Monthly Archives: July 2012

Bread-baking

Among the many things I’m allergic to are sesame seeds.  Now, most breads (even those that don’t have sesame on the top) still include sesame in their ingredients.  I was eating a delicious store-bought whole wheat potato bread when the next time we bought it, it had sesame!  I was SO very disappointed.  And haven’t been able to find a bread to eat since.

For Valentine’s Day, my boy bought me a huge bread cookbook.  It’s amazing! It has so many different recipes.  And I have picked it up several times, often with the intent of baking.  I even went to the store and bought a new all purpose flour, a self-rising flour, and some packs of yeast.  But something always came up.  Either I ran out of time, or I got overwhelmed at such a new experience, knowing that if I did it wrong, my bread wouldn’t come out well.

Well, I still plan to make my own bread with my own hands.  But in the meantime, I realized that with grad school starting, I’m going to want bread and I’m not going to always have time to punch and knead and mix.  Enter: The Bread Machine.

The Bread Machine!

With all the ingredients mixed and poured in the pan super-quickly, we’re ready to make bread.  Watching the bread maker was often a nervous experience for me.  What if my yeast wasn’t good?  What if something went wrong?  But it was also magical– as cooking often is.  Pour in the ingredients.  Wait a few hours.  And Poof!  Deliciousness!

Little Dough

You can barely see it through the reflection in the glass, but to the right is the little ball of dough!  And below is the third rise– it takes three hours to make this loaf– so we were counting down at this point!  Over half done!

Almost ready to bake!  3rd rise.  Time Check!

And here we’re baking!  Half-way through the hour bake cycle.

Bread a-bakin'! Image

Image All done!!

And for lunch the next day…!

Image

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What are we waiting for?

As I’ve mentioned (I think), I am soon-to-be moving into my very own apartment, my very first apartment.  Although I still plan to be home on weekends to be close to my awesome mom, family, friends, church, and do some laundry– moving an hour away allows me to be super-close to school while avoiding some of the down-sides to on-campus living (lack of privacy, sharing a bathroom, and a kitchen full of allergens in my case!).  

The prep for this big step has led to many feelings.  There is joy in brightly colored dishtowels.  There is fear of loneliness.  There is excitement about setting up a home, and cooking, and thoughts of having company over.  There is sadness to be leaving my home now, with my mom and my comfortable life, even if I will be home for most weekends.  I am brainstorming of how I want to decorate; the feel I want to create , the pictures I want around, how I want to remember my grandparents in my new space– a space I think they would have loved.  

And then something happened the other day.  I was making Green Pea Pesto, with the hopes of blogging about it (note: a great alternative as a nut-free pesto! I would however, alter the recipe.  I may tackle this in another post.).  Well, while tasty, there were some, umm, technical difficulties with the creation of this dish.  The recipe describes a 5-minute process of tossing the ingredients into a blender and being done with it.  Well, my usually very reliable blender just wouldn’t blend the thick consistency of the peas and the garlic– the bit of oil just wasn’t enough liquid.  But at first, I thought my blender had broken.  So I put it in my mini-blender, which is also usually a fabulous little thing with enough power but the size of a single serving (that becomes a travel cup).  Still nothing.  Both motors spun the blades, severing the closest peas and sending them flying, leaving the blades spinning while the pesto remained untouched in a circle around it.  Finally, I wound up mashing the rest of the peas, and picking out the rest of the un-pulverized garlic, which was unpleasant (the dish was also far too garlic-y, and I am a big fan of my garlic).  This led me to the realization, that this recipe may call for a food processor.  I’ve never owned one.  Talking to mom, she suggested that maybe I should think of getting one.  Most are reasonably priced and are fairly multi-functional, able to blend and chop and do all other kinds of things. 

Which gets me to my point:  Although I love to cook, I had never considered getting a food processor before.  To me, this always seemed like a “big” item.  Something I wanted, but didn’t really need.  Something that I’d put on a bridal shower registry, not buy for myself.  

