Monday, April 28, 2008

Reader Question: Dense Bread

Brandie writes:
"...I would also like to ask you about your bread recipes, i love making bread for my family and friends but i can't get my bread to last very long and sometimes it is very dense, so if you have any helpful hints i would greatly appreciate it."

Hi Brandie!

Usually the denseness means it didn't rise well, which could be due to not kneading it long enough or not having enough protein(gluten) in your bread. If you're using bread flour or hard wheat/hard wheat flour, you don't need to add any vital gluten. Pastry Flour or All Purpose Flour, or soft wheat/graham flour needs added vital gluten--about 1-3Tbs. of it, depending on how many loaves you are making. If you are making whole wheat bread, you need to knead it longer than white flour, to develop the gluten, which creates a sort of web like structure, working with the yeast to make the bread rise. I set a timer for kneading, to make sure I do it long enough. Sometimes it only feels like I've been kneading forever ;).

For very detailed information, see The Bread by Hand Ebook


Thursday, April 24, 2008

Sometimes we think backwards....

Sometimes we have backwards thinking....I was just reminded of that in myself this afternoon.

I was about to make bread and I pulled out my Whispermill, which my dh let me purchase from The Urban Homemaker a few Christmases ago, and I started to cry. Duane Moll, who ran the Urban Homemaker with his wife Marilyn, went home to be with Jesus a week ago last Sunday. He helped me on the phone when I ordered it, and we had a conversation about breadmaking and how my husband has gone from finding a wheat grinder an insane idea to being totally addicted to fresh ground wheat bread, and also what a blessing their catalogue and business has been to us, and we had a nice conversation, and later I did a teleseminar on bread baking with Marilyn, who is a sweet Titus 2 woman. Just pulling it out made me think of them (it usually does!). I started praying for Marilyn and the kids...and then thinking how sad for a man so young to be gone, when the Lord moved on my heart...He's not gone; he's with the Lord Almighty. I guess we know that in our heads but not always in our hearts, kwim? As much as I bet he'd still like to be with his family, he's in the presence of Jesus Christ, and that is am amazing thing. I feel like I go through that same thought process whenever someone I know steps into eternity.

Last night at church our pastor said something that popped into my mind at that moment...about how we spend lots of time praying for sick saints...essentially praying to keep Christians from heaven...and we need to pray even more fervently to keep sinners from hell instead. (very loose paraphrase).


Are you looking forward to it? Do you have any friends, family, or acquaintances waiting for you there? Have you brought anyone else to the saving faith that will get them there too?

When I die....I don't think I want anyone mourning about it. If you come to my funeral, wear some purple flip flops and absolutely no black. Rejoice instead, because heaven is far better than this place, as awesome as His creation here on earth is. Im' sure my family will miss me...and I'll regret missing out on parts of their lives...but I'll want them to remember that "to be absent from this body is to be present with the Lord.", and I will rejoice knowing that each of my children, as well as my husband, has trusted in Christ for their salvation.

Have you? Will you be there in heaven too? I hope so!

too Cool!

This is the way to face a robber:

Very convicting, isn't it? I may have pepper sprayed him first...but this is definatly the right way to do it.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

A New Resource

I have a new resource in my bookstore. Well, actually it's been there for a few months but I just didn't advertise it as I should have ;)

Last year, i started to go on a quest to find a good Bible curriculum for my older children that covered the foundational doctrines of the faith, as well as some apologetics. I found just the right book through Martha Greene of Marmee Dear and Co., as her father wrote just such a book, Path to Truth and Freedom: Guide for Seekers of Truth by Dr. Gene Gurganus, a 17-year Baptist missionary to Bangladesh.

It's just $12.00, and contains review questions as well as discussion questions, which we have found helpful. Check it out!

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Joyful Momma on Boundless

I have an article this week in Boundless, the Focus on the Family Webzine for Singles! The topic is on Gardening for Singles.

Read Go Garden!now....and for more detailed information for mommies on the topic of gardening, check out my ebook, "Momma's Guide to Growing Your Groceries"

Springing to Life....

There are things about spring that I don't like...the uncertainty for one. I don't like it when the weather tempts me with a few 75+ degree days only to snow a few days later without warning. I don't like nasty storms. I don't like it when garden supply shops have tomato seedlings ready to plant 2 months before the last safe frost date. It can be hard to walk past them and not buy a few to plant just in case we don't get one of those Michigan April Blizzards or May frosts. LOL I don't like how hard it is to focus on schoolwork (for teacher and student alike) when the weather is so nice....though thankfully with homeschooling we were able to chose to work even on snow days so that we are not going to be making up snow days until July like some students around here...Thank GOD!

But, compared with all that I love about spring, that is pretty insignificant.

