Thursday, January 29, 2009

:: Introducing My Random Internet Goodies ::

I love the internet.  I mean, I really love the internet.  I confess that I spend far too much time online everyday - it really is an addiction for me.  But who wouldn't be hooked?  All the information, all the resources... all the photography and ideas - c'mon, right?  
So, to make myself feel better about my internet habit, I decided that I would share all the fabulous things I have found online - those little nuggets of internet goodness that fuel my addiction and keep me glued to my mac all day long.  So here it is, the first installment of Mel's Random Internet Goodies...

Random Internet Goody #1


I adore blogs... all kinds of blogs.  From crafting and parenting to photography and cooking - I have no less than one hundred blogs I check out on a regular basis.  I think blogs are fantastic - these amazing online diaries of real people involved in real life who take the time and energy to document their experiences.  I kept noticing the same button on many of the blogs I was following, so I decided to click on it to find out what it was all about.  That's when I discovered Delightful Blogs. The premise of the site is simple.... "Cutting through the blog smog... Explore our edited directory of 3200 blogs that are personal, passionate and stylish."  
The site breaks down blogs into several categories ranging from "Activism" to "Work + Career."  Once I found this site - I was addicted.  Totally.  I am so impressed with the amount of creativity and personality that people pour into their blogs.  It is inspiring, to say the least.  
To become a member of the site, you fill out a brief questionnaire about your blog and answer some basic questions about yourself. Your blog must be more than 3 months old and have regular posts and updates. There is a one-time fee of $13 to be included in the site (if you want a "featured" ad for your blog, then the fee is $35). Your blog is then reviewed and if it meets the requirements, a link to your page is added on the site.  Easy, right?
So, if you haven't checked out Delightful Blogs yet, you should.  I bet you'll love it.  :)

Thursday, January 22, 2009

:: Benjamin Sings the Classics ::

I have been trying to convince Ben to let me record him singing, but every time I would grab the camera to capture him belting out some tunes, he would stop singing and run away.  But last night, as he was sitting on our bed serenading us, I pulled out the camera and to my surprise, he actually let me record him.  I was so happy!
So now, for your listening pleasure, may I present Master Benjamin, singing two of his all time favorite compositions....

video


video

Sunday, January 18, 2009

:: Goals Vs. Resolutions and Some Crazy Good Bread ::

We here at the Scarpace house have decided to get healthy.  I guess you could say it's our New Year's Resolution, but since I don't really buy into the whole "resolutions" hoopla, I think I will just refer to it as our goal for 2009.  I am trying not to focus too much on losing weight - I am pretty sure that will be a wonderful side effect of our new healthy eating habits.  Hope springs eternal, right?
Since all of the day time television shows are focusing on losing weight and getting in shape, I have heard a ton of information lately about healthy foods... or at least what we think are healthy foods.  I was under the impression that the bread in the grocery store labeled "100% Whole Wheat" was actually really healthy and super good for you.  But I found out, thanks to Rachael Ray, that most of those supposedly "whole wheat" breads contain high-fructose corn syrup, which can actually reek havoc on your blood sugar levels - not to mention totally destroy your entire attempt at eating healthy.  Plus, there's a whole list of ingredients in "healthy" bread that you can't even pronounce.  
So, I took to the internet and did some research on baking whole wheat bread and found a recipe.  I put  my laptop on the kitchen island and proceeded to embark on an 18-hour journey that resulted in two flat, but very tasty, loaves of bread.  See, I am not a baker.  But I can follow directions, so I thought baking bread would be "no big deal, right?" Wrong.  It's a process... a process that requires accurate measuring and patience as things take time to "rise."  I think I counted about ten times both Jason and Ben asked "is the bread ready yet?"  
"NO!"  I barked... "It has to DOUBLE in size before I move it to the bread pans where it has to RISE and top the pan by an inch!"  Like I said, baking bread requires patience, and those of you who know me, know I have very little patience to work with.
Even though it took me the better part of an entire day, I did manage to get the bread baked. And it was good.  Actually, it was very good.  I think we were all surprised.  Needless to say we had a lot of poached eggs on toast for breakfast and panini's for lunch, but they were good.  I was really proud of myself.
So this morning I woke up, started my bread again, and I must say that everything went much smoother.  I made a fraction of the mess I did last week, and everything is rising just perfectly. And I am enjoying some time on the computer and a glass of Diet Dr. Pepper while I wait for the bread to do its thing and grow.  Look at me!  Look at me with my new found patience!   Yep, 2009 is gearing up to be one great year!

Here is the recipe.  I found the original recipe on allrecipes.com (it was posted by Nita Crabb and called "Simple Whole Wheat Bread.")  She used about 5 cups of white bread flour in her recipe.  I followed her recipe exactly the first time I made it, but decided that I would use all whole wheat flour instead and incorporate the flax seeds, sunflower seeds and oats.

