My Favorite Bread

 

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Ah, bread. There’s nothing quite like the smell of homemade bread wafting through your house. I used to be very intimidated with the idea of making my own bread. I was sure I was going to mess it up somehow, and admittedly I have had some bread-making blunders over the years, but once you get the hang of it, it’s really not a big deal. And even seasoned cooks have had blunders, so put your worries aside and know that you’re not alone!

David really likes the European-style bread, the kind that’s crusty on the outside and chewy and soft on the inside. Yum! I really like all kinds of bread. When I used to work at a bakery in my hometown, they made the most amazing bread ever with sunflower seeds. Major yum. I haven’t experimented much with that yet, but it’s on my to-do list!

I have settled on a very easy, artisan-style loaf that we just really love around here. The best part is that no kneading is required! This seems like a lot of work but it’s really not. Don’t let the long list of steps scare you. It really comes together easily. Here’s the recipe:

Artisan Bread:
3 cups lukewarm water (slightly warmer than body temperature)
1 1/2 tablespoons granulated yeast or 2 (7 1/4 g) packets granulated yeast
1 1/2 tablespoons salt
6 1/2 cups unsifted unbleached, all-purpose flour

1. Mix the yeast with the water in a 5-quart mixing bowl or other bowl of your choosing. The yeast doesn’t have to be completely dissolved.

2. In another bowl, mix together the salt and the flour. When you measure your flour, make sure you don’t pack it down as that can result in too much flour. Just scoop your flour and then level it off with a knife or something.

3. Now add your flour/salt mixture to your water/yeast mixture and stir until it’s uniformly moist. Remember, you don’t have to knead it.

4. And now the dough is ready to rise. Put a lid or piece of plastic wrap over the top and let it hang out on your counter for a couple of hours. Depending on the temperature in your kitchen, it may need to rise for a longer time, and that’s okay. Just let it rise until it’s flattened on top.

Your dough is now ready for baking! However, you can just stick it in the fridge now if you want. This dough will keep in your fridge for two weeks! Just hack off what you want when you’re ready to bake.

If you want to bake it now:
1. Sprinkle some flour on your dough.

2. Hack off a grapefruit-sized portion of dough and add flour as needed so it’s not sticky.

3. Form it into a round loaf (though if you don’t want round, whatever shape is good – you do you, girl!). Pull it and stretch it as you’re forming until it’s nice and smooth.

4. Preheat your oven to 450 degrees (seems pretty high, huh? No worries!) Put an empty broiler pan in your oven on a different shelf than what your bread will be on. This will be for water.

5. Dust your loaf with flour and use a knife to make some artsy kind of slashes.

6. Put your loaf into the oven and add about a cup of water to your empty broiler pan. The steam from the water is what gives this bread a nice, crusty exterior.

7. Let it bake for about 30 minutes or so or until the loaf is nice and brown and firm to the touch.

Here is what the finished product looks like!

Artisan breadI used an air-bake pan and then cooked the dough on parchment paper.

You can get fancy with different kinds of slashes on your loaf. It’s kind of fun to experiment. And now you can impress your friends and family with your new bread-making skilz! :) If you try it, let me know!

 

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Exercise Myths Debunked, Lisa Style!

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Exercise is hard, you know? So I thought for a little fun, I’d post my take on some of the exercise “myths” of our day. Because I know that so many people are being misled,  I feel it is my civic duty to set you all straight. You’re welcome. ;) With it being the start of the new year and all, a lot of people are beginning to exercise more, getting gym memberships and the like. Let me tell you, people are just being misled!*

Myth #1: Exercise will give you more energy. *snoooore*. Oh, I’m sorry, what were we talking about? I’m so tiiiirrrred. :) I guess that’s not always the case, but srsly, sometimes I am just downright tired after I work out. Maybe I need to eat more… nom, nom, nom!

koala-1651052_1920(I hear you, cute, little, sleepy koala. I hear you.)

Myth #2: You’ll like to exercise if you just find something you like to do. Hmmm…will you please find me an exercise activity that does not involve sweating? Because I really don’t like to sweat. It makes for more laundry, more showers, etc. Although I will say Pilates does come awfully close. I just don’t have a lot of patience for it. But really, what other exercise routines have you laying down the whole time?!

