Thursday, May 14, 2015

Good enough sandwich bread

This recipe is my own conglomeration but owes a great deal to a video tutorial Geek Lady posted on Facebook which got me into actually baking bread semi-successfully for the first time ever. I then heavily tweaked her recipe to suit my own purposes. 

4 c all-purpose flour, divided
2 tsp yeast
2 tsp salt
1 tbsp granulated sugar
1 1/2 c very hot water

- Stir together 2 c flour, yeast, salt, and sugar

- Add water and stir everything together again. The water should be about 110*F or hot enough that you can stick your fingers in it for a second but not leave them there. (You should be able to get it to come out of the tap this hot if you turn the handle all the way over.)

-Turn the oven to "warm" (or whatever its lowest temperature is) and let it preheat. Once it's done preheating, TURN IT OFF.

- While waiting, take off all your rings and gradually add remaining 2 c of flour, kneading as you go. This step should not take more than 5 minutes or so; you just want to knead enough to incorporate the flour.

NB: Go by the feel of the bread more than by the exact amount of flour. You don't want the dough to be sticky but you want it to be pretty soft and pliable still. If it feels like Play-Doh you've got too much flour.

- Cover the dough and put it in the warmed-and-somewhat-cooled oven for a couple of hours. Go grocery shopping or take a nap or something.

- Take the dough out, preheat oven to "warm" again, turn it off again once it's done.

- While your oven is rewarming, grease a loaf pan, peel your dough off the sides of the bowl (it will have become somewhat sticky while rising), and form it into a rough oblong before dropping it into the pan. It helps to not wash the butter/oil/whatever off your hands in between the two parts of this step.

- Stick the dough back in the oven for a while, maybe an hour or so, until it comes a little ways over the top of the pan.

- Take the risen loaf out of the oven and preheat to 400*.

- Bake for about 20 minutes.

- Allow to cool completely before slicing.

*******

I would like to figure out some whole-grain variations at some point but for whatever reason life has not allowed for the purchase of the necessary ingredients. I am very busy doing stuff on Facebook, don't you know?

Also, I am quite sure that I am Doing It Wrong somehow when it comes to bread-baking but we haven't died yet so I will carry on.

Saturday, May 9, 2015

Breakfast at Tiffany's

Things I believe even when I don't believe in anything else:

- If I didn't think that God was real, I wouldn't be mad at him.

- If I didn't believe that he could communicate with us, that he could show his love and everything else in ways we can understand, then I would not be still trying to understand.

(No, really; saying that God loves me but that his love doesn't look like love or feel like love or have the results one would expect of love is not an adequate answer. Try again.)

- If God is who I always believed he was (who I still believe he is even when I think I'm irrational for believing it), then he's not threatened by my anger or doubt or anything else in the tangled little knot of my spiritual life. If he God as I believe him to be (the only God I've ever wanted to believe in), he'll be waiting. Always.

Sunday, May 3, 2015

Seven Quick Takes: 17 months


Yes, my blog is a glorified baby book now.

--1--

We've spent most of the last month battling Tad's first ear infection, which as it turns out is a milestone I'd much rather skip. We didn't even realize it was an ear infection for almost two weeks because his only symptom was waking up in the middle of the night and crying inconsolably, and bad sleep is kind of his trademark. He doesn't need a reason to wake up in the night.

But two weeks ago Scott used his day off to persuade me to call the pediatrician and much to my shock the nurse instructed us to bring him in rather than telling me to buy earplugs as I expected she would. And lo, he had an ear infection after all. I felt pretty terrible about not bringing him in sooner, let me tell you.

As penance I faithfully remembered to give him his pink medicine twice a day every day until it was gone. (Weird baby actually LIKES taking medicine, so it wasn't even that penitential.) He finished it earlier this week and still seems kind of out of sorts. We're currently keeping a close eye on him to make sure we don't have to take him in for a follow-up.

--2--

Being sick for the better part of three weeks hasn't seemed to put a damper on his rapid acquisition of developmental milestones, so allow me to begin a recitation!

