Sunday, November 28, 2010

Advent: Beginning

Do you know my favorite thing about the snow?  I love how it never gets all the way dark.  Even in the middle of the night, the world is all tinted blue.  Random piece of important information.

Thanksgiving is over and that means it is officially the Christmas Season.  Wonderful, wonderful, twinkly time of year.  A couple of years ago, I posted about advent calendars and how I have never been satisfied with what I could find.  I made my own.  This year, I am going to share it with you, bit by bit.  I do get religious on here once in a while, though I try to keep my passionate preaching to a minimum.  I'll try to be gentle, but you should know (if you hesitate when you read spiritual things), this advent calendar is all about Jesus.

Nuts and bolts:  Every day has a thought or question, a verse or two and a song.  If you don't know the song, listen to it.  If you don't like that question, come up with your own.  Tweak this to fit your family's level of understanding and attention span.  Unfamiliar verses?  Find something else that fits.  Maybe you'll mix up the whole thing and write your own.  I would be delighted if you did.  Let me know how it goes.

December 1st
Why do we celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ?

·Isaiah 9:2,6

2 The people that walked in adarkness have seen a great blight: they that dwell in the land of the shadow of death, upon them hath the light shined.
6 For unto us a achild is bborn, unto us a cson is given: and the dgovernment shall be upon his shoulder: and his name shall be called Wonderful, eCounsellor, The fmighty gGod, The heverlasting Father, The Prince of iPeace.

Song: Handel's Messiah; For Unto Us a Child is Born

December 2nd
Samuel the Lamanite foretold Christ's birth.

·Helaman 14:2-5

2 And behold, he said unto them: Behold, I give unto you a sign; for afive years more cometh, and behold, then cometh the Son of God to redeem all those who shall believe on his name.

  3 And behold, this will I give unto you for a asign at the time of his coming; for behold, there shall be great lights in heaven, insomuch that in the night before he cometh there shall be no darkness, insomuch that it shall appear unto man as if it was day.
  4 Therefore, there shall be one aday and a night and a day, as if it were one day and there were no night; and this shall be unto you for a sign; for ye shall know of the rising of the sun and also of its setting; therefore they shall know of a surety that there shall be two days and a night; nevertheless the night shall not be darkened; and it shall be the night before he is bborn.
  5 And behold, there shall a new astar arise, such an one as ye never have beheld; and this also shall be a sign unto you.

Song:  Samuel Tells of the Baby Jesus

December 3rd
Discuss the significance of Light. (Relate to the prophesies of Isaiah and Samuel.)

·John 8:12

12 ¶ Then spake Jesus again unto them, saying, I am the alight of the world: he that followeth me shall not bwalk in cdarkness, but shall have the light of life.

·and D&C 6:21

21 Behold, I am Jesus Christ, the aSon of God. I am the same that came unto mine bown, and mine own received me not. I am the clight which shineth in ddarkness, and the darkness comprehendeth it not.

Song: Joy to the World

December 4th
Describe Mary.  (Define terms as needed.)

·Luke 1:28,30

28 And the angel came in unto her, and said, Hail, thou that art highly favoured, the Lord is with thee: blessed art thou among awomen.
30 And the angel said unto her, aFear not, Mary: for thou hast found favour with God.

·and Nephi 11:13-15

13 And it came to pass that I looked and beheld the great city of Jerusalem, and also other cities. And I beheld the city of Nazareth; and in the city of aNazareth I beheld a bvirgin, and she was exceedingly fair and white.

14 And it came to pass that I saw the aheavens open; and an angel came down and stood before me; and he said unto me: Nephi, what beholdest thou?

15 And I said unto him: A virgin, most beautiful and fair above all other virgins.

·and Alma 7:10

10 And behold, he shall be aborn of Mary, at bJerusalem which is the cland of our forefathers, she being a dvirgin, a precious and chosen vessel, who shall be overshadowed and econceive by the power of the Holy Ghost, and bring forth a son, yea, even the Son of God.

