Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Schiacciata and Braided Peasant Loaf

For the most part, it is too hot to do any bread-baking. But every once in a while, you get a cloudy day in Phoenix. Though that doesn't change the temperature much, the clouds are a delightful break from the normal relentless sun. For me, this means I want to make bread...

So I did.

This is a schiacciata loaf from Bernard Clayton's Complete Book of Breads. It turned out really great. It is an Italian bread, and he altered the usual recipe so it wasn't sweet. It is perfect to eat with a watery soup for dinner. Then smothered with Nutella for dessert.

Baking didn't come to an end, even after the cloudy day. One of my friends graduated college recently, so we had a little party for her. Another friend hosted the party--and she decided we'd have fondue. So, I volunteered to make some bread. I wanted to make a good, crusty italian bread.

Again, I went to Bernard Clayton's book, and made this beautiful loaf.

This is Braided Peasant Loaf. The recipe made two loaves, and they were excellent. mmmmmm. I kind of want some right now.

Anyway...2 completely new bread recipes, and they are both total winners. Additionally, I made a sourdough starter, so I might just try that out...

Monday, July 29, 2013

Home Improvements

I'm not really all that into decorating or home improvement. I mean, I can appreciate it. I like a house that feels nice and put together. But I'm not into spending the time on doing it. I'm not sure why.

That being said, I knew that I needed to do something to change the extra room we have. I really wanted to have it as a bedroom rather than an office. So...I got to work.

Before pictures



It is really looking cute. I think that we may move the furniture around, but for now, I'm really happy with the walls! I love the scallop border.

Of course, in the course of completing one project, we thought of another that we can work on: I want to make a quilt for this room. I'd like it to look like this:

It will be perfect for the room with the scallops. I have already bought the fabric. So, as soon as I finish up with my brother's quilt, this one will be up next.

I have to admit, even though I'm not really all that into decorating, it feels really great to make improvements. The room is so much brighter, and Tiger is so happy to move in. Maybe there will be more home-projects in my future. (Ok, I already know there will be. And I already know what I want to do!!! More on that later).

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

I signed up...

So, one of the items on my list is to complete either a half or full marathon.

In some ways, I am kind of scared to do it - which is ironic because I have run a marathon--back in 2005. But that was 8 years ago! I can't believe it. Since then, I've moved cross country three times, I've had two more kids, and a hysterectomy. A lot has changed in my life. Yet I still like running, or at least the idea of running. No, I actually like running. It is hard every single time, but I always feel good after a run. For a while, I was putting a lot of pressure on myself to get faster, do more miles, etc. Then, running began to be more of a stressor rather than something that would relieve stress.

But, it is getting nice to run again because I'm chilling out.

It will be even nicer to run when the weather chills out. (It is so hot here!)

Even though I don't want to freak myself out with running or turn running into something that stinks, I realized that it would be nice to have a goal. It is always nice to accomplish something. A marathon would be the perfect thing. Last week, I signed up.

So now I'm committed. I paid the money. I'll be running a marathon. Yikes!

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

The Grand Canyon...Crossing something else off the list

Last week I went to the Grand Canyon. Nothing I say will really matter. For now here are a few pictures my friend took...

Desert Watchtower View - A beautiful (and cold) night.
I love they layers of cliff and canyon.
Dangling my feet off the edge...

My camera ran out of batteries, so I took a few pictures with my iPhone. At first, I was really upset about this fact. I had looked forward to going and taking pictures. But what can you do? Nothing. My camera only takes a special battery, and I'd have to drive to Flag to get another one (over an hour away). I took this as a sign from the universe, and instead of trying to capture the Grand Canyon inside of my viewfinder, I simply experienced it, instead. It was really great.

We didn't go down to the Colorado River. You will need to plan your trip in advance if you want to camp or stay in the lodge down at the bottom. So we took a few day hikes and we also rented bikes and rode along the rim. So...even though I have crossed this off my current 101 in 1,001 list, I have something to add to a future list - hike rim to rim. Or similar. That's the goal...

The Grand Canyon is astounding. They say that a picture is worth a thousand words, but in the Grand Canyon, there are a billion do you express that? Just go.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Desert Solitaire Review

So...later this year, I'll be taking a trip to the Grand Canyon. I've been there once, but it was a trip that I'm not particularly proud of. We went, as a family, while driving down from Utah. None of us had ever been to the Grand Canyon, and we hated the fact that we lived in AZ and hadn't been. So, we kind of made a "pit stop" at the Grand Canyon.

