Thursday, December 31, 2009

Christmas in pictures

This Christmas:

we made cookies for Santa,

visited the Mall Santa to give him our gift requests,

and thought long and hard about what our hearts desired.

And Santa came!

And the kids were totally excited!

Even Josie got something.

Tate got a confetti blaster. Thanks, Mom.

Tate got more Star Wars stuff,

and Rooster got Peeps.

Tate was full of cheese,

and my in-laws got him a gun. And a helmet.

My sister and her husband showed up, surprising everyone.

We burnt off some Christmas crazy hiking Spencer's Butte.

It was a long walk,

but we made it to the top

and posed for pictures.

The kids had to get to the tip top and scaled some high rocks,

and stood at the highest point in town.

And then we hiked back down.
The End.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Life around here...

What we've been up to:

Growing calico potatoes. These are almost ready for baking!

Fighting off attacks by dinosaurs - look out behind you!

Starting a snowman AA program. This guy has obviously fallen off the wagon.

Decking the halls. Fa, la, la, la, la...

Accessorizing with monkeys. Always fashion forward we are.

Watching the "catnip channel". Check your local listings for more info.

Baking food that looks like poo. Quite tasty and currently chilling in the fridge.

Cultivating the crazy.

Happy Thursday, ya'll!

Sunday, December 13, 2009

My Santa Lucia buns freak out

So, I was tasked with making the allergy kids' Santa Lucia buns this year. Great. It is the 2nd Grade's job to hold this festival at the school. No idea why. Maisie signed me up to do the baking for the kids with food allergies (like there was anyone else who would do it). For some reason I was totally stressed by having to make these buns. Something about making egg free bread and having to make them "pretty". Pretty is not something I am good at. Tasty treats, yes. Pretty, not so much.
Anyway, long story short, I got some advice from gluten free friends and googled up this recipe:
Challah Bread
1/3 cup warm water
1 package rapid rise gf yeast
1 tsp. granulated cane sugar
1 cup vanilla dairy or non-dairy (soy or coconut yogurt) at room temperature
1 tsp. apple cider vinegar
5 large egg yolks at room temperature (slightly mixed)
1/3 cup canola oil
4 Tbs. honey, agave nectar or molasses
4 cups Jules Gluten Free All Purpose Flour*
3 Tbs. + 2 tsp. granulated cane sugar
1 ¼ tsp. kosher salt½ tsp. baking soda
2 tsp. gluten-free baking powder1 large egg, mixed
Poppy seeds, sesame seeds, raisins, or other topping or mix-in (optional)
Directions:Preheat your oven to 200 F, then turn it off; if you have a warming drawer, you may set that to low/moist setting instead. Prepare a baking sheet by lining it with parchment paper.
In a small bowl, mix together the warm water, yeast and 1 teaspoon of sugar to proof the yeast; set aside. In the bowl of your stand mixer, add the remaining wet ingredients and mix until combined. Whisk together the dry ingredients in a separate bowl. After 5 minutes of proofing, stir in the yeast-water mixture into the wet ingredients (note: if your yeast isn't bubbling at this point, throw it out and start again with fresh yeast). Gradually stir in the dry ingredients until fully integrated, then mix 2 minutes more on medium speed.
Once the dough is combined, divide it in half and divide each half into three equally-sized balls. Roll each ball out into a coil or long log on a clean, flat surface dusted lightly with Jules Gluten Free™ All Purpose Flour. Pinch together one end of each coil, wetting them slightly with water to help them join together at the top, then braid them, finishing by connecting them to the top of the other end in order to form a crown, or circular shape. You will then have one round challah loaf. Gently transfer it to the parchment-lined baking sheet. Repeat for the second set of three balls. In the alternative, you can simply divide the dough in half, roll out into a flattened coil, then twist upon itself and join at the ends to form a circular loaf; repeat with the other half of the dough ball.In a small bowl, mix the extra egg together and brush over each loaf well, coating the entire top surface.
Sprinkle the seeds or any toppings at this point, then place the tray (covering the loaves with wax paper sprayed with cooking oil) in a warming drawer set to low heat, or into the preheated oven for approximately 20 - 30 minutes. (Don't expect the bread to rise much at this stage).Once risen slightly, place the uncovered tray in an oven preheated to 350 F (static) or 325 F (convection) for 20-25 minutes. Remove to cool on a wire rack and cut after slightly cooled.
Of course, the recipe was just close to what I needed some ingredients didn't work with the food allergies I had to work around or were things I didn't have in my kitchen. So I had to wing it. Instead of yogurt, I used potato milk. Instead of egg yolks, I used egg replacer for 3 eggs,. Instead of canola oil, I used coconut oil (to help the the texture lost from not using yogurt). Instead of Jules' Flour I used Bob's Red Mill. Who's Jules? "Everybody know Bob!" (Nana quote) Instead of Kosher salt I used regular old Christian/Devil Worshiper salt. Maybe it was Lot's wife. Or would she, as a Jew, be Kosher?
The thing about cooking this way is the prep work. you have to mix and let sit the egg replacer. Then heat the coconut oil up so it's not solid. And you have to mix the potato milk up (it's powdered) and let it set up. Plus the normal setting of the yeast. It makes for a lot of dishes. Hey look! It actually made a giant dough ball!
Then instead of braiding the dough into a loaf which would need to be cut I made individual mini buns. No cross contamination issues with sharing knives, cutting boards. They're heart shaped. 'Cause I had a heart cookie cutter. And because that was as creative as I could be in that moment. Maisie's teacher suggested I use some sort of a something-er-other to make an impression in each bun. Huh? I just nodded and smiled, not having any idea what I would use and not about to go hunt down and buy something I'd use once. I did sprinkle the buns with a little cinnamon sugar before sticking them in to bake. Cinnamon sugar makes everything better. And brushing the tops of each bun with egg replacer didn't seem like that great of an idea.

