Time Away

Saturday, January 31, 2009
Breakfast with a friend this morning, then 2 hours at a coffee shop all by myself was just what I needed today. Time away from the kids gives me new energy and perspective. Sometimes it's nice not to be needed for a few hours, to not feel like I have a list of chores to tackle . . . that list will be there tomorrow, after all.

Lessons in Bread Making, Part I

Friday, January 30, 2009

Allie, my friend and expert on all things baking, saying, "Always triple the weight of active yeast when using a recipe that calls for instant yeast."

I was so proud of how my artisan boule loaf turned out yesterday that I jumped into a more complicated whole wheat sandwich bread recipe today, and holy cow! did it prove that I still have quite a lot to learn about bread making. I wanted to try a recipe that required kneading (I don't have a mixer with a dough hook) to test the difference in taste and texture.

After kneading this dough by hand for ten minutes or so (a serious ab and arms work-out), I proudly covered it with a damp cloth and waited. Many hours later, it was apparent that something had gone wrong. Since my friend Allie was over for dinner, she took a peak at the recipe and quickly determined the cause: I had used active yeast instead of instant yeast. Apparently, when a bread recipe calls for instant yeast and you only have active yeast, you must triple the measurement. And so I've learned something new, and have actually studied an online yeast thesaurus!

I'm really having a lot of fun with this new effort to make all of my own bread products (homemade croutons!), being motivated by several reasons to make as many foods from scratch as possible (look for a blog post on this soon), so I seriously can't wait to pick up some instant yeast tomorrow and try again at hand-kneading and baking my own whole wheat sandwich bread. I'm thinking tomorrow's loaf will turn out just right.

And So I've Learned to Make My Own Bread

Thursday, January 29, 2009

I can't start this post without thanking my friend Allie for not only inspiring me to learn how to make bread dough and bake my own bread, but for making it sound so easy, answering my e-mails and phone calls, and recommending Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day: The Discovery That Revolutionizes Home Baking. I've been wanting to do this for awhile, and I must say, because I used to laugh at scenes in "Sex and the City" like this . . .

Miranda: Do you have a rolling pin?
Carrie: On me?
Miranda: In your kitchen.

Carrie: Are you kidding me? I use my oven for storage.

. . . and laughed because I completely related, I'm starting to feel pretty darn domestic these days.

I am appreciating the value of spending time working to prepare what our family eats. Eating whole grain every night has completely changed the way I feel for the better. My Mom used to say that she couldn't function if she didn't take her vitamins every day. I never took vitamins, but eating food packed full of vitamins and health benefits has given a boost to my energy levels, both physically and mentally. I feel so foolish for only just now, at age 32, starting a daily diet of whole grains, which is the foundation of the old food pyramid and such an important part of nutrition and health. Thinking about whole grains got me to thinking about making my own bread, but what mostly motivated me to start doing this was the desire to control what is going into what I eat, save money while doing it, and have an end result that is better quality and better-tasting.

Tomorrow is a busy day as I'm hosting a potluck with some other moms, but this weekend I plan to try my hand at whole wheat sandwich bread. Eventually, I'd like to use sprouted grains in the bread I make. I know I sound like such a beginner here, and I am! I would appreciate any tips some of you more experienced bakers feel inspired to share with me.

Finally, life at home has slowed enough to allow small windows of time here and there for learning new things and enriching my life now completely submerged in domesticity. Looking back, I went straight from my college years into my childbearing years, getting pregnant with Sam my last term at PSU, so now begins the work of creating the home my children will grow up in . . . the home I want them to grow up in . . . a home with freshly baked bread, a sewing machine, a recycling center, healthy dinners with organic and local ingredients, the summer harvest preserved on pantry shelves, a thriving garden with ornamental and edible plants and herbs (and more native plants than non-native ones), compost bins, musical instruments, and happy memories. Life is a journey, and lately I've been reminding myself to find joy in the journey instead of constantly looking ahead to the end result (though I must admit, the loaf of boule I made this afternoon was pretty darn good!).

