Sunday, October 10, 2010

New Beginnings

There has been a huge gap in my blog postings, which I really didn't expect to happen.  I suppose it's a combination of things.  One is that the speed of life has been so dizzying, there hasn't been a lot of time for contemplation before a keyboard.  The wee hours of weekend mornings that I love to use to write have often been consumed by oversleeping because I'm transcribing too late at night, transcription because I'm trying to keep up with a big onslaught of work at home, or a pre-teen who surprises me by getting up early.

There's also this thing that has happened over the last couple of blog postings.  I like what I've written, and an audience began to develop.  I saw people checking the blog regularly to see if something new was posted.  That made me feel great.  I also allowed it to make me feel as if I had to do something more than just be me.  I set expectations for blog posts higher than I'd had when I started this mission.  I started believing that I needed to have a "wow factor" in order to post something.  It had to be entertaining, funny, insightful, educational, or ... something more than my everyday life.  What happens when I set goals too high is that I start feeling that I can't reach them, and just sit and stare at them for a while.  Uh-oh, I got stuck.

The way to get unstuck is to just start moving again.  Or as Dorey in "Finding Nemo" says, "Just keep swimming, just keep swimming," paraphrased of course - this is from memory.

Moments over the last month?  Here they are, and I hope you enjoy.  I know I have, for the most part.

Cooking!  Baking!  I've been spending a lot of time in the kitchen.  Part of it is that I'm trying to do weekday prep on the weekends, so we have food that's easy to prepare and healthy to eat during the week.  Another goal is to use as much milk as I possibly can, so it doesn't go to waste.  I've been making a crockpot yogurt every weekend with mixed results.  I love the flavor, and Becca uses it with fruit to make a smoothie to down before we head out to school - often drinking it in the car.  The downside is that I've had a hard time with the texture.  It's been like a slightly thickened milk.  That's fine for smoothies, but not much else, and I don't like drinking my yogurt all the time.  I used a different starter yogurt culture last time that worked better, and picked up a tip that using a little tapioca flour might help.  I'll try that and let you know how it works.

Cajeta is a fixture every weekend, and more and more people are trying and loving it.  I've been told it will be okay to sell some at the school Christmas craft fair, so that is on deck.  I've been trying to figure out how to provide samples.  I started off thinking of buying tiny spoons, but don't like the idea of so much waste.  Next, small cookies?  Maybe.  After the apple/pear/cheese tasting last weekend, I decided that apple slices are the *perfect* way to showcase the deliciousness of cajeta, in addition to providing an idea for its use in a real fashion.

I discovered a fabulous honey wheat bread recipe that I modified and have been making every weekend.  When Becca doesn't want yogurt, we toast slices of this bread and smear homemade apple butter on it for an easy start to the day.  Yum!  I'll post the recipe below.

In addition to the apple butter, which is fabulous and also made in the crockpot, I've been making focaccia.  Dropping ingredients into the bread machine and using the dough setting makes prep easy.  After that, shaping the dough on a cookie sheet and brushing with olive oil before baking is all that is needed to finish it.  I discovered a lovely Meyer Lemon Olive Oil at the farmers market a couple weeks ago, and it is *perfect* brushed on top of the focaccia.

I make both the bread and focaccia using whey instead of water, which imparts more nutrients and lovely flavor and texture to the breads.  It also allows me to use the whey so it doesn't go to waste after making cheese.  I am still trying to perfect cheesemaking, and currently have a Camembert attempt started in the fridge.

Those goats are still keeping us on our toes!  They have been well behaved the last few weeks, but a couple days ago we made a mistake and ended up on a trek in the dark looking for an errant goat.  Typically, we put leashes on the big girls (Lily and Salsa) and Imbri, letting the youngest Nigerian goats trot off to the barn themselves, as they are most likely to do.  Imbri has a habit of going to the barn instead of waiting at the milk stand, but Salsa is good about hopping right up for her food.  Lily likes to wander about and nibble on interesting plants, so she needs firm guidance to get to the barn.

It was Friday night, and dark when we got home after dinner at my parents' in Novato.  Salsa was loudly telling everyone that morning that she was in heat, and she greeted us with a yell (and another and another) when we drove up.  When we put leashes on the goats and let them out, Becca and I both forgot that when Salsa is in heat, she doesn't behave properly.  As soon as she was out of the pen, she walked the opposite direction, and we both realized that we were going to have to chase her down.  We decided to get all the rest of the goats into the barn first, so we didn't have to run around after FIVE instead of just one.

