Monday, July 30, 2007

I Am a Lucky Woman

I'm a lucky husband bakes bread! I asked him to share his recipe. It's a pretty basic recipe, but for whatever reason, whenever I try to make it all I get are hockey puck loaves. In his hands, alchemy happens and something divine is the result.

This is not a recipe for the beginning baker, the instructions are sparse and assume that you already know a little something about baking bread. One trick I have observed, since I got my Zoji bread machine a few years ago, he does let the machine do the kneading for him. Then he forms the loaves and bakes in the oven. Go for it.... may the goddess of the harvest smile on you too.
Classic French Bread
Makes 2 loaves

1 cup cold water
1 cup boiling water
1 pkg active dry yeast
1 Tbl salt
1 Tbl sugar
2 Tbl shortening
6 cups about flour

Mix all but flour and let proof for at least 5 min (10 better). Stir in flour a little at a time til dough feels right (sticky but doesn't stick to fingers). Then knead until it's smooth and elacticy. You might use all the flour, you might not. Allow to rise covered in a greased bowl at least 45 min, punch down and rise again for at least 45 min.Make into loves (2). Cover, let rise for at least an hour. Slash the top of the loaves with a knife. Brush on a glaze of 1 egg white and water,beaten together. Set oven 350 deg, place a pan of water in oven in the bottom rack. Bake until golden (about 40 min) and internal temp is about 180 deg.

You can add 1 Tbl each in the mix stage of parm cheese, minced garlic and italian seasoning for some awesome garlic herb bread.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Your Lucky Day

Well, this could be your lucky day. A blog my sister told me about is offering a cool prize, just for visiting the site. So go visit, 5 Minutes for Mom and register for a 37" flat screen LCD HDTV, compliments of Best Buy. Viral marketing at it's finest!

Sounds of Summer

We're fortunate to live nearby a national park, Homestead National Monument. Among other cool things they do is have a campfire program on summer evenings. Last night, we enjoyed The Little Brown Jug band. Outstanding bluegrass fiddling mingling with smoke from a small fire ( it was after all, still 90 degrees at 8 pm) and the night sounds of woodlands in summer. They played just over an hour and I wish it had been two. A perfect twilight entertainment.
State parks often have fun evening events too, check out your park system, do something different this summer!

Sunday, July 22, 2007

More Birds

The baby Barn Swallows have all flown the coop, so to speak, and not a minute too soon. They had only been gone one day when the apartment manager came to knock down the nests. He'd been by about 2 weeks ago and wanted to do it, but we insisted that at least the babies needed to be out of it before he did so. He thought we were being too soft hearted and went off grumbling. I think he's been watching it as much as we have,but with a whole different interest level.

It was sad watching them try to come back and finding their home gone. The mama made many attempts to feed the kids, big fat juicy bugs dangling from her beak. Eventually they seemed to understand and we discovered that there is definite Barn Swallow language for being po'd.

This photo is a little guy that's been living in a small pine tree near our patio. He was making a lot of noise the other day, so I went investigating. There's a small nest and this cutie was hopping all over the tree. Still haven't seen any adult birds, so not sure just what kind this one is.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Fair Time!

How long has it been since you've been to a real county fair? Not an overtly commercial attempt at a fair, but a real agricultural centered county fair. It'd been ages since we'd gone to one and we made up for it by going two nights in a row. We saw concerts, pigs, cattle, horses, canned produce, a gianormous cabbage and all sorts of other things I'll share in the next day or two.

Tonight, a shot of the midway. We're way past the wild rides, so our big event was the ferris wheel. Rides sure have gotten wilder it seems, and the addition of strobe ligthing makes them seem a lot wilder. I'll stick to the old fart thrills. Nice for photos if not excitemet.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Alligator Wrestling in Nebraska

The highlight of the Gage County fair last night was the opportunity for kids to catch a wild alligator. The owner of the Wild Game show that's presenting this challenge, says the allogator was found locally.They were mobbed. It's a real alligator alright, about 6 ft long and it splashes and squirms so the kids think they're really wrestling a monster. And then, once you get the creature caught, for a measley $5 you can have a Polaroid of the moment. Uh huh. I guess it doesn't matter that the gator's jaws are duct taped shut.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

It's a scary world

Apparently human kids are not the only ones that return home after they've flown the coop. All 5 kids were back in the nest this morning! It's a scary world for us all.

Monday, July 16, 2007

The Next Food Network Star

Last night was really disturbing on the Next Food Network Star. One of the contestants, Jag, was revealed to have lied about his culinary background and his military service. He was one of the final 2 contestants and I think he probably would have won. He'd been given a chance to correct the misstatements and did not do so. Then he was confronted by the show and he resigned. I hope it was a forced resignation. It's not that his military record has anything to do with his cooking ability, it has to do with integrity and trust.

