Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Daring Bakers Challenge: Pizza Dough!

Our challenge this month is to channel our inner pizziaola! I am still a novice Daring Baker, as this is only my third completed challenge. However, I have followed many blogs of other members in the group for quite some time.

Originally, this month's challenge was to be hosted by Sher of "What Did You Eat" along with Rosa and Glenna. Sadly, Sherry passed away tragically on the 20th of July2008 after having been struck by a massive heart-attack. So, this month is a tribute to a great cook and awesome woman.

For toppings, I admit that I erred on the side of mundane. I figured, "Why re-invent the wheel?" Our pies of love were topped with Italian sausage crumbles, fresh spinach and a blend of Italian cheese shreds and Parmesan cheese. I used a standard marinara for sauce.

Allow me to pause and tell you how much I LOVE the fresh salads and greens that are washed and available in bags!

In order to be able to claim a successful completion of the challenge we were required to TOSS the pizza dough. Not only that......we had to post a picture to prove it! So, here's the proof:

I wholeheartedly recommend everyone that loves a good pizza to try making it homemade. It is unbelievably delicious!


Original recipe taken from “The Bread Baker’s Apprentice” by Peter Reinhart.

Makes 6 pizza crusts (about 9-12 inches/23-30 cm in diameter).


4 1/2 Cups (20 1/4 ounces/607.5 g) Unbleached high-gluten (%14) bread flour or all purpose flour, chilled - FOR GF: 4 ½ cups GF Flour Blend with xanthan gum or 1 cup brown rice flour, 1 cup corn flour, 1 cup oat flour, 1 ½ cup arrowroot, potato or tapioca starch + 2 tsp xanthan or guar gum
1 3/4 Tsp Salt
1 Tsp Instant yeast - FOR GF use 2 tsp
1/4 Cup (2 ounces/60g) Olive oil or vegetable oil (both optional, but it’s better with)
1 3/4 Cups (14 ounces/420g or 420ml) Water, ice cold (40° F/4.5° C)
1 Tb sugar - FOR GF use agave syrup
Semolina/durum flour or cornmeal for dusting


1. Mix together the flour, salt and instant yeast in a big bowl (or in the bowl of your stand mixer).

2. Add the oil, sugar and cold water and mix well (with the help of a large wooden spoon or with the paddle attachment, on low speed) in order to form a sticky ball of dough. On a clean surface, knead for about 5-7 minutes, until the dough is smooth and the ingredients are homogeneously distributed. If it is too wet, add a little flour (not too much, though) and if it is too dry add 1 or 2 teaspoons extra water.

NOTE: If you are using an electric mixer, switch to the dough hook and mix on medium speed for the same amount of time.The dough should clear the sides of the bowl but stick to the bottom of the bowl. If the dough is too wet, sprinkle in a little more flour, so that it clears the sides. If, on the contrary, it clears the bottom of the bowl, dribble in a teaspoon or two of cold water.
The finished dough should be springy, elastic, and sticky, not just tacky, and register 50°-55° F/10°-13° C.


2. FOR GF: Add the oil, sugar or agave syrup and cold water, then mix well (with the help of a large wooden spoon or with the paddle attachment, on low speed) in order to form a sticky ball of dough.

3. Flour a work surface or counter. Line a jelly pan with baking paper/parchment. Lightly oil the paper.

4. With the help of a metal or plastic dough scraper, cut the dough into 6 equal pieces (or larger if you want to make larger pizzas).

NOTE: To avoid the dough from sticking to the scraper, dip the scraper into water between cuts.

5. Sprinkle some flour over the dough. Make sure your hands are dry and then flour them. Gently round each piece into a ball.

NOTE: If the dough sticks to your hands, then dip your hands into the flour again.

6. Transfer the dough balls to the lined jelly pan and mist them generously with spray oil. Slip the pan into plastic bag or enclose in plastic food wrap.

