Wednesday, September 26, 2012

The Many Faces of Maddox

Maddox was having so much fun with the Castle MarbleWorks on Sunday morning that I couldn't resist snapping some pictures and taking a video.  I went back to look at my pictures, and I noticed that he kept changing his facial expressions in the pictures...

Hope there's room for more than one "ham" in this family...

I've got to show the video, too.  By the time I took this one he'd been playing with it a while, but he uses just about his only two words while I'm recording.  The first one is "cheese" because he saw me with the camera.  The second one needs no translation.  He's just so dadgum cute!

Out With the Old, In With the New

A couple of month ago a large, metal paperclip found it's way into our garbage disposal.  Connor put it in the sink and I inadvertently rinsed it down the drain.  Boo.  It clunked around in there for a few days, and then I forgot about it.  Till our disposal started making funny noises last week.  And then it died on Friday.


Since Ben had to work Saturday (again), the task fell to me to figure out how to switch out that baby.  Before I went to Home Depot, I took a picture of the old one so I'd know what to buy.  (Pay no attention to the mess under the sink.  It's a mirage.)

Once I got to Home Depot and started looking, I decided to upgrade us to the next "horsepower" model.  I mean, really.  We have a large family and I cook a lot.  It was worth the extra $30, hands down.  After watching a 5-minute You Tube video, I was ready to begin installation.  I (eventually) found the switch that turned off the power to the garbage disposal and got to work.  Two extra trips to the hardware store later (I needed a slightly longer PVC pipe to reattach it to the drain), we had it hooked up, leak-proof, and ready to go!  Isn't it beautiful?

I've never messed with electricity before.  It's oddly exhilarating...

The Candid Cook: Flour Tortillas

We use a lot of tortillas in this house.  I hate to admit it, but it's true.  And I can't get my kids to eat the store-bought whole wheat tortillas, either.  In addition to being twice as expensive (or more), they are a lot more dry than the "usual" sort.  I gave up on that effort months and months ago.  So, when I made the decision last week to stop buying so many convenience foods, tortillas were on the top of my list of things to try making at home.  I knew I wanted a recipe that used oil instead of lard, and I was fortunate enough to stumble across this one from the Food Network website.  

Before I give you a the recipe, a quick note about the flour.  The pictures shown are from making it with 100% white flour.  However, I have also made it (and enjoyed it immensely) with half white and half whole wheat flour.  That being said, I did not use your typical store-bought whole wheat flour.  I have recently discovered the wonders of Hard White Wheat.  I happen to have my own wheat grinder at home, so I can purchase the wheat in bulk and grind it when I need it.  Assuming you are like most people and simply buy your whole wheat from the store, I have found that the Gold Medal Ribbon whole wheat flour is the most finely ground and works the best in my baking recipes.

Homemade Flour Tortillas

3 cups flour (white, wheat, or a mixture)
1 tsp. salt
1 cup warm water
1/3 cup olive oil

Combine flour and salt in a mixing bowl, and make a well in the center.

Combine warm water and oil and dump into the center. 

Mix together with a spoon as thoroughly as you can.  It should look something like this:

Dump the contents of the bowl onto the counter top and knead together with your hands until it forms a nice, soft dough-ball.

Separate into separate balls to make the desired tortilla size.  This time I wanted large, burrito-sized tortillas so I divided it into 6 balls.  If you want taco size tortillas, you can do about 8-10 balls.  No matter what, you do have to make it round.  You will never roll out a roundish tortilla if you don't start with a roundish ball.

To roll out the tortilla, I usually do it in three stages.  I know it sounds like it's going to take forever, but seriously the whole process takes me less than a minute.  You may start out a little slower, but you'll get up to speed once you've done it a few times.

First I flatten it with the heel of my hand to get the shape started.

Then I follow it up with a few rolls from the rolling pin, flipping it over and turning it sideways after every couple of rolls. This helps smooth out the dough, but I'm not seriously working on getting it thin yet.  I usually do this till it's about 2 mm thick.

Finally it's time for the last stage.  Remember that this tortilla will puff slightly when you are cooking it, so you want to get it as thin as possible.  Once I get to the part where I'm on my last thinning of the tortilla, I do NOT pick it up and flip it.  It WILL wrinkle.  And I hate wrinkles.  Just keep rolling from all directions and around the edges until you get it as thin as possible.  Mine is usually a little translucent when I pick it up.  Remember it will puff up slightly when it cooks, so you aren't going to end up with a flimsy tortilla.

 Now place the tortilla on a pre-heated, non-stick griddle or frying pan.  I usually set my heat on medium-high.  Cook it until the dough starts to puff up on top.  Now it's time to flip it.

Cook it another 15-20 seconds or so on the other side to get it nice and evenly cooked.

