors granted to the one. Not to mention, my mind has to constantly roam about one being missing, wondering what they are up to, remembering to go get them. I like having all of my eggs in one basket all of the time. I like having a set bedtime where everyone disappears at once giving me a minute of "me" time at the end of my night. I like things my way and my way is a one size fits all plan.


But ... They are growing up. And I've got to grow up with them and trust that they will make correct decisions based on what we've been teaching them.

Yes, I'd prefer it if they wouldn't listen to the popular music out there. But, I'm oh so pleased when I hear them turn off a song that they, themselves, deem inappropriate.

Yes, I have no desire to take my daughter and her friends hither thither and yon (aren't they still too young for that?). But, I get a really warm feeling inside as I'm driving along listening to their innocent banter in the back seat and realize that she really knows how to choose great friends.

Yes, I worried to death about putting my 6th grade son on a high school bus to get to Jr. High, but have been so relieved to hear of his efforts to separate himself from the muck that goes on there.

Yes, I dislike that the boys are starting to look at the girls and the girls at the boys (aren't the still too young for that?). But, if I listen without passing judgement, I hear all openly and need not worry about their own decisions.

And yeah, I do miss the days when they all went off to bed at our designated time. But love, love, love to have the older ones stay a minute longer on the foot of my bed to tell all about who's doing what at school, church and everywhere in between.


So, maybe it's true. Teach them correctly, watch them as they grow, and trust in their ability to make good choices. The milestones are going to happen and I want to be there. The teen stuff is coming, like it or not. Inside, I'll grit my teeth but if I can do it, growing with them will build a better relationship and hopefully, they will stay close.

And maybe one day, I'll be able to grow into the knowledge that in no time at all, I'll have children driving my cars.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

100% Honey Whole Wheat Bread

All makers of bread will swear by their recipe. But, it takes trial and error and everything is dependent on conditions. I've got dry climate, high altitude, and cool temps to work with. Nevertheless, here's what I've come up with after much failure and it's pretty darn good.



First I grind my wheat. I've tried both red and white winter wheat. Red makes a heartier bread and by that I mean darker in color, richer in texture and a little heavier by nature. White wheat is lighter and fluffier. Both are good.

I combine in my mixing bowl:

5 Cups of tepid water (my freshly ground flour is usually still warm)
1/2 Cup of oil
1 Cup of honey
2 Heaping TBLS of yeast
2 Heaping TBLS of vital wheat gluten dough enhancer (I've got altitude issues)

I mix and then add 7 Cups of flour, one at a time. Then I cover the whole bowl with a towel and let it sit for 30 minutes until it's nice and bubbly. Here's where I take the salt out and set it by the mixer so I don't forget it in the next stage -- I've done that more than once.

Then add:

5 Cups of flour plus enough to make the dough not extremely sticky. Wheat dough is always a little sticky, I think, but when pinched it shouldn't glue itself to your fingers. And, it should be sliding around in the mixing bowl. I've found here that more flour is better than less because a wetter dough will rise really pretty and then fall in the baking leaving your hopes and dreams flat on the floor.

2 level TBLS of salt -- DO NOT FORGET (or you'll be making a lot of french toast tomorrow)

Mix for five minutes and then put in a well oiled bowl to rise. I cover the bowl with plastic wrap for less sticking.

Rise for 1 hour until double. Punch down and divide into four equal parts. Shape into loaves, slapping each to expel any air bubbles and tuck into four well oiled pans.

I let these rise in my bottom oven with the light on for 30 to 40 minutes making sure the dough doesn't begin to flow over the edge of the pans. Otherwise, the loaves tend to flatten a bit in baking. A nice round rise is good.

Heat my top oven to 350 degrees. Move the loaves carefully from the bottom oven to the top and bake for 35 to 40 minutes. Cool 10. Remove from pans and cool another 10 before slicing.

