Friday, September 5, 2014

Baking Bread ~ 3 lessons in 1

There are so many reasons why I love to bake bread:  it's healthier than store-bought (although we eat our fair share of that too, don't worry), it helps fill up those incessantly hungry lil' monsters that crowd around you at all hours of the day, crying "We're STARVING!!!", it rounds out just about any meal and fills up the tummies of your more picky eaters, it smells heavenly (or what I am gonna assume heaven to smell like) and makes your house smell like a home, and well.....dang just tastes *so good*!!!

So around here, I have three bread staples:  Amazing White Bread, Honey Whole Wheat Bread, and Challah Bread.

No, they are not the healthiest options, but they're pretty darn good.  And dang tasty to boot!

As a side note, I own two bread machines.  I use these to knead my dough. (you could also use a Kitchen Aid mixer with the dough hook) Once the bread machine has run through the "dough cycle" (about 1 hour and 20 min), I take the dough out and form it into loaves.  Then I put the dough into standard, greased loaf pans and let 'em rise again - then bake them in the oven.  Delicious!!

So here goes:

(add to bread machine in given order)

1 1/3 c. warm water**
1 heaping Tbl. honey
2 Tbl. butter
1 1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 c. dry milk powder
4 c. all-purpose/unbleached flour
1 1/2 tsp. dry active yeast

Set your machine on "dough" cycle, and start.
Watch your dough for the first 5 min. or so, just to make sure you don't need to add a bit more flour or a bit more warm water.  It should all mix up and form a nice, smooth ball of dough.  No sticking to the bottom 'cause it's too wet.  No dry, hard-to-knead dough ball either.  You'll get the hang of it.  And a little bit in either direction is not gonna RUIN your loaf of bread.  Remember this:  Butter makes everything all better!   It's my motto.

When the "dough" cycle is done, sprinkle some flour lightly on your counter.  Dump the dough onto the flour.  Knead it around a bit, just making sure to get most of the air bubbles out.  Then (hold on, here's the really technical part) just smoosh it around a bit, forming it into - sorta - a rectangle.  Seriously, don't stress about this.  Mine is usually more of a fat oval.  Then I just roll it (jelly-roll style, almost) into a loaf shape.  I tuck in the ends, and pinch the seam.  Then I throw it into the greased, glass loaf pan (metal will work too, it just may get a more browned crust) and place a light, clean dishcloth over the top.  Let it rise until it is just past the top of the pan.

{I have let mine rise too long many a time.  I just end up getting one big ol' tall, fat, delicious loaf of bread.  I have also run out of time and not been able to let it rise as long as I'd like.  I ended up with a smaller, yet still just as delicious loaf of bread.  Hear me:  it's all good!}

Once it has risen, pre-heat your oven to 350 degrees - then bake for 35-40 min.  I like to make sure my crust is evenly browned.  Some people say to tap the bottom and it should sound "hollow".  Um, yes, go ahead, try this.  I *think* I've gotten the hollow sound before, but I'm just not oven is fairly consistent in temperature and I usually go for 35-37 min.

Take it out of the pan immediately!  Carefully place it on a cooling rack.  You may top with melted butter for extra yumminess - just be forewarned:  you'll be lucky to get your bread cooled before little people (and big people too) will be clamoring for you to slice and deliver them a piece of your homemade really does smell that good!

**Warm Water Temperature Confusion??  I just use the hot water from my tap.  By the time it goes into my measuring cup, into the bread machine pan, is covered by all the other ingredients and finally gets kneaded with the yeast - it is the perfect temperature.  Don't stress about getting it to a specific temperature.  As long as your yeast isn't too old (I store mine in the freezer), you're set.

(add to bread machine in given order)

1 1/2 c. warm water**
1/2 c. honey
1 Tbl. oil/butter
1 tsp. salt
1/2 c. grains (I use old fashioned oats)
2 c. whole wheat flour
2 c. all-purpose/unbleached flour
2 tsp. active dry yeast

Add, set to "dough" cycle, watch for first 5 minutes.
When finished, plop onto floured counter, knead lightly, spread out into rectangle, roll up into loaf shape.  Then place in lightly greased (I use baking spray - like Pam) loaf pan and set to rise, covering with a light dishcloth.
When the dough is risen just past the top of the pan, pre-heat oven to 350 degrees and bake for 30-40 min.  (mine is usually about 35-37 min. - just watch carefully).  This will obviously be darker and denser then the white bread - but oh-so fabulous!!  Great with a big ol' pot of soup!

