Easy slow rising bread recipe

My family loves bread. We eat probably almost 2 loafs a week. One of those loafs is ezekiel brand, grain sprouted and flourless. It is just better for you then any other type of bread.

The other I used to get at the public market every Saturday from my favorite French bakery. I used the past tense because I got tired of hunting for it and even at $6 a loaf it was already gone by the time I got there.

I was always petrified of making bread. Let me refraze that- I am petrified of baking in general. It was never my thing. You have to watch the temperature, obide by the recipe, measure the exact amounts etc…..things that I usually don’t do in the kitchen.

Every time my mother visited she baked this awesome bread but it was soooooo much work that I never wanted to make it myself. Too much work involved.

This recipe is easy. If you count the active time it is probably less then 10 minutes. It is slow rising dough so it needs at least 12 hours to rise. I usually make it in the evening so that it can raise during the night and I bake it the following morning.

The ingredients for one loaf are:

  • 5 cups of flour
  • ½ teaspoon of salt
  • ¼ teaspoon of yeast
  • 3 or 4 cups of water
  • oval baking dish with a lid

It has to be sticky, so it really depends on the flour that you are using. I use a combo of unbleached white and wheat (3 cups of white/ 2 cups whole wheat).

Mix all the ingredients in a large bowl and cover with a kitchen towel. I leave it overnight on the kitchen counter next to my stove because it seems to be worm and less drafty.

The next day the dough has probably doubled in size. It is time to bake. Dump the dough out on a clean, floured counter. Kneed few times and cover with a towel again. In an hour or so start preheating the oven on 425 with the baking dish inside.

When it beeps dump the ball into the dish and bake for 40 min, the last 10 without the lid. When you take it out of the oven you will have to resist the temptation to eat it right away. It smells amazing. You need to let it cool before you cut into it.

I have made some variations like sprinkling with sunflower seeds or folding in some raisins….it comes out great every time. Play with it, make it your own.

When you make it few times the process becomes a habbit. And the best thing is that the cost is not even 90 c a loaf. Can’t beat that!

DIY Christmas Stamps

Christmas is almost here so I thought it would be nice to get ready. I mean decorations, cards, packaging, gift tags etc…..all the stuff that sets the tone. This project is very easy, inexpensive and the outcome- unique. Each and every stamp is going to be different. All you need for this project is:

  • scrap wood (which I had plenty of in my garage)
  • adhesive craft foam
  • sharp pencil Easy right?

Cut the wood into smaller blocks, adhere the foam cut to size and draw your design. That is all! Very simple….The best part is that it is easy enough for kids to do, even my 4 year old was able to make some stamps. Think of your designs and maybe draw them on paper to make sure you like them. Once you draw them on the foam press hard to make deep groves so that all the details stamp nicely. Lastly we used paint brushes to brush on some paint onto the stamp, then pressed hard for a few seconds and Tada! So far we decorated plain brown bags and gift tags. We plan on stamping the cards and also brown paper. Enjoy!

Christmas wreath

I am not a freak when it comes to seasonal decorations. I like few simple things that convey the mood and let my creative spirit out. The tree is usually the key piece anyways so the rest has to be toned down.

This year I decided to make a wreath to hang on the door. I love using nature so I used pinecones and vines. I did not even have to go to the woods to get the stuff since the pinecones I found at the College in Geneseo and vines are from my backyard.

I had some spray paint in red and white leftover from other projects. Perfect Christmas colors, I thought, not to mention Polish flag!

I spray painted few pinecones red and some white and let it dry well. I weaved the vines into a circle and glued the pinecones arranged by my son using a hot glue gun. I tied a red ribbon to finnish off the look. What do you think?

 

 

The End of the Road

In June, I wrote about Portland and naked people riding their bikes to work. That was a bit awkward… I’m used to naked people, even on bikes, but work…? Come on! We were on a Sabbatical! Who needs work!

Well, apparently we do. Our travel budget, the Sabbatical fund I wrote about last December, started to dry out quickly. Now, I’m back to work and the daily routine. I’m not dreading it like I used to. Even if it’s really not as fun as visiting National Parks and sleeping with the bison, the job provides for our daily needs and… builds the next Sabbatical fund. But before we go to far out into the future, let me finish this one first.

While in Portland, we actually stayed in a neighboring Vancouver, which is just across the river in the state of Washington. We lived for a few days with a Polish couple (“friends of our friends”) and also with people we’ve met in Bend, OR. During that time we had a chance not only to visit Portland, but also to take a tour of Columbia River attractions. What we didn’t do, is to say good bye to the Ocean. Realizing that the weather in the valley between the Coastal Range and the Cascades is rather unpredictable, we decided to skip Seattle and the other Vancouver and start heading East, towards home.

