Tuesday, August 1, 2017

Breaking Bread

Have you ever wondered what the difference is between French and Italian bread?
I never even thought about Italian bread until very recently when I saw it on a list of foods containing resistant starch.

Have you ever wondered why some of us often pick up a loaf of french bread when we are serving something like spaghetti for a meal?
I hadn't until I became aware of Italian bread. Now I do wonder, and I have no answer for that.

In any case, the difference between French and Italian bread is this:
In France, by law, bread cannot contain any oil or fat.
Whaaaaaaaat???? By law???
Huh! Super interesting!
Also, Italian bread is traditionally shorter and fatter than French loaves.

I recently purchased the Kindle edition of "In Defense Of Food" because it was two bucks, and the title interested me.
I skipped a lot because it was mostly dry and boring writing, but it came down to this:
Eat food. Not too much. Mostly from plants.
In other words, eat real food, not food-like manufactured edibles, in reasonable amounts, with plenty of plant based foods.
Alternately, eat like a Blue Zoner or a Mediterranean which is basically the same idea.
Just don't eat like an American. That will get you in trouble.

I wanted Italian bread, because bread, and resistant starch, but bread bought in a store...eh.
I decided to make some, using the first recipe from my google search.
As you can see, it turned out perfect and beautiful.
Hahahaha, no you can't, because my pictures would not attach. That also means that you can't see that I am totally lying...my batard was weird looking and not perfect. But it was delicious.

FYI: batard is the shape of the loaf, also known as torpedo. You learn something new every day.

Anyway, as I was enjoying this delicious homemade Italian bread, I started wondering WHY it contained resistant starch, when it is basically just a form of white bread.
I remembered that sourdough bread was also on that list of RS foods (as well as pumpernickel and rye) and so I delved a little more deeply into the subject of traditional Italian bread and GUESS WHAT??
Traditional Italian bread is made with a starter, called a biga, much like sourdough starter!!!
I still don't know why that creates RS in white bread, but whatever.
Now I have to make more Italian bread the correct way, with a biga.
And I will just make a round loaf and not concern myself with a batard.
I will let you know how that goes.

Saturday, July 29, 2017

Fish are friends, not food

Hi, my name is Valerie and I have not "blogged" in 2 years.
I do not know why I am blog posting now.

It's not like there is anything new under the sun.
It's not like I have any more technological skill, and therefore don't know how to post pics. Everyone knows that pictures are more popular than words!

Did I just say more popular?
Why am I caring about popularity?!
Oh, right. Because when I started this blog, I had the vague idea in the depths of my brain that I would be the next Ree Drummond.
I mean, she's cute and funny.
I'm cute and sometimes funny.
I mean, right??


You know how when you were a teenager, and you were all socially awkward, and you said weird stuff at random times? (Or was that just me?)
It's the reason that I am EVER so thankful that when I was a teenager/young adult, there was no social media. Because that would have just been awkward.
That's how I feel when I read over previous posts.
Some things that come into my head should just stay in my head. Those thoughts don't always translate well to the written word.


Two years ago, my life hit a big fat brick wall and i've sort of been splattered against it for all these months.
Also, for awhile I was very busy cleaning motel rooms, and then trying to not ruin people financially.
And now i'm back "home" and back to square one, except now there are not very many people here to keep me busy or company, and I don't think going back to college is an option again because next up would be more Algebra and it has been toooooooo long and i don't think that I would do very well evaluating algebraic expressions now,
and I find that I am in a bit of a funk and have turned to the extremely unfruitful and unprofitable bad habit of escaping into "Bones" on Netflix (which, aside from "Pirates" and "Harry Potter" which I have already seen one billion three hundred eighty four and a half times is the only thing I can bare to watch,)
and I would now like to rejoin the land of the living,
but I still don't have anything much to talk about except for the books I hate and the ridiculous diet/nutrition industry
and maybe I should get a job again, but not cleaning or being in charge of people's bank accounts, except if I did that, I would NEVER see the Chief.

And so, hi, I might be back.
Sort of.