  • Mel's Super Healthy, Patience-Promoting 100% Whole Wheat Bread
  • Ingredients
  • 3 cups warm water (110 degrees F/45 degrees C)
  • 2 (.25 ounce) packages active dry yeast
  • 2/3 cup honey
  • 8 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
  • 3 tablespoons butter, melted
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons butter, melted
  • 3 tablespoons sunflower seeds
  • 3 tablespoons oats
  • 3 tablespoons flax seed 


     Directions

  1. In a large bowl, mix warm water, yeast, and 1/3 cup honey. Add 5 cups whole wheat flour, and stir to combine. Let set for 30 minutes, or until big and bubbly.
  2. Mix in 3 tablespoons melted butter, 1/3 cup honey, and salt. Stir in 2 cups whole wheat flour. Stir in sunflower seeds, oats and flax seeds. Once combined, move the dough to your stand mixer, or flour a workspace on your counter to knead the dough.  Work in more of the whole wheat flour and knead the dough until it is not real sticky - just pulling away from the sides of the mixing bowl or counter.  It should still feel sticky to touch.  This may take an additional 2 to 4 cups of flour (I generally use about 3 cups during this process).  Place in a greased bowl, turning once to coat the surface of the dough. Cover with a dishtowel. Let rise in a warm place until doubled.
  3. Punch down, and divide into 3 loaves. Place in greased 9 x 5 inch loaf pans, and allow to rise until dough has topped the pans by one inch.  Or, you can form the dough into a loaf shape on a baking sheet.
  4. Bake at 350 degrees F (175 degrees C) for 25 to 30 minutes; do not overbake. Lightly brush the tops of loaves with 2 tablespoons melted butter when done to prevent crust from getting hard. I actually use much less butter - after all, the goal is "healthy" bread.  Cool completely and then wrap in plastic wrap then foil.  The bread gets better as it sets.  Plus, it also gets easier to slice.

Just a side note on this recipe.  I wanted to make my bread just a little more healthy, so I incorporated some soy flour into the mixture.  As a general rule, you should work in soy flour so that it only comprises about 15% of your flour mixture.  So, you could actually place two tablespoons into the bottom of your measuring cup before you measure the whole wheat flour. 
As for the sunflower seeds, flax seeds and oats... if you are lucky enough to live near an HEB, you can get them in small quantities (and much cheaper) in the bulk foods area.  I am not sure about other grocery stores, but I bet if they have a bulk foods section, you will be able to find them.
Happy Healthy Baking!!

Thursday, January 8, 2009

:: Happy New Year ::

Happy New Year Everyone!
I hope all of you had a wonderful holiday season.  

We had an incredible time during the holidays.  We spent time with family and close friends - it was such an amazing way to end the year.
We started our December by visiting some friends in San Angelo.  Okay, I NEVER thought I would be saying this... but I really do miss San Angelo.  I spent the better part of my teen years devising a plan to escape that place, but now as an adult, wife and mother - I have seriously considered what it would be like to move back there someday. We have such good friends there and we feel such a connection to the community.  Who knows, maybe someday we'll go back.  Anything is possible.
In San Angelo, Jason had the chance to visit the Old Chicken Farm Art Center, where he lived and worked as an Artist and Art Instructor.  It was nice being able to visit with old friends.  The Chicken Farm is an amazing place, and if you ever have the chance to visit it, you should. Creative people are always entertaining to me, and a bunch of them living and working together is a unique experience.
While we were in San Angelo, we also went to Christmas at Old Fort Concho. Jason and I went every year when we lived there, and hadn't been back in over five years.  The next day we had lunch with some good friends we hadn't seen in years.  You know you have picked great friends when you can go so long without seeing them, and instantly pick up where you left off when you meet up again.  I really miss our friends in San Angelo.  And we are definitely going to visit there more often.  Definitely.  We finished our last night in San Angelo by visiting the house on Hill Street, where Jason asked me to marry him on December 6, 1999.  It's a tiny house with a vacant lot next to it, and every year they put up this amazing Christmas display that you can walk around and explore.  It was one of the first places I took Jason when he moved to San Angelo, and it will always hold a special place in our hearts.
We are at the stage now where we spend Christmas day here at home. Since Ben is all about Santa now, it's important for us be here on such a special day for our son.  Ben and Santa have developed quite a relationship - but that's another blog. We got a call on Christmas Eve morning and found out that my parents were coming for Christmas day. So we had a house full of people (with us, my parents, and my aunt) and I made Christmas dinner.  I know, right? But seriously, I did.  And it wasn't bad.  I was proud of myself.  
The day after Christmas, our good friend, Jeff, came to stay with us for the weekend.  Jeff has been Jason's best friend for, wow, I guess almost 29 years now.  He was also the Best Man in our wedding.  We had a great weekend with him.
The Tuesday before New Year's, we packed up the car and went to see my parents in Dallas.  We had Sushi and champagne for our New Year's Eve dinner and we all stayed up to watch the ball drop.  On New Year's Day, we were invited over to the Haby's home for dinner. (Which, by the way, is Jeff's family, for those of you who didn't know that already).  The Haby's have always been a second family for Jason. We think the world of them.  They are such special people and they are so important to us.  We had such a great time visiting with them.  
The Saturday after New Year's, I decided to kidnap my best friend, Meredith, and take her to lunch and shopping.  She just had a baby, and I thought she could use a nice treat and get away for the day and do girly stuff. Oh, and as far as babies go, her little boy is ADORABLE!  We had a lot of fun that day - except that the line to Sprinkles Cupcakes spilled out the door and was too long for us to wait.  That was kind of sad.  Oh well.  ;)
We had planned on coming home the Monday after New Year's, but Mother Nature decided to drop some ice on the Dallas area, so we had to wait it out another day.  The power even went out at my parents' home.  It was actually kind of exciting.  For about an hour.  Then it got annoying.  Thank goodness it was only out for about two and a half hours.  
So, we are back at home and getting back into our usual grooves.  It's a new year and we are excited about all the new experiences and opportunities we will meet these coming 12 months.  We're ready for a fantastic year.  Hi 2009!!!

I put together a slideshow of our holidays.....

Click to play Holidays 2008
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