December 5th
Who was the angel who visited Mary?

·Luke 1:26-27
26 And in the sixth month the aangel Gabriel was sent from God unto a city of Galilee, named Nazareth,

27 To a avirgin espoused to a man whose name was Joseph, of the house of David; and the virgin’s name was Mary.

·and Bible Dictionary Gabriel.

Man of God.The name of an angel sent to Daniel (Dan. 8: 16Dan. 9: 21): to Zacharias (Luke 1: 11-19); and to Mary (Luke 1: 26-38). He is identified by latter-day revelation as Noah (HC 3: 386).
Song:  Follow the Prophet, vs 3

There are the first five days.  (I will keep posting them if you are interested.)  Just one idea that has helped our family keep the focus of Christmas on Christ--even amidst the shopping and the Santa's and the candy canes.

Advent: 6-10
Advent:  11-17
Advent:  18-24

Friday, November 26, 2010

Pine Cones and Burlap

My dad built me a beautiful cedar chest and gave it to me for Christmas in 1990.  How could one possibly know what their grown-up tastes will be when they are thirteen?  My mother, grandmother and I immediately began filling it and seven years later, when I married my husband, I had a full chest.  (ha ha)  My Hope Chest contained dishes, utensils, linens, a blessing gown for my babies, candles, Christmas ornaments, a few things for my walls, and other sundries.

During those teen years, I wanted excited mixed with nasalgia.  My tastes were bright, bold, and antique.  There was a lot of blue delft, eyelet and Santa Claus.  For the most part, my style has always been classic and I've always been uncomfortable being too trendy or daring.  I was so excited to set up housekeeping and finally use all the things I had been collecting.  We had a baby fourteen months after we were married and, right away,

things started breaking.

My style began to change, to be refined.

Now, while I still like classic and antique, they have to be balanced with warm, comfortable, soothing colors.  There is so much brilliance in my life with my five fabulous pods that I need my home to calm not excite.

Last year, when I put away the Christmas decorations, I was liberated by letting a lot of things go.  I do not think I am a pack rat or a hoarder, but I am a saver.  I cannot bear waste.  I never want to hurt anyone's feelings by giving away something they gave.  I tend to love something because I've "had it since I was thirteen" and not because I actually love the thing.  But, my little house couldn't hold it all and the Christmas decorations made me grumpy rather than filled with love and joy.

So, last year, if it was broken, I tossed it.  If I just didn't like it anymore, I gave it away.  Today, as I pulled out my three (yes, only three!!) boxes of Christmas decorations, my cleaning-out became obvious.  I only kept only my very favorite things and my house looks lovely in its simplicity.  My home is decked out in more living green and less spangly garland, there are only a few treasured things that would be considered fragile--and they are up high, and there are more subdued reds and browns rather than the garish reds and Christmas greens of my younger years.

It's funny how we change.

And how we don't.

*All idea photos taken from Better Homes and Gardens unless noted.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010


There is a gigantic blizzard sweeping across the western part of the United States.  Many school are cancelled (unless your kids' school bus looks like this) and many business are closed.  We are home in greater numbers than any normal day.  I know it's just the beginning of winter and most kids aren't bored of being inside, but I thought I would re-post this to give you ideas--just in case.

