Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Homemade Pizza

I love to make homemade pizzas. I found a great recipe for pizza dough at simplyrecipes.com/recipes/homemade_pizza/, one of my favorite cooking blogs. It is easy to make and tastes just as good as any restaurant pizza that I have had. This recipe makes enough dough for two pizzas, so I usually freeze half of it to use later.

Homemade pizzas are quite a bit cheaper than ordering from a restaurant. Depending on the toppings I choose, I can usually make a pizza for under $4.00. Plus, they are just fun to make. And the best part is, Ada will eat anything if it is on a pizza, so she gets a healthy meal without realizing it!

I love experimenting with different toppings. Spinach, squash, and colorful bell peppers are just a few of my favorites. But my all time favorite is inspired by a small pizza place here in town called Dewey's. They include goat cheese, minced garlic, pesto, artichokes, and mushrooms. It is absolutely delicious. Now that I have had it, pizza just isn't the same without goat cheese. It is a bit expensive though, so we only have it for a special treat. Usually with a bottle of red wine. 

Friday, August 19, 2011

Dirt

I'm sitting outside on my covered back porch enjoying a little down time while Joe takes a nap and Ada plays in the dirt. Again. That seems to be all she wants to do these days.

Thanks to our dogs, we have a small patch of dirt underneath a shade tree in our back yard. Ada thinks it is wonderful. Every time she goes outside she heads straight for it, armed with a large kitchen spoon and her truck. What more does a little girl need?

 I've recently read how good it is for kids to get outside and play in the dirt. They get to explore nature and make a mess. Plus, frequent exposure to the bacteria in dirt is good for their immune system. I remember having a blast playing in the dirt as a child.

I'm not going to lie, I wish Ada wouldn't play in the dirt. Especially when she takes handfuls of it and throws it straight up in the air, coating her hair and clothes in a fine layer of dust. For some reason she also feels the need to taste it. Everyday. You'd think that one disgusting bite would be enough, but nope. Hey, maybe it will taste better tomorrow.

So every time we go outside, I know it is going to end in bath time and some very dirty clothes. Sometimes we take three baths a day. It is definitely a hassle, but I know it is harmless fun for her. Much better than sitting inside watching t.v. all day.








Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Bread

There is nothing like the smell of fresh baked bread permeating every room in my house. The feel of the warm, soft bread dough under my palms as I knead it. The taste of it all crusty on the outside, soft and warm on the inside.

I've just recently discovered the joys of baking homemade bread. I'm not very good at it yet. It feels like a big chemistry experiment that I can never get quite right. I am constantly tweaking my recipe. Substituting milk for some of the water. Slowly inching up the amount of whole wheat flour I use in place of all purpose.

There are so many little details to be aware of. I have to get the water temperature just right. Too cold and the yeast won't activate. Too hot and I kill the poor guys. I have to make sure I knead it long enough. All the recipes say 10 minutes, but that depends on the baker. If you are new to the process like me, you may knead at a slower speed, meaning that you have to knead the dough longer than 10 minutes. Supposedly I will get a hang for what the kneaded dough should feel like and I will know when to stop. We shall see.

Then there is rising. The temperature of my house plays quite a role in this. On especially hot days, my dough may rise in as little as an hour. Cold days may take two or more. If I let it rise too long, my dough looks like a saggy, deflated balloon. So I am constantly checking on it, afraid to leave it unsupervised for long.

It is all very confusing and intimidating at first. I checked out several books from the library and learned step by step how to knead, what risen dough should look like, and what proofing was. The best book I came across was The River Cottage Bread Handbook by Daniel Stevens. He does a good job guiding the clueless newbie through the maze.

I can't describe the feeling of satisfaction I felt when I turned out my first lopsided loaf. Then there was Nick's groans of rapturous delight as he ate it piping hot and without a thing on it. Success!