First off, he eats with a spoon now! (Occasionally, when he feels like it.) I was particularly preoccupied with encouraging the use of utensils because the pediatrician asked about it at the 15-month well-check and I had to answer no, much to my chagrin. (Even though I'm sure the idea is for your kid to be "yes" on some things and "no" on others because AVERAGES.)

Of course, I've comforted myself with the thought that really he only abstained from utensil use because he was SO GOOD at feeding himself with his hands, far superior to other babies his age. ;)

--3--

And in the field of gross motor skills we have climbing. SO MUCH CLIMBING. We went to my parents' house last weekend and he spent the entire time we were there OBSESSED with going up and down the stairs. He can crawl up stairs and slither down on his belly really well. He's been trying to figure out how to step up and down stairs, but it's hard for him because he's so short.

His other new favorite thing is climbing on our dining room table. On the plus side, we now have it all cleared off so we can eat dinner as a family instead of hiding behind our laptops.

--4--

We're still waiting on the language explosion, but he has added a word or two to his vocabulary this month.

- "Ai!" meaning, of course, "Hi!" He sometimes says this when I walk into a room but mostly uses it when he sees himself in a mirror or other reflective surface, at which point he will greet himself, grin broadly, and strike a pose. Little narcissist.

- This gesture, which means "Hold me!" (not a formal sign, obviously, but he uses it consistently to communicate an idea, so maybe it counts?)

Notice that he's standing on the table wearing
nothing but a diaper. Toddlers, man.

- When playing with his toy animals he has said "Woo!" (Moo?) and "Baa!" respectively, but each of those only once so I don't count them yet.

--5--

In the category of receptive language, we have two-step directions! The story:

About two weeks ago, Tad was eating orange slices and leaving the peels scattered all over the living room, as he does. So as soon as he finished the last slice I told him, "Put that [the peel in his hand] in the sink." And he did!

Since I was feeling bold, I said, "Go get the other orange peel and put it in the sink." I may have pointed; I don't remember. Tad wandered around for a while, picked up a peel and nibbled some extra orange bits off of it, wandered around some more--and then came back and deposited the peel in the sink! I had to strive mightily to avoid reminding him of his directions during the wandering around, but if I reminded him, "Put it in the sink" after he picked up the peel, that wouldn't have counted as following two-step directions, would it?

--6--

I have a feeling that his expressive language is going to explode soon and it all stems from a theory I have about food.

See, during April I nicknamed Tad "Paleo Baby" because he would seriously eat almost nothing but meat. He rejected homemade waffles once in favor of eating 4 sausage links in one sitting. And then at the end of April he made all those huge leaps in gross motor skills--you know, things that require muscle development, which requires protein.

But this last week or so, since he mastered those skills, Tad has been going crazy for pasta, Cheerios, bananas--carby foods. Do you know what carbs fuel? Your BRAIN. So I think he is going to make a major cognitive leap soon and he's at about the right age for that to be his language explosion.

--7--

Lest you think it's all developmental milestone bootcamp over here, we've also lately gotten into the habit of going for almost-daily walks. At first I would just let him walk and we'd go to the stop sign at the end of our street and back, but then some relatives moved away and during the decluttering process got rid of one of their strollers. So now Tad has a big green and gray stroller for me to push him around in, which increases our range without killing my back like carriers do. (I don't really have any toddler-friendly babywearing devices; at least not any suitable for long walks.)

Anyway, I like the walks because I get to just zone out and think while Tad is safely strapped in the stroller, and Tad likes the walks because he gets to point and jabber at fire hydrants. Win-win. And it has the added bonus of giving us our daily dose of Vitamin D.

For more Quick Takes visit This Ain't The Lyceum!

Friday, April 3, 2015

Seven Quick Takes: 16 months


Tad turned sixteen months old a while ago (I have been very remiss in my blogging), so here is an update!

"You eat yogurt HOW?"
1. His separation anxiety is definitely better. We went to a park playdate the other day and I was expecting to have a fun time chatting with the other moms but instead spent the whole time chasing after him so he didn't wander off and fall in the creek. It's a lot of work. I kind of miss the days when he would cling to my skirt the whole time.

However, it is nice to be able to leave him playing with his father while I run a quick errand or take a shower without coming back to find him crying hysterically in Scott's arms.