Our first stop was just mere few hours from Portland, where our new friends took us to teach us wind surfing. After all, we were in The Dalles, near Hood River, the World’s capital of windsurfing! We all tried the sport with… various degrees of success. I have to admit, Nadia was probably the best student and was able to surf within minutes. Alex wasn’t far behind, so was Agnieszka. I, on the other hand, am rather slow learner and my body’s flexibility resembles that of a log. Most my attempts to stand up straight ended up in uncontrolled falls. The sailing is relatively easy, standing on a small board in the middle of a mighty river is the difficult part…

After passing Mount Hood, we entered the high desert again and the weather improved significantly. Following the Oregon Trail, with a short stop near Ontario, small town on the border with Idaho, we reached Boise. We lived there for a few days with yet another friends from Poland and during that stay finally had a chance to see what the Famous Potatoes state is all about. We were not disappointed – Idaho, maybe not as famous as Utah or Colorado, can easily contend with them for the title of Americas capital of outdoors. Sitting on the Snake River Plains, with the breathtaking backdrop of the Rocky Mountains, Boise is one terrific town to live!

We spent a few days in Idaho Falls. It’s a small little town near Wyoming state border. Our next stop was suppose to be Yellowstone National Park, and we needed to refill our food supplies and gear. As we’ve learned before, anything and everything in the parks is twice as expensive.

To get from Idaho to Yellowstone National Park, we had to go through Montana. The park is located primarily in the North-West corner of Wyoming and there are four entrances leading in, two of them are in the state of Big Sky. The park, widely known for it’s natural beauty and abundant wildlife is enormous in size. It spans an area of almost 3,500 square miles (9,000 km2), comprising lakes, canyons, rivers and mountain ranges. We lived there for almost a week, covered over 300 miles, almost never crossing the same path twice and still left the park with a feeling of deficiency. We could easily spend another month in the park and still be awed by it’s beauty.

Our base camp was at the shores of Yellowstone Lake, which is one of the largest high-altitude lakes in North America. It is centered over the Yellowstone Caldera, the largest active volcano on the continent. It has erupted with tremendous force several times in the last two million years. Fortunately we have been spared the spectacle… but one can tell that something’s going on under our feet. The entire park is full of geothermal features, Old Faithful being probably the most renown, but definitely not the only one. Apparently half of the world’s geothermal features are in Yellowstone! Everywhere we went, we stumbled upon geysers, hot springs, mud pots and fumaroles.

We’ve learned that Yellowstone is the the largest remaining ecosystem in the Earth’s northern hemisphere. It is the largest remaining continuous stretch of mostly undeveloped pristine land in the continental United States. With the successful wolf reintroduction program, which began in the 1990s, virtually all the original faunal species known to inhabit the region when white explorers first entered the area can still be found there. Most tourists visiting the park create traffic jams taking pictures of bison, elk and deer from the comfort of their car seats. Some embark on the journey on the many hiking trails available, and are rewarded with close up encounters with the fauna in the unspoiled surroundings. We happened to setup our tent next to a bison’s favorite scratching tree. Falling asleep 20 feet away from the buffalo, we listened to snores of that 2,000 pounds piles of beef, telling ourselves that those animals are nothing more than just furry, oversized cows…

The next stop on our journey was just a mere couple of hours away. South of Yellowstone, almost adjacent to the park, lies another marvel of American tourist industry – the Grand Teton National Park. The park takes it’s name from the massive mountain range shooting up from the plains. It’s biggest peak, also bearing the same name is 13,770 ft (4,197 m) tall and overlooks a beautiful valley down below, where we stayed for a few days. We spent our time discovering park’s rich history and geography, hiking, playing in the many lakes, boating and just relaxing. In our records, Grand Teton is one of the places why we embarked on this journey in the first place.

We have left Grand Teton on the eve of Independence Day. We started late afternoon and decided that this will be our first teleportation experience. The kids felt asleep in their comfy seats around 9.30 PM, Agnieszka followed within minutes. When they woke up in the early morning, the car was park in front of… Bryce Canyon National Park waiting for the gate to open. As promised before, we were back in Utah! Overnight, the tall peaks of the Rocky Mountain ranges gave way to hoodoos and the moon-like landscapes of the canyons. Juicy greens of the fertile northern ecosystems turned brown. The air was filled with dirt that hasn’t seen rain in months.