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Myth #3: Exercise is a hunger suppressant.  *crunch, crunch* *gulp* *burp* Uh, hi! Next myth please…

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Myth #4: Exercise will increase your self-confidence: You guys, I don’t know about you all, but I jiggle and it just ain’t pretty. And why does everyone look so happy and amazing on these workout videos anyway while I am dripping with sweat and hating the world and feeling very incompetent? I rest my case. And don’t get me started on those ladies at the gym. I used to hang out in the back for  a reason.

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Myth #5: Exercise will develop more muscle: It’s there. It’s gotta be there somewhere. Maybe underneath all that flab…

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Now hopefully I have set you straight on all those misconceptions that you might have had about exercise. It’s about time someone cleared things up a bit. From one struggling mom to another who is about to pop in another workout DVD or perhaps do a workout on YouTube (there are so many!), you are not alone!

*All of this was said tongue in cheek. Just in case you were concerned, I don’t really consider the above to be myths at all. I think we can all relate to feeling this way about exercise at one time or another. And man, sometimes exercise just sucks. :)

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Tips for Easy Meals

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When David and I were first married, I had very little experience with cooking. I mean very, very little. When I still lived at home with my parents, I cooked some but definitely not very much. After we were married, my go-to recipe was spaghetti because it was easy and we both liked it. Tired and needed an easy meal? Spaghetti. Company coming over? Spaghetti. A romantic meal for two? Yeah. Spaghetti again. :) I did expand my menu repertoire over the years (thankfully!) and as you might imagine, we really don’t eat spaghetti that often anymore. David has been a very willing guinea pig too, which I really appreciate. I have had a few flops but most things have actually turned out well!

If you need some help in planning meals for your family either due to lack of experience or feel like you just don’t have time, here are some things that have helped me quite a bit over the years.

1. Don’t make it difficult.
Your meals don’t have to be fancy and elaborate to be good and healthy. There is a time and a place for that but if you are tired after a long day of work or homeschooling or you’re just starting out in your cooking adventures, go with an easy recipe. Even now, nearly 17 years after our wedding day, a lot of my recipes don’t have much more than five ingredients or so. And you know what? I have gotten more compliments on those recipes than on more elaborate ones!

(Psst. Here’s an easy recipe for you:)

2. Use your Crock Pot
Several years ago when I first started working from home, my older two kids were pretty young and I was working from 2p.m. until about 8 p.m. every weeknight. I used my Crock Pot ALL the time! It was a lifesaver for me. Now, you do have to do some planning, but dinner cooks all day long and when the busyness of the evening comes around, it’s ready! Some meals are so easy that you don’t even have to defrost the meat. I will be posting some of those recipes soon.

3. Enlist some help!
My older two children (who are now 14 and 15) are a huge help to me in the kitchen. This obviously didn’t happen overnight and took some training, but it definitely pays off. They were able to do some pretty basic things even when they were younger, and I got to spend some quality time with them too. Now that they’re older, they can take over a lot of the meal preparation, and this has saved my sanity on more than one occasion.

4. Find a few meals you and your family like and stick with them.
I have a friend who kind of just rotates through about five or six meals that she makes for her family. She doesn’t have a whole lot of experience and cooking isn’t really her thing, so this works really well for her. It’s easy and economical. Her kids don’t complain and they love those meals. I have seen them chow down! This sounds like a great option. Maybe after awhile your family will get tired of those same meals, so then you can change it up and come up with another five or six meals that they really like. I think planning meals this way is an excellent, easy, and frugal idea. And I’m all about being frugal!

I hope that these tips have been helpful. If anyone has other suggestions, I would love to hear them! If you have some inexpensive and easy recipes to share, please do so! The more, the better! :)

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Easy Roasted Chicken and Vegetables

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There is a time and a place for luxurious, fancy meals. Those can be really fun. Most days, however, I just need easy. Easy and good. This recipe serves both purposes. You just need to remember to pull your chicken out of the freezer ahead of time. Ahem. :)

I’ve said it before, but it bears repeating. I don’t often measure anything in my recipes so the following is kind of an estimate. You can vary it depending on the amount of people you are serving.