CHALLAH BREAD - 1 braided loaf
(add to bread machine in given order)

3/4 c. warm water**
1/4 c. honey
1/2 Tbl. oil/butter
2 eggs
3/4 tsp. salt
1/2 Tbl. sugar
3+ c. all-purpose/unbleached flour (I have used part whole wheat here, but not too much, maybe 1 c.)
1 Tbl. active dry yeast

Add, set to "dough" cycle, watch for the first 5 min.  You WILL need to add more flour to this recipe.  Maybe another 1/2 a cup or more.  Just keep an eye on it.  Not sure why this recipe is like that, but - hey, it is what it is.  Flour can be tricky at times.  Depends on humidity of your home, humidity of your flour, um.....other.....stuff....

Anyways, once the bread machine is done, dump your dough onto your floured counter, and knead it lightly.  Then use a long knife to cut your dough into four, equal balls.  Roll each ball into a long rope/snake - perhaps 12-14 inches long.  You are then going to braid your snakes together.  If you have never braided four strands together, don't worry, I had never done that either.  Yet it's super easy!  Just google "how to braid 4 strand challah bread" and you'll get a bunch of youtube videos.  (or just braid three snakes together - it'll still look cool and it's all gonna taste the same regardless!)  There's also 6 strand, I just haven't ever tried it.  Sounds easy enough though.....I'll have to give that a shot one of these days!

(video:  Tammy's Recipes - check out her site!)

I transfer my braided bread dough to my baking sheet - usually lined with parchment paper and a spritz of baking spray.  You can brush with a beaten egg before baking if you'd like - even top it with sesame seeds, or sliced almonds.  I usually don't.  I may spread some melted butter on top afterwards.....mmmmmmm.....melted butter on challah......*drooling*

Ok, sorry, anyways....

Yes, put your braid onto your baking sheet, cover with a light dishcloth and let it rise a bit - doesn't take too long 30-60 min.  Preheat your oven to 325 degrees and bake for 30-40 min.  (mine is usually done by 30-32 min.).  Slide your beautiful braid onto a cooling rack, top with butter if desired, and try NOT to immediately rip it apart and eat the whole thing yourself.  Try.  Really hard.  I mean, it's just too hot.....wait a few moments, for goodness sakes!

And after you get the hang of these three breads, we can move onto rolls!

I LOVE pull-apart rolls!  And those three-leaf clover looking ones.....all fabulous!!

So there ya go!  Did you understand all that?  Do you have questions?  Do you doubt your bread baking ability?!  DON'T ~ just gather your ingredients and go for it!  Your family will *gladly* eat your mistakes and flops and weird looking braids and then beg you to try again tomorrow!  Baking bread is sorta becoming a lost art, so before you know it, you'll be one of "those" moms ~ the awesome ones who can actually braid and bake the most beautiful, delicious bread EVER!!

Do it.  Now.
You can thank me later.
Over coffee.
With some challah bread.


Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Life Lately - through pictures!

We're entering the last month or so of summer....

Beautiful tree I just discovered by the river in our small town park.

We've had LOTS of fun ~ enjoying baby brother's explorations!

Talitha (9) with Gideon (2)

Even the biggest brother got right in there!

Isaac (12 - almost 13, just a few more days....)

And Momma is learning to relax a little more and let 'em run a little more.

Elijah (7) on the swinging bridge.

We had plenty of ice cream :)

Gideon (2) at his first A&W experience.

And just enjoyed one another!

Sissies ~ Selah (11) & Talitha (9)

Time for reading and relaxing.

Isaac (12) who will read just about anything he can get his hands on!

And my heart sorta wants to explode when I hear the laughter during evening lawn tractor rides~

Gideon (2) finally enjoying this Butterfield tradition!

Lots of fun celebrations!
Everyone tried this hairstyle for the fourth, right?!?

I've been expanding my cake decorating "skills" (such as they are)
This is a character from "Sonic the Hedgehog".
I think......

Micah (now 5), is *slowly* coming out of his shell......but still my shy one.

And yes, even time for more crocheting!

The owl baby beanie never gets old ~ stinkin' adorable!

Trying to find a really good pattern for lil' girl slippers.

The Market Bag - from the Crochet Crowd on FB.

Just a regular ol' dishcloth ~ I need to make more!

And a sweet doll for a niece with one blue eye & one brown eye ~ Cool!

It's been such a cool, mild summer - we've had lots of opportunities for campfires & s'mores!

Elijah (7) is learning to roast marshmallows all on his own!
(and Momma is lovin' this season of their new found independence!)

But before long, we'll be lighting up the wood stove inside as well.
Here is our new (to us) wood stove & hearth!
We just ordered some replacement parts & needed tools & various wood racks.

Our new wood stove & hearth ~ updated photos coming soon.

We are also still cutting down standing, dead trees on our property in preparation of renting a log splitter ~ this is our first year preparing a woodpile that we hope will last all winter's a learning process, for sure!!

And of course, we'll be starting up with more formal education happening on a more regular basis.  We have been living and loving and learning all summer, but soon we'll break out some lined handwriting paper, math flashcards, reading lists, grammar & literature units, officially finish up our science book and start the astronomy text, and keep on keeping on with world history.....