A lot of my fellow Americans are buried in snow. The results of my carefully controlled, scientific poll on Facebook (where I scanned my friends' status updates and counted a lot of references), many are struggling with cooped-up children. Don't worry! Home schooling mother of five is here. Not as cool as Mighty Mouse, but maybe I'll save the day anyhow. I've tried to include ideas that do not require you to go to the store for materials.
  • If you've had over twelve inches of snow within twenty-four hours, make Snow Cream. My great-grandmother used to make this and it is a special winter treat--made even more so because you can only have it after the HUGE snowstorms.  (Waiting until a lot of snow has fallen insures that the air has been cleaned by the initial snow fall.)
About 1 Cup Milk
1/2 Cup Sugar
1 teaspoon Vanilla
Pour Over Large Bowl of Fresh snow
Stir until resembles the consistency of soft serve ice cream.
You may have to mess with the recipe according to how wet your snow is.
  • Have a home spa. Make a messy mask with oatmeal, egg white and orange juice (pulverize in blender). Paint each others toes, exfoliate foot calluses, moisturize with olive oil.
  • Move, move, move. Pull out old aerobics videos, create a dance channel on Pandora, play indoor tag, play Simon Says and include lots of jump on one foot, hop like a bunny, run around the table.
  • Craft together. Make potato stamps, make paper mache dinosaurs, create your own stationary, learn how to make paper dolls.
  • Write letters. Write to grandparents, cousins at college, soldiers, missionaries. Use your homemade stationary or cards.
  • Learn about a warm place. Look at pictures of Hawaii, find the major deserts on a map, google desert spider, learn about the equator. Or, put extra wood on the fire, pull out beach towels, make kool-aid and pretend your living room is a beach.
  • Make a volcano. Put an old 20 oz soda bottle on a large piece of cardboard. Crumple newspaper into balls and pile up next to the bottle. Paper mache over it all, making sure you leave the top of the bottle exposed. Let dry. Paint with poster paints. To make it explode, Put two to three tablespoons of baking soda into the bottle. Pour in vinegar--make sure your head is out of the way. Repeat until you're all sick of it. It makes a big mess.
  • Pull out the board games. Teach them how to play some simple card games like Crazy Eights or Slap Jack. If the kids are older, try rummy or even pinochle.
  • Play Bug.
    You have to get the body first, head second, the the rest (in no particular order, to complete your bug. The first with all the parts, wins. Take turns rolling the die.
    6- Body; 5- Head; 4-Antenna (need two); 3- Eyes (need two); 2- legs (need six); 1- Mouth
  • Make play-dough or slime. If the kids love it, which I've never met a kid who doesn't, keep going with the kitchen chemistry.
  • Cushion and blanket fort. Enough said.
  • Family read-aloud.
  • Make cookies or cupcakes that need frosting and sprinkles. This will fill hours!
  • Watch Leave It To Beaver on Netflix.
  • Skype with friends who are also snowed in.
  • Get a head start on Spring Cleaning. Pick one cabinet or drawer each day and clean it out as a family. Maybe hidden in the back you'll find something else to entertain the troops.
  • Make puppets out of paper plates, paper bags or old socks and put on a puppet show.
  • Pull out the birthday party standards like Pin the Tail on the Donkey, Duck, Duck, Goose, Red Light, Green Light, a treasure hunt, or an obstacle course.
  • Work on your Balance and Strength. Indian Wrestling, Standing Long Jump, Vertical Jump, arm wrestle, pick up a pencil with your toes, sit on the wall. Compete against your five year old. They will win most of the time.
  • Teach the kids to braid or sew. Start with the straight lines of a regtangular shoulder bag.
  • Play Dress-up. Have a tea party or fight the bad guys, accordingly. Speak with an accent.
I'm sure none of these ideas are new, but maybe having them all in one place will get your mind out of it's February blahs. Have fun with your people.

If I've saved the sanity of even one mother, it will have been worth it!

Sunday, November 21, 2010

How to Choose a Book

My nearly twelve year old boy thinks the one perimeter for a good book is a one word definition:  exciting.  When I recommend a book to him, the first thing he asks is, "Is it exciting?"  Though he has read and enjoyed a few books that do not fall into that category, it is only because I have pleaded with him to read the book.

I finished a book yesterday called Airborn by Kenneth Oppel.  It was exciting.  I finished the book, walked upstairs and thrust it into his hands.

"You need to read this."

"Is it exciting?"

"Yes!  It's kind of like Master and Commander (a movie he loves) only is set aboard an airship.  It's kind of set in history, but a fantasy kind of history."

"What is an airship?"

"It's like the Hindenburg."  I knew that would do the trick--he knows about the Hindenburg and THAT is an exciting story.

