Friday, April 26, 2013

Adventures in Bread Making - to knead or not to knead

I love the smell and taste of homemade bread. It must be eaten immediately upon coming out of the oven with real butter and honey drizzled on top. However, I rarely make bread because of the time and attention it requires. Also to be considered is the fact that baking during the hot months of the year very rarely happens around here. A benefit to homemade bread is that it's preservative-free and I can control the ingredients.

So, I had some birthday money burning a hole in my pocket and thought it would be fun to have a bread machine.
I queried friends on Facebook and received mostly encouragement to buy one. My friend, Karen, still holds to the old-fashioned way of bread-making and in response to my question about what kind of bread machine people had she quipped, "My bread maker is called Hands. Manufacturer: God." Thanks, Friend.

I went online to shop and read reviews. After finding one in my price range that had excellent reviews I ordered my bread machine and waited eagerly for it to be delivered right to my door. There were visions of tender, flaky, crusty goodness dancing in my head. Well, it has turned into one of those "it-seemed-like-a-good-idea-at-the-time" moments.

This isn't meant to be a product review, so the bread machine shall hereby remain anonymous.

The morning after it's arrival I gathered my ingredients, carefully followed the directions in the manual, and pushed start. I watched fascinated as the little paddles turned the dough this way and that. It was quiet and efficient. Peeking in again revealed a perfectly shaped loaf of rising bread dough! Soon the house filled with the scent promising deliciousness coming our way! In anticipation I laid out the butter dish and cute little honey bear. Finally, the machine beeped incessantly signalling completion of the baking process and I bolted for the kitchen to reveal the fruit of it's labor.

It didn't take long to see there was a problem.
Uhhh - this is NOT how a loaf of homemade bread  is supposed to look.
(Sorry for the yucky cell phone pictures.)

Turning to the troubleshooting section in the manual revealed a couple adjustments I could make in the recipe in the event of bread that sinks while baking. Making those adjustments, I started over.

Loaf number two.

Really now? I've been making bread since I was a little girl. My mom makes bread by hand. My grandma made bread by hand. Never in my entire life have I ever seen a sunken loaf of homemade bread!

Before embarking on loaf number three I turned to the internet for advice. Making more simple changes, I tried again. Same thing! (Sorry, no pictures of this one. But you get the idea. It looked exactly the same as the other two.)

Granted, all three loaves tasted delicious. The texture was perfect. The crust was nicely browned and not too crunchy. I cut off the peaks and we enjoyed slices of bread about two-thirds the size of a regular slice.

If any of you more experienced bread machine users have words of wisdom I would certainly be obliged. I'm not giving up. This is a thing to be mastered.

Good thing I have tons of yardwork to do. I'll need something to burn off the increased intake of carbs this quest is bound to entail.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Wanted: More Grace, More Peace

This post has been unwritten in my brain for weeks - no - months. And it's part of the reason why I haven't written much this winter.

You know how when you are supposed to say something, but you don't, then the thing you're trying not to talk about won't ever leave your mind?

Why haven't I written about it? Because it's my sadness and my emotion and my struggle. It's too much about my life, too personal, and I have trouble talking about those things.

However, I realize it's not so much my sadness I need to tell you, but rather God's word and comfort to me. To you. So....,

What To Do When the Thing You Didn't Want to Happen Happens 
(probably the longest title ever for a devotion )

When our oldest daughter and her husband excitedly told us they wanted to move to another state, another city three hours away AND take our grandchildren with them I was less that pleased. Honestly, I was speechless and hurt. We are a close family, get along better than most, and our lives are happily entwined. Why would they want to leave?

However, they felt the call of God and made the necessary preparations. A job was found in the new city that "just so happened" to have a branch in our area, so Patrick could transfer whenever they sold their house. The house went on the market, was sold after several months, then they found a lovely house close to his work. For the most part, things just fell into place. It's hard to argue with the call and provision of God on someone else's matter how it might make you feel.

When their house sold days before Thanksgiving last year, it was a done deal. They were definitely moving away.

Facing the inevitable, my heart was broken. I had to ask God, "Okay, how am I supposed to be? How can I do this? I need to - I want to - help, but the thought of them all moving away makes me incredibly sad to the point of feeling sick."

My kind, heavenly Father's word back to me was, "Be like David." That's all. Just be like David.

Be like David? Be like David? My mind rapidly scanned countless Old Testament stories of King David and stopped at this one - when what he didn't want to happen happened.

His little son was sick. Very, very sick. David prayed. He cried out to God. He fasted. Continually night and day for a week. His servants were worried for his own health, but he sent them away. After a time, the report came. His son was dead.

Baffling everyone, David got up, washed, changed his clothes, went to the tabernacle and worshiped the Lord. Returning home, he asked for food and ate. When questioned about his actions he replied, “I fasted and wept while the child was alive, for I said, ‘Perhaps the Lord will be gracious to me and let the child live.’ But why should I fast when he is dead? Can I bring him back again? I will go to him one day, but he cannot return to me.” (2 Samuel 12:22-23 NLT)

Basically, David simply made the effort to move on even though the very thing he asked God to prevent from happening happened.