I like how warm 60F feels after a long winter. I love the first day that you can open all of the windows without the furnace kicking on in protest. I love how unbelievably hot the first garlic chives are that you decide to use (milk!!!). I love the look of crocuses and later daffodils as everything slowly greens up. I love Pussywillows. I love the little red flowers on the hazelnut bush, ready to be fertilized by the long catkins that have hung under icicles all winter. I love my magnolia and my forcynthia bushes. I love watching my perienniel herbs go from grey to green. I love how fast kitchen scraps that frozen in the composter biodegrade after a few months of freeze, and how fun it is to put my feet into the dirt again.

I really love, having a size 11 wide shoe, going barefoot. My husband jokes that there are only two shoes I wear....tall suaede boots and sandals. It's true....but my favorite footware is au naturale.

I love how the birds go from cardinals and nuthatches to all varieties in just a few short weeks. We just saw our first blue jay!

I love the fact that there is a rabbit that builds a nest near one of the windows of our house, and so we are able to watch the baby bunnies grow. I am grateful she doesn't mind me putting traffic cones around the nest to ensure no one runs it over with a lawnmower ;). Maybe she knows we're looking out for the baby bunnies.

I love watching my cats enjoy, with everything in them, the sunshine on a warm day, while lounging on my porch. Just as a kitty-cat curled up near your head in the middle of the night is the true first sign of fall, a cat sprawled out on the porch in a sunbeam is the true first sign of spring.

Got some spring fever? Just a reminder, now would be a great time to order my ebook, Growing Your Groceries, and read it...when it is still too cool to plant sensitive plants but while you are fighting off that gardening bug....just $7.95

Monday, April 21, 2008

Nature Journal (week of April 13-19)

A few questions I've received from others include how to keep a nature journal or even what one looks like. Sure, we've all seen "The Country Diary of an Edwardian Lady" and we can all hope to draw and beautifully as she does! I went to Art School, and I don't draw that good, especially not in the field.

Well, I decided to consider teaching a local class in nature journaling and possibly creating a video course online (maybe even putting some of it up on You Tube or something like that. Who knows. the point is, I decided to try the theory out by walking through the steps each time I do some nature drawing with my children.

I used to just tell them to draw what they see...that is the essence of nature journaling, since it is based on observation. However, that is a little bit vague. some kids do great with it and some not so great. ;) The other common way is the method of drawing the animal/flower "as it is supposed to be"...not looking at what you are drawing but just drawing it following the steps in some drawing book....but the point of this exercise was to observe and take note of what we were drawing. I have been trying to develop some method to help kids observe things in nature, learn where to start a drawing (the hardest part!), and learn how to create a drawing based on what we are looking at, and in a way that a child can understand.

The other reason of working through a formal class idea with my own kids was not only to work through the hows, but also the how longs. LOL (it seems we draw about 20 minutes to 45 minutes...whereas in the art class we take with Don West, we are drawing for 3 hours and it doesn't seem long enough!!).

Our two subjects this week were the bulbs our dog dug up (argh!) and the daffodils that I planted in with my garlic in the back garden. We had a blast.

line art drawing of bulbs, colored with water color pencils by Kimberly Eddy

These journal entries were both made using a watercolor paper sketchbook, with sharpie markers, Prismacolor Grey Scale Markers for shading, and some generic water color pencils for the shading. They were first sketched out using a 4H Graphite Pencil.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Revival Days

At our church this week, we are having some truly awesome revival meetings. Well ok, so it's only Monday. Sunday's services were awesome, though.

I think we sometimes think we are doin' alright because we haven't committed any of the "big sins" and we have been doing the right things most of the time, and like soup that's been sitting on the table during the whole meal, after a while things get a little lukewarm....and you know what Jesus says about lukewarm (Revelation 3:16).

There needs to be a time in each Christian's life where they get back to basics with God, and do some "spring cleaning" in their spiritual life, clearing out the cobwebs, breaking up the fallow ground, and experiencing some rest, refreshing, and renewal. I'm standing in the need of prayer and revival. :-) I was so challenged yesterday, in particular, by the thought that being filled with the Holy Spirit isn't about "having the Holy Spirit" but letting the Holy Spirit HAVE ME completely. I so want my life to be that surrendered to God.