"Nah," and puts it aside.

"No, really.  It has guns and knives."

No response.

"It has adventure and . . . PIRATES!  It has pirates!"

No response.

"It has ferocious wild animal attacks."

Nothing.  I rack my brain and try to think like an almost twelve year old boy.  What could entice him to give this book a try?

Then he said, "Is there murder?"

"Yes, there is murder," to which he quickly picked up the book and began to read.

Needless to say, I said nothing of the kiss.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Slumber Party

I went to the Slumber Party last night.  I posted questions about it some time ago and decided I would follow the advice you gave.  You were split.  Some of you suggested it was no problem, others said it was a little iffy and others said a firm "No Way!"  I decided to go for several reason.  I went to the host (my friend) and told her my worries.  I told her what I could be comfortable with and what would have been going too far.  She spoke with the saleslady and was reassured that the first half of the presentation would be massage oil and body glitter kind of stuff.  Okay, that's completely fine.  I wouldn't feel uncomfortable about that because it's indirect.  I told my friend I would only stay as long as I felt comfortable, but would probably not make it past the first half.

When I arrived at the party, I explained to the saleslady that I was nervous being there.  She asked what I was nervous about, so I told her.  I was hoping my upfront honesty would temper her.  If it did, I would really hate to see what she was usually like.

Oh, my goodness.  You do not want to go to one of these.  There was too much information, it was crude, crass and vulgar.  It was not all in good fun, but was all about--well, I can't tell you.  I can't tell you what she said that was so offensive.  I can't write it down.  I could barely even tell my husband the tasteless language she used, the uncouth suggestions and the embarrassing stories.  Even the way she presented a normally acceptable cream or lotion was disgusting.

I would have walked out the door within five minutes, but she had taken my coat and I didn't know where to find it.  Because I had taken such precautions by talking to the host and the saleslady, I really thought it would be fine.  It was not.  Seriously.  I felt like I was tricked.  (This was not the fault of my friend, by the way.  She had been to one of these before and said it was set up more like a display where you could browse and then order privately.)

I'll just get what I need at Walgreens.  Thanks, anyway.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

No Longer Funny

I have been hormonally balanced for, like, months.  I weaned my baby nearly a year ago and there is not a new one cooking.  I happened to be browsing through some of my blog posts from my first year blogging--the year when I was most crazy.  My husband was Lost In Action to the college campus, I was trying to build an office for him in the back of the garage, I had this brand new baby who was rather high maintenance, and I still had the other four children.  Yes, I really was crazy.  I wonder sometimes how I made it through that year and other, similar hard patches.

But, here's the thing.  My posts were funny.  I sat in my living room giggling all by myself at the two-years-ago me.    Then I re-examined my last several offerings.  Blah.  Opinionated.  Annoying.  Smarty-pants.  None were funny.  None made me giggle.

I used to think I could never be truly funny because I had a perfectly normal childhood, love being a mother, and am straight.  I have no angst, no one to prove wrong.

Last night it was made clear to me that I can only be funny when I am sleep-deprived, have sore muscles, am worked beyond my strength, have hormones imbalanced, smell like sour milk and am grumpy about not fitting my jeans . . . still.  Now that my jeans fit, no one in my house needs twenty-four hour holding and my crazy has subsided, I have nothing to contribute to the good humor of the universe.

Reason number seventeen that I need another baby:  Apparently I do better when I'm on the verge of going over.  (Is that redundant?)

The Best Thing I've Read Lately

The marriage was considered a good one.  Hari's baap, like mine, was a Brahman, the highest Hindu caste, and he was a schoolteacher.  Hari would surely have been to school.  "Will he mind that I have no learning?"  I wondered aloud. 
"What do you mean no learning?"  Maa asked in a cross voice.   "You can cook and keep a house, and you embroider as well as I do.  Should a wife sit with a book and let the work go?"
Whelan, Gloria, Homeless Bird. Harper Trophy, 2000.