7. Put the pan into the refrigerator and let the dough rest overnight or for up to thee days.

NOTE: You can store the dough balls in a zippered freezer bag if you want to save some of the dough for any future baking. In that case, pour some oil(a few tablespooons only) in a medium bowl and dip each dough ball into the oil, so that it is completely covered in oil. Then put each ball into a separate bag. Store the bags in the freezer for no longer than 3 months. The day before you plan to make pizza, remember to transfer the dough balls from the freezer to the refrigerator.


8. On the day you plan to eat pizza, exactly 2 hours before you make it, remove the desired number of dough balls from the refrigerator. Dust the counter with flour and spray lightly with oil. Place the dough balls on a floured surface and sprinkle them with flour. Dust your hands with flour and delicately press the dough into disks about 1/2 inch/1.3 cm thick and 5 inches/12.7 cm in diameter. Sprinkle with flour and mist with oil. Loosely cover the dough rounds with plastic wrap and then allow to rest for 2 hours.


8. FOR GF: On the day you plan to eat pizza, exactly 2 hours before you make it, remove the number of desired dough balls from the refrigerator. Place on a sheet of parchment paper and sprinkle with a gluten free flour. Delicately press the dough into disks about ½ inch/1.3 cm thick and 5 inches/12.7 cm in diameter. Sprinkle the dough with flour, mist it again with spray oil. Lightly cover the dough round with a sheet of parchment paper and allow to rest for 2 hours.

9. At least 45 minutes before making the pizza, place a baking stone on the lower third of the oven. Preheat the oven as hot as possible (500° F/260° C).

NOTE: If you do not have a baking stone, then use the back of a jelly pan. Do not preheat the pan.

10. Generously sprinkle the back of a jelly pan with semolina/durum flour or cornmeal. Flour your hands (palms, backs and knuckles). Take 1 piece of dough by lifting it with a pastry scraper. Lay the dough across your fists in a very delicate way and carefully stretch it by bouncing it in a circular motion on your hands, and by giving it a little stretch with each bounce. Once the dough has expanded outward, move to a full toss.


10. FOR GF: Press the dough into the shape you want (about 9-12 inches/23-30 cm in diameter - for a 6 ounces/180g piece of dough).

NOTE: Make only one pizza at a time.
During the tossing process, if the dough tends to stick to your hands, lay it down on the floured counter and reflour your hands, then continue the tossing and shaping.
In case you would be having trouble tossing the dough or if the dough never wants to expand and always springs back, let it rest for approximately 5-20 minutes in order for the gluten to relax fully,then try again.
You can also resort to using a rolling pin, although it isn’t as effective as the toss method.

11. When the dough has the shape you want (about 9-12 inches/23-30 cm in diameter - for a 6 ounces/180g piece of dough), place it on the back of the jelly pan, making sure there is enough semolina/durum flour or cornmeal to allow it to slide and not stick to the pan.


11. FOR GF: Lightly top it with sweet or savory toppings of your choice.

12. Lightly top it with sweet or savory toppings of your choice.


12. FOR GF: Place the garnished pizza on the parchment paper onto the stone in the oven or bake directly on the jelly pan. Close the door and bake for about 5-8 minutes.

NOTE: Remember that the best pizzas are topped not too generously. No more than 3 or 4 toppings (including sauce and cheese) are sufficient.

13. Slide the garnished pizza onto the stone in the oven or bake directly on the jelly pan. Close the door and bake for abour 5-8 minutes.


13. FOR GF: Follow the notes for this step.

NOTE: After 2 minutes baking, take a peek. For an even baking, rotate 180°.

If the top gets done before the bottom, you will need to move the stone or jelly pane to a lower shelf before the next round. On the contrary, if the bottom crisps before the cheese caramelizes, then you will need to raise the stone or jelly.

14. Take the pizza out of the oven and transfer it to a cutting board or your plate. In order to allow the cheese to set a little, wait 3-5 minutes before slicing or serving.

