my superhero self

Typing a post on my own computer is like sleeping in my own bed. It’s been so long, but I’m finally home. Ahhhh.

We’ve got almost all of the furniture we need. The loft beds are arriving tomorrow, so the boys won’t have to sleep on the floor anymore. We even bought a desk for our computer, and had the internet installed today. It works. We also bought a cheap TV stand from Target, so we wouldn’t have to stick it on a chair, like we’ve done for the last 6 years. The crappy thing is that it is in the living room, and I’m one of those people who is embarrassed about my TV love. We don’t actually get TV, but we rent the good stuff on DVD and watch late at night, while I knit.

I think I’ve got the ants mostly under control. We had the maintenance guy come today and check the air conditioning, which seemed to shut off if we ran the dishwasher. Which is bad, because I don’t think Derek will ever go back to washing all the dishes by hand again, unless I threaten to never cook for him again.

The maintenance dude said we could seal up the crazy panel in our closet where all the smoke from the downstairs neighbors was coming through. Yucky, old, nasty smoke. We’re gonna shrink-wrap the panel to the wall.

I bought a Dyson. I tried two Hoovers, and they both broke the second I took them out of the box. I’m in love with my Dyson. I find myself looking around the apartment, thinking, “What can I vacuum?”

I put all the cool kitchen stuff in the storage with Henrietta. The Kitchen-aid, the Cuisinart, the blender, the unscratched silverware, lots of stuff. My kitchen is too tiny to do any serious cooking. I don’t even have room for all my spices. I threw some away yesterday, because I don’t use things like sambaar powder often enough to justify it taking up prime real estate.

I went to Costco in Cincinnati yesterday, and not only did they not have ANY good bread like the LaBrea sourdough or Prairie Grain Co. whole wheat that they stock in Orem, but they didn’t have the jalapeño-cheese sauce Derek likes. And I got lost on my way there.

But I already have a friend from church, who has invited me to three things in as many days. I live about 10 minutes from TJ’s. I got a library card the other day, and the library is great. The elementary school is fantastic, and it turns out that almost all the 5-year-olds from church are also in the afternoon kindergarten. At least one is in Calvin’s class.

I’m tired, tired, tired, but almost all the boxes are unpacked and put away. Now I can switch from survival mode to creative mode. Or something.

p.s. Derek was here while the guy installed the internet this morning, and the first thing he did was check my blog. When I got out of the shower, he said, “Wow, you’ve got a lot of nice friends.” Thank you all for your comments, advice, sympathy, well-wishes, and kind words.

Ten facts randomly chosen out of my brain. About myself. Thanks to the Lovely Helen, a woman of strong moral character whom I would love to meet someday.

1. I hate to be cold. I detest having cold hands and/or cold feet. My feet are cold all the time. I can’t stand it.

2. I love singing duets with my mom, but I also hate it. My mom is a vocal teacher, so I’m too self conscious, but I grew up singing duets and rounds with her and my brothers. I think I could be a professional singer if I took lessons and practiced. I think I could be as good as my mom, who, ironically, is nearly deaf.

3. I hate overeating. It makes me hurt, and it makes me feel immoral, but I do it all the time.

4. I speak fluent Tagalog.

5. I don’t think I can ever have a pet. I hate the smells, the hair/skin/slime; I would forget to feed anything that didn’t beg; I don’t like to touch animals that are mammals; they’re just too much work.

6. These are the pets my family has had: a couple of baby iguanas that died, Lightfoot and Quickfoot, an iguana that lived a long time and eventually had only about 5 toes total and a short stubby tail (you’ve heard that iguanas grow their tail back, but I’m here to tell you that it doesn’t always happen), Carlos, a Columbian Boa Constrictor, Jorge, a rat who died of cancer, Bubba, a mouse, Chicken Tonight (he was actually dinner for Jorge, but he was cute, so I kept him for a while), a bunch of tropical fish, a couple of goldfish, Jareth and Petunia. I can’t think of any others. Oh, yeah. My dad caught a rattlesnake once and kept it for a week or so. It wouldn’t eat, so he let it go.

7. I never leave the house without Burt’s Bees lip balm. Sometimes I have 3 or 4 on me.

8. I make really, really good bread. Sometimes I make pretty bad bread. I love to read about bread. I love to go to bakeries and look at bread. I like bread to be pretty. Derek thinks I’m obsessed with bread. I like bread. I like to smell it, and eat it. While I was pregnant, the smell of baking bread made me throw up. I made no bread while I was pregnant. Calvin likes to help me make bread, and sometimes he eats the raw dough. I think that’s yucky.