Friday, June 19, 2015

Wallow and obsess...those are my superpowers.

     Here's the thing.
When my son Joey died (at the age of 20) in June of 2012, I don't know that I followed the appropriate mourning protocol. I don't know that there is any one best way of grieving. I guess we all do the best we can to get through it. 
What I did was throw myself into life and kept very, very, very busy.
I signed up for college. I took care of the rest of my family.
It went something like this: my oldest daughter had moved to another state at the age of 21 with my grand daughter. Over the 7 years that she was there, we saw each other in person maybe 5 times. And then Joey died, and maybe 3 months later, she moved home and reconnected with her ex-husband/baby daddy, and they have remarried and had another baby.
The next month, another daughter that had lived in another state left her whole life behind just like that and moved home, and immediately reconnected with an old flame. A month later, he moved here. Now they are married and have a baby. 
My son who lives in the next state over was here more than not.
At one point...ALL of those people lived with us (at the same time!) in our little bitty house. 
And then my niece and her husband and three young children moved here. 
I was going to school and doing home work and hanging out with all these people all of the time. I was very very busy and preoccupied. 
     And then last summer, I got "sick" and ended up in the hospital with Congestive Heart Failure, but what? I kept on going! I went to school and did homework and babysat my wee little grand daughter and more often than not, had 12 or 15 people for dinner! 
    I was very busy and very preoccupied. 
    Then I may have crashed and burned a little bit. 
   I took the spring semester off from college in order to catch up with myself and focus on my health.

     Back tracking just a bit, 4 years ago I saw a picture of myself and felt a deep self loathing. I had gotten SO FAT, and decided to do something about that. And so, I embarked on a mission, and actually lost 60 lbs. At one point, I was very involved with the Sparkpeople website, and motivating others was motivating to me. At the time that Joey died, I had just broken through a plateau and was at an all time low. Over the course of the following 3 years, I was very busy and preoccupied. (Have I mentioned that already?) I stopped paying attention to my eating habits, I stopped exercising regularly, and the weight started creeping back on. 

    The past 6 months have found me wallowing instead of getting myself in line.  One daughter and her husband moved to another town about 2 hours away.
     My niece and her family moved to another state. 
     I'm not going to school or doing homework. I'm not writing, which is what i'm supposed to be doing. I'm still babysitting grand baby duck. ( Both of them while school is out.)
Pretty sure I got less busy, less preoccupied, and a big black cloud landed square on top of my head! I have felt physically, mentally, and emotionally exhausted, and when the third anniversary of the traumatic day that changed our life forever (June 10-11...he was missing on the 10th and found on the 11th) rolled around, it just rolled over me like a massive boulder, and I just was not expecting that. It's been three years, for pete's sake! 
     ANYWHO! The point is, I have GAINED 10 lbs since I was in the hospital, and I haven't been in a good place emotionally,  and then I had a check up with my cardiologist. My BP with meds was 160/116! 
    That number sort of screamed at me, penetrating the fog, and now I have to pull myself together or (literally!) die trying! 

    I don't really want to be obsessed with what i'm eating or what my exercise habits are, but it's the only way i'm going to get anywhere! I have rejoined Sparkpeople.com (if you need some health/fitness/weight loss motivation, check it out and look me up! Vibrantval is my user name!
    This whole long blog post is just an attempt to warn whoever might be in my life in any manner that, as wearing as it can get for the general population, i'm about to be talking a lot about all that mess. Perhaps if I were a more balanced type of person, or less ADD, it could just be a side job, but no...i'm not, and immersing myself is the only way for me to stay focused! 

    So...let's hear it for losing 50 lbs by my next check up in December, and another 20 or 25 after that!  To getting my blood pressure under control and maybe just maybe ditching the meds! And to shaking the gloomies and getting on with the rest of my life!