Take it off the pan and place it on a plate.  When the tortillas first come off they can be a little crispy on the outside, so it's best if you can make them first and then cover the stack and let it sit while you fix the rest of your meal before using it.  Mine turned out super-soft that way.

Use your tortillas in whatever delicious way you'd like.  Tonight I had a chicken, spinach, and tomato quesadilla.  Yum!

Store any leftovers in a sealed container or Ziplock bag.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Edmond Safety Village

We went on a field trip last Friday with our home school group to the Edmond Safety Village.  It's run by the fire department, and includes a great presentation on safety with a follow-up trip down to this quaint little brick down built on a kids' size scale.  

During the presentation, Maddox and Connor had a hard time sitting still, so I busted out some matchbox cars to occupy them.

Kelsey and Eva had NO problems listening.  (And yes, Kelsey is hamming it up in this photo.  Eva, on the other hand is smiling quite nicely.)

The coolest part of the presentation is when one of the firemen puts on his full gear.  It's important for the kids to know what the firemen are going to look and sound like if they are ever trapped in a burning building.  Often kids are scared, and sometimes even try to hide from the "scary monsters", so this is a great, great lesson for them.

At the end of the presentation portion, Kelsey and Eva posed with the firemen.  Aren't they awesome? 

Finally it was time to go "down town" to the Village.  Aren't these buildings absolutely adorable?  They also had street lights, a train track, and crosswalks.

They even let the kids have a few minutes to play on the playground, and Maddox immediately went for his favorite thing: the slide!

Our group's last stop was the school bus for a lesson on bus safety, and then the kids were allowed to pose for a picture as they pretended to "drive" the bus.

Connor and Eva both posed quite nicely for the pictures.

Kelsey, on the other hand, had to pretend she was wrecking the bus.

Oh, how that girl makes me laugh.

It's a Jungle Out There!

Actually, it's just a really, REALLY neglected flower bed...

It's been a hot summer, and it's not my forte.
That's my story, and I'm sticking to it.

Fortunately for me, we had a women's activity at church the other night where people went out to help each other with small service projects, and I got lucky!  Sam and Angela were fabulous and helped me clear out all the weeds and most of the grass and even helped me kill some spiders (yes, we have black widows).

Does it look so much better?!  It's like the plants that are supposed to be there can breathe.

After they left I sprayed it down with crabgrass and weed killer, and waited a few days to make sure the grass left was, in fact, dying.  This morning I couldn't wait any more, and I spread out my 400 lbs of dirt and 8 cubic feet of cypress mulch.  I even planted a few mums and some coral grass!

Now I just need to get some annuals for the big pot on the left and then I'll be satisfied.  

I hope I can keep up with it now.  Thanks again, ladies!


Kelsey was helping me in the yard, and look what she found:

It's the husk that cicadas leave behind when they are molting, I believe.

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Room Re-do

We had to put the girls back together - partly because of Olivia's attitude, and partly because we just needed the space. (We REALLY need to move into a house with more bedroom space!)

Since the bunk bed we picked out was black and white and Olivia's new favorite color is bright purple, we decided to go with those colors.  Yes, there's still stuff cluttering the floor in this picture, and the ladder didn't get delivered with the bed (we'll get it this weekend), but I think it turned out quite nicely!

One of my pet peeves is that the girls won't use their top sheets, and I can't wash comforters often enough to make it sanitary to use them without sheets.  So this time I didn't bother buying expensive bedding.  I simply went to Hancock, found some cool purple fleece (that just happened to be on sale), and sewed it to the back of the top sheet!  Perfect blanket for 9 months out of the year.

Incidentally, the girls broke yet another drawer on their dresser and I discovered it during the rearranging.  Rather than buy them something else they could destroy, I ended up getting them Rubbermaid drawers for their clothes that they don't hang up.  It worked out much better than I expected!

Now if I could just magically get them to keep it clean...

Big Mouth Maddox

He may look like his father, but I have proof he inherited at least ONE thing from me.

My "big mouth" is a little different, though...

Our New Schoolboy!

Connor started Pre-K at the elementary school down the street.

We are very excited.

Mommy especially.

But Connor's pretty stoked as well.

I love this crooked grin!
(He had to bring a snack on the first day of school, hence the box he's holding.)

And here he is next to his "cubby".

What a big boy!

Klutzy Kelsey

A few weeks ago Kelsey went to the new trampoline fun place with her friend, Jenna.  Unfortunately for her, she landed wrong about halfway through her visit and ended up with a severely sprained ankle.

Here's the good ankle:

And the swollen one:

Need a better look?  Here's the close-up:

Poor thing...

Now that her ankle is all better, she had to go and injure herself again.  She is always trying to be a prankster, and when she heard her father coming in the front door the other night she ran down the hall trying to hide so she could jump out and scare him.  She promptly fell over Trixie, banging her knee and eye in the process.  So now she has a swollen knee...

Incidentally, Trixie is fine.