Saturday, March 24, 2012

Billions of Birthdays

Saraiah sports a party hat as she becomes a guitar hero

We have lots of spring birthdays among our friends and family, especially in march!  There were 2 friend parties, 3 cousins, a grandpa, and next week Saraiah will be six.

Here are some of my favorite pictures from the birthday moments we've celebrated so far this month!
The most recent party was one for my friend Josie's twin boys.  I was there when they are born, and now they are 5...or 55 if you read the cupcakes consecutively!  The theme was a super hero party!

One of the boys didn't feel so good.  A shot of his feet was more to his liking  
Mask decorating! 

Birthday boy number 1  
Birthday boy number 2

they're cousins, identical cousins..

Josie is just as into cameras as me!   
He's got the family dimples

After a super hero race outside, the kids had fun playing with glow wands in the basement. 
Because this is the proper attire for blowing out my candles...

The twins 
Even the stuffed animals came ready for a super hero themed party!

The other party I'm sharing pictures from was that of a sweet little 6 year old girl we know... here goes...all pink!  (except for the St. Patty's green!)

This birthday was on St. Patty's day!

Face painting
nail polish...perfect for a 6 year old's party!

Cutest dog award

Bing!  She's got an idea!

Our daily bread: my second batch of sourdough

The happy little loaves.  I was not too hungry, and planned to wait til morning to take a picture of the inside of the bread.  

Today I had my second try at sourdough.  I made the basic white sourdough recipe on the Northwest Sourdough website.  This time, I left the starter on top of our pellet stove, which doesn't really get hot, but instead makes the air around it warm.  In the morning I smelled the smell of sour when I woke up.  I peeked under the lid and it was very bubbly, so I got very encouraged, and decided to try another loaf. 

I mixed in the necessary ingredients, then kneaded it gently for about 2 minutes.  Then I let it rest for 15 minutes and kneaded it again for a minute.  After that, i put it in a bowl, covered the bowl with a damp cloth and let it rise all day.  It did!  It was like magic!  After about six hours, I didn't have time to do any baking, so I shaped the loaves and put them on a baking stone on some cornmeal that had been sprinkled there, then covered that with a damp cloth and went away for about 3 hours.  Oops!  The cloth stuck to the bread.  

The kids had a different plan.  I had been in my room editing pictures and came out to find half a loaf gone!  

I guess I don't know what I should have done differently, but anyway, I reshaped the loaves, stuck them on some new cornmeal, then put another baking stone, as well as a broiling pan in the preheating 450 degree oven.   I sliced three slits in the tops of the loaves.  

Once the oven was preheated, i poured one cup of water into the hot broiler pan, making instant steam.  I closed the door quickly and got ready to throw the loaves onto the hot baking stone.  I opened the door and slid them on the stone, baking the loaves at 450 for 5 minutes, then reducing the heat to 425 for the remaining 30 or so minutes.  

The kids claimed they didn't like sourdough, but the first loaf I made is gone, and they are working on this one!

I kept tapping the bread to see if it sounded hollow, and waited for the tops to get that golden brown sourdough look, then finally got brave enough to take the bread out.  It looked beautiful!  I was sneaky and turned it over, cutting into the middle of the bottom of the bread, checking to be sure it had baked through.  Indeed it had, and it was light inside.  I love when things work out.  This makes me happy, and willing to try new things, as well as encourage others to try too! 

Thursday, March 22, 2012



My friend gave me sourdough starter last week, and I've been putting off trying it out.   Why?  I was afraid it would be a flop.  Also, I was frankly overwhelmed and confused by the directions I was reading about how to do it.  Thankfully, my friend told me all I needed to do was to watch how the New York Times easy sourdough is made, then transfer that idea to the directions and recipe on the Northwest Sourdough website.

I chose their "First Loaf" recipe.  The process started the night before baking, with me feeding the starter and setting it out on the counter.  Before this I had it in the refrigerator.  I was surprised by the large volume of starter I ended up having because of the hydration proportions the recipe calls for.  It means I'll be baking a lot of sourdough bread if I want to keep it going.  

In the morning, I mixed all the ingredients together for a loaf of bread, using my happily fed starter.  I shaped the dough, covered it for the day and left.  Early in the evening, I proofed the bread by shaping it, then covering it with a damp cloth and allowing it to rise.  Later on, I uncovered it and preheated the oven, putting a broiler pan in the oven to preheat as well.  Once the oven was preheated, I poured in a cup of water, allowing it to make steam, then put my shaped loaf in its dish into the oven.  

This is different from "real" sourdough, I realize, because I didn't put the dough onto a hot slab in the oven.  That's because this is a beginner recipe.  The dish helps the dough to keep its shape.  So i got a squarish, somewhat risen loaf of crusty sourdough bread!  I was in heaven.  It was sufficiently sour for me and SO delicious.  I realized I didn't knead the dough at all, and I wonder if that would have helped it rise better.  Or maybe my poor starter was too neglected and didn't have quite enough yeast in it.  Whatever happened, it was still good, and I think I might be hooked.  That is if the kids will eat it too...

On the beauty of grandparents

My beautiful mom and dad
My parents have been in town for the past few weeks, visiting from Hawaii.  I always marvel at how comfortable and right it feels when they're around, but I've never understood exactly why.  I think I finally caught a glimmer of understanding one evening when we were at my parents' house here last week.

We had just finished a family dinner.  Everyone was happily ruminating.  The dull roar of kid play resounded throughout the house.  Naturally, there were still dishes to be taken care of, and mom and I gravitated toward them, quietly scraping, rinsing and washing.  I was startled when I realized how deeply this simple work moved me.

Here I was, working side by side with another mom, and we were doing what mothers do best: seeing what needs to be done and simply doing it.  There was no cajoling or bargaining to do, no complaints or laments, just quiet togetherness in work.  This is when I understood why having my parents and in laws around is such a beautiful thing to me.

When they are near, I feel companionship in the hard work that Brandon and I are doing in raising up these five children.  It is a blessing to know that I can call up any grandparent, asking if they might be able to watch over a child at the last minute, and not to feel I'm intruding, or that I needed to convince anyone to do my bidding.  They know what it takes to raise a child up into a strong and good adult.  It is hard work; they have done it, and done it well.

I'm thankful that my grandparents were there to support my parents, whether in person through visits across the ocean, or through phone calls of encouragement and inspiration to my mom and dad.  I'm thankful they took the time to acknowledge each grandchild they had, recognizing their loves and talents.  I see my parents and Brandon's parents following in their good and noble footsteps, and I feel brave.  I know that even with my shortcomings, my children have great mentors and friends in their grandparents.  My rough spots are smoothed by the kindness and indulgent love of grandparents.  God has given me more than I could have hoped for as a parent.  He has given my children beautiful grandparents.

On that note, I share pictures I took of my parents in a brief 10 minute window between rain and hail on the first day of spring!

We walked to our house with grandma and grandpa after the mini photo shoot.  Maia found a puddle!
Checking to be sure everyone sees the ripples she has made

Running home!

Wednesday, March 21, 2012


When I did the pictures of Elisabeth and Josh and their family, we tagged on a mini session with the cousins and grandparents at the end.  Their entire family is just beautiful and I think we all had a wonderful time!   Here are some of my favorites.  

I was about to leave when grandma came running out and said these two cuties were crying because they thought they were going to get individual pictures like their cousins.  They're so adorable, I wish I had time for an entire session with them!