9. I’ve never had a perm.

10. I can pick things up with my toes. I can write with my toes. I cannot play the piano with my toes, although they are long enough that they look like I should be able to.

I’m tagging Liz (to give her incentive to write her first post), CW, Sketchy, Derek (yes, my Derek), and anyone else that wants some tagging action.

*randimity is a word my friends and I made up in high school, at the same time that we decided that the plural of cathedral was catharsis.

When I was awake at 12:45 this morning taking care of leg-aches in a 3-year-old and feeding a 7-month-old, I was formulating in my mind this wonderful post about Spike and the ironies of having amnesia, while wearing a disguise and waking up with a crowd of people that are not friends, and having a mind-controlling microchip brain-implant that causes extreme pain even at the mere thought of harming a live human. Not an ideal situation for a vampire.

Randy, aka Spike, transcends his vampiric, technological, and forgetful shackles, and declares himself a “Noble Vampire” when he joins Joan, aka Buffy, in the fight against shark-shaped evil. Is this the start of a brilliant commentary on the human condition? Or is it the dark, delusional raving of a sleep-deprived mind?

In case you’re unfamiliar with this part of the story, Spike is the evil, super-villain bad guy vampire, who has met up with a secret branch of the government that implants hostile demons with microchips that inhibit violent behavior. He is therefore unable to acquire lunch for himself. He has made some enemies in the demon world by colluding with the enemy, Buffy and her non-superhero minions, because they can’t harm him while he can’t harm them (they’re only protectors, not avengers), and they can buy him pig’s blood. So sometimes Spike fights the other bad guys. They’re not human, so it doesn’t hurt. Plus he has a major vampire crush on Buffy, the Vampire Slayer. That doesn’t really work for Buffy, and she’s mostly repulsed by him. Mostly.

So Spike is running away from the shark-dude, who, I believe, is a loan-shark. Spike owes him money. Spike dresses up in tweeds and runs to hide at the magic shop, where Buffy and her cohorts hang. Pre-BIG-BAD Willow is trying to make her lover forget a little spat, and the forgetfulness spell goes awry, causing everyone in the magic shop to drop to the floor/counter/table unconscious. When they wake, they try to determine who they are and their relationships to each other, guessing at names from available information. Spike decides he’s Giles-the-magic-shop-owner-and-Buffy’s-trainer’s son, because they’re both British. Giles decides he’s engaged to Anya, who is sporting a ring, and who fell asleep on his shoulder. Willow forgets she’s gay. Buffy calls herself Joan, because she likes the name. They all go out to kick some demon butt, and Spike, discovering he, too, has superpowers, declares himself to be a Noble Vampire, one with a soul, who fights the forces of evil alongside the likes of the Slayer.

I think I must also be a Noble Vampire. In spite of the bad side of my nature, I want to let the good side of my nature win. I’m wearing a disguise that makes me forget who I am. Evil creeps into my house daily. It spreads itself across my floor, slimes my couch, and tries to take over my mind.  It tries to make me turn against my family, to yell at my kids, to abuse my body. Yet I want to fight. Even as I lie in the swamp, feeling the pull of the bog below me, I feel the clean air above, and I feel the grasping hands of my angels pulling me up. I have to care. I have to use my superpowers for good. I have to remember that every superhero has a kryptonite, and every superhero fights anyway.

Delusional ravings of a sleep-deprived mind. In the daylight, the brilliance of it evaporated like so much vampire dust.

For the bread recipe, just be patient. Or scroll down, if you just cannot wait. First, I have to complain a little. A friend around the corner, who had a baby just 3 weeks before I did, is signed up and training for a half-marathon in April. That’s two months away. She ran 4 miles last Saturday, and I ran about 1 1/2. I am trying so hard to take it slow, even when I feel like I can keep going. This morning, I’m sure I could have kept going after my allotted 9 minutes, but I know recovery takes time. All the same, I’m so dang jealous that she’s doing a 1/2 marathon.