We stayed there for a few hours. The girls were 6 and 7. It was November (obviously we went to the South Rim). And I was pregnant (like 5 or 6 months pregnant). We just drove to the main sites, and got out for a bit. We didn't walk. We didn't hike. We didn't smell, taste, or touch the desert. We saw it. And, in a way, I don't think that we really did see it. I can't say that we experienced the Grand Canyon with even a single sense.

I've always wanted to go back.

My friend and I decided to do a trip there, and in part of preparing for it, I decided I'd re-read Desert Solitaire, by Edward Abbey.

Read This Book

I originally read Desert Solitaire for a class at Weber State University. I loved the book. Admittedly, not everyone in my class loved it or even liked it. But I thought it was pretty much brilliant.

I'm not the best at giving reviews. Mostly because I find the process tedious. But I will list a few reasons why I love the book. I may even give a quote or two.

One - This book is real. Now, I'm not suggesting that it is the true diary of Edward Abbey. I know that he did work as a park ranger for several years in the fifties/sixties. I know that he kept extensive diaries. I also know that this book was carefully crafted based on those experiences, and may not have happened exactly as he describes. I find that to be helpful. I don't think that we learn very much from singular experiences, but more often, it is the cumulative experience that teaches us. We learn over time, a little bit here and there. But you can't write that in a book. Not necessarily. When you're writing a book, you need to get to the point...

Because of this, I think that many people may discredit (or even over-credit) Abbey. Maybe they think he is a pompous liar. Maybe they think he was some genius that had all of these experiences in one single season. I doubt it happened either way.

Yet I said earlier that what I love about this book is that it is real. By real, I don't mean factual on a factual time-line. I mean factual to the nature and condition of humankind - especially with his/her relationship with Nature.

Abbey is a three-dimensional character in his book. He believes in conservation, yet he kills a rabbit for no good reason. He weeps and cries when he is stuck in Havasupai- he believes he's trapped and will die; yet when a tourist actually does die in the desert near Moab, he says that the man had a "rare stroke of luck." He is an anarchist, that's for sure...which seems to be a pretty consistent theme here.

In some ways, I suppose the reader could hate the Edward Abbey character. He comes off as arrogant and pig-headed. He comes off as a hypocrite.

I could be wrong, but I think that's the point. Who, really, can always do what they say and they believe? Abbey, the character, is a real human. He's trying to survive this modern world. He's trying to love the natural world. He's trying to find purpose, peace, and pretty much whatever else we're trying to find.

At times this seems to be a serious quest. Then, there are times, when Abbey laughs at himself--his own philosophies and ideas. Or, even if he doesn't laugh at himself, he tries to get us to laugh at him when we see how full of crap he is.

For this reason, I think that the book is perfect. It is real...We are paradoxes...

Two - The Desert - I love how Abbey uses the desert in this book. I'll refer to the desert as "she" because I believe that she is a she. (Does Abbey say this in the book? I can't remember or say for sure).

So...when I read this book in college, I had a question, "Where is the woman in this book?" Sure, I know that Abbey is married, so his wife is off in New Jersey or wherever he is from. That isn't satisfying. Where is the woman? Why is there no woman? Even in other masculine stories (East of Eden, for example), there are women: usually mothers and whores. But no woman, no mothers, no whores in Desert Solitaire. What gives.

Of course, as soon as I asked the question, I began to read, and it was so obvious...there is a woman in this book. And she is the most beautiful, hostile, loving, cold, merciful, and indifferent woman ever. She is the desert. This book isn't just a memoir or nature book. It's a romance! (Unrequited love, to be sure.)

I love how Abbey describes the desert. Many of his descriptions could be interpreted very literally. Others are the way that the desert makes you feel. It is just beautiful. I live in the desert. Having grown up in PA, it is completely different than my experience as a youth. When I moved to the west, my mom said, "You're moving on to browner pastures." Which was true. But give me brown pastures! Give me rocks, rattlesnakes, and red dirt. Now...don't get me wrong. I love the forest, too. Pennsylvania is the most beautiful place on earth. So is Utah. And Arkansas. And Arizona. But right now, I'm in the desert, and I really like all of it. So...what I'm saying is, I like how Abbey describes the desert.