Yes.  Yes, she should.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Why Girls Need Dad

I watched a cute movie with my girls tonight.  It was called What a Girl Wants and is about, well not what Hollywood usually declares to be the thing a girl wants.  It is about a girl who wants her dad to be involved in her life.  It was refreshing to have a movie about how important a father is in the life of a daughter.  It got me thinking and I decided to write a list.

Things My Father Taught,
Things That My Mother Could Not:

  • A butter knife is not a screwdriver.
  • Sunblock expires.
  • If Dad believes you can do it, you can do it.
  • Just try it.
  • Figure it out.
  • If you're going to do something, do it all the way.
  • Kicking the tires is not a good way to determine the quality of any wheeled thing.
  • Camping in the snow can be fun.
  • Work first, then play.
  • Power tools are tools, not toys (even though they are fun).
  • A motor will get you there fast, but a sail is so much better.
  • There are good men in this world.
  • It was worth waiting to find one.
  • I don't care if you're on vacation, never waste time being lazy.
  • An unheralded example is still an example.  
  • It's okay to try something later in life than most people try that thing.
  • Your blaming the children for not putting away your tools only goes so far.  Someday the real culprit will be made known. 
  • If you have valuable skills, share them.  Your neighbor has no idea how to fix that leak.
  • The relationship with your spouse is more important than any other in the world.
  • Biscuits with sausage gravy are best at a truck stop.
  • Who cares if it bothers your children.  Walk around the house in your underwear if you want.  Someday the kids will laugh at your "idiosyncrasies." 
  • Sing loud.
  • Do not sit on your hind quarters when you are working.  Even if you are working hard, it looks like you're slacking.
  • How it feels to dance with a man who knows how to lead.
  • Sometimes being together and not talking can be more satisfying than a bunch of jabber.
  • You can never have too much firewood.
  • How to hold a flashlight on the task at hand.
  • Use the assembly instructions.
  • Be ambitious in your educational goals.  No knowledge is a waste.
  • There are good men in whom you can put your trust.
  • A righteous man gets to regularly participate in miracles.
  • You can make someone crazy by talking about the same thing over and over and over again.  Just buy it, already!
  • Louis L'Amour, John Wayne (westerns in general), and Captain Kirk.
  • Your dad wasn't joking when he bought you the pepper spray.  He wants you to be ready to use it.
  • You do have to check the fluids in your car and pressure in the tires.  There isn't a fairy that comes every Saturday morning to do that for you.
  • A daddy loves his girls.
  • He wants them close to him, even though he pretends it's all about the grandchildren.

There is more that I learned from my parents, of course, but this list is dad specific.  I love my dad and am so thankful he's still around.  What a blessed woman to have grown up in his home.

What did your dad teach you?  Why do you think girls need their dads around?

Monday, November 15, 2010

How to Entertain Children While Traveling (Without a Movie)

They say the joy is in the journey, but if you've ever been in the car, with a lot of children, on a long road trip, it may not always feel that way.  With careful planning and a well-stocked list, it can be one of the best parts of a vacation.

We have traveled thousands of miles with our five children.  Though I don't condemn the practice, we do not have a DVD player in our car so we've had to learn of a lot of tricks to keep kids happy on the road.  Since many of you will be traveling for the upcoming holidays, I thought I would share my list of tried and true tips.  Most of these I have picked up from other sources or remembered from my childhood and some we have invented.

There are so many great ideas out there and some people are so dang creative.  I have found, however, that on long drives there is nothing more annoying than a cute little traveling kit to keep intact.  Some of these have  many small pieces and must be kept organized.  If I have five of these, they are bound to get mixed up and then I have to spend the next 100 miles sorting and re-organizing, searching between car seats and under benches, and making sure that the purple parts go to this child and pink parts go to that child.  Humph.  Once the children are older and they can hold things on their laps reliably well, maybe we'll re-visit the crafted traveling kits.  So, for now, I'm not going to waste your time with one more mess.  A few carefully selected toys, books and notebooks is plenty for each child if you are prepared with your own kit of things to do.