The daddy attachment is getting stronger in general, incidentally--the other day, he woke up from his nap and after cuddling with me for a few minutes toddled over to the gate in the doorway of the "office" (the second bedroom where we keep computers and other stuff Tad isn't supposed to touch) and jabbered emphatically for several minutes. When that failed to produce a result, he toddled into the living room, found his jacket, and started trying to put it on. I could just be reading way too much into this, but I am pretty sure he was trying to get Scott to come out of the office and when Scott didn't respond, decided, "Oh, Daddy must have taken the bus to work today; we should go pick him up."

2. He's turning into a very affectionate little guy. At another playdate he was actually playing with a baby about 9 months old--the other baby was sitting and playing with some balls and then threw them; Tad toddled over and fetched the balls back for the other baby. So the other baby grinned and threw them again and Tad fetched them again. They kept that up for quite a while.

He also loves giving hugs. Earlier today he went back and forth between me and Scott for a good few minutes, just hugging each of us alternately.

Who wouldn't want to hug this baby?
3. His favorite toys right now:

- Books. Always books. He reminds me of those aggressively friendly people handing out pamphlets on street corners. Like, seriously, child, I am in the middle of eating, can I read Big Red Barn in a few minutes? (Spoiler: The answer is no. He will pretty much deposit the book directly on my plate in order to force me to read it to him RIGHT THIS SECOND.)

- Blocks. His fine motor skills are ridiculously advanced for his age. I think the main draw for him is not the "making impressive and developmentally advanced towers" thing, but the fact that the solid wood blocks make nice clunking sounds when whacked together.

Six blocks high!
4. He balances out all this sweetness and light by regularly using his genius to get into as much mischief as possible. For a week or two he went through a phase of knocking over chairs--the chairs weren't in his way or anything, he would just walk up to them and shove them over for no reason. Or because, "Hey, this makes a loud noise when I repeatedly rock it back and forth so it bangs against the wall!" (Our poor neighbors.)

Then earlier this week he decided to switch things up by climbing on the chairs. This terrifies me, since of course there's nothing standing between him and climbing on the counter to play with the steak knives except the fact that he hasn't put 2 and 2 together yet. ("I can shove these chairs all around" + "I can climb on top of them to reach other things" = "FREEDOM!!!")

5. His new favorite word (the only word he's added this month) is "Outside." Usually it sounds something like "Ow die." (It is distinct from "Ih deh," which is what he says when pointing to things other than windows.)

There have been patches of nice weather lately, so we have been making an effort to go ow die occasionally, partly to keep the short one from going stir-crazy and partly because my therapist suggested exercise/Vitamin D as an alternative to antidepressants. (SSRIs have been good to me in the past but I'm just not feeling them right now. Hopefully I'll perk up presently and we won't have to have these conversations and can go back to therapy-ing about other stuff.)

A week later he was wearing mittens again.
6. I think his expressive language acquisition might have slowed down because he's busy working on receptive language. He can understand just about everything we say to him now. (I mean, everything that is concretely related to his little toddler life. He probably doesn't understand when Scott talks about Python hooks at length.) Some examples:

- I tell him, "Do you want to go use the potty?" and he trots over to the bedroom door, points, and waits for me to open it. (And then sometimes declines to actually sit on the potty once I've got his diaper off. It's cool, we're in no hurry.)

- I ask, "Do you want to go unload the dishwasher?" and he trots into the kitchen, waits for me to unlock the dishwasher, opens the door, and pulls out the bottom rack. And then starts pulling stuff out and handing it to me so I can put it away. Lately I've even had success with saying, "Can you put that in this drawer?" (He's tall enough to throw things into the waist-height drawers but not take them out yet, thank you Jesus.)

- I offer, "Do you want a cup of water?" and he trots into the kitchen, points at the cabinet where we keep the cups, and grunts affirmatively.

What do you do when you want a drink
but don't want to put down the ducky?
7. A couple of weeks ago, he decided that he no longer wanted to be worn to sleep. He just kicks his legs and merrily stays awake now, whereas before wearing him and pacing back and forth was the magic bullet of sleepiness. In some ways that's nice (my spine is very happy!) but in other ways not so nice--now the only foolproof method for getting him to sleep is strapping him into his carseat and driving around, and gas prices aren't so cheap that I'm going to do that twice a day. So unless our errands are conveniently timed I basically just have to wait for him to get tired and fall asleep on his own. He is definitely not getting the recommended 13-14 hours of sleep right now.