I've been doing the church's website lately too, which has been a blessing. I love to be able to serve but God has given me some talents that don't always translate well into service at my local church....web design, graphic design, illustrator, it's been so exciting to get to do this with my children. They've helped with many of the graphics too. Woo hoo. And, I am working on turning the sermons into an Itunes podcast (it's been submitted, but now just needs to be approved). You can see the still-work-in-progress website at

Monday, April 07, 2008

Gas Mileage and Green Goblins

One of the questions I got a while ago (during my hiatus) was regarding gas mileage. I didn't save the original question so as to quote it exactly. But, the question had two parts. One, how to save on gas, and two, did I think ethanol lowered gas mileage. Well, I had to wait to answer because I didn't get a van until a month ago. :-)) (woo hoo, and thank you Jesus for the van!), and I also hadn't paid too much attention specifically to the mileage, other than trying to avoid using too much gas.

So, I did a test with my new van. I wanted to see what sort of gas mileage my van gave me anyway . I filled up to the brim, and then set the tripometer to zero, and drove it until I was at half a tank. Then I wrote down my miles, reset the tripometer and put some allegedly environmentally friendly stuff into my vehicle. I say allegedly because the nearest Walmart is near to a new Ethanol plant, and because of the STINKY AIR POLLUTION I no longer shop there. I drive an extra three miles in the other direction to go to the other Walmart (in Lapeer) with clean air. Anyway, I knew this test was not entirely accurate as I still had the regular gasoline in my tank (halfway) but I figured either I'd see no change or a small change. Instead, my fuel efficiency, driving the EXACT SAME ROUTE was 3mpg lower. When gas (even the "cheaper" ethanol) is over $3 a gallon, a 3 MPG difference, to me, is significant.

Later, this past week, I read a TIME Magazine article which talked about the "Clean Energy Scam". I found the article shocking and I am sure you will too.

A quick Google search using the keywords "Ethanol" and "Gas Mileage" turned up may interesting links, including this blog (the comments especially are interesting), and a Consumer Reports article.

But how do you save on gas?

1. plan your trips carefully. Don't just run to the store every time you are out of something, and minimize your trips out.

2. Get your oil changed, air filter, tune ups, etc. When your car is running good it will use less fuel. There are a few oil change places in our area that have special "ladies days" where they give women a special price on that day. Of course if you are married to a guy who likes changing oil and air filters, or if you are able to do it yourself, even better.

3. Inflate your tires to the recommended amount. A tire gauge should cost under $1 at the store, and will let you know what your tires are at. If they are under inflated, they will cause you to use more fuel. One year for Christmas I got a tire pump from my in-laws because I had a string of flat tires for a while there. It is one of my all time favorite Christmas gifts. LOL Very handy!

4. Drive the speed limit. I tested this myself. If you are driving too fast, or if you are starting and stopping, you will use more fuel. Some starting and stopping is unavoidable (eg, driving in the city), but try to avoid speeding up only to stop at the next light. Drive as evenly as possible. It's better for your brakes too.

5. If you drive a pick up truck, put a cover on the bed to help the aerodynamics of the vehicle.

6. Don't use the AC unless necessary.

7. If it is an option, walk, ride a bike, take public transportation, or car pool.

Does anyone else have any tips? I'd be interested in hearing them!! I'm always looking for ways to save, especially on gas.

Saving on Insurance

In my last post, I noted that I was able to knock quite a bit off of my insurance. I had a few emails about that, asking where you should even start to look. Here it is!

First of all, check out what your current policy is, and what is and is not completely necessary. Some of it is on there by law (a legal bare minimum), and some of it may be extras that either are or are not a good deal. If you have a debt against your car, then you legally have to have full coverage, and if you have an expensive car in good shape that is paid for, you still would want to have full or at least more complete coverage. This pays for your car in case something happens to it. If you only have PPLD (the bare minimum) you only get a few hundred dollars (or whatever the going rate now is). If your car is worth only a few hundred dollars, then it is worth it to only have PPLD since you can't possibly get any more, even if you are paying the extra $75 every six months for comprehensive. I'm not really an expert on what all of it means so don't take any of this as legal advice (that's my disclaimer), but do go and do some research on your own to see what each item on your policy is and why it is there, and what benefit you are getting out of it. Then weigh the benefits and costs.

Next, see if you can get a better deal elsewhere. I went to a few online places (,, and went with a quote the latter got me), and requested a free quote, and looked over the information they gave me. Some of them were way more expensive and some were less. I talked on the telephone then with someone from different companies, and to my surprise they were able to lower the price even further if I could pay the whole thing up front. Normally that is like way out of the question ;), but by God's grace, I had money in my Paypal account--the exact amount with 7 cents to spare, Praise the Lord. The savings for paying it up front was 20%, and so I am saving up for the next payment so that I again can get the huge discount--well worth it!

Usually there is a discount if you get all of your insurances through the same company (home, auto, life), and so you can also ask about that too.

Hope that helps!