So now I'm hooked. Some days my bread doesn't turn out at all. Other times it is near perfection. I make at least two loaves a week and we have stopped buying bread from the store all together. Who needs bread with preservatives and high fructose corn syrup when your ingredients can be flour, water, salt, and yeast. You just can't beat that.









Saturday, August 13, 2011

Too Much Stuff

I have too much stuff. Things that sit around my house and are never used. Books on the shelf that I never read. DVDs that I don't even like. Gifts from friends and family that we have kept purely out of guilt. Some things stay in boxes for years. It just adds stress to my life. More things to clean. More disorder to look at.


So I've decided to have a yard sale. I'm 28 years old and have never hosted a yard sale before. There is something almost un-American about that. This past week I have been systematically going through my house and  pulling out items that I don't need. I don't get attached to objects very much. Nick is the softy in this house. I am relentless. Slowly the pile in our basement is growing.

Once this stuff is gone, I am going to be much more careful about what I let back into my house. If there is a movie or book that I really like, I'll check it out from the library. Not only will this cut down on possessions, but it will also save us money, which is something that I just love to do. The hard part will be birthdays and holidays. The time of year when toys and clothes start pouring in. Believe me, Ada has more toys than any child should have. More than she knows what to do with. Don't get me wrong, we are very grateful for the gifts, it just seems so wasteful sometimes.

So I've made a decision. Every thing we own should be loved or used regularly. No more cluttered shelves collecting dust. No more over stuffed closets. I want to be able to find what I need and find it quickly. I want to be able to breathe.




Thursday, August 11, 2011

Fearless

Being a first time parent takes a lot of guess work. We aren't born experts at child rearing and discipline. It is a lot of trial and error. I have experimented with different strategies. Some are complete failures, so I discard them and try something new. There are a lot of different theories on raising children. I believe that you have to step back and give them room to explore and grow. It is hard, but I try not to hover and fix everything for my kids. 

My husband, Nick, and I have a daughter named Ada. She just turned two. We have tried to allow Ada to do things for herself. We want her to grow up to be independent and self confident. If she gets herself into a sticky situation, we try to allow her to solve the problem for herself before we step in and help her.


There is a water slide at our swimming pool. Ada just loves it. It is called an Otter Slide. It is wide enough for two people to go down at a time and about 30 feet long. Nick and I take turns sliding down beside her while we hold her around the waist.

One day, Ada decided she wanted to do it by herself. Nick is much braver than I am and he let her try. He stood at the bottom, ready to catch her. Little Ada walked up the stairs and sat on the slide. Without hesitation she counted to 3 at the top of her lungs and went for it.

All the onlookers were astounded. Nick kept getting asked how old she was. What they probably wanted to say was that we were insane for allowing a 2 year old to do that. If Ada was afraid or nervous, we would never make her do it. But she is fearless. So we try to encourage her to try new things. Sure, Ada gets hurt from time to time, but I believe it is important to teach her to pick herself up, dust herself off, and try again.




Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Just Slow Down

Nick and I love to take walks in the evening. We just meander around the neighborhood with no goal in mind. I used to think we were walking for exercise so I didn't have much patience with Ada's slow progress. Her constant stops to poke at a rock drove me nuts. It also didn't help that I kept checking my phone to make sure we would get home in time for the kids to go to bed. I always felt like I was in a hurry. Instead of relaxing me, these walks were actually stressing me out!

I'm not sure how it happened, but I knew I had to make some changes. So one evening I said to myself, "Who cares!" I left my cell phone at home and we let Ada pick which direction she wanted to go. (She almost always picks the same way, but that's okay.)

We live in a very quiet neighborhood so Ada is able to wander all over the street and into people's front yards. She may stare at a leaf for five minutes or run like a crazy woman after some rabbits. It just doesn't matter. What matters is the joy it brings her. And the joy it brings Nick and I to watch her discover her world.
So now we have no goal. No plan. Nick and I get to catch up with each other and Ada exhausts herself. Joe usually ends up sleeping in his daddy's arms. Yes, his bedtime is right around the corner, but that doesn't matter either. It'll all work out.