For example, normally he goes down for his nap around noon, but today apparently he is a pious baby heeding the Lord's admonition to stay awake and keep watch, because he got up around 7:00 and it's currently 2:45 and he is STILL AWAKE. I should probably finish this blog post and go rock him in the La-Z-Boy/offer it up/fantasize about how much chocolate I'm going to eat in about 33 hours.

Overtired baby falls asleep in his lunch.
For more Quick Takes, visit This Ain't The Lyceum!

Monday, March 23, 2015

Spicy Broccoli Soup

Loosely based on this recipe.

1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter
1/4 cup flour
2 cups milk
2 cups vegetable broth
2-3 cups (1 head) raw broccoli, finely chopped
2 tbsp dry onion flakes
1 tsp minced garlic
3/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 teaspoon pepper
1/2 teaspoon paprika
1/2 teaspoon dry mustard
1-2 pinches red pepper flakes
1 cup (4 oz) shredded cheddar cheese
(Optional) 1 can tuna

Melt butter in large pot. Add flour and stir to make a paste. Add milk gradually, stirring to incorporate. Add vegetable broth.

Cook over low heat for about 15 minutes, stirring regularly. Meanwhile, chop up a head of broccoli, stems and all.

Add broccoli through red pepper flakes. Do not accidentally do a "shake" of red pepper flakes instead of a "pinch." Trust me. Continue cooking soup on low for 20-25 minutes, stirring regularly.

Add cheese and (optional) tuna and stir until cheese is melted. Remove from heat and serve. Makes 4-6 servings or enough for 2 hungry adults and 1 very hungry caterpillar toddler.


Thursday, March 19, 2015

Chicken Stockbroth Thingy

1 chicken carcass or about 8-10 leg bones (i.e. if you buy a big package of drumsticks and save all the bones)
12 cups water
1 each carrot, celery stalk, and onion, washed and coarsely chopped (but unpeeled/leaves left on)
1-2 tbsp parsley
1-2 tsp minced garlic
2-3 bay leaves
6-8 peppercorns
1-2 tbsp salt*

Just before bedtime, put everything into a crockpot. Turn to low and leave all night.

Makes about 11 cups broth because of evaporation or something.

*I used 2 tbsp and without any added salt the resulting soup was a bit on the salty side even for me, so 1 tbsp would probably be adequate

Friday, March 13, 2015

Seven Quick Takes: A year of cloth diapering


I meant to write this post at the beginning of February but never got around to it...so technically I guess it should be thirteen and a half months of cloth diapering. Anyway...

#1: The diapers

I got one-size pockets because I figured that would be relatively easy. My husband still thinks they're too hard. Though he's also scared of ring slings, so his crunchy parenting cred is pretty low.

I have 29 diapers (12 of these, 16 of these, and 1 of these) and wash twice a week. Sometimes waiting for the diapers to line dry cuts it pretty close. (As I type this, my napping toddler is wearing the last clean and stuffed diaper in the apartment, so I should probably stuff a few before he wakes up.) If I washed 3 times a week like I'm supposed to or had maybe 32-34 diapers it would work nicely.

A big disadvantage of OS pockets is that even though they claim to fit 8+ pounds, they really don't fit until at least 10 pounds. I didn't think this would be a problem since of course I was going to go 2 weeks overdue and have a 10-lb baby. Instead I went 3 weeks early and had an 8-lb baby who subsequently decided that gaining weight is for chumps. So he didn't top 10 lbs until he was a little past 2 months old.

MOM. THIS DIAPER IS SWALLOWING ME UP. MOM.
I used to like the BumGenius diapers better because they fit better, but now that he's bigger the China diapers are the ones that fit better. The BGs have also started to look a bit worn in spots and the China diapers haven't, even though I rotate them evenly.

Next baby I might bridge the gap between "I'm functional enough to do laundry" and "baby is big enough to wear pockets" by getting a few newborn-sized covers and use prefolds or old T-shirts or what have you. We'll see.