Easy Roasted Chicken and Vegetables

1 lb. of carrots, cut up (Use baby carrots to make it super easy, and you don’t even have to cut them up!)
3 lbs. (or so) of potatoes, cubed
3-5 lbs. of raw chicken breasts, cut up (or you can use thighs)
1-2 packets of ranch dressing mix OR 2-4 tablespoons of homemade ranch dressing mix
1 stick of butter, cut up

Toss everything together and put it in your Crock Pot on low for 6-8 hours.

Enjoy!

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Pico De Gallo

There are some things that taste like summer to me. Watermelon, lemonade, hamburgers on the grill. And pico de gallo! We love to make this recipe in the summer. It’s easy, healthy, and uses up the abundance of garden tomatoes you hopefully have! 

tomato-721603_1920It is getting to be tomato season. Are you swimming in tomatoes yet? My plants aren’t doing as well as last year, but I hope to at least get enough to make a batch or two of our favorite salsa: pico de gallo, also known as fresh tomato salsa. Now, I will warn you that with so many of my recipes, I rarely measure anything. This recipe is no exception. So much of it is a matter of personal preference. Maybe you don’t like cilantro at all so you can leave that out. Maybe you prefer a milder batch? Go ahead and leave out the jalapeno. It’s kind of trial and error really. Here is the recipe.

Pico de Gallo
Fresh tomatoes, maybe 3 or 4
1/2 to 1 red onion (I’ve used yellow and white before too.)
1/2 to 1 jalapeno, seeded (or omit this altogether)
a bunch of cilantro (This is where your personal preference will come in. Start with a smaller amount and add more if you think it needs it.)
2 teaspoons more or less of fresh minced garlic (I have also used garlic powder to taste.)
salt to taste

Now just chop everything up and mix it together. Add more seasoning if needed. Enjoy with tortilla chips!

Posted in Recipes | 2 Comments

Goal Update and New Weekly Goals

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Time to sit down and give a recap of my goals from last week. I had a fairly productive week, though didn’t get everything done, particularly in our home repair category. So I’ll just tack that on to this week’s list. I really would like to at least get some of that stuff done!

Gardening:
Weed, baby, weed (the vegetable garden specifically).
Harvest some kale. (I didn’t get that done but harvested some tomatoes, squash, and jalapenos!)
Water consistently. (The Lord took care of that one for me! We had some rain this past week so I didn’t need to water.)
Weed back flower bed. (Isaiah did this one.)
Weed front flower bed. (He did this one too! :) )

Home Improvement Projects: Well, sadly, I didn’t accomplish anything in this category. Time to move the list to this week’s goals!
Buy peel and stick vinyl for this project. I am so excited to try this! It might actually be something I can do.
Scrape the porch of old stain
Prep the porch to apply new stain
Hopefully apply the stain and be done with this project!

Personal:
Devotions before noon each day
Set aside some time to read. (Didn’t get that one done. Does Pinterest count? ;) )
Work out every day. (I did this everyday but Thursday.)
Write out my to-do list for the next day the night before. (It really seems to work best for me to do this in the morning so that’s what I will stick with.)

Homemaking:
Prep dinner in the morning using the crockpot or plan an easy meal.
Bake some bread to freeze (I baked some bread, just didn’t freeze it!)
Follow the Motivated Moms chore planner at least 80% of the time.
Have the house straightened up before David gets home from work.
Declutter! (I am always on a mission to declutter, though that’s not always a good thing; just ask David!)

Children:
With the older kids, help them with math.
Keep all kids on task with their chores.
Make sure the older kids memorize their catechism.
For the younger kids, help Sam with his reading lesson. (We are slowly making our way through his reading lesson book.)
Help them memorize catechism questions.


And now goals for this week!

Gardening
Weed veggie garden (this will be ongoing).
Harvest veggies (including kale!).

Blogging
Blog everyday!
Post a recipe or two.
Take some business-related classes on Alison.com (they’re free!).
Read posts about blogging (incomeschool.com has some great information).

Home Improvement Projects
See last week’s list. It is exactly the same!

Personal
Continue having devotions before noon each day.
Set aside some time to read everyday.
Work out everyday.
Write my to-do list every morning.

Homemaking
Prep dinner in the morning or around lunch time (or at least have a plan in place to make dinnertime run smoothly).
Follow the Motivated Moms chore planner 80% of the time.
Continue my decluttering mission!
Have the house straightened up before David gets home everyday.

