Saturday, March 28, 2015

High altitude vegan pizza dough

I haven’t had too much trouble with baking things since we moved to high altitude.  Boiling beans, that’s another story, but at least in terms of baking, I didn’t notice much of a difference.  The only thing that has caused a problem so far is pizza crust.  The kind I used to make back at sea level just didn’t work a mile in the sky.  The first time I tried it, it was doughy and gross.  It might have worked if I’d just baked it longer, but a quick Google search yielded another recipe that was delicious and turned out perfect every time.  The major drawback to it was that it took forever to make, what with the mixing and the kneading, and the several rounds of rising.  Something you kind of have to reserve for special occasions.  

I decided to make it again the other night near the end of Will’s spring break.  The recipe makes two pizzas, they freeze well, and Will likes to take a slice in his lunch.  I thought it would be nice to have a stock of pizza in the freezer for those days when I can come up with nothing else to put in Will’s lunch sack.

Unfortunately, when I went to the bookmarked website with the delicious pizza dough, it was gone.  Just gone.  The recipe had vanished.  I looked around for something similar but really couldn’t find anything that seemed as good.  So I did my best to re-create the recipe.  This is what I came up with (it takes about 1.5 to 2 hours from start to finish):  

Ingredients:

2 packets yeast
2 tsp sugar
2 cups warm water (110 degrees)

Mix yeast with sugar and warm water in a large bowl.  (The water needs to be the around the right temperature or it won’t work).  Let sit for approx. 10 minutes.  The yeast mixture will get foamy.  (If it doesn’t then you know you have a problem).

 

5-1/2 cups flour (plus more for kneading)
3 teaspoons sea salt 
2-3 tablespoons olive oil
1-2 tablespoons agave nectar

Cornmeal
Sauce
Toppings

Directions

Add the salt, olive oil, agave, and half the flour to the bowl of foamy yeast.  With dough hook attachment on mixer, mix for 2-3 minutes (i.e, until everything is well incorporated).  Then add the remaining flour and mix for another 5-7 minutes.  My mixer starts making a high pitched squealing sound after the first 30 seconds, so, this is fun.

(Actually no, it is annoying, and I should probably get a new mixer).

When everything is all mixed up, take the dough out of the bowl.  It will be a little bit shiny and sticky.  Put it onto a floured surface and knead for 5 minutes.

Put the dough into a greased bowl.  Cover with a cloth or piece of saran.  Let rise for 30 minutes.

After 30 minutes, punch dough down and divide in half (I use a serrated bread knife to do the dividing).  Cover again, this time with the cloth or saran separating the two halves.  Let rise for another 10 minutes.

While it is rising, pre-heat oven to 425 (all the internet says 450, but I’ve had many experiences of the smoke detector going off if the oven is too hot, so I’ve calculated that 425 is about the limit) and prepare whatever veggies you are using.

After the final 10 minutes of rising, take out one of the halves and roll into a circle with a rolling pin on a floured surface.  This makes for a fairly thick crust.  

Sprinkle cornmeal on a pizza stone.  Put the crust on the stone, top with sauce and whatever you like (I put on Dayia mozzarella, onions, peppers, mushrooms, and kalamata olives).

Bake for around 22 minutes (but you should start checking at around 18 minutes, just in case).

While the first pizza is baking, I roll out and prepare the other pizza.  Because I only have 1 pizza stone, I bake them one at a time.  I should probably just get another pizza stone—the second crust continues rising while the first crust is baking, so it always ends up a little bit more “deep dish” than the other.  I think you can freeze the dough as well (after the 30 minute rise, I would guess), but I prefer to just make a lot of pizza at a time and freeze what we don’t eat right away.  I wrap individual slices in foil before putting them in the freezer, and I can seriously just take out one of the foil wrapped pieces in the morning, put it in Will’s lunch sack, and he is perfectly happy to eat it at lunch time.

Thanks for reading.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Dear William (67 months)

Dear William,

Today you are 67 months old.

You wrote a book this month.  It was about Star Wars.

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You still looooooooove Star Wars.

Jedi lunch

 

When it was still too cold to play outside, we played board games and Connect 4 together.

Connect 4

 

You also helped me try to recreate Thin Mints.  They were good, but tasted nothing like the real cookies.