Wednesday, June 10, 2015

I have found the one that I love

Have you ever heard of Barbara Claypole White? I had not until very recently. She is an author, and I don't exactly remember where I came across her name. I "follow" way too many authors, some that I don't even like, for the sole purpose of finding new authors.
    Anyway, Barbara's name ended up on my "to check out" list, and just a couple of days ago, I got " An Unfinished Garden" on my laptop.
     Oh my word!!! OH MY WORD!!! This story grabbed hold of me from page one and didn't turn me loose...well, it hasn't yet. Even though I finished it last night.
When I was supposed to have gone to bed super early, because I am really exhausted lately, and I just need some SLEEP.  I don't know why I think going to bed early is the answer...I don't sleep anyway...but that was my plan. Instead, I finished this book, turned out the light at about 11:00, and still had a hard time sleeping.
    Anyway, about the story:
      I suppose it is a "romance", but definitely not your typical one, and there is SO much more to this story than romance. It's about Tilly, who is a widow and consumed with grief and guilt, and her 8 year old son Isaac. It is about James, who is a software developer or some such, but has sold his family farm, his company, and his home and retired at the age of 45 in order to move to South Carolina. He is there to participate in clinical trials for treatment of OCD.
    James is OCD! Not as in " I'm a neat freak, so I'm OCD". Not "I like to organize my cabinets" OCD. He is actually, clinically OCD, with the rituals and obsessions and all.
    Also in this story is Tilly's mother, ex-high school love who has always been buzzing in the back ground, and her best friend.
     Oh my stars and garters, this story is intense! It is about fear and courage. It's about facing demons head on. It's about helping each other do that. It's about all kinds of relationships and all kinds of love, and there is more than one way that the story could go, and the reader is not really sure which way it SHOULD go,  and the ending...wow. WOW!

    There is some strong language in here just so ya know, but its not like some books where it's in every other sentence.

    There are no sex scenes in this book! No body has sex with anyone in the course of this story! There is physical attraction. There is passion. There is the actual development of relationships. But no sex. And it was intense.

   I really have no gripes about this story.
I loved it, and I want to crawl up in it. Instead, I will move on to the next book by this author.
     *Note: There are only two, with a third coming out soon.

Okay, that is all!
Go read this book!

Sunday, June 7, 2015

Living it up

I'm on a Joy mission. Joy has been missing from my life for awhile now, and i'm over it. Determined to make the most of summer, one of my joy projects was to turn my tiny backyard into a mini tropical paradise. Because I was born for island time. Because I yearn for sun and sand and water and palm trees. If it was up to only me,  our house would be a beach house even though any beach is very very VERY far away! Thankfully, I don't live alone, so I have the privilege of taking the preferences of the other family members into consideration. 

Anyway. The back yard was a mess. The Chief was working on his garage and there was stuff everywhere. Have I mentioned that the back yard is tiny? Eventually, all the stuff found it's place, and this past week was all about the transformation. First, I painted this furniture. An old desk that has been out in the weather, and the two stools that Joey gave me shortly before his Departure From Earth. I can't just get rid of them, but there is no room for them in the house.

Tiny backyard...picnic table...grill...some junk...

Ta da! I painted the desk and the stools with exterior paint. I just happened to have a gallon of this very light blue. Back before the budget got so tight, we picked it up for a few bucks because it was a custom color and then the customer didn't want it. My sister in law, Monica, taught me to do that! I've had this gallon of paint for a couple of years, and guess what? I found a use for it! It might not be the color I would have chosen to use in my own personal mini "tropical paradise", but it works! I spray painted a couple of planters and the rusty folding chair that has been lounging out here. And, well, there is my pool! Would I rather have a real in ground pool? Why, yes, yes I would!! Desperately! But I don't have one of those and probably never will. What I do have is a $15 "family size" kiddie pool! It is only 1.5 feet deep, but it is big enough for me and the grand babies to play in...and when they go home? Oh, ya! Pool meditation! 

I have to confess that I hate bugs in the pool, and spend an inordinate amount of time skimming. 

Here is a close up of the "garden" Two of these plants are "palms"....but not. For example, the ponytail palm...it's not really a palm tree. It is more of a desert plant. But I don't care. I like it.

And on the picnic table....My sis-in-law contributed these shells, and I got a citronella candle from family dollar for three bucks. Isn't it CUTE??? I love it!