Children
Help the older kids with math.
Go over catechism questions with younger kids.
Help older kids stay on task with memorizing catechism questions.
Continue reading lessons with Sam.

I hope everyone has a productive week!

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Gardening Update

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Note: The following post may contain one or more affiliate links. By purchasing through these links, I receive a small compensation that supports this site. Thank you so much!

I love this time of year! There is so much fresh produce available. The garden is doing well for the most part. I have a TON of kale and basil. Plus my zucchini and summer squash plants are doing great. My tomato plants aren’t looking so hot though. They do have some tomatoes on them, but not as many as I think they should. The plants themselves aren’t getting very big and the leaves are turning yellow toward the bottom. I’m not sure what’s going on there. Hopefully I will get enough to make pico de gallo. We made a ton of that last year. It was so good!

My bell pepper and jalapeno pepper plants are producing nicely too. However, I have so much stuff crammed in my garden that some of these plants aren’t getting enough sun. I think when my squash plants are done producing, they will get more sun and produce better. Lesson learned!

In the spring when everything was still small or hadn’t grown at all yet, I saw all the empty space and wanted to fill it up with as many veggies as I could. Now it is like a jungle out there! My space between rows especially by the squash plants is pretty much nonexistent. It’s exciting to see how much stuff I can grow though. And my garden plot isn’t huge by any stretch of the imagination.

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Some dear friends recently gave me a book called The Backyard Homestead. The author shows you how to grow so much food, even if you don’t live on much space! It gives you the basics on how to grow pretty much anything, even information for raising chickens (something I would love to do one day!) and other livestock. I have been slowly making my way through the book. It has lots of information in there.

If you have a garden, how is it growing this year? Any issues with bugs, weather, or bad soil? I have often remarked that I am so thankful we don’t have to rely solely on our gardens for food. I think we’d go hungry! :)

Posted in Gardening | 4 Comments

Do the Next Thing

This post was originally published in August of 2008, but it is still definitely true today. I thought it pretty much sums up how I feel most days, and I hope it is an encouragement to you as well!

I am busy. Busier now than I’ve probably ever been in my life. Staying busy is good. But there comes a point when I feel like I just can’t do it anymore. The other day, however, I came across a poem that was posted on a woman’s blog whose husband died of cancer just three months ago. He was not that much older than me and not only left behind his wife but three young children. The poem that she posted was written by a woman named Elisabeth Elliott whose husband was a missionary. She was eventually widowed twice. After the death of her first husband, she wrote a poem called, “Do the Next Thing.” I know my trials are relatively small compared to hers, but I found her thoughts helpful for my situation, too. When I get overwhelmed in the mornings, thinking about all that I have to get done for the day: do the next thing. When the laundry is piling up, the fridge is bare, and I have four hours of work ahead of me: do the next thing. When I get worried about tomorrow, wondering in my unbelief if God will provide for us: do the next thing. When my children are fighting, our car breaks down, and the amount in the bank doesn’t look like it can possibly carry us through the month: do the next thing. God gives his people grace as they need it. He will keep me going, putting one foot in front of the other, doing the next thing whatever that may be. All of my worry, fear, unbelief, even my tears won’t make the busyness go away. “Do the next thing.” As Christ himself said, “Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof.” I will leave you with Elisabeth Elliott’s words to think about.

“Do the Next Thing”

At an old English parsonage down by the sea,
there came in the twilight a message to me.
Its quaint Saxon legend deeply engraven
that, as it seems to me, teaching from heaven.
And all through the hours the quiet words ring,
like a low inspiration, ‘Do the next thing.’

Many a questioning, many a fear,
many a doubt hath its quieting here.
Moment by moment, let down from heaven,
time, opportunity, guidance are given.
Fear not tomorrow, child of the King,
trust that with Jesus, do the next thing.

Do it immediately, do it with prayer,
do it reliantly, casting all care.
Do it with reverence, tracing His hand,
who placed it before thee with earnest command.
Stayed on omnipotence, safe ‘neath His wing,
leave all resultings, do the next thing.