First, the obvious ones:

  • Audio Books.  Most libraries have two week to one month check-out times for books-on-tape so if your vacation will be shorter than that, don't hesitate to cash in on your tax supported libraries.  If your family has never done audio books, start with something familiar.  The best reader ever is Jim Dale (all of the Harry Potter books and Peter Pan are both great) and a reader makes or breaks the book.  You may love a story, but if the reader is lousy, forget it.  James and the Giant Peach read by Jeremy Irons is a fabulous, as is the Hatchet series read by Peter Coyote.  Since listening can be a learned skill, don't be afraid to start with audio books that have picture books to go with them.  
  • Singing.  You know that many of our children are growing up without knowing She's Coming 'Round the Mountain, This Old Man (he played one, he played knick-knack on my thumb), Yankee DoodleJohnny Verbeck, and even This is the Song That Never Ends.  Generations of tradition are being lost by the invention of movies in the car, Game Boys, texting and MP3 players.  I am a music lover and I can even be annoyed by some of these songs, but it is fun to sing together in the car.  Learn rounds (Row, Row, Row Your Boat), repeat songs (Oh, You Can't Get to Heaven) and, as they get better, harmonize.
  • Memory games like I'm Going to Grandma's House and with Me I'm Taking.  Each player then picks something they are taking in alphabetical order after repeating what was said ahead of them.  The first player says, "an apple," the second may say, "an apple and a baboon."  The third says, "an apple, a baboon, and a Christmas Tree."  You can vary this game by going to the grocery store and only choosing food words, going to the zoo and using only animal words or going to the lab and using only scientific words.

Now comes a straight list.  If you don't know how to play these, Google them.
  • I Spy
  • Find the alphabet, in order, on signs you pass
  • Count cars by color or model (truck, van, semi)
  • Find all Fifty States' license plates
  • Twenty Questions
  • Cat's Cradle (harder than you might think--practice ahead of time so you don't have to squeeze into the back seat to help)
  • Cootie Catcher
  • Battleship, dots, tic-tac-toe
  • Rock, Paper, Scissors
  • Name That Tune (try it with TV theme songs)

Here are some random others:

  • Pass out sheets of aluminum foil and let the children make sculptures.  Give them some ideas to start like dolls (or action figures), clothes for the dolls, swords for the action figures, miniature housewares, full-size housewares (a bowl for their snack), animals, crowns or masks.  Foil is cheap, can be recycled when you are done, and doesn't spill.
  • Before the trip, make scavenger hunt lists (with or without points, depending on the competitive nature of your family).  If your little ones can't read, draw simple pictures of things you know you'll pass (silo, white horse, corn field, a ski rack, Canadian Geese, a brick house, blue Christmas lights, and so on.
  • Maps, maps, maps.  Even the youngest passenger likes to know where they are--especially in relation to that day's destination.  Since we frequently travel from the bottom of one state to the top of it, I took my big road atlas to the copy store and had them make color copies of our route.  I then laminated the map and gave each child a dry-erase marker.  They can easily see where we are, where we would stop for lunch, and that we are, in fact, making progress.  Also, the blank, white back can be used as a make-shift white board.
  • Geography.  Start with any place in the world--Kansas, for example.  The next person has to think of a place that begins with the last letter of "Kansas," such as "South Africa."  Whoever goes next needs a place that begins with an A.  You may not use the same place twice in a game--and it has to be a real place.
  • Ask theoretical questions.  What would you do with a million dollars?  What super-power do you wish you had?  If you were an animal, which would you be?  Let's say the British won the Revolutionary War.  How is your life different?  Would you rather be the tallest person alive or the shortest?  Why?
  • Fortunately, Unfortunately.  This is a FAVORITE of the imaginative set.  The games goes this way.  Someone, usually me, says, "Unfortunately, there is a tiger in the van."  The person right next to me then says an opposite with, "Fortunately, it is a stuffed tiger."  Then, "Unfortunately, he was placed in the car by aliens are we are all slowly being gassed for abduction."  
  • Find a Lyric.  Look at the signs and sing an existing lyric to match. For example:  Ice on Road; Ice, Ice, Baby . . .,  No Left Turn; Turn around!  Every now and then I get a little bit lonely, One Way; One way, or another, I'm gonna getcha, I'm gonna getcha, getcha, getcha, getcha!  Rest Area Next Right; When I'm lying next to you . . . 
  • Stories one word/sentence at a time.  Take turns creating a story together.  
  • Electric Toothbrushes.  This is not a game, but these have saved us many times.  Plus, with all the junk we tend to eat on vacation, a wiggly toothbrush is fun and healthy.  (Hold on the toothpaste until you're near a sink!)
  • Rhythm repeat.  Clap out a rhythm and have the children repeat.  Get more and more complicated.  Don't do this if you are the driver.  Thank you.
I hope this list has given you a few new ideas or reminded you of some great ones about which you had forgotten.  Have a wonderful and safe trip.