This realization filled me with a level of peace in our situation that I hadn't known before. David moved on. I needed to move on and stop thinking about myself. God's grace enabled me to put a smile on my face, listen to their excitement, and not burst into tears. It was settled, the house was sold, and they were going to leave town. I was still sad to see them go, but no longer crippled with depression. I was able to face my daughter and son-in-law with a glad heart and willingness to help them accomplish their goal.

Part of helping them accomplish their goal meant they lived with us while they were between houses. Yes, their house here in town was sold, but they didn't have a house to move to! Oh, and did I forget to mention, their baby was due three weeks after the first of the year?

To make a long story short:
  • They closed on their house here in town two days after Christmas and moved in with us a few days later.
  • They closed on their new house on the baby's due date, January 18.
  • Baby was born one week later (a thrilling home water birth!), January 26.
  • The next weekend, my mom and I went to their new house to paint and clean.
  • We helped them move to their new home two weeks after the baby was born. They had lived with us six weeks.

Each time he said, “My grace is all you need. 
My power works best in weakness.” 
So now I am glad to boast about my weaknesses, 
so that the power of Christ can work through me. 
2 Corinthians 12:9 NLT

God is faithful. When I chose His way rather than despair, I received more grace to do what needed to be done. When I admitted my complete inability to handle the situation, God gave me the strength to not only help my kids, but be an example for others.

May God give you more and more grace and peace 
as you grow in your knowledge of 
God and Jesus our Lord. 
2 Peter 1:2 NLT

Yes, thank you, I will take it. How about you? Could you use more and more of God's grace and peace in your life? When have you experienced His help in a difficult situation?

Thursday, April 18, 2013

Time to Work in the Yard

A recent torrential downpour, although welcome, identified a problem to be solved in the yard.
The rain runs down the roof, through the downspout, and onto the roof over the back porch....

....making a small pond right here...,

...then flowing along the side of the sunroom creating a small gully and exposing tree roots.

Time to put these bad boys to work!
 Our neighbor purchased pallet loads of bricks and pavers at an auction for a buck a pallet.
He very generously offered them to us if Brian would load and take them away himself!
He didn't need to offer twice.

We also have a couple pieces of flagstone. This one has been standing at the front corner of the house since before we moved.

The other one is already part of the walk, under these bags of mulch.
The project list includes replacing the gully with bricks, pavers, and ground cover. 
Brian will reroute the downspout in the back and build an extension to the back deck that will have gravel underneath to more effectively soak up the water and cover the muddy spot.

We will also use the bricks to make a new sidewalk to and from the front parking area..., well as borders for flower beds by the porch.

I can not even begin to tell you how delighted I was to find bare dirt, good soil under the leaves I raked away a couple weeks ago. Last fall it was grass covered and I was dreading digging it out.

The current sidewalk is a bit wonky, so we'll be straightening that out.

 The porch is going to get a facelift, too. Well, not a full-blown facelift, let's call it a touch up.
More on that later.

Sorry for the drab pictures.
For one thing, the sun hasn't shone in my neck of the woods for weeks (it feels like, anyway)
and the uglier the before shots, the better the after shots, right?

Thanks for dropping in!

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Old Dresser + Chalk Paint = TV Stand

Here is my latest project....

I started with this little gem that was rejected and stored in the shed loft.
One of the top drawers was broken, so I removed them both to make room for electronic gadgets.

After removing the drawer pulls, I gave it a good cleaning before applying the chalk paint.
The chalk paint recipe I use is this:

3 parts latex paint (I have found a paint with primer works best)
1 part plaster of paris (diluted with an equal amount of hot water)

For example, if I use 1 1/2 cups paint, I would need 1/2 cup plaster of paris that has been diluted with 1/2 cup hot water. Mix these together thoroughly and you're ready to paint! 

For this job I only needed two coats. I like to use a foam roller for the larger flat surfaces and a brush for the corners and curvy places. 

When the paint was dry I protected the surface with SC Johnson Paste Wax. If you can't wait to wax, you may end up rubbing off some of your paint, giving it a light distressed look. By giving it some time to dry the paint should stay in place. I think I waited about 30 minutes after it appeared to be dry before waxing. There was one small edge where the paint rubbed off a tiny bit.

The color is Valspar's Rattan Palm. Because of the chalk paint mixture, it turned out a bit lighter than the actual paint. I covered the inside with a neutral paint sample I found on the oops-paint shelf.

 Brian drilled some holes for wires.

We braced the shelf where the dvd player and Wii will sit with a couple boards from the scrap pile. Brian cut them to fit and we glued them to the sides of the dresser and under the shelf.

Okay - here is what the TV sat on before....
...all chrome and glass contemporary-ness that I never really liked.

Here it is today!

I love how the gadgets rest so neat and tidy inside the cubby.
The drawers are filled with remotes, game controllers, games, manuals, and other assorted junk no one ever wants to look at everyday! The color is about three shades darker than the walls, so blends in nicely.

This project cost me less than $20!

I'm such a geek I just sat on the couch without the TV on to stare it for awhile.
So pretty.

P.S. Did you notice the little boo-boo I made? I thought it was so hilarious I decided to leave it and see if anyone points it out.

Thanks for stopping by today!
Calista @ A House and Yard

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Calista @ A House and Yard