But why not?  Do I need pesto so desperately?  No.  But why is cooking for myself in a kitchen only owned by me less legitimate than my “someday” kitchen where my husband and I both cook and there’s two of us (and at some point maybe a couple of kids)?  While I have been in save-money mode– if and when I have money, I don’t flinch much at buying gifts for others (if, say, I had to buy a food processor off a friend’s bridal registry).  I also wouldn’t flinch if I was treating myself to a new techy item.  Or to put it on a birthday or Christmas wishlist, in the very least.  But there has been something “off limits” about a food processor, although I didn’t realize I felt that way.  (Apparently, a bread machine brings up similar feelings for me.)  

What are we waiting for?  What else am I not doing for silly reasons?  What are you not doing?  

You may never “arrive.”  So for the little things, don’t wait!  Use the good china.  Write until all the stationery is gone.  Save up for the coveted item.  Watch the movie (I’ve not seen a lot of movies waiting to go with someone I *promised* to go with).  To quote my dear Eleanor (Roosevelt), “You must do the thing you think you cannot do!” 

What are you waiting for? 

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Hobbit-apartment?

Dreamt last night of moving in to my new apartment.  But I had two or three apartments to choose from, somehow.  In one of them, half the apartment was narrow and tunnel-like– and low so I couldn’t stand up in it (I’m only 5’1″ so that says something!).  I woke up feeling confident about my housing choice for next year… as there was a real-life decision to be made and there has been question lately as to if I made the right one. 

I also woke thinking maybe I was reading The Hobbit too long before bed last night 🙂  

Happy Weekend, WordPress! 

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Reflection on “The Happiness Project”

One of the concepts discussed in The Happiness Project is the idea that small periods of deprivation from an item may bring greater happiness when it is (re)introduced.  We get used to the things we have, and therefore appreciate them less.  Additionally, the happiness begins with the desire.  We enjoy the party far before the event– it’s the wait, the planning.  We enjoy the item we bought online– the delay, the anticipation of the package’s arrival, the opening of the box.  

Today, eating a chunk of cantaloupe (juicy, orange, and perfect), I thought about the fact that I tend to see these deprivations as self-inflicted periods of abstinence (from a happy place, a happy food, etc).  Really, though, God’s design is so lovely, so pure and so meant to bring us happiness.  Fruits become ripe in certain seasons, not others: natural periods of deprivation!  Nowadays, we can beat the cycle.  We import fruits from where they are currently growing in the world in season– but this is more costly and even now there is the push (both economically and ecologically) to “eat local”– and (therefore) in season.  And truly, most agree that these are the freshest and tastiest– which makes them the most enjoyable. 

Now, I’m not saying we should only eat local food (although it’d be nice) or that we should never import something or eat a frozen fruit (your February birthday still warrants your favorite blueberry pie!).  But, as a general, eating things in season is a gift.  Something to be looked forward to, something to bring happiness.

Depending on where you live, there are other natural deprivations– sunshine, rain, warm and cool weather, snow– pick your fancy.  They all cycle through, creating times and periods of deprivation and plenty.  A natural boost to our happiness.  And who is to say that this was not created in this way simply for our pleasure?  (A challenge to those with views of a far-off, uninvolved, or apathetic God.) 

My views on happiness are complex, and a topic for another blog.  But the truth is, it seems the original plan was happiness.  Not as an Extreme Good.  Not as the Highest Priority.  But certainly as part of the goal.  Eden was a happy place.  A garden– where all the parts of happiness Gretchen Rubin identified would be satisfied: plenty of feeling good, never feeling bad, always feeling right, and growth all around in the form of garden-tending, relationships, etc.  

I also remember discussing in an English class once if we could really know Good (which I believe was equated with happiness) without the presence of Evil.  Now, as a Christian, I know Good must be able to exist without Evil– because it did.  Whether it was hours or days or years or decades or centuries– before  sin Good existed purely alone.  (I’m sure many traditions have a similar “fall of man” story.  Pandora’s box comes to mind…)  But then the question stands– would we appreciate this state of purity?  I was never sure.  My life has never been simple or easy.  While never diagnosed as clinically depressed, I have dealt with many periods of what I would call depression.  To me, my life has been marked by challenge, outsidership, heartache, and grieving.  There have also been fabulous, happy times, but as with happiness, often the sad stick out more to mind, and since my adolescence, I would say this is mostly true.  And for a very long time, I definitely felt that my happiness was based on the foundation of what my sadness made me feel.  I certainly felt this way during this English class, and for years after.  

