Monday, November 28, 2005

pumpkin bread part 2

The aforementioned pumpkin bread spent nearly two hours in the oven. The recipe called for it to cook for an hour and fifteen minutes. I checked it at an hour and ten minutes. It wasn't even close, though the top was doming and browning beautifully. I continued to check it every ten minutes or so until the tester finally came out clean.
I pulled the bread and set it on the counter to cool and turned the oven off. I gave it a few minutes then ran a knife around the inside of the pan. I pulled the sides of the bread from the pan, turned it over and eased the bread out.
It left a nice size part of itself on the bottom of the pan, and through the hole I looked into the bread and decided it needed to cook a bit more. So I turned the oven back one and replaced the bread.
I let it cook as long as I could justify. I finally decided it was either done or it could go to hell, because it was coming out of the oven regardless. I allowed it a few more minutes to cool before the old invert/remove. After a few more minutes cooling sans pan, I cut into it.
The top is very very crusty, in a very good way. It's difficult to cut through neatly but oh so crispy! However, rather than a nice crumb it's just entirely too moist. I'm guessing the pumpkin itself was too moist, and perhaps that's why it took so long to cook and has such a gummyish consistency. It does have a great flavor, and may dry a little as it cools. I might also should have left it in the pan a bit longer.
Oh well, there's always next time.
For what it's worth, the recipe is Alton Brown's from the Food Network website.

today's coffee

My first cup was bone cold when I finally rolled out of bed. Momma made us both coffee on her way to work. I was happy to finally finish it and make my second cup, expecting the cold weather we didn't seem to get. It's t-shirt weather out there today.
We use a French press and are a little snobbish about coffee. It's one of those things where once I finally tasted truly good coffee, I couldn't go back. Now I'm further ruined by the press. We used it on occasion before, when we had a normal drip maker. Something in the lid of the carafe for the drip maker decided not to work, so we just started using the press all the time.
My first cup, cold, we've been there already. My second cup, I didn't set a timer and completely forgot about it. My coffee, which should have steeped for about six minutes sat waiting my return for about twenty.
That's my typical coffee story. Some days, every single cup is great. Some days, I manage to skirt quality coffee at every chance. But then I remember how good my bad coffee is compared to what most people call coffee.

pumpkin bread is in the oven

We bought two pumpkins, intending them both to be jack o'lanterns. One did while the other sat on the kitchen counter, not entirely in the way.
Momma finally cooked it so that she could make a pie for Thanksgiving, which she made with a shortbread crust. Big brother helped throughout the process. He also helped with the bread that is now in the oven.
He did a great job helping. I however didn't read through the whole recipe. I trusted to my experience with baking to get the ingredients and techniques in line. How different could it be?
So we combined our dry ingredients. We put them to the side and combined the wet ingredients. Then I looked at the actual instructions. We should have saved the sugar to mix with the wet ingredients. We should have saved the pumpkin to mix into the combined wet and dry ingredients. I mixed the wet ingredients directly into the pumpkin, already having included the sugar with the dry.
Knowing some little bit about baking, especially with quick and/or batter breads, I made this recipe as I expected it to play out. I'm sure that all my missteps will not ruin the end product. We have just over an hour before we find out.

Saturday, November 26, 2005

POV and kids I guess

I'm slowly seeing my kids differently. A lot of it is having finally read some books by John Holt. Couple that with finding all the unschooling boards and sites I've come across lately and you are almost required to at least reconsider or think about or ponder for a moment.
I've decided that I'd really like to get to know the boys. Before now, I've pretty much seen them as little lumps that I need to mold into some shape that will weather the hell of life. I'm not such a pessimist as to really see life as hell, but I certainly know how hard life CAN be. I am fully aware of a lot of what they MAY face. So I've been driven to prepare them for that.
I've never been too horribly drawn to "teaching" them, even before we discovered unschooling. I did of course assume there were going to be subjects that I would need to teach to some extent. I've easily let go of that concept, and even before reading John Holt I was coming to some similar conclusions as far as childhood learning is concerned. I was seeing it before I ever read about it.
More than anything, allowing the boys the kind of freedom inherent to most unschooling families is really testing me. I feel that certain limits are within reason, rules of the house. Each member of the family deserves the same respect, and we should all live free of the fear of physical pain inflicted by a family member. There is a certain amount of respect for both family and personal possessions.
So there are some ares in which I am looking, feeling around. I find it kind of funny though that the "educational" issues are those which were the easiest for me to let go of. And in terms of self regulating and children, I'm kind of lost. I'm certainly changing certain ways I approach them, and I've realized I'm interested in getting to know them. I don't want to mold them so much as watch what they become, seeing who they are.
I'm also learning that I need to get off my lazy ass and cook. I get regular meals regularly into bellies, but I've gotten lazy and haven't really cooked in ages. One of the things I've let go of is the kitchen ban. I couldn't accept that the boys wouldn't just screw off and get in the way, which the boy does. But Big brother is very helpful in the kitchen as we've just recently found out.
Right now, I need to finish the cleaning I almost started earlier before finding out the A Prairie Home Companion was on t.v. tonight. BR5-49 only played one song though seeing them on the one episode of PHC on t.v. was pretty cool.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

