Friday, May 20, 2011

The Shamrock Plant

My sisters (both by birth and marriage) are remarkable. It has been a huge blessing in my life. They alway seem to know when to call and they also give thoughtful gifts on special occasions. I have to share one particular example--sister E gave me these purple Shamrocks on my birthday. I just had to take pictures of them with my new Mother's Day camera (thanks hubby).

This particular plant changes throughout the day as the light changes. I rotate it each day because it bends towards the light like sunbathers at the beach. I have it at work so I can stare at it all day. It is even forgiving--one weekend I forgot to water it before I left and all the stems were completely wilted--but after a good dousing and a couple of days it was back to its present glory!

I've put a photo stream of this plant on the blog, just so I can enjoy it wherever I go.

Notice the fluorescent light reflection
in the window!

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Back to Food! Best Whole Wheat Bread

I have several people comment on my Planet of the Apes post. (They were not entirely positive if you know what I mean!) I know I shouldn't have summarized all of the Planet of the Apes movies--but I just couldn't help it! I keep talking about them to people and I just see their eyes glaze over. The extreme and utter badness of those movies has caught my imagination like nothing else.  They are a testament that a concept can perpetuate itself and people will actually write scripts, produce and yes, years and years later pay to see. It is beyond comprehension. So I apologize for the previous post--but I JUST COULDN'T HELP MYSELF!!!

So, due to popular demand, back to the food--and comfort food at that.

My grandmother made wonderful breads. I remember when we came for dinner that her house was filled with the smell of bread baking.

The recipe that follows is one of my favorites and is also a standby of mine.  I use it when I want fresh yeast bread that doesn't take forever or require special ingredients. It is consistent and yummy--but also basic. It only requires one rising which is also fantastic.

I like her thought about baking bread from her book, "Years ago I remember hearing a sweet little elderly woman say she always offered up a prayer as she kneaded her dough so that the bread would be good, and the materials she was using would not be wast3ed. Those were pioneer days when every grain of wheat was precious, but it still is a good idea today."

There is something magical about making yeast breads. You take disparate and the most ordinary ingredients; flour, water, yeast and at a point (during the kneading) it becomes something entirely new and extraordinary. it becomes a warm, smooth,  silky beautifully malleable mound.

Best Whole Wheat Bread

1 yeast cake (2 1/4 t. dry granular yeast)
1/3 c lukewarm water
1 T shortening
1 T honey
1 T molasses
3 c milk, scalded (scalding is unnecessary--see below)
6 cups whole wheat flour
1 T salt

Soften yeast in lukewarm water.

Melt shortening and combine with honey, molasses salt, and scalded milk. I heat the milk--scalding used to be necessary to kill potentially harmful bacteria in milk and destroy enzymes that keep milk from thickening in recipes. Pasteurization accomplishes this for us these days--some people still like to used unpasteurized milk so scald away if you do.)

I just melt the shortening in the
warm milk.
Cool to lukewarm and combine with the yeast mixture. (Another great thing about not having to scald the milk is that with only warmed milk you don't have to wait for cooling.)

Wet and dry ingredients before mixing.

Add enough flour to make a soft dough and knead it thoroughly (for at least 10 minutes), use extra flour if needed.

Here is where the magic happens!

Shape into 2 loaves and place in well-greased loaf pans. (I coat pans with a vegetable spray.)  Let rise to not quite double in bulk (about 2 hours); whole wheat dough sours if allowed to rise too long.

Bake at 350 degrees F. for 1 hour and 10 minutes or until well done. (My oven  bakes this much faster--the bread baked in about 50 minutes--so watch the oven! I tested it when the top looked golden brown by taking it out of the pan and tapping it on the bottom--if it sounds hollow the moisture is baked out and it is finished. You could use an instant read thermometer and if it is 200 degrees F. it is finished.)

The bread freezes well. When it is cold just wrap it up in aluminum foil and place in a plastic bag.  (I found that with this basic bread it is best eaten fresh. I thought it was a little dry and crumbly after freezing.)

For a change of pace try this recipe using shredded wheat as part of the flour. (I must say I have not even thought of doing this. If I am ever brave enough to try I will definitely let you know the results.)

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Proof of Lack of Ambition - Planet of the Apes Marathon

I used to be ambitious.

Yes, I could end the post here because well, I used to be ambitious.

But, even though I lack ambition I do still like to talk and write excessively and therefore need to illustrate the point.

I went to my 20 year high school reunion a few years ago (okay more than a few). I had several people tell me that they thought I would be doing more or at least doing something. (Because having 5 kids really isn't doing anything--that's for sure.) Not in so many words and stated much more kindly but that was the jist. That is what happens when you reach your worldly peak at 18. I was, after all, voted by my high school peers to be the most likely to become President of these here United States. (It could have been most likely to succeed. I can't remember--Heather was the other one so she could let me know.) I was a high school peaker. Although I peaked there as far as outward appearances, I feel like I blossomed in college. I loved the anonymity of it and oh my, the learnin', I loved that. It turned out that I liked solitary pursuits better than public ones. Anyway, this paragraph ends the justification for my lack of ambition.

But here's the proof.