I need to make twice as many loaves and slice half of them to bag and store in the freezer but that requires more pans -- and another trip to the store. Wheat can be bought online here or even at your local Vitamin Cottage. And if you don't have a grinder, whole wheat from ye ol' grocery store works well, too.

Slathered with melted butter and a heap o' honey -- the kids live for coming off the bus on a day when mom has made a batch of bread.

(Credit where credit is due: Thanks Mom and Meg for helping me get it right. This cross between your recipes is perfect!)

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Fruit Granola

A breakfast favorite around here. I really need to make this in bulk quantities. There are a lot of ways to jazz this recipe up but I'm usually corner cutting and trying to make things simple.


  • 5 cups of oatmeal
  • 2 cups of coconut (I prefer unsweetened organic raw)
  • 1 cup of your favorite nuts
I put these in a bowl first. Then add:
  • 1/2 cup of oil (I use peanut simply because it's a less processed oil)
  • 2/3 cup of honey
  • 1 TBLS of cinnamon
Mix well and spread on a cookie sheet. Bake in a 350 degree oven for 10 minutes. Stir and bake 5 more minutes until toasted.

Now, I've added raisins, cranberries (though most have sugars added), dried apples, banana chips etc, before toasting but I've found that the dried fruits get too toasty tasting. I stir in my dried fruits after I take the hot granola out of the oven. I found some great "just fruit" dried berries at our local natural grocers. If you are lucky enough to have a dehydrator, make your own to add in. As the tray cools, the granola dries nicely.

It's impossible to keep around for long.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

I'm a mom on a mission.



For lots of reasons, I'm trying to get my family eating only naturally grown and raised foods. I know ... I know, it makes us sound weird. That doesn't mean there won't be the occasional ice cream cone or dinner out in the future. The kids don't need to cry because a friend at school brought birthday donuts and now they can't have one. I remember my parents doing that to us as kids and it was so hard, though as an adult I can see now what they were trying to accomplish.

I'm doing it for a lot of reasons. Good health, alertness and mental clarity, support of local farming, elimination of artificial everything. I've got a tower of soapboxes so high, it may, in the end, topple over and leave me laying on the ground upside down with my skirt over my head but I'm giving it a go just the same. I like processed and packaged for convenience just as good as the next guy. I'm quick to take the easy way out nine times out of ten. This is going to take a little more work on my part and I can't say we won't have a set back or two. But I love the self sufficiency of feeding my family off what the good Lord intended for our consumption.

It comes at you from all angles, the garbage. Then we wonder why we are tired, or this headache won't go away, or our kids can't seem to focus, or they're too off the wall. I'm no expert but maybe there's a connect to what we are putting into our bodies and how that nourishes our minds. I want my family to make better choices and those choices start at home where 95% of their meals are produced. And so I've been making a change.

Good intentions start with a plan. So here we go: No white flour, white or refined sugars, dyes, preservatives, corn byproducts, etc.

And I came up with three weeks worth of meals that take only natural ingredients:


We're already two weeks in and here's how things are going:

For the first two weeks we've eliminated all desserts to wean ourselves off of the "need" for something sweet. Next week I'll try some recipes substituting honey or dried raw cane juice (sucanant) for family night treats. It's made the kids more aware of their sugar intake on a daily basis. I was so excited to see one of the children choose gum rather than candy out of a prize bowl at the school fundraiser this week because, as she told me later, it was a better choice.

Some recipes will have to be tried and tried again. I fail, I'll admit it, but with some minor changes some things get better with practice.

My family will eat just about anything with good bread as a side. Bread is key. It really is the staff of life. I spent every day, two batches a day, simply trying to perfect the right loaf of 100% honey, whole wheat bread last week. We're talking from grinding the wheat straight through to the end. I've made half white/half wheat for years but that all wheat thing is quite a hurtle. And every bread maker you talk to will swear by their recipe but it's all subjective. I finally succeeded on Thursday after a long week of making everything from french toast to croutons out of flopped loaves. But, good bread on the side will forgive any other trial and error in the main dish area along the way. I wanted to make sure I had that one under my belt right out of the starting gate.