Deep Sleep and Good Nutrition Make a Girl Happy

Wednesday, January 28, 2009
Today got off to a rough start initially, with Juniper waking up at 1:30AM wanting to eat and play. By eat, I mean she wanted a whole yogurt and some pretzel sticks. Must be a growth spurt. By 4AM, I was starting to feel tortured. Sleep deprivation is used as a form of torture for a reason. I was starting to feel a little psychotic by 4AM, so I marched Juniper up to Landon, and she was sound asleep by 4:30AM. I woke up four hours later feeling great. It's amazing what that magic number of four hours in a row of uninterrupted sleep will do for a woman.

We had a nice afternoon hosting a play-date, and I enjoyed chatting with the Mom of Sam's friend while they played. I hope we can have more play-dates with them in the future.

Tonight, I sliced up some potatoes, fried them in a little olive oil, added 8 eggs, some scallions, fresh tomatoes, salt, pepper, cheese, crumbled fresh bacon, and a cup of buckwheat, wrapped it all up in a spinach tortilla, and what a meal! I am trying to incorporate whole grain into at least one meal a day now, and I can't tell you how much better I feel now that whole grain is a main staple in my diet. The health benefits of whole grains are many, and for the most part, grain is very affordable. We are trying out all different whole grains; so far, we've really liked them all, and they go with nearly any main course. I'm hoping to try my hand at sprouting wheat this week for additional health benefits. As always, I'll keep you posted.

P.S. It was a month ago today that Juniper started walking!

Some Days are Slow Days

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Today was a slow day. We usually attend Rookie Rock at Sound Roots Music on Tuesday mornings, but we awoke to snow on the ground, and it continued to fall all morning. Sam, Juni, and I stayed home all day in our pajamas, and it was just what we needed.

Sam wore his Robin Hood costume from Halloween 2007, and ate breakfast while looking out the dining room windows at the falling snow.

And just because I couldn't think of a good reason to say no, I let Sam play with one of the dino masks for his 4th birthday party coming up right around the corner. The thing is, that most of the time, Juniper wants to do what Sam is doing, so here is where the dino mask ended up--on Miss Juniper. Isn't she cute?

I love snow days.

Vegetarian chili and fresh cornbread for dinner . . .

I wanted to sprout amaranth today, but I'm still reading on the process of sprouting, because I want to make sure I get it right.

One more thing, because I don't ever want to forget. Today Juniper walked into the kitchen while I was cooking, took my hand, held it to her face, and led me into the living room to show me something. It was so sweet of her. Later in the afternoon, she came in just to give me a hug. Tonight, she gave me a few kisses, and she even mimics the kissing sound that she's heard us make, so it's too adorable for words. I love her so.

Sam makes me laugh nearly every day when he helps me put things away. I'll tell him, "Sam, can you take this tissue paper and put it on my bed, and this puzzle goes on the shelf in your room." I'll go upstairs later and find the tissue paper and the puzzle on the shelf in his closet. I think he remembers the last thing I said, so both items end up in the same place, and where those items end up is close enough to what I said so that I am able to see how he hears and interprets things. What's funny every day, though, is that as I'm going about the house and doing things, I find things that he's "put away" and I immediately see how he misunderstood what I said and put the item where he did. It's so cute of him, and very much a 3 year old thing to do, and since he's only going to be 3 for a couple more weeks, I thought I'd write about it here.

On to "Three Cups"

Monday, January 26, 2009
I have a lot to think about now that I'm home from book-club. Tonight was one of those nights where I didn't necessarily have much to contribute, but the discussion has helped me see the book in a whole new way. For January, we read "The All of It" by Jeannette Haien, a novella that could probably be read in an evening. Now that our discussion is finished, I can't wait to start February's selection, "Three Cups of Tea," a non-fiction book by Greg Mortenson and David Oliver Relin. But I think I'll wait until tomorrow (I know, I know, already procrastinating), because right now, I have a slight headache from too much red wine this evening, so I'm going to start "John Adams" with Landon, a mini-series that chronicles the life of John Adams, and won several Golden Globes if I remember right. Looking forward to a little rest before I learn to sprout grains tomorrow.