My cookie cutter has Sharpie on it from a previous adventure cutting out felt hearts for Valentine's Day. But hey, it still cuts cookies and can shape dough!
Here they are, going into the warm oven to rise. Not that gluten free bread really rises much. But whatever, I was trying to follow the directions (I do that occasionally).
Fresh out of the oven. Did you notice I forgot the saffron to color the dough yellowish? Oops. Oh well, it saved me the trip to the store. I don't own saffron. I've never used it in a recipe before. I had a thought yesterday to use turmeric, but I forgot the plan about the same time I forgot about having to go get saffron.
Rooster comes in to do a taste test. Her hand is freakishly red from cold. She was outside helping Dave and Julia put up the Christmas decorations.
See - they're kinda, almost pretty. And, what's more, they taste good!
Finally, I bagged and labelled the buns with each allergic child's name and class. Dave said "Maisie gets to hand those out right?". Uh, probably not. Only the oldest girl in the class gets to be Santa Lucia. The rest of the class have to be her groupies. It's lame. One kid gets all the glory. But whatever. Dave's decided Maisie gets to had out the allergen free buns. He thinks he's going to go to school tomorrow and tell Maisie's teacher this. I'll believe it when I see it. I've got plenty of other things to argue about with her teacher. Next year, 3rd Grade, is the gardening year and Maisie's teacher thinks she might have the class grow, harvest, and bake with wheat, oats and rye. I'm working on altering the lesson plan to rice, potatoes and corn.
So my freak out is all done. One less holiday thing to do. Now to wrap the presents, mail crap, try to make the kids pose for a Christmas picture, bake, clean, shop for people who are impossible to buy for, drink...

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Onward Waldorf Gnomes, Marching as to WLF...

Like a mighty army moves the church of God;

brothers, we are treading where the saints have trod.

We are not divided, all one body we,

one in hope and doctrine, one in charity.
Hey, look! A post I forgot to post! Oops!
I made these 200 gnomes for the school's Winter Light Faire. It was my first ever paid commission. No one has ever paid me to make anything before. No one probably ever will again. I made the princely sum of $1.50 a hour. Although, I could have just charged them in itunes gift cards. I was perfectly content sitting on the floor of my office sewing gnomes and listening to new music downloads.
The Pocket Wizard at the Faire had these in his/her pockets for children to choose with a ticket. Which is weird when you think about it - are we teaching our kids to be pick pockets? I meant to get a picture of WLF and the Pocket Wizard. But I didn't. Ooops. I was to busy and crazy from the baking for Cake Walk and the Crystal Cookie Cave, decorating and re-merching of the school store. And boy was I glad I pulled Tate out of Kindergarten, otherwise I'd have had to add baking for the Bakery Booth to my list of WLF tasks! There are not many families at our school with more than 2 kids, maybe this is why... (well, maybe tuition is part of it too.)

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Jesus freak

Tate is obsessed with Jesus. Why, I have no idea. He has never been to church. Well, he's been to the UU church occasionally, but refuses to attend any religious education. Heck no, he won't go! We are not religious people. The kids know some Bible stories as stories only. The same way they know Greek myths. However, since I have a weird thing about Mary, at Christmas I set up a nativity and we read First Christmas books and listen to Christian music. Tate helped set up the nativity. Maybe he heard me say "Jesus" then. Although why that made more of an impression than "Gaspar" and "Melchior", is anyone's guess.