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We’re moving into a new house.  Well, new to us, at least.

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Your room is partially turquoise, which you say you like.  You are most happy about the bookshelves though.

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Your bathroom has brown tile, green walls, a peach countertop on the vanity, and yellow tile in the shower.  Colorful.  We’re probably going to change that, but maybe not right away.

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The kitchen is red.

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You helped daddy and me paint over it.

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We had more and more snow, and then it melted.  It finally got warm enough for you and your BFF to play outside again after school.  You took turns pushing each other on the big swings. You loved that.

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You finally let me give you a much needed haircut.  As long as I promised to leave you a Jedi rat-tail.  I did.

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Even with the weather being nicer, you still do not want to ride a bike.  But you discovered that you like daddy’s scooter.

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William, I am so proud of you for everything you do.  You are the bravest kid I know.  Life isn’t always easy, and it’s rarely ever very fair.  You’re learning that in kindergarten.  I wish it didn’t have to be that way, but even if I kept you out of the broken education system forever, it wouldn’t change the way that the world works.  You need to believe in yourself and be strong, tough, and brave.  You need to keep being kind even if you don’t feel like it, even if the world isn’t kind to you.  And always at the end of the day, know that mama and daddy will be here and that no matter what, we love you forever.

Weekends

 

Love,

Mama

 

 

Saturday, February 28, 2015

February 2015 Mileage: OMG this semester, OMG.

To say that things have been rough this month would be an understatement by an order of magnitude.  I’m teaching college now, and while I adore the class (Primate Behavior!!) and all my students, I am having trouble functioning on the 5 hours of sleep I’ve been averaging per night as a result of the enormous amount of work this requires.  Plus: there’s the immunological onslaught from regularly spending time on a college campus again (see that 13 mile week below).  Something’s got to give.

Also, we bought a house this month.

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It is a great house with a terrible color scheme.  The kitchen?  Blood red.  The guest bathroom?  Yellow shower tile, brown flooring, pale green walls, and a peach vanity.  The master bathroom?  Wallpaper, with pale blue shower tiles that need replaced.  And carpet.  Wait, it gets worse.  The family room is… PINK AND PURPLE.  As a twitter friend (hi if you’re reading!) quipped, “Did you buy the My Little Pony house?”  I guess so. 

But.  The house is structurally sound and in a good location, which is to say:  close to the trails where we run.  So we’ll have to put up with the color scheme, or do a lot of painting.

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Red room, red room.  This seems like deja vu, from that time we used to live in St. Louis.

Also, our February snowfall total is something like twice the amount that is considered normal.  I think there is close to a foot of snow on the ground now.  But it is a dry snow.  Very different than the stuff we used to get in the midwest.  I understand why they call this “powder."

Also, also, also.  My knee hurts.  But mainly trying to ignore that.

104.52 miles this month. 191.05 year to date.  Falling short, but only by a little.

Thanks for reading.

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Blue sky and foothills from today’s run through the Cathy Fromme Prairie Natural Area.

Friday, February 27, 2015

The Plague

It starts with a sore throat, and then becomes the sorest throat you’ve ever had.  Your ears hurt, your head is pounding.  You are running a fever.  It knocks you off your feet.  This is the sickest you’ve felt in years.  You know you need to hydrate, but you can’t drink anything because you cannot swallow.  The sinus pressure builds until you reach a point where you consider looking for a sharp object to stab your face with, because you will do anything for relief.  Thankfully for your face, the fever still has you supine and motionless, and you cannot summon the wherewithal to get up and find a suitable object.  Then, the drainage begins.  You cough with every jagged breath for days on end, gagging on phlegm and wondering if the pain in your chest could possibly be due to a broken rib.

I don’t know what this sickness is, but it’s everywhere.  All of my students have had it, and so have the kids at Will’s school.  Always with the exact same trajectory of symptoms.  In our household, Rob was the one to get stricken first.   A week passed and I remained symptom free, then just when I started to smugly gloat about my superior immune system, *bam*.  It got me.  For the first time in at least 5 years, I was sick.