I'm Back and Blogging is Here to Stay

Sunday, January 25, 2009
Taking a break for the past couple of weeks has made me realize how much blogging has become a part of my life, and how much I've really missed it. I won't be giving it up for a long while yet. Part of what got me started on blogging was not wanting to forget all the days, weeks, and months that make up my life, and somehow wanting to remember got me writing in the form of blogging way back in 2003, and then my online journal became something more than a journal--it became an outlet for self-expression and inward reflection, as well as a desire to encourage and connect with other writers and readers within the blogging community, and now, it's what I do. Sometimes I wonder if it's what I really want to be doing with part of my day, but taking a little break these past two weeks has made me want to blog even more . . . and to become better at it. Blogging has become a way of living for me; blogging stops me in my tracks at some point during the day, allowing time for me to reflect on the meaning, the beauty, and the purpose in the things I do. There are days where I don't necessarily have something in my day to blog about, and those are days I go looking (camera in hand) for something meaningful, something beautiful, something worth stopping to look at. Blogging can be about reflection, but it can also be about capturing something meaningful that you did or made and wanting to share with others in an instructive way. I think the thing, though, that keeps me blogging year after year is it keeps me searching, and that's a state of being I hope to never let slip away from me, for it's the searching that leads to finding, bringing beauty and meaning to our lives.

For the past couple of weeks, I've been working on moving my blog to its own domain name, and have hired a designer (the lovely Seventy and Sunny) to create a new header for my blog to go along with its new name (as much as I'd love to design the header myself, there just isn't time in the day for everything). It will probably be 2 to 3 weeks before my blog is moved, and at that time, blogger will redirect you to the new site, so make sure to update all your links when this change takes place.

I'm excited about all the new things I will be learning in the weeks to come, things I hope will become a way of life for me. There are raised vegetable beds to build, bread to knead and bake, a kitchen to paint, and a garden that has awaited my presence patiently over the past two years while I was pregnant and caring for a newborn and baby, who is now nearly 14 months and very much an independent toddler, chasing after her brother and growing up way too fast.

Last night, I met Andrea and Annagrace for drinks and appetizers at The Sapphire Hotel. While driving over, I was listening to Etown on NPR, and really loved this song by Griffin House. For some reason, I can picture my friends Matty and Jody singing this one.

Stay safe, stay warm, and thanks for reading.

A Little Break

Tuesday, January 13, 2009
I'm taking a break through the end of January to work on my blog layout and possibly move the blog to its own site. I will be back soon!


Visiting Family, Golden Globes, and Planning for Spring and Summer

Monday, January 12, 2009

Yesterday, we spent the afternoon down at my parents' house, exchanging our Christmas gifts finally, and celebrating my birthday, as well as my sister Kristi, who was born on the same day, and our sister-in-law Sara, whose birthday was on December 30th, and who is expecting a baby in July--congratulations to my little brother Robby and to Sara! Their baby will be the 5th grandchild in the Gilliam family. I have a feeling it will be a little boy. We will see!

When I got home last night, all I needed to read was a FB message from my friend Tara that the Golden Globes were on, and, after the kids were in bed, I was a total couch potato, watching the Golden Globes while Facebooking, drinking red wine, and eating a milk chocolate bar Landon picked me up on his way home from session. It was a great evening. Later, I took a flashlight to bed and read long past midnight.