We walked in the dark, with only the light from the flashlight gizmo mounted on my cap (I LOVE THIS HANDS-FREE FLASHLIGHT), stars flickering in the sky, but no moon.  The motion-detected light at the front of the house was on, so we could see Salsa standing near the gate to her pen, in addition to hearing her bleat loudly.  She started to walk away from us, so Becca headed down behind her, while I walked the upper driveway in an attempt to head her off at the pass.  Too slow.  I was 2/3 of the way there, when Salsa popped out of the path between the bushes and started walking away from me.  I called her gently, and she started to trot with intention.  She was on a mission to find bucks.

Becca joined me, and we held hands as we got to the end of our driveway and turned left, up the hill toward my landlady's house and animals.  It was so dark that we couldn't see anything but the circle of light from my flashlight on the driveway in front of us.  This made me a little nervous, and I suggested that we go get the car, but Becca was fine.  I angled the light up a little, we saw a faint glint of white up the drivway, and kept on walking.  Salsa had quit yelling, so it was hard to tell exactly where she was, but as we neared the gate to my landlady's goats, we saw her white coat glowing on the right side of the driveway.  She had her nose pressed against the fence, and one of my landlady's bucks was on the other side of the fence, nuzzling her nose and making blubbering noises.  She didn't want to leave him, so Salsa didn't try to run away when Becca grabbed her leash.

We turned and headed back down the dark driveway, and she was fine until the buck quit following along on the other side of the fence.  Then she started to pull back and yell again.  I had to grab Becca's arm a couple of times on our way to the milk stand, so that she didn't get pulled over by Salsa trying to go the other direction.  She is a LaMancha/Saanan full sized goat, and outweighs Becca.

The rest of the evening was uneventful, but it was a lesson that we didn't forget the next night we got the goats out of the pen.  Salsa is in heat for 2-3 days, and should be over it by tonight, but we'll still hold onto that leash at least for another couple nights to be sure she doesn't run off.

We had a good day yesterday, meeting Amanda, Jessica, and Marie for Amanda's first foray into wedding dress shopping.  What an endeavor!  The selections are so overwheming, and so beautiful.  We had a ball looking around and helping Amanda select dresses to try on, and then watching her model each of the selections for us.  The first one she tried on blew us all away.  It was absolutely perfect on her, and there was nothing else after it that gave us the same impact.  She tried it on one more time at the end, and we all concluded that this is probably *the* dress.  There are two wedding shows next weekend, however, and Mandi wants to see if she can win a gown before committing, so she will wait.  I think this is the winner, though.  If you are looking for a wedding gown, check out Wine Country Bride in Santa Rosa.  They have a fabulous selection of reasonably priced gowns, and the service is SUPERB.

One of our favorite restaurants, Las Guitarras in Cotati, is closing.  We are so bummed about it.  It is hard for me to make it there since we've moved, but that has always been one of my favorite restaurants.  We made it a point to meet up with my parents for lunch there after wedding dress shopping, and had good food, times, in good company.

We will be getting ready to attend the wedding today, 10-10-10, of the mother of one of Becca's best friends.  It's the perfect day for it!

You might wonder about the title - New Beginnings?  Where?  Well, it's me starting to blog regularly, even if I'm worried about what my "audience" might think.  It's wedding dress shopping for Amanda's new and renewed commitment with Anthony next year.  It's a farewell to a good restaurant, after losing a good man that managed it, and a new beginning for that building, while Las Guitarras Novato continues on strong.  Finally, a new beginning for Diane and Reuben - may they have a lifetime of happy years together.

Honey Wheat Bread - Bread Machine Recipe

This recipe is modified from the Mabon Marigold Honey Wheat Bread posted by girlichecf on You can find her original recipe posted here.  The link also contains the recipe for the AWESOME Apple Butter I've been making with local, in season Gravensteins.

1 cup warm water (or warm whey)
1/3 cup honey
3 tablespoons melted butter
1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
2 cups bread flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoons yeast

Place ingredients into the bread machine in the order listed, making a dent in the side of the flour to place the yeast in.  Select the wheat setting, choose the crust color and loaf size, and start.  My bread machine bakes this in about 3 1/2 hours.  No fuss, wonderful aroma in the house, great treat!

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