Few nights in the park gave us an opportunity to discover not only the marvelous views from the top of the canyon, but also to explore below the it’s edge. On our treks we stumbled across many weird and mysterious looking rock formations, many of them resembling in shape faces, people or animals. Very spiritual place indeed…

We continued our passage through southern Utah in the daylight. From Bryce we took course for the Arches on the state’s back roads. On the way there, we stopped for a short visit in Capitol Reef National Park. We didn’t plan a longer stay, just enough time to collect the Junior Ranger badges… After all, who wants to stare at yet another Lime or Navajo Sandstone formations, right?

The next few days we spent at an RV park in Moab, Utah. This small town is surrounded by the most unusual rock formations making this part of the continent an ideal set for low budget sci-fi movies. What’s more interesting though, is the fact that both, Arches and Canyonlands National Parks are just a stone throw away from the town center.

We left Moab in the afternoon and once again, applying our newly acquired teleportation technique, the crew woke up on the shore of a little mountain lake  in… Granby, Colorado. It was time for breakfast.

The southern entrance to Rocky Mountain National Park is just a few miles north from town. The steep road quickly climbs  from the bottom of the valley, all the way up to the 14,000 feet (3,700 m) tall peaks above it. We have spend the entire day driving through the mountains, inhaling high altitude air and admiring the breathtaking views… or as much as we could see through the thick of clouds.

Once on the other side of the Rockies, we headed back North. We ended our little detour and got back on the all familiar I-90 in South Dakota. While there, we decided to visit Wind Cave National Park,  Mount Rushmore and Badlands. In fact, the Black Hills are full of tourist attractions and if we were to see them all, we would need an entire month… and much deeper pockets, too. A little tired with all the fancy sites, we decided to skip the Crazy Horse Memorial (the largest sculpture in the world),  Jewel Cave National MonumentHarney Peak (the highest point east of the Rockies), Mammoth Site in Hot Springs (the world’s largest mammoth research facility), historic Deadwood and even the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally (that’s because I sold the bike and the rally wasn’t until August anyway).

Out of the Badlands and onto the I-90, we spent the next couple of days observing endless fields of corn. Once on the other side of the Great Plains, we visited our good friends, who live in small town on the west outskirts of the greater Chicago metropolitan area. We haven’t seen each other in several years and the acquaintance goes back to our teenage years. No wonder we needed over a week to catch up.

We left Chicago and headed almost straight home. One stop in Sandusky, and we felt like home again. This little town sitting in the middle of the Rust Belt resembles many of the towns we got used to see in upstate New York.

At the end of July, after 14 months of wanderings, we got back to New York. The tenants were getting ready to leave, but not quite out the door yet. We stayed a few days in Stony Brook State Park, just minutes from our house. Since there were high winds going over the area, one night we even got to visit our neighbor…

To finish the journey, we met with friends, who year earlier came for a farewell party in Buckaloons, this time we welcomed them in Watkins Glen. After traveling throughout most parts of the continent, we came to a conclusion, that there isn’t a region in the US more beautiful than upstate New York, and particularly the Finger Lakes are the most spectacular of all.

Aren’t we lucky to live in the heart of it…!?! The End.

What can you make out of felted sweter?

Running through San Jouan de Dios market I stopped to check out this one used clothing stand. Going through the stuff I found a black GAP sweter that srunk in wash to doll size. It was felted to the point that noone could possibly use it. I looked at it and figured that I could use the felt to make some embellishemnts for my knitting project so I got it for a whopping 15 pesos. When I cut it up and looked at it closer another idea came to my mind.
The back of the sweter after folding formed a perfect size clutch. That is exactly what I did! I also made two coin purses from the rest of the felt. Using my newly acquired knitting skills I embellished them with flowers. I sewed some zippers on and voila!!! It was a perfect gift for a friend of mine.

Pasta con sarde

When I first met with a naturopathic doctor she told me that if I wanted my kids to thrive I have to give them 3 things: omega 3s, coconut oil and probiotics. I had no reason not to belive her since I as a kid remember eating these things in one form or another. Every day before school I had to drink my tablespoon of fish oil. It was not a pleasant experience but well, if it is healthy you do it. My diet was rich in sourkrout and other fermented veggies which are nothing less then probiotics. Coconut oil was unknown….probably because palm trees are not a common view in Poland.
In this article I would like to focus on omega 3s which are mostly found in fatty fish like salmon, sardines, mackrel.
Wild cought are much better then farmed because they have higher content of the good fatty acids and are fed natural diet. Farmed fish, on a contrary are fed corn and soy.
Unfortunately wild cought fish is hard to find and expensive. The cheapest way to get a load of omega 3s from food is eating sardines. We eat sardines very often usually just the way they come in a can with a piece of multigrain bread. Try mixing them with cream cheese and use as a spread on a piece of toast, put them on a cracker or make the following recipe.