It’s been two weeks now, and I still have the cough (and phlegm), but it is finally starting to subside.  I was really only acutely ill for about 2 days; Rob was in misery for at least a week, I think.  I credit my more rapid improvement to drinking massive quantities of vitamin fortified Nuun hydration (the extra fluids probably helping more than the vitamins per se), and consuming an entire head of raw garlic (on toast, with avocado. Quite good, if you can survive the burning sensation).

Then on Thursday morning when Will woke up, he looked sad and scared, and managed to whisper, “My throat hurts."

Ohhh no.

He didn’t seem feverish, and he wanted to eat.  After he’d eaten and drank, he said he felt fine, and he was zipping around the house as per usual.  So I sent him off to school, wondering if the sore throat was just a passing thing, or it would turn into The Plague and I would soon get the call to come and collect him.

Everything was fine until about 2:20 in the afternoon.  I was scheduled to volunteer in Will’s classroom, and as I checked in at the main office, I saw Will following the school nurse into the health center.  He had that same sad, scared look on his face as he had in the morning.  He hadn’t seen me standing there.

I asked the secretary if I could go into the health center and see what was wrong, and she said of course and led me in.  The scene that met my eyes was like some kind of wartime infirmary.  Children were sprawled on cots, some motionless, some writhing.  Every bed was taken.  Those that didn’t have their own cot (Will included) were seated in chairs.  Will’s friend S saw me first as I entered the room.  He was curled into a fetal position on a cot, and he reached his hand out to me.  I told him I was sure his mommy would be there soon.

Will’s face was grim and set in stone, and he still didn’t see me until I knelt beside him and said, “Hey, buddy, mama’s here.”  His lower lip quaked and his red-rimmed eyes filled with tears, but he held the floodgates in check and uttered, with an air of uncharacteristic stoicism, “Mama, I’m sick."

I held his hot little hand as the nurse took his temperature with this kind of stick-like thing she traced along his forehead and then showed me the reading.  101 point something.  I don’t remember what.  Will has never run a fever that high.  Ever.  He has only been sick 2 or 3 times in his life, seriously, and neither time was it anything more severe than a cold.  We don’t even own a thermometer anymore.  He used to run a little fever sometimes when he was teething, but the last time I actually took his temperature was probably 3 or 4 years ago.  I’ve always felt incredibly thankful for his robust immune system.  Back when he was in daycare in St. Louis, he was the only person (adult or child) in the entire building to survive the norovirus epidemic completely unscathed.  Maybe it really does help that he eats an (organic) apple and raw broccoli almost every day.

The school nurse was very nice, and William stayed in the make-shift infirmary while I went to gather his things and tell his teacher I wouldn’t be able to volunteer.  She had already surmised as much.  She sent him down the nurse’s office because when it was time to go music class and all the other children lined up at the doorway, William got up from his table, shuffled to the carpet where they typically read stories, and lay down.

I brought him home (it was 12 degrees and there’s almost a foot of snow on the ground) and decided to give him some Tylenol—I’d tried to let the fever run its course when I had The Plague, and that had not worked well.  Tylenol was definitely preferable.  As soon as he got some of the Tylenol in his mouth he promptly threw up.  Twice.  Then he drank a whole bunch of water, lay down in his bed, and slept for two hours.

After a good, long nap and a fresh dose of Tylenol, his fever was gone, and he perked up.  He even had a vigorous appetite for dinner.  No more throwing up.  

He couldn’t go back to school today, though, because of the 24-hour fever-free rule, but I wouldn’t have sent him anyway.  He needed to take it easy and rest.  This was a bit of a challenge because I was teaching on campus today, and I couldn’t really cancel class.  Rob took care of him while I was away, and I guess he was pretty good.  He was sleeping when I got home.

As of now, he’s much more subdued than normal, but he’s eating and drinking and resting well.  I am so thankful that the worst of it seems to be over and that he improved so fast.  I know we have been very fortunate that Will is typically so healthy.  Whenever anything small like this happens, I think about parents who have really sick children, and my heart goes out to them.  I don’t know how they do it.  It is terrifying when someone who is so little and you love so much is suffering and there really isn’t much you can do to help them.  

Hoping that healthier days are ahead for everyone.  Thanks for reading.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Forever Home

A year ago, I was stuck in St. Louis with a stress fracture, no job, and a house that wouldn’t sell.  