I think I will try for the Provo River half marathon in the middle of August, but I’m not even sure I’ll still be in Utah. We’re moving, and I think the target date is August 14th. (And we’re going to a place with no mountains. I’m not positive I will survive.) The only problem with the Provo River is those first three miles down South Fork Canyon. They’re so steep that last time I did it, my knees were trashed. I don’t usually get hurt running downhill at a normal pace, but racing…

So, although I’m jealous, I just don’t think it would be wise for me to try to get up to 13 miles by April. Maybe a 5k in April or May, and a 10k in June or July. Someday I’ll be like my crazy dad and do 50 milers all summer.

OK, here’s the bread. I love the recipe from The Bread Baker’s Apprentice for whole wheat bread. It takes 2 days, with a poolish overnight, and a soaking of some coarse ground flour. I tell ya, that is good bread. The overnight ferment makes it taste like real bread, it doesn’t dry out very fast, it has a great chewy texture, and it’s the best 100% whole wheat bread I’ve ever had. So if you want that recipe, it’s copywrited. Go buy the book. It will be worth it, plus you’ll learn all sorts of crazy chemistry that maybe you didn’t want to know.

I make another bread often that is also pretty darn good. It’s not in a cookbook, so I’m pretty sure I can share it without worrying about the bread-recipe-hit-men. I like my knees, and, as explained above, I need them in good condition.

Mine is not 100% whole grain, so it’s a little softer, but not squishy like white sandwich bread. (Does anyone else call them sammiches? I just got Vegan with a Vengeance, by Isa Chandra Moskowitz, and she has recipes for sammiches. I think that’s cute.) But I do like the texture and flavor of added wheat bran. Also, it has those little speckles. Here it is:

Speckled Brown Bread

3 cups warm water
1 1/4 t instant yeast, or 1 T active dry yeast, or 1 packet yeast
1 1/2 cups wheat bran
3 cups whole wheat flour
1/4 cup vital wheat gluten, optional

Mix this all together (if using instant yeast, just mix, if active dry, moisten yeast in water before adding flour and bran). Cover with plastic wrap and ferment for an hour or so, till pretty bubbly. You can put in the fridge for later, or continue now. If you refrigerate it, be sure to take it out about an hour before you plan to continue, so it won’t be cold.

3 T canola oil
3 T honey, or sugar if you’re vegan
1 T salt

mix well.

Add about 2 cups all-purpose flour, or bread flour if you didn’t add gluten, and mix. Turn the dough out onto a floured surface and knead for about 15 minutes, adding flour as necessary. Listen to some good music, and get the kids into the kitchen to dance with you. Give them a little piece of dough to knead, and I bet they’ll be occupied for half an hour, if they don’t eat it raw. If you have carpal tunnel syndrome, use the dang mixer. I think it should only take about 6 minutes in a Kitchen-Aid type thing.

Put the dough in a big, greased bowl, cover with the same piece of plastic wrap you already used (come on, try to save the planet with me) and let rise for about 2 hours, until it doubles in size.

When it’s done rising, punch it down. I like to weigh the lump and divide it exactly in two. Today, my two loaves were 835 g and 836 g, using this recipe. Knead the dough for just a minute, to get the big bubbles out, and shape into loaves. Put into greased loaf pans, cover with that same piece of plastic wrap (don’t worry, I’ll let you throw it away after this), and let rise about an hour, till the sides are peeking above the tops of the pans.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Put the loaves in for 30 minutes, rotate them, and bake about 15 minutes more, until they’re golden brown, sound hollow when tapped, and register 185 degrees in the middle. Just kidding, I never get out the thermometer either.

Don’t, but Do Not cut the bread until it is cool. That means at least an hour of heavenly I-made-my-own-bread aromas wafting through your house and driving your upstairs neighbors crazy before you get out that knife. If you cut it while it’s still warm, you mash up the still-denaturing proteins and get a gooey middle. Or a hole. You don’t want a sandwich bread with a hole in the middle. If you ever do get the hole, for any reason not necessarily relating to the cutting of your bread, email me and I will tell you why it happened. I’ve gotten holy bread enough times to be able to diagnose a host of problems in the bread triage.

Now, you can give one loaf to your neighbor and have a friend for life, or you can save it for toast tomorrow, because your family will eat one entire loaf for dinner tonight. Or, after it’s completely cool, you can freeze it. I don’t bother freezing anymore, since my boys always want toast for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snacks.

I just started a seed culture for some sour rye, so check back in a couple of weeks and I’ll tell you how it went.

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