Three - It's funny and entertaining - Some nature books are really dry and precise. Some are a little too flowery and pretty. Some are a little too granola-y. Many nature books have no sense of humor in their pages. And I guess that's fine. But I love that this book is very funny at times. It makes for an interesting read.

So...that's what I have to say about the book. Have you read Desert Solitaire? Did you love it? Hate it? Why?

I was going to write my favorite quotes here, but don't feel like doing it. So, do yourself a favor and read the book. This is the kind of book I wish I could have a discussion about. Maybe I'll suggest it for book club. The discussion would be heated, for sure!

Monday, April 29, 2013

Postal Service Concert

The Lights at the Show Were Awesome

Last week, we went to the Postal Service Concert. It was amazing.

Here's what I love about concerts in no particular order...
People watching...there were sooo many hipsters. I know that I was at the concert, and I did my best to be a hipster by wearing my mint green cords. But, I still doubt I was one. Homey is the least hipster person I know. However, using insane hipster logic, I told him that he was so unironic it was ironic; therefore, he was the most hipster of everyone there.

I'm gonna stop hating because Hipsters listen to the best music. and I wish I was one.

Feeling young and free...there is nothing like a rock concert to make you forget about your kids, obligations, bills, etc. I forgot that I have the tendency to feel like a bored housewife. Instead, I was consumed with music. There is another energy that you get from live music. Well...most of the time.

Sometimes, you can go to a show, and the singer SUCKS live--you know, if off-key. That annoys me to no end. I really can't stand it even when they're even a little off-key. Luckily this didn't happen with the Postal Service.

I did notice, interestingly enough, that it was different than listening to my headphones. Have you ever noticed the joy that comes from listening to music in headphones? Do yourself a favor. Listen to some music in headphones. Best for this kind of experience: Coldplay, Postal Service, The Shins, Hot Chip, Bjork, The Beatles, Badly Drawn Boy, or Pink nothing else while you listen to the music. Perhaps listen to it in bed. or while jumping on a trampoline. Just do it. And listen to it pretty loudly. This is what your eardrums were made for. Do it. You won't regret it. And if it's a Sunday, or you're just in the mood, listen to Rachmaninoff's Third Concerto on the headphones. Or listen to Beethoven's Sonata--Pathetique. Or listen to Chopin's "Military" Polonaise. Best yet, listen to Vivaldi's Gloria. On the Headphones. Feel music fill your brain. I love it when my brain is so filled with music I can't think of another thing in the entire world. Pretty much heaven on earth.

That doesn't happen at a concert, though. There's more to it. You can feel the music in your bones. The reverberations of the bass will rattle your teeth. There is another energy that fills your entire body when you see a concert live. I'm glad that it's not the same as listening to music on my headphones. It is neither better or worse. It is such a good way.

Great Visuals...(see the picture above). I loved the lights at this show. Whoever put together the light/laser show to go along with the concert did a great job. While at times the whole thing looked like the tabernacle (for the mo-tab), for the most part it was awesome. It provided my sight to feel just as stimulated as my hearing (obviously), and feeling (since the bass and feedback shook me so much). What else could they do...? I'm not sure...what does a concert taste like? Smell like?

Romance was in the air...after a few minutes into the show, Homey kind of grabbed me, and just held me in his arms for the entire concert. It was amazing. Every once in a while, he'd kiss me on the ear, or cheek, or lips. Whatever. And I'm not trying to make you barfy, but it was the best. It made me feel like I was in love. And feeling like your in love is like being on every stimulant the concert had that going for it, too. For some reason, this kind of stuff doesn't happen at home while I'm crocheting and Homey's reading a golfing magazine...

Anyway--I'm happy that I've got something crossed off my list. And I'm so glad that it was such a worthwhile experience.

Thursday, April 18, 2013

In Progress--The New Testament Study Companion

One of the things on my 101 in 1,001 list is to Finish the New Testament Study Guide and make it available on my blog. I'm happy to say that I'm pretty much halfway done.
I've completed Matthew and Mark...


These books have been a lot of work, actually, but I think that they are awesome. They are designed to help people study the scriptures in-depth. I have had a great experience in writing these books. I have felt the Spirit, and I really think that these books will help those who use them to have really great experiences with studying the scriptures.

I'm still working on the other two: Luke and John...I'll update when they're done, too.

It is always so nice to get something big done!