So we are back at the Jesus obsession. Jesus this, Jesus that. "Does Jesus have Elvis in him?" Stories about Jesus and the Jedi Knights. "Did Jesus fight with a lightsaber?" "Well, he should have, then he wouldn't be dead!" Who told Tate Jesus was dead? And that he was killed? Today he went on and on about how the Grinch killed Jesus. Really? It became a little disturbing and I had to tell him to "STOP TALKING FOR 5 MINUTES, PLEASE!". Because it was too weird.

Sometimes I think Tate rides the short bus, he's just not the sharpest tack in the box. He can't remember his friend's names. For real. Even when repeatedly reminded: "That's not Aaron, Tate. It's still Rain, pay attention." And then he says weird, philosophical things like "if another meteor hit the earth, would the dinosaurs become un-extinct?" and goes on about how the Grinch killed Jesus. And I wonder, if maybe he's not so simpleminded afterall.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Song of Tate (or how to torture you child effectively)

Tate is all sorts of difficult these days. So much so that one day he was kicked out of the school's aftercare program for non-compliance and since I was in a meeting and couldn't get him, by friend's husband, Mike, came for him. Tate was not happy with the carseat situation in Mike's car and took off running across the parking lot. Long story short, Tate was caught and wrestled into the car and the "I Don't Want To" song was started.

The original words were just "Tate doesn't want to, Tate doesn't want to..." but this morning after another chasing, wrestling match I added some verses. Here's a reference only Jenn will get: "Wrote a song about it. Like to hear it? Here it goes:"

The "I Don't Want To" Song

I don't want to put on my shoes,
I don't want to go with you!
I will try to make you late,
I don't want to - I am Tate.

I don't want to share my toys,
I don't want to stop making noise!
I don't want to 100 times 8,
I don't want to - I am Tate.

I don't want to, I don't want to,
I don't want to, I don't want to!

I don't want to go to school,
I don't want to follow your rule!
I don't want to clear my plate,
I don't want to - I am Tate.

Now the benefits of torturing your children through song are many. It's legal under the Geneva Conventions and CPS won't object. It's all sorts of fun. It makes the kids so mad at you that they often retreat to their rooms, giving you some peace and quiet. It makes the situation a little more tolerable AND it's a sure guarantee to get your child to stop saying or doing whatever you are singing about. When Mike wrote the original song, Tate went to great lengths to not use the phrase "I don't want to". He obviously relapsed today, but my fine singing skills and song writing technique will certainly make for at least a week of "I don't want to" free days. Maybe longer if I add more verses. And you know I will. :)

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Thanksgiving (in a nutshell)

Ahh, Thanksgiving. A traditional holiday to do traditional things. My sister and I joke about the Thanksgiving menu, no deviations allowed from the original one my Mother set in 1970. I was hosting the mayhem this year, so my Mother sent an menu and shopping list. Organized by item type and section of the grocery store. Nothing like a little crazy to start the holidays off properly.

My Mother came down early this week to visit the kids' school for Grandparent's Day. Also so she could make the turkey. And make sure no one skipped the important step of boiling the giblets on the stove all day. Only my Mother eats them. And identifies each part before adding it to the pot ("hey, this turkey has no heart! And two livers? Do they just scoop up random parts to stuff in each one?").

I got to make the mashed potatoes. Because, well, I love potatoes. And they love me.

While we were waiting on the rest of the family approaching on I-5 from the north and south, we worked a puzzle. One we've had since 1980. My Mother was worried that we'd not be able to finish it "What time is Jenny coming again? We need Jenny for these hard parts!", but we managed just fine. Perhaps because we've worked it 5,000 times.

Dave took it upon himself to make Crispix mix. And stay out of the way. And try to ignore us all by watching football on his giant tv and his laptop at the same time. He's talented that way.

Tate hid out in his room. He had had his Star Wars toys taken away due to a small problem keeping his hands to himself. He finally made it one whole week without hitting and got them back. I also let him watch tv in his room in an attempt to keep him mellowed out and somewhat sane.

After Thanksgiving dinner we played an exciting game of ElvisOpoly. (Nothing weird about that, right?)

Guess who won?
The sun came out for the weekend so we attempted to worked off some of our Thanksgiving gluttony with a hike up and down Skinner's Butte.
How can you tell you live in a college town? They have a giant letter on the hillside. This is what Maisie scornfully calls"that big dumb O".
Finally, since it was my family holiday, everyone came prepared. Three bottles of wine from Oregon, two from Washington and three came from California. We didn't make it through them all, but like all family events "my advice to you is to start drinking heavily". A glass of wine makes it all so much more tolerable. :)