Now for the part I'm most excited to blog about today: I've just discovered an indie nursery called Pistils on N. Mississippi, and I have a feeling I'll be spending a lot of time there in the coming months. We picked up one of their beautiful terrariums--unlike any I've seen before. What's so great about this nursery is their blend of creativity and art with gardening. It's an amazing business, offering a wide array of products and services. Their website is incredible--probably the best looking website I've seen in a long time, and Pistils offers many resources for the urban homestead, including chicken keeping (their first chicks arrive in a few weeks!), composting (including worm composting), hardscaping, landscape design, vegetable gardening, and even beekeeping. I really love that there is a strong movement in Portland to bring country living into the city. Step by step, I'm getting closer to creating an urban homestead, and I'm grateful there are resources like Pistils to assist me with the process. I'm learning all sorts of things right now--for example, did you know that you can make your own fertilizer by mixing a cup of compost into a jug of water and letting it steep? In the end, you'll have a compost tea, which makes an excellent fertilizer. Apparently, the drippings from worm composting make an excellent fertilizer as well. I might try my hand at worm composting for leftover kitchen produce, mainly for the better compost and fertilizer this composting method produces, but I'm composting much more these days than a pound of worms could consume in a day, and with worms, you can't compost napkins, waxed paper, dryer lint, or yard debris, for example. When it comes to chickens, I'm still carefully considering, but I do see this in our future as well. If we do get a chicken or two, we'll not only have fresh eggs, but chicken manure to enrich our compost. I'm also in the process right now of figuring out what vegetables we can grow in our side-yard, which only gets part-sun. I think I've found a list of vegetables and herbs that will grow in part-sun to keep me busy this year (e.g. broccoli, leaf lettuce, peas, beans, and various herbs). Any plant that produces fruit or edible roots, such as tomatoes, carrots, or potatoes, needs full-sun, so if I'm successful with what I start with this year, I'm going to look into renting a plot at our neighborhood community garden for full-sun fruits and vegetables next year. There's also nothing to stop me from growing tomato plants in containers this year in full-sun around the house. I'm just hesitant to grow them street-side, which is why I'm considering the community garden plots. Oh, yes, and then there's installing a clothesline and my hope to disconnect our downspouts and save the water for the garden using rain barrels. Lots to consider; step-by-step we'll get there. Right now I'm in the planning stages for these things, and looking forward to blogging about them more in the near future.

Meanwhile, does anyone have any advice about caring for terrariums? Can they easily become a nesting site for gnats in the summer? Since mine doesn't drain, I'm watering by misting every few days, but any additional advice I might not know about would be appreciated.

Doing Nothing

Sunday, January 11, 2009
Tonight is all about the Golden Globes, my lap-top, wine, a Green and Black milk chocolate bar, relaxing on the couch, and yes, I'm completely okay with this plan. More tomorrow.


Saturday, January 10, 2009

My friend Jen bought me a Pacifica Avalon Juniper soy candle and natural soap for my birthday, and I love what the packaging says about Juniper, the name I chose for my little girl:
Fire and Ice
Juniper is powerful and mysterious.
Thriving in the icy regions of Northern
Europe, it is considered magical and
has been used throughout time to usher
in and out the months of winter.
Tempered with the slight scent of earthy
grapefruit and the watery notes of
heliotrope, this blend is a play between
light and dark, fire and ice, and the realms
of the spirit and physical worlds.

Jen told me many Europeans use Juniper trees for indoor Christmas trees during the holidays. When I chose this name, I did so for many reasons, one of which was that I thought it sounded festive. I didn't know it was used as a Christmas tree! Originally, I thought she would be born in November, but when she was born nearly two weeks late on December 10th, I thought her name was even more perfect as it has a festive sound to it. I love that it is believed that Juniper ushers in the months of winter, as Juniper was born just 11 days before Winter Solstice. It really is the perfect name for her in so many ways. The name Juniper came to me when I was newly pregnant, and I was never able to shake it off. Her middle name Octavia, a Roman name, has musical connotations. We didn't know if she would be musical when we chose it (this is still a mystery), but so far, Juniper seems to love music. She plays music quite often on the bongo drums, the xylophone, the piano, and loves to watch Landon play the guitar and fiddle. It's interesting not only to see her grow into her name, but to learn what her name symbolizes and means, which has been perfect considering her time of birth and personality. So, here's to powerful and mysterious, Juniper--qualities I see in you already. Happy 13 months!

The 9-Inch Diet

Friday, January 09, 2009

During Christmas dinner this year, our friend Gay asked if the dinner plates we were using were actually salad plates as they are only 9 inches wide, and Landon's Mom replied that plates used to be smaller, and that they were dinner plates. The China set I use at Christmas was passed along to me from Landon's grandmother, who obtained it during WWII in Czechoslovakia from a woman who traded them to her for cigarettes. I always thought they were on the smaller side, especially when serving a feast at Christmastime, but hadn't thought about how plates have become larger with the passing decades.