Yours truly,
The MotherShip

Saturday, November 13, 2010

My Soul Rejoiceth

It's not officially the season, but this MUST be shared.

Thank you Knight Foundation and the Opera Company of Philadelphia.  I love humankind and the Creator of whom you sang.

Friday, November 12, 2010

So Much To Do

Do you ever have so much to do that you just abandon everything?  This has been that week for me.  Yes, I have done the essentials and the can't-ignores, but I certainly haven't been touch-up painting, winterizing the outdoor faucets, calling all of the people I'm supposed to call and checking off more boxes on my Before We Sell To Do List.  Then, to add insult to injury, I've discovered a new show on Hulu:  Sweat Equity.

Since Sweat Equity is what I've been working on in my spare time for the past five years, this show intrigues me. It has been fun to see what I think we've done right and what we could have done if we had a billion more dollars--or any income, actually.  I have had a couple of reactions to watching other people improve their homes (with the help of designers, contractors and TV crews to stage the area which immediately puts them on a different playing field from the rest of us).

One, I have so many little things I need to do to finish this house.  Why are you sitting on your hind-end in front of the screen, Emily?

Two, who has that kind of money?  When I want to remodel a room, I think, "We could spend maybe $1000."  Who is saying, "Hmm, this room needs a face-lift.  How about 10 grand and we can go over a little bit if we need too."?  I understand if you need a whole new kitchen or are finishing a basement, but what are these people buying?  Do we need a tiered theater in the basement for our family of three--and a dog?  Why are we re-surfacing that beautiful aged brick fireplace with ceramic tile?  No wonder our country is having so many money related problems right now.  If you just put $15 thousand dollars into a new game room, you will not be able to sell your house at a price that matches today's market.  You have to get your investment back.  People do not know how to scale back and be creative.

I don't know.  I just had to get this out there.  These design shows are unrealistic to most of us.  I think that's why The Lettered Cottage and some of the other DIY blogs are so popular; they have normal houses, are real do-it-yourselfers, and have realistic budgets.  But what do I know?  I think I need to watch a couple of more episodes.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

How to Make Jodi's Rolls

For a long time, I struggled with making rolls that turned out every time.  I tried many recipes and found them inconsistent.  Once I tried Jodi's rolls, I knew that the search was over.  Whenever I make these for others, they always want the recipe.  If you have never made bread, it is hard.  I think you need to watch it being made (especially if you don't have a machine to do any of the work for you).  Since I don't have a video recorder, here is the best I could do:

Hot water, yeast (I keep mine in a jelly jar in the fridge), salt, powdered milk, oil, eggs, sugar and flour.

First, pour your hot water (2 1/2 cups) into a large bowl.  I have one of those monster size stainless bowls, but made this recipe in a regular, large bowl lots of times before I got it.  The reason this is so handy is because you can make large batches and do all the kneading in the bowl.  The water needs to be hot from the tap.  Cooler than your hot chocolate (you should be able to hold your finger in it without it hurting), but still hot.  The cold metal of the bowl will cool it considerably.