This recipe serves family of 4

2 cans of sardines in olive oil- if it tastes too fishy try 1 can
1 box of short multigrain pasta
1 can of diced tomatoes or 4 fresh , diced, tomatoes
2 cloves of garlic
1/3 of diced, large onion
2 cups of baby spinach
1 tbs of olive oil
olives if you like
capers if you like
parmezan cheese if you like

Cook pasta acording to the instructions on the box. While the pasta is cooking prepare the sauce.
In a frying pan heat up the oil and fry the onion and garlic until translucent. Add sardines with the oil and break them up with a wooden spatula. Add tomatoes and cook for few minutes. In the end put spinach, olives and/ or capers in. Mix pasta with the sauce and dinner is ready. There is everything your body needs in this dish. Lots of protein (every can is 13%) to counterpart those carbs and lots of fibre. It is a great pantry dinner and „budget saver because all the ingredients are under $10. Bon apetit!

Portlandia, where people ride naked

We visited Portland for just one afternoon, but like with the visit to Yosemite, we were lucky enough to see just the exact things that make this place World famous…

We stayed with  Małgosia’s old friends, who live in Vancouver, WA. Warned that the city tend to be crowded and parking lots expensive, we left the car at the Columbia river banks and took a train downtown. Nadia and Alex loved that ride!

After a quick lunch in Chinatown, we stumbled upon a Saturday market area, which spreads along the river. Even though we’ve expected fruits and vegetables, we only found lots of tourists, arts and crafts vendors, homeless people taking baths in the fountains, gay couples, transvestites, naked people riding bicycles, fathers with their babies petitioning to legalize cannabis, etc… The usual stuff you come to expect to see on this side of the Rockies.

Later, while staying with another friends, we’ve learned about Portlandia, a TV series portraying this interesting city in just so slightly distorted mirror.

All in all, we liked the city full of gay people and transvestites dancing in the streets and homeless people giving free hugs, smiles and kisses…

How to make recycled kids party favor boxes

Living for 6 months in Mexico I religiously collected toilet paper rolls. They really are a great medium for all kinds of projects. We made flower pots, binoculars, all kinds of animals you name it we have done it but this project is a little more practical. This time we made colorful boxes to fill with chocolates and give out to all the classmates on the last day of school in San Miguel.

Material needed:

  • toilet paper rolls,
  • scrapbooking paper
  • decorations
  • scissors
  • glue
  • imagination

Cut the scrapbooking paper in strips as wide as the paper roll. Glue it on the roll and let dry well. Decorate with whatever you have on hand, stickers, paper, in contrasting colors, sequins, buttons…whatever you like. Bend on each side of the roll to close it well. Fill with nuts, chocolates, dried fruit, candy and it is ready! What I like the most about it is that it is small which makes a great serving size of sweets even for the youngest:-)

 

Memorial Day Weekend

I wrote my last report sitting at a Starbucks in Fresno. I was sipping coffee, watching people and waited for the car repair bill. What I didn’t cover was the reason why I got 20 minutes late to the service garage. At the time we were staying at the Millerton Lake near Fresno and I had an appointment at the service garage at 7.30 in the morning. Since it’s a 30 minutes drive, I left 10 to 7.00 AM, just in case… Good thing I did!

If I left only 2 minutes earlier, I would have definietly make it on time to the mechanic, but I would miss quite a spectacle. Obviously from time to time, every one of us meets a cow or two in the middle of the road. But what about 300 cows led by and  followed by 5 cowboys and their smart collie…? The cattle were being driven from one pasture to the next, few miles dwon the road. A truly wild west experience…

From Fresno, we headed back to the cold Sierra, this time to visit Yosemite. As Agnieszka already reported, we didn’t stay there long, mainly because of the crowds of people, in their large SUV’s and enormous RV’s, with their expensive cameras, filling up the valley all week long. We managed to find one camping spot, 25 miles north from the most scenic rocks and waterfalls, far from other people. Yes, we were lucky to spot a bear and a mountain lion, both within 6 minutes, half mile from one another,  but we failed to find another camping spot for the upcoming weekend. Gosh, I hate weekends!