Looking to Jesus, ever serener,
working or suffering be thy demeanor,
in His dear presence, the rest of His calm,
the light of His countenance, be thy psalm.
Strong in his faithfulness,
Praise and sing,
Then, as he beckons thee,
Do the next thing.

*Apparently, this poem was not written by Elisabeth Elliott but was quoted by her (maybe in a book?) at some point. Regardless, it’s good!

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Homemade Frozen Yogurt Popsicles

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When the heat index is over 100 degrees, something cold and sweet (and preferably homemade!) is in order. Yesterday, it felt as hot as 124 according to Weather Underground. Gotta love Kansas. Unless you don’t. :)

Today, since the temp “only” felt like 102, I did some weeding in my garden. My poor onions were being taken over! I still have a ways to go though. That’s what happens when you are lazy about weeding busy with life. My zucchini and squash plants are doing very well and I was able to harvest one zucchini and two squash. Woot!

The kids really like homemade frozen yogurt popsicles and they are very easy to make! I don’t have exact measurements for these but I will do my best. If you like them sweeter, add more jelly/jam/preserves.

Frozen Yogurt Popsicles

2 cups regular or Greek yogurt
1/2 cup (or to taste) of your favorite jam/jelly/preserves (I used strawberry – yum!)

Mix everything together and put the mixture into popsicle molds. Freeze until solid. Voila! Done!

I hope you enjoy these as much as we do. They sure taste good on a hot summer day.

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In Which the Author Discusses Curriculum in the Summertime Because She’s a Glutton for Punishment

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Note: The following post may contain one or more affiliate links. By purchasing through these links, I receive a small compensation that supports this site. Thank you so much!

If you are anything like me, you really don’t even want to think about school until at least the end of the month (but truthfully if you are a homeschool mom, it’s probably on your mind all year long, right?) I was talking to a fellow homeschooling mom the other day and we both agreed that the summer goes by much, much faster as an adult than as a kid. Seriously, how is it possible that school will be starting in a little over a month?! I will have two 9th graders and one in kindergarten. This will be the first time I have ever homeschooled two grades before. But at least kindergarten will be easy so it shouldn’t be too bad, right? Right…

Last year for 8th grade, we used a site called Easy Peasy All-in-One Homeschool (not an affiliate link). It is a completely FREE curriculum and she has courses on there from pre-K through 12th grade. Did I mention it’s free? Because yeah, it’s free! Lee Giles, the woman who designed the whole thing, has no intention of ever charging for this curriculum either (though if you do use it a bit, you might consider a donation – she has a link where you can do that). We used her Year 4 History course plus Spanish 1 and English 8 on her sister site, Easy Peasy All-in-One High School (also not an affiliate link). Both kids really loved the Spanish course. We occasionally find a broken link, and she asks that people let her know if that happens.  Overall, it was much more in depth than I thought it would be so be prepared for your kiddos to be quite busy. My kids both enthusiastically want to take the Spanish 2 course for 9th grade. But free homeschool curriculum? Yes please!

Another site we made much use of was schoolhouseteachers.com. And let me just tell you guys, THEY ROCK. For $12.95 per month, you can have access to over 200 courses ranging from pre-K through 12th grade. My two older children particularly liked the Career Exploration course! Their customer service is excellent as well. All my questions have been answered very promptly.

So what will we do next year? That’s a great question, one that I have been thinking about probably since the beginning of the year (or earlier – I have a tendency to obsess over these things). We’re going to use Easy Peasy again and take Foundations, Bible, PE/Health, and Spanish 2. The Foundations class incorporates things like time management, study skills, speech, etc. It looks really interesting.

For English, we’re going to use Schoolhouse Teachers again and take the Writing and Classics Based Writing courses plus Daily Grammar. For the literature component, Glencoe has some free (hollah!) study guides you can use so we’re probably going to go through 4 novels.

Science will be Studies in World History through Master Books. This looks like a really excellent course and I would ideally like to get through volumes 1 and 2. We’ll see how that goes.

Oh, and I’m going to be teaching home ec with my kids and with some friends! That will be a separate post coming up so stay tuned for more info. I’m pumped about it!

So what will you be doing next year? Do you have it all mapped out or do you wait until a little closer to when school actually starts? I’d love to hear if any of you have tried the curriculums in this post. We can share and obsess together! :)

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