#2: The changing station

I don't have a changing table. Before Tad could roll, I used a Pack-n-Play as a diaper storage unit/changing table and that worked nicely. Now I have one of those under-bed bins under the crib for storing diapers and I change him on the floor.

I have two of these cotton-lined waterproof pads because they're cute. Nowadays I use a plain white plastic pad that came in a box of hand-me-downs 99% of the time, because when Sir Rollsalot inevitably smears poop on it I can just wipe it off instead of having to wash it with the laundry. If I had it to do over I'd just buy a few more plain plastic ones and have done with it.

I have about 63 flannel wipes (I haven't counted them up recently to see if they're all still there)--60 of these and 3 BumGenius that came as a free sample with some diapers my mother bought. 63 is plenty for washing twice a week. I don't like the BG wipes because they're too small and too thick. The OsoCozy ones, on the other hand, are just about perfect in both respects. The only disadvantage with them is that the rainbow-colored trim tends to fray. This doesn't affect the functionality of the wipes but it is unsightly and annoying. (Of course, the old poop stains are also a bit unsightly. Cloth wipes just aren't going to stay pretty after a year of use.)

To wet the wipes before I use them, I use the peri bottle I got in the hospital (if you're the homebirthing type, you can buy peri bottles super cheap on Amazon) filled with plain water. I used to put a few drops of baby shampoo in there too, but now I don't and I haven't noticed a difference.

#3: Dealing with dirty diapers

There are people out there who say that when a baby is exclusively breastfed you don't have to remove the poop from the diapers and this is probably true but when Tad was little and would have massive blowout poops about once a week, I would spray the diapers.

Once he started solids it was definitely necessary, and now it's less necessary again because after he was eating a decent amount it got to the point where I could just shake the solid bits off into the toilet most of the time.

Anyway. We went almost a year with a cheap plastic $15 sprayer from Meijer. Being plastic, it eventually broke. So I invested in an all-metal sprayer--the Bumkins was $10 cheaper than the BumGenius one that looks like exactly the same thing. I've only been using that one about three months so I can't comment on its longevity, but it has a much more powerful spray than the cheapy plastic one and that alone makes me wish I'd ponied up the extra $35 from the beginning.

Wet diapers and pre-sprayed poopy diapers go into a large wet bag that hangs off the bathroom doorknob. I have two, one dark green and one white with blue/green/yellow dots. The dark green one has faded significantly after a year of being washed once a week but otherwise they've held up remarkably well given how much I abuse and overstuff them. They hold pretty much exactly the same number of diapers as a standard sized washing machine.

#4: Doing the laundry 

As mentioned, I wash my diapers twice a week. I take the wet bag and dump its contents into the washing machine and then throw the wet bag right in there too. (This is why I have two wet bags, so I can have one in use and one washing/drying.)

I've tried a few different detergents and so far my favorite is Rockin Green (the unscented hard water formulation, to be precise). One bag lasts me about 5 months and I'm generous with my scoops.

To save money, I hang dry EVERYTHING. Covers, inserts, wipes, anything else that got thrown in there.... A while back I made my life much much easier by getting a cheap drying rack from Wal-Mart so I don't have to hang diapers off the backs of random chairs and stuff. If I stay on top of rotating stuff out when it's dry, I can usually get everything done in about 24 hours and then I stuff it all at once and then I have a day or two off before I wash another load and start it all over again. I look forward to the day when I will have my own laundry room and will only have to line-dry covers.


#5: Leaving the house

To be honest, most of the time when I leave the house I don't even bring diapers. I'm a lazy breastfeeding mom; I don't like to pack things.

On the rare occasions when we go on longer trips or he hasn't done his morning poop yet before we go grocery shopping, I will throw in a waterproof changing mat that came with my diaper bag (okay, I lied in Take #2, I have two plastic mats), a medium wet bag, the peri bottle, and the appropriate number of diapers and wipes. If I end up changing his diaper, I shake any poop into the nearest toilet and then remove the inserts from the pocket and toss everything into the wet bag. When I get home the wet bag gets tossed on the bathroom floor and then next time I wash diapers it gets dumped into the washing machine too. (As in I open it up, empty the contents, and then toss in the wet bag itself.)