Story of the World ~ I'm learning right along with 'em!

So that's where we are ~ enjoying these last few weeks, preparing for the months ahead, and asking God continually to be our focus, to join us in the every day, to lead us where He would have us go, be who He would have us be.  It's not always easy to live with the same 10 people day in, day out - face their faults, your own sins, everyone's quirks.....and yet love 'em all where they are (yes, even love yourself, right where you are!).

Me & 2 of my redheads ~ who have also inherited my need for glasses.
Elijah isn't wearing his in this picture.
They're broken.
I *think* he had them for a week......maybe.

This is where God has us.
Some days are really hard.  Some are really good.
I cry.  Sometimes, I cry a lot.
I laugh too.  And smile.  And wonder why God has chosen us for this life.
Why He has chosen us at all....

Aaaaaand now it's dinner time, so no more time for reflection or contemplation.
I'm making homemade biscuits for Sausage Biscuits with grape jelly!
And I think we'll try to play horseshoes for a while before it gets too dark.
Enjoy these last summer days, my friends~


Tuesday, June 3, 2014

Homeschool Exhibitor's Night 2014

Our local HS support group does an Exhibitor's Night every year.  This is our second time participating.  I always think it's going to be too much work and time and energy....then we end up really enjoying the process and having a great time!  Plus I'm always so proud of the kids.  This year especially.

Admittedly, I helped the kids choose their topics.  Basically, I started rattling off ideas until something sparked their interest and then they ran with it.  Our Exhibitor's Night is sorta like a science fair, except it can basically be about ANYTHING.  

Selah chose her topic first:  it was creative in nature.  It included some fine arts, plus domestic arts.  Her table displayed some of the items she has crocheted, sewn and baked ~ plus recent artwork.  She baked the bread that morning, so it was tempting us all throughout the day.  In fact, I bribed my younger boys with the promise of some of Selah's delicious 'braid bread' after the program if they were well-behaved.  They were well-behaved.  :)

Tali always wants to be like her sister.  We are working on exploring her own talents and gifts, as she can't keep up with her sister in certain areas (Nor should she expect to!  She's 2 years younger and gifted in different areas!!).  So while her table was similar in nature, we tried to customize it to her own interests.  So Tali's table included some crocheted items, a pillow she had sewn, along with a sewing machine diagram and stitch example chart, plus the sewing pattern she and her grandma had created.  She also made a Lyric/Poetry Journal, with many different poems and songs, yet accidentally left it at home.  I'm fairly certain I was more upset than she was, silly girl.

Isaac wasn't as ready to jump on board.  He was fairly ambivalent about the whole thing ~ at first.  I was searching for something, *anything*, that might interest him ~ when I mentioned Minecraft, I had him!!

We decided his Minecraft table would include various ways Minecraft can be used for learning:  different maths, logic, planning, architecture, creative writing, vocabulary, spatial reasoning, art, even as a jumping off place for topics such as spiders, soil, gems/mining, gardening.....the list goes on and on.  When I discovered how many Minecraft videos there are on YouTube, I knew we had to figure out a way to have Isaac make his own video.  What a great way for Isaac to jump right in there and learn about the technology needed to record what was on his screen, how to record his voice, how to edit his video, add music, narrate, etc.  It was awesome!

Even though we had some tech issues at the actual Exhibitor's Night (honestly, we weren't prepared early enough to request what we needed....totally our fault), I am super proud of what he accomplished.  He *can* be somewhat reserved and shy, but once you get him discussing a topic that he is actually interested in, he opens up and does a great job!   Even with our lack of up-to-date technology, he persevered.  Here's his video:

Both of my girls can be shy as well.  At the last minute, they both decided to not simply make a display table, but to do a quick explanation up on the stage, in front of the group.  It was especially wonderful to see Talitha up there.  Yes, she tried to twirl her ponytail (a nervous habit from years past), and you couldn't hear her all that well, but she did it.  And did it with little to no prompting on my part!

Selah's artwork was actually her first "commissioned" piece.  Her grandma wanted something for her kitchen and Mema loves coffee!  It turned out great!  Besides learning about this particular style of art, and the artists who design pieces like this, she is learning about how you can take a talent - something you love - and make it work for you.  Monetarily even!  Whoo-hoo!

The younger boys *could* have participated, although neither showed any great interest.  I will encourage them to do so in the future, especially as my older children need my help less and less.  Sweet Gideon slept in Mema's arms most of the time, lil' fella.....

And here is our group of HS kiddos.  There are *many* more children/families involved in our support group, but this is one of the things I love about it ~ you never know who's going to show up to which events!  You may end up with a HUGE party at one event, or a small, intimate gathering at another.  I loved talking with other HS mommas, discussing our struggles, our joys, our heartaches, laughter and even tears.  Please, please, join a support group if you can.  Totally worth it!