Bulk up -- and no, that doesn't mean store up fat for the winter because mom's got a crazy notion to starve us from the good stuff. To keep from getting burned out in the cooking and baking department, I've got to know how much my family will eat. I made two trays of homemade granola last week that lasted one hour. Best to spend one school morning making a bucket's worth rather than sighing over the fact that it was inhaled so darn quickly.

And, I do cut corners. I could make my own peanut butter and may try it just for kicks, but the natural grocery store in town does the same thing -- without the kitchen mess. On the flip side, I whipped up some mayonnaise from scratch the other day which left me wondering why I'd ever taken so much time to drive to the store, take kids out of the car, go in, put bottled mayo in my cart, fight same kids off the candy at the check out, and make the return trip home with crying folks in the back seat. Some things are that easy.

Dinner extras make good kid's lunches. Fruit is always on hand as a snack so no one gets hungry because blood sugar levels are also key.

And above all: Don't get discouraged (like that day I had to confiscate the case of Diet Coke I found in the trunk of my husband's car)

My children have finally moved from groaning about my ruination of all their fun to actually looking forward to what I might make next. I do so love the simple things in life, the back to basics. Our transition has been easier than I thought and it makes me feel good to be living off of the land. I'm excited about the new things we are trying and tweaking and want to keep a record of successful recipes along the way. Not all of the recipes are mine but giving credit where due, I'll log them as favorites along with their sources. And if you have one your family loves -- please share it! We'd love to try it too.

Now, if we can just get through the Halloween to Easter candy gauntlet -- wish us luck!



Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Don't forget.

There are a few things I really want to remember right now.

How Eliza's hand feels in mine as she practices walking across the kitchen with her awkward steps. She can barely make it with her face turned upward, looking so pleased at me.

That I can get motivation out of Christian so much better with a good talk and encouragement rather than a frustrated frown. He's such an intelligent guy. I want him to know that I value him.

How much Annie adores her school uniforms. I would never have guessed that there could have been so much decision making each day over how to pair plaid and polo. I'm glad she's pleased with her decision to attend a different school. I'm thankful that a problem she studied out in her mind has turned out to be the right answer for her.

That Janie needs a hug every day. She's got a self assured exterior but is really tender on the inside. She needs to know she's loved ... daily.

Grant's pleasure in simple things. Like pajama's, hot baths, a good scare. He's got the most creative thinking going on all of the time and when it comes out of his mouth, I just get a kick out of his ideas.

And how easily Celia opened up and just sat and talked with my mom when she and my father dropped in to spend the night on their way east this week.

I remember my dad saying to me that what makes a good friend is one who can really listen. My mom has always been so good at that. She puts it all down and as long as you require her time, her full focus is on what you have to say. All of my little people could talk to her for hours and she would just let them and show interest in their every word. It's always been that way.

I want to be more like that.

It bears reminding to set it all aside, put down the list in my head, stop watching the clock or thinking of what I've got to do next. To soak in each second, to take advantage of every moment, to never let an opportunity pass me by.


Reminder to self: Don't forget.

The Devil Wears Prada

Oldest girl of nine kids, I surprisingly had my own room -- for awhile. Somehow, I don't remember baby number nine ever sleeping in a crib. All I remember is a tired mother handing me a toddler and begging me to hang on to her while she went to get some sleep.

That mother never came back.

And baby number nine slept with me in a double bed all the way until I abandoned her for college.

With the bed sharing came other sharing. She was there for every slumber party with my friends. She came on ride alongs for shopping. I took her on outings to the local beauty pageants and talent shows, young women's church activities, and she was always my dance partner at our rockin' New Year's Eve parties. There were pedicures, makeovers, bubble baths, hair accessory making, french braid practices, you name it, we indulged. I pretty much rotten-ed her up. Check her out here if you don't believe me. She's so fantastic. She's every inch a product of my jumpstart into life. Even our mother will say so -- but hey, I hope that nap was worth it, Mom.