When we go to my parents' for the weekend (the only time we've been away overnight since Tad was born) we usually mooch disposable diapers off of them (though I've heard rumors that Matthew is getting cut off when he turns 4, so those days might be over soon) and I will frequently use the opportunity of none of the diapers being in use to strip them with dish soap to remove buildup. (Plus then I don't have to pay extra quarters for all the extra rinses.)

#6: Nighttime diapering and rashes

Up until Tad was about six months old I could just leave him in a double-stuffed diaper overnight and he'd be fine. Once teething entered the scene he started getting much rashier, though. (Molars have caused some particularly nasty rashes, including one that got so bad he got a secondary bacterial infection. I switched to disposables for a week or so and bleached all the diapers when that happened.)

What seems to work fairly well for prevention is slathering him with coconut oil before bed and putting an extra fleece liner in his diaper to wick away the moisture. (Do not buy liners for your cloth diapers. Go to Joann's on 50% off day and get half a yard of fleece and cut it into roughly 4x8 pieces for a baby or 4x12 pieces for a toddler.)

If I slack off with the coconut oil and he actually gets a rash, I add breastmilk* and Vitamin E (cut open a capsule and slather on its contents) to our regimen and that seems to work if I start it early enough. I'm not 100% sure the Vitamin E is an approved cloth diaper thing, but let's pretend, okay?

For bad rashes you can use fleece liners to protect your diapers from butt paste/Vaseline/whatever (use a different color fleece from your regular overnight liners and wash separate so the stuff doesn't get all over the diapers in the wash), but I'm not enough of a purist to do that very often; usually I just buy a cheap pack of disposables and use those for a few days.

*Yes, I just lift my shirt in the middle of a diaper change and hand-express a bit. I'm a weird hippie now, okay?

#7: Why I do it

The biggest reason I cloth diaper is just because I like it. I like pretending that I'm a peaceful wholesome earth mother type instead of a grouchy person who occasionally feeds her kid chocolate chips to bribe him into 10 minutes of quiet. If cloth diapers didn't have that draw for me I really doubt the other advantages would be enough to make me want to do it. But here are a few anyway:

- Cost: Even dealing with coin-op laundry, I estimate that I spend about $25 a month on diapers, which is better than you could do with even generic disposables.

Of course there is the initial outlay, but most of my diapers and supplies were gifts. Plus I don't remember that far back thanks to post-baby amnesia, so the sticker shock has worn off. (And if you do covers and old T-shirts instead of fancy pockets, your initial outlay might not even be that high.)

- Convenience: I know, you all think I'm crazy. I hate leaving the house just that much, that not having to go to the store for diapers is a major selling point for me. Not having to worry about buying a huge case of Size 4 right before a growth spurt. NOT HAVING TO TAKE OUT THE PUTRID TRASH EVERY SINGLE DAY. 

If I had my own washer and dryer (this is a constant refrain for me) it would be even better. I could throw a load in whenever I had a spare minute! I wouldn't have to line-dry! It'd be fabulous. 

(Ask me about this again in about 5 years and see if I actually save time or just adjust my laziness to compensate.) 

- Durability: Disposables are obviously meant to be disposable. But, you know, when my child wears a diaper for a few hours and it starts falling apart, that's maybe a little too disposable. And he can't rip off the cloth diapers and poop on the carpet when I'm not paying attention.

- Leak-proof-ness: We've had blowouts in cloth, don't get me wrong. When Tad was exclusively breastfed he just loved to save his poop for a week and then completely overflow his diaper. But when he was in disposables he would poop up his back EVERY SINGLE TIME. Even when it was only a small poop. 

- Aesthetics: I only have to deal with smell from cloth diapers about 2 minutes out of every week, when I dump the wet bag into the washing machine and 4-day-old-poop smell flies up into the air. The smell from a trash can full of disposables is constant and oppressive. Disposables even smell bad when they're clean! 

Cloth gives my baby a nice pattable bum. (And he hates sleep, so he gets a lot of repetitive bum-patting.)

And they're just plain cute. Especially with penguins on them.


For more Quick Takes, visit This Ain't the Lyceum!