Then I pulled out my People Magazine to read last week, and found out that author Alex Bogusky has just published a book called The 9-Inch Diet, which explains that the obesity rates in France and Italy are 70% lower than the United States, because their standard dinner plates are still 10", whereas American dinner plates are now 12". Bogusky learned of the change in size to American plates when he bought a 1940's lake house, and found his dinner plates did not fit into the cupboards. After doing some research, he learned why--dinner plates in the 1940's used to be 8.5 inches. Have you ever noticed the size of houses built in this same era? Much smaller! At some point, we as a culture started eating more (a lot more), and living in houses and driving cars much bigger (okay, WAY bigger) than our needs require.

By using smaller plates, you eat less through portion control, and the result is that you lose weight. I think this is a great plan, and yet another way to live small, leaving less of an imprint on the Earth by eating only what you need. Have you ever noticed a tendency to fill your plate, even if that isn't how much food you really need? Most people finish what's on their plates, too. I have to admit, I really like this idea of downsizing the dinner plate. While I plan to always keep the family China for Christmastime, I'm considering replacing our old, mismatched dinnerware with smaller plates when it comes time to finally buy a new set. It feels good to live and eat small. Hopefully, we're coming out of the era of living large, and if we aren't already, we might all be forced to do so in the near future.

Funny Faces

Thursday, January 08, 2009
These are a little scary, but I also can't stop laughing when I look at them. With the recent heavy rains, we were looking for some cheap entertainment, and I discovered the effects in the Photo Booth application on my MacBook. When I showed Sam a few of the photos I took of myself, he sat on the couch long after I lost interest with my MacBook and took about 50 pictures of himself in all sorts of poses using various effects. I don't plan on deleting these EVER. They are priceless (do you see the jam on his face?) and hilarious . . . but scary, too.

Yes, very, very scary indeed.

An Off Day

Wednesday, January 07, 2009
I'm not quite sure what today was all about, but it started with me tripping over Sam's foot as we were heading down the concrete stairs to the car, and I fell hard on my knees, skinning them both, and sent my lap-top and Juniper flying. I held onto Juniper as long as I could, so she fell to the ground from less than 2', but she hit her head on the sidewalk, and was really scared. This fall could have been so much worse, so I'm grateful Juni and I walked away with scratches, and not anything more serious. It was pouring down rain and in my rush to the car to sit down and make sure Juniper was okay, I had completely forgotten about my lap-top on the puddled sidewalk. It seems okay, but sustained a few scratches. Thank-goodness those things are built well. Later, dinner was a disaster--DISASTER! I followed a recipe for a broccoli and cheese soup from a blog I won't link to here, because I actually love the blog, but this recipe was a complete disaster. The soup was coming along great until I added the pound of Tillamook cheese it called for. I tried to add it slowly, giving it time to melt, but it wasn't even five minutes after I started adding the cheese that I realized there was one huge cheese-ball with broccoli mixed in and turkey stock surrounding it. It was awful! The whole thing had to be thrown out, and then things got tense between Landon and I, probably because we were both hungry and dinner hadn't turned out. To make matters worse, before I tossed the soup, I burned my arm on the pot! I felt miserable, the kids needed attention, Landon was in the office with the door closed, and the kitchen was a big mess with dishes on every counter. In the end, I blame the recipe. I don't think any soup can turn out with a pound of melted Tillamook cheese thrown in, unless you're going for a fondue. Luckily, a couple of hours later, both the kids were asleep, Landon and I had apologized to each other for the stress, and we were watching Netflix, while I sipped on a glass of red wine. And then something happened that I never expected, making everything else about today seem okay in a way--Juniper SLEPT THROUGH THE NIGHT. Yes, I think there is a God.

Resolution for My 32nd Birthday

Tuesday, January 06, 2009
Photography by Zephyrance Lou
I had a great birthday today--new piano, dinner and a movie with Landon, and morning coffee and pastries with a friend. Thank-you to all my friends and family who called, sent me text messages, FB notes, and e-mails. You all made me feel very loved on my 32nd birthday.