I disagree now.  Eden meets happiness criteria.  And even with our ability to get used to things and therefore undervalue them, seasons allow natural periods of deprivation and cycle that would naturally recharge us! Additionally, how many of us had happy childhoods despite what more trial-ridden teen years would bring?  Our happiness as children was not based on our experience with trauma or heartache.  It was pure.  Had we not run into troubles as we grew up, we may have stayed the naturally happy kids we once were.  Now, we must work at it more.  Some of us may undertake happiness projects.  Sometimes, they can start with a piece of fresh, seasonal fruit.  

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Home and The Hobbit.

I have a great deal to catch up on here.  Like the fact that, for school, I have been preparing to move into my very first, very own apartment.  

I also started reading The Hobbit yesterday.  Which is one of a great many things I have wanted to do for a very long time.  Every so often, I try to do something I’ve “always wanted to do.”

Which gets me to my point, this quote:

“His house was perfect, whether you liked food, or sleep, or work, or story-telling, or singing, or just sitting and thinking best, or a pleasant mixture of them all.  Evil things did not come into that valley.” –The Hobbit, J.R.R. Tolkien

I believe I seek my home to fit this description.  

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The Happiness Project.

Hello World! Although I don’t share often anymore, I had to share this.  Just finished Gretchen Rubin’s book The Happiness Project.  Excellent, Excellent, Excellent!  A domestic Eat, Pray, Love (which reminds me, I should finish Eat, Pray, Love this summer, too…).  An inspirational journey of happiness.  It reminds me a bit of my starting this blog, trying to accentuate the creative in my life– my own source of happiness.  

The book includes facts, quotes and other happiness-related suggestions.  And I loved every page. 

In the one week that it took me to read?  I even noticed changes in my own life:

1) I cleared my financial clutter.  Old credit statements, receipts, bills– that are not related to taxes– are now shredded!  I wasn’t sure how long to keep these things (since bank statements should be kept for 7 years…), but upon some google searching and reading suggestions on several financial sites, I got my answers and cleared out my file cabinet.  It was stuffed full– now there’s EXTRA space!

2) I started to stretch in the morning.  With my arthritis, I get very stiff and moving in the morning is hard (I actually didn’t realize HOW hard until I started doing yoga, then stopped–).  It’s even harder on rainy days or humid summer mornings.  So even if I don’t have time or I’m too sore for yoga, I at least stretch.  In the morning, before bed, and sometimes even in between.

3) I eat a bit better.  Rubin is the first person I know who seems to acknowledge what I’ve already known about myself– physical comfort is a basis of happiness.  “Not letting myself get too hungry” is a big step I can take towards being nice.  Also, Rubin admits (as I’ve found myself), that she needs more frequent snacks/food than most adults.  This is VERY true of me.  

4) I sleep better.  I’m struggling with this.  But I have developed a habit of getting tired at 9pm and going to bed at 12:30.  I’m trying to go to bed at least a little CLOSER to when I actually get tired.  Including shutting off the light and trying to stop texting.  And I take a bit of time to unwind– mostly by reading and getting ready for bed early.  

5) Interrupt my inner monologue.  I just noticed myself doing this.  Yesterday, I went on a rant while trying to merge into traffic leaving a busy mall parking lot.  I couldn’t seem to STOP, but I did NOTICE– that I was spewing negativity that was totally unnecessary!  Today, I had a bad dream just before I woke up.  That often is enough to start a bad or funky mood that can linger the whole day.  Instead, knowing that I was getting up early for my own good as I wasn’t supposed to be anywhere at a particular time, I laid in bed stretching, thinking, praying and generally re-starting my morning for a long while.  When I got up, I felt brighter and it’s been a good day so far! 

Definitely recommend this book!  I’m thinking about happiness in a totally new way.  And looking forward to more summer reading.  

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