Saturday, April 05, 2008

Adventures in Grocery Shopping

Coming back from my sabbatical, I have several emails I want to answer soon on the blog, and this one was at the top of my list:

I've read your book The Basics of Frugal Cooking and I've done good with saving money at the grocery store, but lately I can't save like I used to. What are you doing about the increases in grocery prices

Well, it's hit us really hard. I keep reminding myself that God is indeed in control, and He knew about this since the foundation of the world, but it is still hard when I go to the grocery store with only $100 to spend, and realizing that it barely covers the bare bones minimums. I have been much more careful about my grocery shopping (moreso than usual!), and also have been coming up with less expensive ways to make things, even though I have cooked frugal before.

For example, this afternoon I made WonTon Soup for Dinner, but I didn't want to use too much meat in the wontons. Our grocers had cans of chick peas on sale 4 for a dollar (just a quarter!), and so I bought them for quick use. I use dried beans too, but that takes more forethought, so I also like to have some canned and some frozen beans on hand for quick use. This was one of those times, because as I worked a little outside in our yard, I had a brainstorm to use ground chick peas with the ground turkey to make it stretch farther. :-), and that is what I did...and everyone raved that it tasted BETTER. Woo hoo.

Other things we've done include looking for other areas in which to save money. Our car insurance has been climbing over the last few years, and I have simply been too lazy to shop around (it does take some time and effort), but I finally did so this past weekend, and saved 50% (!!!!!) off of my car insurance bill...the savings were about $14 a week. I am still working on homeowners insurance with the same company and it looks like I may be saving even more. Apparently our old company has been raising everyone's rates, and so it was time to move on. I saved an additional 20% by paying for it in full, which by the grace of God we were able to do :-) We also saved on the electric bill by turning off lights, keeping lower wattage light bulbs in--that drives me nuts, by the way, as I like LIGHT...but it does save money and that is pretty important right now...I've also bought some insulated curtains from the Dollar Store (of all places!) to insulate the windows.We live in an old house with huge drafty windows, so this helps. One of these days we will save up enough for more new windows...we are doing it one window at a time.

I've also been making more things that I normally would buy. For my daughter's birthday, we just had our neighbor's over, and we served homemade cake and some homemade chocolate mocha ice cream...everyone wanted to know where we got it as it tasted way better than normal ice cream, and I agreed...though it was probably cheaper and healthier for you since it had low fat milk and leftover coffee and melted down leftover valentines chocolate in it. Ok, so the melted chocolate probably wasn't so healthy...but the low fat milk definitely was. We also made some blueberry sorbet from some blueberries we froze last year, and some honey we bought off of friends of ours. I made a simple syrup of honey and water (I did it 1:1 because we don't like it too sweet) and added the frozen blueberries, cooked for about an hour at a low simmer, strained it, then chilled it. After it was chilled for a few hours, I put it into the ice cream machine, and then into the freezer again to firm it up. It was perfect. We do this will all kinds of berries.

Whenever I make spaghetti, my dh likes garlic bread...the sort one buys from the frozen foods section (he likes the taste). Sure, that isn't that expensive, but still in times like these, every penny counts. I perfected my garlic bread making skills by making French-style bread, but with oil in it, and then spreading a mixture of roasted garlic and butter into the bread. We got to the point where he loved it but I am an airhead at times, and don't always remember to start a batch of garlic bread earlier in the day. With five kids, life happens, you know? daughter and I prepared 8 baguettes of bread dough, froze them on cookie sheets, and then plucked them off, wrapped them well, and put them in 2 gallon freezer bags (which I re-use), and into the freezer for quicker use. All I have to do is thaw and let rise, and bake fresh. I keep a tub of my homemade garlic butter in the fridge for this purpose, too. I may try to freeze it in individual portions...hmmmm...

Thursday, April 03, 2008

Back....and Esther's birthday

I've been totally MIA for the last few months...for a few reasons...pneumonia, a broken rib after a nasty slip and fall, feeling lousy, and having all sorts of busy-ness in my life since the start of the new year. 2008 has been crazy already, and it is only April.

Tomorrow my 2nd youngest child is entering the double digits. Yes, Esther is turning 10, and I am getting old. LOL Next year my "baby" will be 10. Where does the time go?

IS it spring where you live?

Here, spring keeps trying to show up but winter is not leaving without a fight. Obviously, from an astronomical point of view, it is spring (the sun has crossed the Vernal Equinox)...we learned about that in our Astronomy. We're using Jay Ryan's AMAZING book Signs and Seasons for Astronomy as a family (my oldest has her own science text book but she also enjoys this). I highly recommend it.

The crocuses (or is it croci? as my daughter recently asked) are poking through and our Pussy Willows are in bloom. I even see some small girl-flowers on the hazelnut bush (the "boy flowers"--catkins--are there all winter long), and some signs of life on the forsythias.