This has been one of my favorite shows to watch in the past. This season it has been really lackluster, bordering on boring. The challenge ideas have been interesting, but none of the contestants seem to have any natural leadership ability or strong enough personalities to keep you interested in their show. I think Alton Brown had in right a couple of weeks ago when he suggested sending them all home!

To me, the contestants who were in one to one choice situtations with Jag over who was being eliminated really got the worst of this whole deal. Had Jag not been such slime and continued under false pretenses, one of the others may have had an opportunity to really rise to the occasion and shine. I hope The Food Network does something nice for these double losers. I wish when Jag's lies had come to light, TFN would have restarted the whole comptetition.

I'm a huge TFN fan. It's appointment tv for my household. In the summer doledrums of reruns, we watch our favorites over again and give the boring shows a second chance to grab us. Unfortunately, there are a couple of really boring hosts... I hope the new season brings the sparkle back to TFN and that Alton Brown shaves.

PS... Alton Brown is my favorite host, but the boy really needs to buy a new motorcycle or something for his midlife crisis and get over the beard thing.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Class Photo & Graduations

Here's the class photo of the fledgling Barn Swallows. This is the last shot I got of them all together, on Saturday morning. By Saturday night, one of them had taken off to explore the world. In typical teen age fashion, he or she didn't even leave a note! We'd been gone for the afternoon, so we didn't see the take off, but we were glad to not have found a bunch of feathers in the grass.

Today, there's been some wing flexing activity in the nest. I think the next two that will be taking off next have been hopping from the main nest to the little secondary nest and flapping their wings a lot today. It's like they just discoverd them They raise them up above their shoulders and flap wildly for 20 seconds and then turn around to see if their sibilings noticed before settling into a new spot in the nest.
One little guy tried climbing from nest to nest by scaling the wall inbetween, eventually he tried his wings. I was so excited to get this shot of a Barn Swallow's first flight!

Thursday, July 12, 2007

A Week of Swallows

We humans are always saying how we're amazed at how quickly our children grow. I wonder what we would say if we were birds. I read that the parent Barn Swallows fly up to 600 miles daily to feed the babies. They only eat insects, so that's alot of meal prep! Probably explains why we've been able to sit in the twilight and not be bothered by mosquitos. The two parents continue to be constantly in attendance, at night one sleeps in the nest with the kids and the other sleeps in the secondary nest. That's the second bedroom just visible at the right edge of the photo. The parents haven't been too disturbed by us, when they swoop in and we've just gone out, they complain a little bit, do a couple fly by's and then come feed the kids anyway. Now, they do not like flash photography! That tends to tick them off a bit, but duty calls and they keep bringing home the bacon.

What they do mind is a stray cat. One unfortunate cat tried strolling through the patio the other night and suddenly a full squadron of swallows appeared and chased that cat to the far edge of the yard! I swear my indoor cats were laughing themselves silly while they watched that little adventure. We call our sliding glass door Cat TV, and they've been glued to it all week.
Anyway, here's how they've changed in just 7 days from the first photo I posted. They still look rather prehistoric here, don't they? These were taken on 07/07/07, just 2 days after the above photo.

In just 2 more days, they were looking a lot like Albert Einstein....
The smoky looking halo in the photo is actually a wild bunch of feather fuzz making its first appearance. This is one of the bigger babies. There seems to be a span of about 3 days from what we can tell from the first 3 appearing, to finally seeing all 5 of the little guys. Don says they remind him of muppets! They've spent alot of time hanging their heads over the edge of the nest, extending their necks while opening and shutting their beaks. It's been really hot this last week, maybe that's a cooling activity. The photo to the right was was taken 07/09/07.

Two days later and what a major difference! I expect to see them start to move out of the nest in the next day or 2. Already the larger ones are trying to balance on the edge. Oh, here's something I'll bet you didn't know about nest housekeeping! Even as teeny 4 day old birds they knew to hang their butts over the edge of the nest to ummmmmm, relieve themselves. No potty training appeared neccessary. Clean up on aisle 3! Photo taken 07/12/07. I hope I'm home to see the fledgling flight attempts.

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Barn Swallows

A family of Barn Swallows are making their home on the roof of our patio. We've named the mamma and pappa Chatty and Cathy. The seem to have tried out our location for several nights before starting to build their nest. Cathy would roost on the end of an exposed screw and Chatty would harrass her for hours before settling down to roost close by. This went on for more than a week. It was like they were arguing over site selection. Soon they started to build a nest. It went together quickly out of mud, sticks and grass. Oddly enough, a second shallower nest was built several inches away, like adding an "in law" room to your home. It seems like Dad gets to sleep in the second nest.

Just this week, on July 2, some tiny little beaks poked their way above the edge of the nest. They were literally all translucent beak and neck, just popping out when Mom or Dad swooped in with a meal. Today, 3 days later, they are starting to make tiny little noises and have developed some dark gray down. And we discovered tonight, there are 5 babies!