The real estate deal that finally got us out of there was not quite ruinous (we’d already lost everything once in St. Louis), but it certainly didn’t allow us to dig ourselves out of the hole St. Louis had put us in.

All that was left for us to do was drive away without ever, ever, looking back.

Those were not beautiful times.

We’ve been renting a house since we arrived in Colorado, and we began the search for our Forever Home shortly before Christmas.  The newspaper has been going on and on about the Real Estate Crisis that’s happening here, and they weren’t kidding.  More people are moving to the area than there are homes available, and there’s nowhere to expand the city because:  mountains.  So the result is hugely inflated home prices and bidding wars where potential buyers offer more than $15,000 over the asking price just to remain competitive with the other 17 interested parties who have also placed offers.  Houses sell within hours of officially going on the market.  You can’t get your heart set on something because chances are, someone else has bid higher than you and offered to pay in cash.  It’s not a good time to be a buyer.

Thankfully, we had a fantastic real estate agent, and we were incredibly lucky.  We found a house that had just about everything we wanted, and the sellers seemed to like us for whatever reason.  I don’t know how we ended up being the ones whose offer they accepted, but we were, and from there on out, the process was remarkably stress-free, at least on our end.  

We closed on the house today.  Our Forever Home.  

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The kitchen is small, and I had hoped never to have to paint over red walls again in my life, but maybe just one more time.

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Also: Will is excited about the built in book shelves in his room:

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At the closing today, the owner (I guess now the previous owner, who by the way is a really nice guy) told us that there’s a blackberry bush, pear tree, and cherry tree in the back yard.  Honest to god.  I hadn’t known that.  It didn’t say on the contract anywhere what kinds of trees and plants were in the back yard, and it’s winter, so it’s not like they were fruiting and I would have been able to tell.  But seriously.  Pears.  Blackberries.  Cherries.  He said some years you end up with loads of cherries, more than you know what to do with.  If we get a late frost though (like we often do), the tree doesn’t produce as much.

IMG 4767 Cherry blossoms this spring, and then cherries

There’s carpet in the bathroom and dining room (that will have to go), and some strange colors of paint and even wallpaper in some of the rooms.  It seems overwhelming, but there’s a cherry tree in the back yard.  Cherries.

Of all the places we’ve lived, Rob and I have always known it would be short term.  Five years here, a year there, and then, just until I finish grad school.  When we moved to St. Louis, even as I signed the papers, I knew it was a horrible, horrible decision.  It wasn’t a place we belonged.  But this is different.  This is our forever home.  This is, I hope to god, the last real estate transaction of my life.  No plans to ever move anywhere else again.  This is it.  Small kitchen, but a view of Horsetooth Mountain from the dining room (at least in wintertime when there aren’t leaves in the way) and bushels of cherries during the years we don’t get a late freeze.

Thanks for reading.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Dear William (66 months)

Dear William,

Today you are 66 months old.  This is your half-birthday!  You are very excited about that.  When you woke up this morning, you announced, “It’s my half birthday!" 

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Mom, mom! Take my picture while I am dancing and eating a granola bar!"

You did some more hiking and trail running this month.

Keyhole

Rest break

 

We got some more “Colorado snow,” which is to say, 4 inches that melted the next day:

Swinging

 

You played “futbol” with Liam and Ismiel.

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You remain interested in Star Wars.

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You drew a picture of Grandpa Bruce, and included his age:

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You and mama built a Lego Scientist Lego set.

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You had the “100th Day of School.”  Which is apparently a thing.  That people celebrate.  All the kids were supposed to count out 100 snack items and bring them to school in a baggie.  Then the items would be mixed together for snack time.  

I would guess that not all of your classmates washed their hands super well before counting out their 100 snack items, because we all got sick shortly thereafter.

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You prepared all your valentines to hand out on the big day:

Valentines are done early. Let's hope laser swords and blasters are okay with the school.

 

You’ve developed a renewed interest in playing Uno.  I’m working on teaching you how to hold on to your Wild Card until the end, to guarantee a win.

Family fun

 

Happy half-birthday, Will!

Love,

Mama

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sunday, February 1, 2015

January 2015: I don't want to talk about it.

86.53 miles.  Knee injury.  New job.  Real estate crisis.  The first and last seemed to be resolved, for the time being at least.

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