something to read

Big brother is currently reading the instructions to our new instant read thermometer. With Thanksgiving coming, and the wife having decided that we'd cook the turkey this year, we realized our old, inacurate thermometers weren't going to work.
We have yet to use the new one, but it seems ever so neat. It's kind of like our old one, long pointed probe but with a digital readout on top in a large thumb sized, diamond shaped head. The old one of course was the classic disc, making the thermometer look like a large nail.
So back to the point. Big brother, at seven, reads really really well. He also varies his reading at a whim, enjoying Harry Potter as well as Thomas the Tank Engine. I've seen him peruse Richard Scarey shortly after reading about Pearl Harbor.
I had just taken the new thermometer from the plastic packaging and laid in on the counter when Big brother picked it up and checked it out. In answer to his very firt question I handed him the instructions. He ran straight from the kitchen to the living room where he sat and read the use instructions for our new thermometer.
He's such a cool guy.
In the end, I'm proud of him, but I'm not surprised by it anymore. He is an unschooler after all!

Sunday, November 20, 2005

so right, so wrong

When I make oatmeal, I cook it following the recipe momma found in the magazine Cooks Illustrated. Momma first cooked the oatmeal this way, and we all found it lovely. I, having grown up waking to a huge pot of the Quaker was amazed by this oatmeal. It had a flavor and texture above and beyond the simple additions we made.
I do use this recipe for the cooking. I don't really need to read it anymore, yet I find myself checking up, cooking insurance basically. I haven't ever used the flavoring mix suggested in the magazine, opting for a mixture of vanilla, brown sugar, cinnamon and raisins that I came up with. It's really very good.
It's a pretty simple recipe. Bring milk and water to a simmer, toast your steel cut oats in some butter, toss them in the milk/water and let them simmer. They are supposed to simmer for about twenty minutes, at which point you add salt and let it simmer another ten minutes.
Now here we come to "so right/so wrong." I've made oatmeal a few times. It always seems quick and easy. It is easy, but I have yet to hit the half hour mark. I have never gotten this recipe finished in less than fortyfive minutes to an hour. I wonder if I expect too much thickness. I do like my oatmeal a little thick, but for a recipe to regulary take an extra half hour is just plain . . .I don't know what! The part of this that amazes me is that the oatmeal comes out good. It's never overcooked or burnt by the extra time.
I know that with the weather cooling off, I'll have even more excuses to make oatmeal and figure out where I'm going goofy. I'm determined to figure this out.
On a similar note, when I cook grits, they are done in half the time of any recipe suggestion I've found. Again, they turn out good. If they didn't I certainly wouldn't stop cooking them so early. Just another case of so right, so wrong.

nice kid

My youngest might finally, agonizingly slowly, be approaching ready to use the potty. Perhaps soon it can stop being the potty, though once you've called it that for so long, it's hard to stop.
So back to the boy. Momma was brushing her teeth at the time, while I was on the computer. I heard an Aaaarggh and a swear (she actually said fooey, but that's so out of place in this house, to use a safe swear.) I went back immediately, knowing momma was busy and might appreciate some help.
The boy, deciding to use the potty, had climbed aboard fully clothed, and proceeded to dunk his butt in the water. Momma was a little irritated by this sudden turn, but I was there to take over, remove the pants, calm the boy, place the step stool. I personally was able to see the humor in the situation.
Upon leaving the laundry room where I'd dropped off the wet butt britches, I told big brother the story of the wet butt. He has a good sense of humor. He appreciates a good laugh. Instead, I got sweetness.
His answer to my story was, "Poor guy."

Friday, November 18, 2005

amazed by how it works

I'm really in love with homeschooling. I remember the hatred I had for school, the never ending hours in an uncomfortable desk, the incessantly buzzing lights, the mind numbing boredom. What is natural about forcing children to sit, be quiet and "learn?"
My boys are all about Thomas the Tank Engine right now, and I've always harbored a bit of love for a train. I still miss never getting to hop a freighter and ride as far as I could, ending up in some new and unknown place. I'm too old to expect that sort of opportunity, not old so much in a sense of age but knowing that I won't be able to toss off the responsibilities I now have.
Because of the train theme in our house, I picked up a few books about trains from the library. My son now knows the basics of the steam locomotive. Did I teach him this or make him learn it? Certainly not. That would have ruined the joy for him. I got books I knew he'd enjoy, on a subject that he is currently interested in. And the best part? I now know how a steam engine works. I certainly couldn't build a train, but I learned something interesting.
There in a nutshell is how kids learn and why I am in love with homeschooling.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

setting sail with sam

So, here it is, my break-in to the world of blogging.
I'm currently not going to the grocery store, which I really need to do. I'm also not doing any number of household chores, knowing full well that no desire on my part will ever coax the dishes to just wash themselves.
We are an unschooling family. I stay home and type away on the computer while my wife makes sushi. We have always intended to homeschool, always meaning from the birth of our first son. I've recently read a couple of books by John Holt. Reading those really cemented my desire to unschool.
I really don't have much to say here, just an intorductory blog that I'm not going to do much introducing in.
Besides, the boys are about to land their little butts in some hot water as soon as I go find out what the loud thunks and thuds are. Whatever is happening, they are in their bedroom. It doesn't quite sound like jumping on the bed, but that's usually the goal in playing in their room. Eventually, they will end up on the bed.
So that's all I'm giving up for today. Eventually, as I continue to post, and as people begin to read, you will all fall in love with my veriose fingers tapping out their little messages. One day, I will be king of the world . . .

. . .of blogging about crap!