**And lastly, in other news, here is a sweet doll I recently crocheted for a friend's granddaughter.  Her hair is simply perfect - I LOVE it!  The dress is removable and I even made a second dress, 'cause what lil' girl doesn't want to change her dolly's clothes?!  She did end up with blue eyes and a sweet red mouth.  I hope this lil' girl loves her doll and plays with her for years!

So what about you?  Are you involved in a HS support group?  Maybe a co-op?  Do you have opportunities to vent, share, express your frustrations and joys with other women who can completely understand where you're coming from??  If not, try to find some ~ even ONE such friend can be a sanity-saver!  For both of you!!  If I did not have this group, I would at least get together with another family or two.  Do some events together, field trips, weekly classes, every other week, monthly, whatever......just get together and share this journey together.  God has given us such a blessing in the company and fellowship of friends!

Anyways, time for laundry, dishes, dinner prep.....
Ah, it never ends, does it?!

Monday, June 2, 2014

A Recap

Hi y'all,

Just thought I would jump back into blogging.  Nothing big and momentous.  Nothing that's gonna go viral.  Just some of my thoughts, some documentation of our ordinary, yet spectacular life.

As a recap:

I am a 39yo daughter of the King!  Been so since I was a kid.  We're looking for a church.  More on that later....

Me ~ with my earbuds.

I have been married to Dean, who is my best friend and I love fiercely, passionately and dearly, for 15 years.  We have 6 amazingly lil' blessings.  I must admit, there are times I have to walk around the house, repeating to myself - "Children are a blessing.  Children are a blessing.  Children are a blessing."  If you have children, you understand.... ;)

I have a few pyromaniacs.....

Lawn Mower Rides!

We live on our own lil' 5 acres, in the thumb of Michigan, with a pond, a wooded area with a few trails, some great climbing trees, a fire pit, oh just a little piece of Michigan-heaven - in my humble, ever so biased opinion!

Isaac ~ my pre-teen!

We homeschool.  Mostly year round.  Eclectic & relaxed.  No testing, no grade levels, no trying to keep up or falling behind.  We learn at whatever pace works for us.  We love the arts, be it music, drawing, painting, singing, acting, you name it!  We group study as many subjects as possible (for my sanity and everyone else's benefit as well).  We don't have tons of money for outside activities, but we have fun whenever possible and I am trying to be content where we are.  God has us here, in this season, for a reason.  I'm good with that!
My baby, um, I mean, my clarinet!

My hubby is a mortgage loan guy, as well as an IT student (something to do with with computer networking, don't ask).  He also does some social media, um....stuff.  He has the desire to use his new lathe, once he has a spare moment to himself, but right now spends any free time with us, cutting down dead trees on our property for firewood.  We got a wood burning stove recently, and need to stock up for our Michigan winters.  Hello, polar vortex!!

Ok, is that it?  Oh, my folks live in our lower level, so technically we are a multi-generational family living here in this home.  My parents have their own *everything* (kitchen, laundry room, bathroom, their own entrance - everything - basically their own home), so it's not near as complicated as you might first think.  We give each other space yet love this opportunity to be with each other!

I love my slippers!

I don't blog for a cause, or blog to make money, or schedule my blogs out, or really plan ahead with blogging at all.  I've tried, but honestly, I'm too busy!  I blog for pleasure, to vent, to express myself, to talk through my feelings - my own personal therapy.  It comes and goes and I love it!!

I crochet A LOT!!

And there you go!  Now I have to go heat up my cup of coffee, give the kiddos a snack and read Story of the World to my crew for a while.  We are on the Phoenicians and the return of the Assyrians.  I must admit, I get them all confused....Then some lunch and off to the library before it storms (and hopefully we can still fit in a nap for the baby and quiet reading time for everyone else before dinner).  See?!  Just life!

Selah ~ my artist!
Tali ~ handworking & sassy!

Micah ~ I LOVE 5 YEAR OLDS!!

*****Here's a pic of my sweet baby, Gideon.  He's our newest baby and our last baby ~ I wonder if he's gonna be a spoiled baby of the family.....??

 Have a great day y'all!
I'll see ya later ~ so we can discuss school, coffee vs. tea, how you handle babies, toddlers, lil' kids and pre-teens ALL TOGETHER, God, church, discipleship, potty training, gardening, healthy foods, marriage, house cleaning, praying....oh, just anything you wanna talk about, I'm willing to give it a shot!

Micah & Elijah Rock ~ My Lil' Cherokee Braves!

Please, leave me a message and say "Hi"!  Let me know who you are, if you are hs'ing, how many lil' ones you have, are you a newbie or have some years of experience under your belt (re: hs'ing or parenting or marriage or whatever), what you may be struggling with, what you'd like to talk about....just whatever!  Hope to hear from you soon! :)