I am very pleased with my summer area! I can honestly say that it adds joy to my life! And my poor dead aloes down there? They are showing signs of revival!

Don't you love getting stuff in the mail? I do! It is very sad that actual snail mail is practically a thing of the past. Snail mail is one of those nice little things that infuses joy into my life! Another Joy project is sending snail mail.  This project got off to a slow start, because i'm not that crafty, but i'm also on a...you guessed it!...budget. Alone time is at a premium as well. Here is a sample of my efforts. Scrap book paper...cut up gift bags...card stock printer paper...a glue stick...ta da!  Inexpensive, fairly simple and quick...but fun! 
And...I don't know where my last picture went. It was a photo of the dining table set for a meal. No matter how many there are...or aren't...at meal time, meals are almost always a sit down family affair. These dishes that you can't see...I got them at a garage sale for a quarter a piece. Similar to Fiesta Ware (which I LOOOOOOOOVE), but my mom said that she saw these at Family Dollar...for a dollar! There is one each of blue, coral, sage green and yellow! Dinner plates, I mean.  I love how they look on the table. They make me happy! There are also hot pink plastic glasses from walmart...4 for a buck fifty or something like that. Just an example of how color and fun and joyful things are available without big bucks! 

And...that is all for this post I think! 
How do you infuse Joy into your life?!


Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Green and growing

Do you like to grow things? 
I sure do.
I love having a big ole vegetable garden, but haven't been able to have one in some time now. 
I've had some really great ones in the past. Crazy thing is, I have no luck growing ornamental plants outdoors. Like, flowers for example. Even bulbs. I plant and plant, and it just never works out. Everything either doesn't ever grow at all, or dies. I had (had being the operative word here) two big aloe vera plants. I read that they would benefit from being outside once the danger of frost had passed. So I put them outside. Then they died. 
 I have an indoor garden instead! This is my jungle corner. It is my favorite area in my whole house. 

The huge tree like plant in the back? (Ya, I have no idea what it's called.) I started it from a tiny little cutting off of one of my sis in law's plant. 

I saw a post on Facebook about re-growing celery from a bunch purchased in the produce department. Do not mind my messy window sill and backsplash there. We had new windows put in A YEAR AGO and the inside is yet to be finished. This is my kitchen window, out of which I can see the neighbor's ladder to their pool.  
Back to the celery...I decided to give it a go and see what happened. So right there it is, in my kitchen window...the bottom off of a celery bunch.
And in this horribly lit photo, it has been growing for about a week...

Annnnd....a little longer.....and in the yellow and green pot, there are some succulents (I don't know which ones) growing from leaves that fell off of my other succulent plant. I just love it when one little ole thing turns into a bunch of other things, don't you?

And here it is as of today! It has roots and everything! So now it's time to plant it in some dirt, if I ever get around to that. I have no idea how long it will take to make new celery stalks. but I will be interested to see! I have another bunch of celery in the fridge waiting to be in some salads and stir frys and whatnot, and i'm going to regrow that one, as well. I just won't put them outside. 

I have a sweet potato vine started, too. It is taking it's sweet time but it finally has some roots. 
Speaking of growing things, here is grandbaby duck #2, running back and forth down the sidewalk. This little girl is something else! It is finally warm enough to utilize the wading pool (1.5 ft deep) on the days that it isn't raining, but at first she wanted nothing to do with it! I finally coaxed her in, and now she doesn't want to get out...ever! I guess there are worse things than an afternoon in the pool! (I babysit her 5 days a week.)

Baby Duck #3 and baby Roscoe were here for a visit this passed weekend. It was so great, and there is supposed to be a picture of Roscoe in this post, but I don't know where it is. I figured out how to post pictures to my blog from my phone, so I do that and then publish it. After that, I get on my laptop and edit the post with text, and it seems that transactions sometimes go awry. 
(I totally just had to google how to spell awry.) 

If you were wondering if the celery trick that you saw on FB or Pinterest really works, now you know! It does! Go forth and grow new celery!