Next, add your yeast  (2 Tablespoons)

and the sugar (1/2 cup).  Mix gently.  The yeast needs the sugar to "work" so get them in there together right away.

 After letting the yeast, water and sugar sit for a minute, it starts to foam a bit.  That is how you will know your yeast is good.  Add the salt.  (2 teaspoons)  I am a hand-measurer for salt, but don't do it until you know what a teaspoon of salt looks like in the palm of your hand.

Here should be a picture of powdered milk.  If you use powdered milk (1/2 cup), you don't have to worry about heating the milk because you used hot water.  Also, using powdered milk in your baking is a good way to rotate it in your food storage.  Then add oil (4 Tablespoons).

Eggs; two of 'em.  If you have a friend who has chickens in her backyard, use those.  Look how dark and vitamin packed those yokes are! 

Beat the eggs using one of those tiny wisks.  Make sure it is bent and well-loved.

Add the beaten eggs to your bowl and stir gently.

At this point you have added everything except the flour.  It looks kind of gross and the yeast smell is really strong.  Don't worry.  You are doing it right.

Okay, add your flour.  Start with about five cups and stir until well combined.  Bread is not like muffins or some sweet breads that act weird if your mix it too much. I have also done this recipe with half whole wheat flour.  Once you have it mastered, try mixing it up a little.

Keep stirring.

Once you can't stir any more, begin kneading.  Can I just say that it is really hard to knead and take a picture?  Really.

Kind of fuzzy.  Sorry.  Knead all that flour into your dough.

Add more flour if it is still sticky.  Make sure you have at least one small hand helping at all times.

Knead until all flour is combined.

Here is the tricky part.  Without touching the dough yourselves, how do you know when you've reached the right texture?  Here are a couple of photos that might help.  The dough is slightly sticky, but should fall off your fingers.

Here's another.  Stretchy, not stiff.

Now shape it into a ball, give it a good spank. (I don't know why, but my grandma always did that so I do.  It feels good.)  Let it rise for about an hour.

Once it has doubled in size, punch it down to let out the air.  Your fist will be a little deeper because this had deflated by the time I figured out how to take a picture.

Here is a little trick I discovered.  One of the things that makes bread tough is too much flour.  One of the ways to avoid extra flour is to spray your surface with oil, instead of rolling it out in flour.

So, spray your counter.

Divide your dough in two balls and begin rolling one of them out.  I don't know why my hand looks like that.  Maybe because I can't roll dough with one hand--especially my left hand.  My hands are totally co-dependent like that.

Make yourself a perfect circle as illustrated below.

Using your pizza slicer, cut the triangles.

Please make sure that, not unlike your perfect circle, your triangles are exactly even.  No exceptions.

Now, roll them up.

To make crescent rolls.  Ha, ha, ha.  I'm too hilarious.

Put your identically sized crescents on a greased cookie sheet.  (Jodi, by the way, actually does make perfectly identical crescents.  She would be so ashamed of my adulterated versions.)  Let rise for about an hour.  If you don't have an hour, let them rise as long as you can.  If you won't be able to bake them after an hour, spray plastic wrap with oil an cover the rolls.  Put the in the fridge until you are ready to bake.  I do this for church a lot--get them all ready before I leave then stick them in the fridge until I get home.

Bake at 350 degrees for 12-15 minutes, depending on your oven and altitude.

Pull them out when they are golden brown.

Of course you can just eat these plain.  You can eat the whole pan within twenty minutes of their leaving the oven.  Tonight, however, I am slicing them in half and filling them with a chicken salad for dinner.  I have also put a hot dog in them for pig-in-a-blanket or made them into different shapes.  There are endless possibilities.  Enjoy!  

Jodi's Rolls
2 1/2 c hot water
2 T yeast
1/2 c sugar
1/2 c powdered milk
2 t salt
4 T oil
2 room temperature, beaten eggs
7 c flour + or -

Bake at 350 for 12-15 minutes.