Yesterday, it was time.

While at the store, my girl and I cruised the shoe section and the love affair began. I tried the first pair on her but that just wouldn't do. She had to try them all. And try them we did.





Ah, child of my heart, you brought back so many memories. I just have this way with last babies. And now, as Aunt E would say, "We need new outfits to go with those new shoes, don't we darlin' ?"

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

A game called Memory Lane

"Oh, Rise all loyal Cougs, and hurl your banner to the foe..."


Yes, we brainwash our children. We make them relive our college memories. We pump them so full of BYU in the hopes they'll follow in our footsteps. Those days were the best.


Last Saturday, September 11th, the Cougars played at Air Force just down from our house. It's for the last time as I understand our team leaves this conference next year. Win or lose, the game is always fun.


(I do love that man in the bottom, right hand side kissing his baby -- so cute.)

Those Air Force guys are really something, I'll give them that.


They've got this great airplane on their campus which Grant would have given anything to climb on. Except Grant could have fit inside of one of those engines.


These fellas who buzzed us right over the stadium. Okay, that was pretty cool.

And soldiers on every corner ready to machine gun anyone getting too out of line. I didn't take any pictures of them because I didn't want to get pistol whipped or something.


Fans who are not too proud to do the wave in full uniform. Showoffs.


Push ups for touchdowns and field goals. If you ask me, when your team spanks the other team, you really should have to do push ups. It eases the pain of the losers.


This ginormous football field covering flag and moment of silence at half time in remembrance of September 11th. My throat hurt swallowing back the emotion as I stood there surrounded by those who serve to keep our country safe.


The Falcon mascot that swooped past the heads of the crowd but missed his finishing mark and flew straight into the wall. Poor bird. After a brief millisecond of concern, I caught myself wondering if that was a good omen for the Cougars.


Apparently not, as no amount of concentration could have turned the tide for our team.

Those Air Force folks have got it all. And what have we got??? Nothin'. Nothin' but spirit ... "We got spirit, yeah, yeah, yeah, ... we got spirit, yeah, yeah, yeah ..."

Okay, I'll stop that now. We lost.

But I did love how this baby shoved her little fanny between the two Air Force fans in front of us. I didn't even apologize for her. That's right. Make way for Cougars. (Just kidding. I did apologize.)


And that these guys did have such a good time together.


I loved telling my girls stories of how we used to sneak in bags of tortillas to throw like Frisbees from the upper deck down to the field below. You'd get in trouble for that now. And how as a freshman, I met two football players in the dorm cafeteria and it was like talking to rock stars and I was tongue tied and giddy. And how I had a class with Ty Detmer (even though it was in a huge auditorium.) And how I substitute taught a beginning ballet class once in college with a couple of red shirting football players in it.


Back when I was a child, my dad took me to a Clemson football game and I spent the entire time pointing out everything going on around me except the game itself. Distracted from enjoying the game, he came home telling my mother he'd never take me again. Yeah, sorry Dad, not much has changed.


Good times for sure.

And then Sunday, a new couple in our ward spoke introducing themselves as the Wakefield's and mentioning their BYU dance backgrounds. "You don't suppose they're related to Lee and Linda Wakefield, the dance department chair(couple) of BYU do you?" I asked Newel, excited at the prospect of their greatness.

Shrug. How should he know and why should he care?

Seconds later, a new revelation and bingo, they are a son and daughter in law. "How old do you think they are?" I asked Newel again. "25, ... sshhh!" came the answer. Quick math in my head -- 25 minus 15 years. Yeah, that's right. They were ten years old when I was taking college dance classes from their parents for my own dance major.

That's Annie's age for anyone who was wondering.

And there you have it. Don't throw your back out while you're hurling that banner to the foe.