Not Even 32 and Life is Better Already

Monday, January 05, 2009
I just got home from book-club to a dark house and a sleeping family. I am heading to bed myself, but first had to turn on the office light to gaze at and run my fingers along my new piano, a Yamaha M460, which we purchased at Classic Pianos (place to go for pianos, they're the best). We purchased it on Saturday, and it was delivered late this afternoon, just before I left for book-club. I hope to post pictures of my new birthday present tomorrow. The piano and I are still in the honeymoon phase, so I don't know how long or detailed my blog posts will be this week, but I promise to still write every day. Oh, and before I go--if you haven't yet read Penelope Lively, Moon Tiger is an excellent read. Off to bed now . . . when I wake up, I will be 32. I like the sound of that year already (literally).

Snow, Wind, and Rain

Sunday, January 04, 2009
It snowed again tonight, blanketing our neighborhood in two inches of white once again. Now it's raining, and the wind gusts are raging, sending shivers down the spine of this old house. I'm up late tonight making rosemary and garlic crackers for book-club tomorrow night, finishing Penelope Lively's 200 page novel, Moon Tiger, (which is so good it will receive the honor of a place (albeit dusty) on one of my bookshelves, as I cannot part with it), and spending lots of time thinking about my birthday present from Landon, which is scheduled to be delivered tomorrow afternoon, a full day before my 32nd birthday. I can't wait to play it for the first time before I'm off to book-club tomorrow evening.

Nighttime Wonder

Saturday, January 03, 2009

During the recent snowstorm, I went for a night-walk, and thought it was so beautiful and quiet out, that I did a free-fall into the deep snow and looked up. What I saw were lots and lots of stars.

Here's a little project called the star light flashlight that I bet your little one will LOVE. I know Sam has been loving the whale shadow puppets from Orange Moon Toys he received from us for Christmas that I have been using with him at night before we read his bedtime story. I have a feeling he will love looking up at the stars as well. Thanks to Imagine Childhood for sharing such a great (and simple!) idea for adding a little wonder and imagination to Sam's childhood ceiling.

She's Walking Everywhere Now

Friday, January 02, 2009

After taking her first steps 12/28, Miss Juniper is now a big fan of bipedalism. The blog title is no stretch, and there's nothing cuter than watching her gingerly and proudly walk around the house.

Well, I take that back, this might actually be cuter than watching her walk. Yes, definitely.

First Day of 2009, A Day Well-Spent

Thursday, January 01, 2009

It's New Year's Day, and I'm wondering what this year has in store for my family, for our nation, and for the world. I met with my friend Mike D. this morning for coffee, and was inspired to hear him talk about his work with the homeless. He put together an art show of the work of Portland's homeless, and it is currently being displayed at Lorenzo's Tavalo Caldo, a little Italian restaurant on N. Mississippi that has received mostly praiseworthy reviews on Yelp. It seems to me the homeless are often put out of the minds of most people, so for Mike to live with them, work alongside them, and organize an art show of their work is to me highly commendable.

Tonight, I met with my dear friend Jen W. for dinner, who brought along a bottle of Chianti (my favorite) for my upcoming birthday. I have long-admired my friend Jen for the way in which she balances her career and motherhood. No matter how busy she gets, she's never too busy to meet for coffee or drinks, and we never quite have enough time to catch up, but we always have a good time. We met while in college in our early twenties, and have been friends all these years--has it really been nearly twelve already?

Late tonight, I had a massage with the best massage therapist ever, Elise Morris of Reunite Massage. She has been doing massage work on me for two years now, and I can't recommend her enough. If you're looking for a massage therapist, Elise is one of the best.

The first day of 2009 has been a good one, but question: is it ever going to stop pouring? There are three rivers running through my basement, all three of which have me a little stressed, especially the one that chose the route through the kitty litter as the best course. I wish cats shook their feet before leaving the litter box, but ours are quite messy, and no matter how often I sweep, there is always cat litter on the floor around the box, and since we use clump litter, it expands when water hits it. Oh, yes--and it travels with the water. Big mess down there, and I can't say I'm looking forward to cleaning it up. Putting that aside, however, our bedrooms being upstairs make falling asleep in this old Cape Cod house to the sound of the pitter-patter of rain on the roof a most restful experience; there's nothing else quite like it.

Now to finish this glass of Chianti . . . and then I think I'll pour one more.
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