We spent the next two days in Turlock Lake, a small park near Modesto. As all California state parks, this one was a no frills, expensive ($30/night) and in dire need of upgrades. Unlike others, this one was also infested by blood thirsty mosquitos, beer thirsty rednecks and fiestive Mexicans. We managed to survive the dreaded weeekend and Sunday afternoon moved to another park near Valley Springs. This one is being administer by the US Army Corps of Engineers and despite surface similarities is indeed much different. At only $16 per night it’s not only significantly less expensive, but also has clean, modern facilities and overall seems to be much better managed. Although Valley Springs is just a small town and offers no tourist attractions, we welcomed the change and decided to stay for the whole week. That gave us an opportunity to catch up on the homeschooling program, visit local libraries and just hang out on the lake. On Friday, when the “weekenders” started to arrive, we packed our van, left the quitet refuge and headed for the city…

Sacramento, California’s capital is not as big as some of the better known cities on the west coast. It retains it’s small town atmosphere, while providing all the services and attaractions of a much larger metropoly. We stayed there for almost a week. On the weekend, we visited our old friends, who moved here from Hornell 6 years ago. They live in downtown, which gave us a chance to see the heart of the city first hand. We went to a concert, to a zoo and to museum of rail transportation, enjoyed a pacific rim fair and walked the streets of a western-like historic district. Of course we also spent countless hours talking about the “good old times” while drying out a few bottles of wine. On Sunday, we moved to the outskirts and stayed with a wonderful couple we met few weeks earlier at Zion and in the Death Valley. Patti and Del not only hosted us for four days, sharing their travel and family stories, but also took us cayaking and showed us Folsom and Orangevale on the bikes. Nadia and Alex loved the pool, we couldn’t get enough of Del’s barbecued ribs. But on Thursday it was time move on…

Last weekend was Memorial Day, which means… we’re screwed. Instead of San Francisco, we landed in Sonoma valley on a campground far from the bay area. But it turned out to be great. We have spent four days hiking, visiting local library and… wine tasting. After all this is the Sonoma Valley!

Visit at Yosemite

After freezing experience at Sequoya and Kings Canyon National Park we chased the hot weather to Millerton Lake State Park near Fresno, CA. It did not disappoint, it was very nice. Warm enough to sleep in t-shirts and shorts again:-) After doing pretty much nothing for few days, we headed to Yosemite National Park.

We have seen so many beautiful movies filmed in this gorgeous park… It is very extensive, full of breathtaking waterfalls, granite mountains, pristine forests and wildlife.

Prepared to freeze our butts off again we decided to compromise and stay for one night and later decide if we want to stay longer. We entered the park, but it was still a long drive before we got to any kind of camp ground or visitor’s center. Long, winding road in front of us made me very sick immediately. I have a terrible motion sickness disease, so as much as I love the mountains driving there is not my favorite activity.

We get to the Valley and it is as busy as Time Square on a week day. The traffic is annoying, parking lots are full and hungry crowds with professional cameras shooting every squirrel, every bird, every inch of the park.

We went to the reservation office just in time to find out that all the campgrounds in the Valley were full and have a mile long waiting list. The only option left for us was a spot for one night on a campground located on the west side of the park, 45 min drive from all the action. What could we do , we took it. Whoo hoo, more driving… :-(

On our way there we found ourselves accepting the fact that our visit was going to be very short. Robert, who’s high hopes for some serious hiking vanished immediately had the hardest time accepting.

The regrets were still showing on our faces while setting up the camp. The toughest part was that the decision was not made by us but the thousands of people from all over the world who decided to show up at the same time and spoil our idyllic sabbatical. What happened to the economical crisis in Europe?! The park is full of people from France and Germany…

After all was in place, we decided to head to Hatch Hatchy, a nearby reservoir – much less visited location in Yosemite. While driving, it was obvious that it is not so popular amongst tourists, the road was ours – no cars around. Moving forward, while the sun was slowly going down, I look to the side of the road to find a… BEAR trying to cross to the other side. Yes, a BEAR!!! We have never seen a bear out in the wild before. Our van is coming to life. Everyone is screaming with excitement looking at the beautiful animal moving slowly to the other side. I could not believe it! We even managed to take some photos since the camera, thanks to Robert is always ready and in the same spot:-) That was it, it changed our mood completely, thankful for what we just experienced.

Taking another curve, still discussing the bear we were surprised AGAIN, because crossing the road the other way around was a… MOUNTAIN LION!! This unbelievably gorgeous animal, very secretive in fact, decided to make an appearance right in front of us. It was completely unexpected, even for the lion since he tripped on the side of the road, very unusual for this graciously moving cat. He quickly went up seeking space, but then he stopped, turned and posed for us from a safe distance. I almost had to climb the car’s roof to take that photo, but it was surely worth all the acrobatics. I could have left Yosemite then, with no regrets. Looking in the eyes of those animals, seeing them in their natural habitat was one of a kind, unusual experience.

The next day we managed to go for a short, crowded hike and we also did some sightseeing but to me, the encounter with those rare animals will always be the best experience of Yosemite:-)