Wednesday, May 20, 2015

lopsided layers

So. I recently read a blog post about successfully blogging. Apparently, one must pick a subject and blog about that thing. For example, there are health and fitness blogs, food blogs, book blogs, diy blogs, etc etc etc. 

But lets talk about Ree Drummond, The Pioneer Woman, for a minute. I'm kind of a fan girl, to be honest, and I was following her blog before she got all super famous. But see...She doesn't blog about just one thing. She has food posts, and homeschooling post and gardening posts and ranch post and all kinds of posts! And she wrote an excellent book about the beginning of her life with Marlboro Man, and she has a cooking show, and cook books....

Not that I ever set out to have a "successful" blog. Or that I in any way compare to Ree Drummond. I mean...she is energetic and talented and funny, and she seems to be a genuinely nice person. Also, she has an interesting life on the ranch. Also maybe she has technological skills. 

I do, however, write about a variety of topics. This is a health and fitness food book random rant blog.  This is a blog for the untalented, uncrafty and undomestic but wish they were and keep trying.  Or, the untalented, uncrafty and undomestic who don't actually care, but want to make a layer cake on occasion.  For those who are on the ADD side of center instead of the OCD. Or, the talented and crafty and domestic who just want to laugh at somebody. Or whoever.

Today's post happens to be about food. So today it is a food blog. 
Actually, cake. This post is about cake. I saw a recipe on Facebook for an old fashioned butter cake. Now, I am 50 years old, raised 5 baby ducks, and have been feeding them for about 31 years. But I have never made a layer cake.  It just seemed so intimidating. My mom has made some beautiful ones over the years, and just watching her perfectly shave that dome off of the top...well, it just scares me. 

One time, I decided to trim Baby Duck 3's hair. It was about hip length when I started, and shoulder length when I was done. Because it was lopsided, and I kept trying to make it straight. Do you see where I am going with this? If I tried to shave a cake straight, I would end up with no cake, so I never even tried. 
Until yesterday. I just decided that I was by gum going to do it. 
So I did. Using the old fashioned butter cake recipe. 

Ha! There are crumbs on the table! I didn't even notice until right now! So that is the final result, and the thing got eaten. I must tell you, though, that the recipe did not meet my expectations. It is supposedly a one hundred year old recipe...when I told the Chief this, he said "It tastes a hundred years old." Bahahahahahahhaha! But seriously, the texture was weird and it wasn't really moist and delicious. The frosting was yummy, but it is pretty much the same chocolate butter cream that I have been making for years. Now, the reason the first photo is of a half eaten cake is because I am not technologically accomplished, and I was switching between my phone and laptop, and, well...that's just how it is. I also don't know why my text is not aligned on the left. 

The first problem I had in making this layer cake was pans. I don't actually have two round cake pans. Well, I do, but not the same size. I have three sizes of spring form pans that I have never used, a bunt pan, two angel food cake pans, about a dozen cookie sheets, a bunch of pie pans, and 4 13 by whatever cake pans, but the only round cake pans I have are the ones that I bought for baby duck 3's baby shower. There are about 5 of them, in graduating sizes, for a tiered cake. Baby duck 1 had left a round cake pan here, and so I picked the one from the tiered set that was closest to the same size, and ta da. There ya go. One was slightly bigger than the other. Both layers slope to the right. I don't know why. Probably the stove is not level??  I did not trim the tops. I did try to align the slopes. Anyway...I put a lot of frosting on and you couldn't even tell. 
OR maybe you can.  Also, I didn't have a cake plate to put it on, so that is a regular ole dinner plate and I kind of made a mess with the frosting. 

There you have it, my first attempt at a layer cake. I want to try again, but with a recipe that actually tastes good. I might even get a couple of same sized round cake pans. And maybe a cake 
plate. Except the budget is still squeaky tight, so maybe not. Maybe my next layer cake will still be odd sized, lopsided, and messily plopped on a dinner plate. But I hope that it tastes good!

The moral of this story is: make layer cakes even if they are imperfect and a little messy.