I had the best Spring Break of my life this year. We had a stay-cation. Dan and I had to work until Wednesday so the stay-cation started out slowly. On Thursday, Friday and Saturday each child still at home picked a day to make us all do anything they wanted. However, the festivities began on Tuesday with a serendipitous discovery.


In the evening we found a treasure trove on cable that we just had to record on our DVR. A marathon of  Planet of the Apes and all of its sequels! Who needs California when we have a DVR. We unfortunately didn't catch the first two of the marathon so we happily started our marathon with #3. (We later bought 1 & 2 as well as the re-make! Not pathetic at all.) I'm not sure any of us really wanted to watch these movies, but when presented with such a rare opportunity who are we to say no. Who knew there were so many Ape movies?

Spoiler Alert:  Proceed with caution there are a lot of spoilers below!

Escape from Planet of the Apes
In the third movie, two of the Apes who were supposedly destroyed completely by Charlton Heston in #2 found a way to come back in time to human earth and are the toast of the town. The female ape is pregnant and someone thinks them smart apes procreating is a VERY BAD idea and they must be destroyed.


Conquest of the Planet of the Apes

Well they had procreated and left their child with Ricardo Montalban, a circus owner. The ape mom switched the little smart ape with the baby ape of another, less sentient, ape. Ricardo raises him in obscurity until the ape is discovered because he cannot stop talking.  He leads an ape revolt (because apes that can't talk are now servants to humans!! We could only hope!!)


Beginning of Staycation and our youngest child (an 11 year old) made all of the choices.

Skate Park

Picnic at said park
Skate Store
Rest while he played video games


Battle for the Planet of the Apes

Battle for the Planet of the Apes - #5 is also extremely exciting. The apes have moved to the country because the cities are uninhabitable (humans used nuclear weapons to try an eradicate the apes).

The apes now have human servants. Humans have proven to be inferior to apes because they are soooo violent and will kill each other on a whim. The leader from the previous movie is back and he wants to find out more about his parents and goes back to the city -- where surprise surprise there are mutant humans who want to kill them!  The apes win again, but decide they must treat the humans as equals. Hurrah!!!


Youngest girl (14) makes all the choices:

Lunch at Cafe Rio
Quick rest at home
Ice Skating
Lovely walk on Jordan River Parkway


Planet of the Apes 

The movie that started it all. It is much better than the sequels by the way. There is an awful lot of skin shown by Charlton Heston and his mute and not so smart girlfriend, Nova. Charlton is sent on space ship, in stasis, for space exploration. They crash land on this strange planet that is ruled by apes and humans are rounded up like, gasp, animals. He shows them he can write and talk which proves to be a big problem for their ape religion. Eventually he escapes and finds out that he has been on earth all along -- big reveal -- he comes upon the Statue of Liberty embedded in sand.


Oldest at home, girl  (17) makes all of the choices:

Sleep in (she is, after all, 17)
Eat lunch at Joseph Smith Memorial Building (There was a boiler room furnace smoke scare and we had to be evacuated by very alarmed elderly people - only to be let in 10 minutes later as the crisis was over -- very exciting.)
Go to Temple for baptisms (who knew there would be a run on the temple and we were there 4 hours)
Youngest Child and I had a grand time seeing every movie etc at visitors center
Rest (we always have to rest)


Beneath the Planet of the Apes

I know I am having way too much fun and I cannot even imagine anyone still reading this post, but here's my favorite.

Another astronaut crash lands on the planet. He also discovers that apes rule, he befriends Nova. When he escapes from the apes he finds an underground rail system that he discovers is the NY subway system--much angst ensues. Then he makes another surprising discovery -- there are mutant humans here too, who use telepathy to hurt others, trick the apes so they are not discovered and pray to a huge nuclear weapon. Yep, a huge nuclear weapon. He meets up with Charlton who remembers this weapon, from his own time, as one that could totally destroy the earth and its atmosphere. He must stop them from using it. The apes find the underground system and just as they are about to conquer the human's Charlton for no apparent reason detonates the weapon. Yes, we are left with the knowledge that no matter what, humans will try to annihilate the planet.


Back to normal, except for an evening viewing of the re-make, Planet of the Apes 2001 style. The MARK WHALBURG version. First disappointed note--he keeps his astronaut clothes on the whole time!  I had to watch Charlton half naked--it just doesn't seem fair.

The apes are kind of amazing in this version--special effects have come a long way. Once again an astronaut lands on a planet after going through a time warp space type storm. He is trying to recover a chimp and spacecraft that was sent out.

He lands on the planet and is taken prisoner etc. He figures out that a rescue mission was sent for him and that spacecraft's genetically altered chimps populated this planet, hunting and enslaving descendants of the humans he worked with. (There is a lot of time travel hullabaloo!) He caused all of the problems!! He teaches them to get along and then leaves on a space ship to return to earth--he returns and here is the biggest spoiler of all! EARTH IS INHABITED BY APES -- THE LINCOLN MEMORIAL IS ACTUALLY OF AN APE I LIKE TO CALL APERAHAM LINCOLN!!! It is devastating.

There you go.  Proof of my lack of ambition. I would rather watch 6 Planet of the Apes movies than do anything productive. Just in case I feel ambitious in August I can quash that with a viewing of the new prequel Rise of the Planet of the Apes.