RECIPE SOURCE: “The Bread Baker's Apprentice: Mastering The Art of Extraordinary Bread” by Peter Reinhart. Ten Speed Press, Berkeley, CA. Copyright 2001. ISBN-10: 1-58008-268-8, ISBN-13: 978-158008-268-6.

Saturday, October 25, 2008

A Lazy Weekend Breakfast

Sometimes comfort food is in order. Saturday mornings cry out for something more special than a bagel on the run or a bowl of cereal.

Behold! Fried Potatoes and Onions! Oh yes, my friends... a southern classic.

No one really wanted eggs, so none today. But breakfast rocked even without them. And yes, those are biscuits stuffed with sausages on the side. Hey, the fruit was healthy!

Fried Potatoes and Onions

1 lb. bag Simply Potatoes (it's the weekend! No peeling!)

One medium yellow onion, thinly sliced (divided)

4 oz. Hickory Farms Summer Sausage chopped

3 Tbsp. Vegetable Oil

2 Tbsp. Butter

Salt and Pepper to taste

Heat oil and butter in heavy bottomed skillet until hot. Add summer sausage, half of the sliced onions and half of potatoes from package. Salt and pepper. Add remainder of onions and potatoes. Salt and pepper again.

Cook covered on medium heat undisturbed to brown bottom. (about 7 minutes) With a spatula turn browned potates on bottom up to top. Continue to cook, uncovered for the remainder of cooking.

As potatoes brown on the bottom, move with spatula to brown more slices.

Cook to desired level of golden brown.


Friday, October 24, 2008

A Little House Cleaning

I have decided that I cover too broad a range of topics for this one blog. Therefore, I am announcing a new blog that will be more suited to heavier topics and musings.

I promise not to bore you there. (At least I'll try not to.)

This blog from here on out will be devoted to creative pursuits and light topics. While the newer blog will deal with the nuts and bolts of my day to day opportunities to learn.

So, with that.... I'd like to put a "Buzz In Your Ear".

See ya over there.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Best Family a Foodie Can Have

If anyone knows anything about me, they know that I'm an adventurous foodie. For many, that can be frustrating if they are part of a finicky food family. Thankfully, I have been blessed with a family that will try anything that I put before them. (It also doesn't hurt that I've groomed them to have broad and adventurous tastes!)

Like most foodies, I follow many blogs. Tonight's dinner success is owed to two fabulous food bloggers! Dinner was a cyber bow to their artistry.

Sunday dinner featured Asian flavors.

The starter was a Spinach & Romaine salad with mandarin oranges, toasted sesame seeds and toasted almonds. Please forgive the photo, it was taken hastily with a cell phone. The family wanted to dive in. No time for posed food shots!

Next, we moved on to grilled talapia fillets. I used for inspiration the BBQ Mahi Mahi recipe from Ezra Pound Cake. The photo is from that site, and I take no credit for it. But again... the family just wouldn't wait. I used the rub, but did not make the roasted pepper relish.

Next to the starring protein, I made an absolutely tongue tingling Asian Noodle Salad. Again, Ezra Pound Cake rocked the house with the recipe. I left out the cabbage and subbed out half of the fresh cilantro for flat leaf parsley. Also, there were no serrano peppers in the store, so I used one good sized fresh jalapeno instead. Again, the photo is from that site. I only wish I could take such great pics! But with an impatient family... pictures just. weren't. gonna. happen.

The family was very happy with the sumptuous meal. But when I reminded them about dessert their smiles got even bigger. I took my cue from Sticky, Gooey, Creamy, Chewy for our dessert. I made a Creamy Strawberry Swirled Cheesecake. It is a variation on Susan's recipe: Raspberry Swirl Cheesecake. My family prefers strawberries to raspberries. (I know, I'm sad about that) So, instead of raspberry topping as a swirl, I used a strawberry product. I also could not locate creme fraiche in the grocery store, so I used sour cream. No beautiful embellished decoration, either. My family wants just silky cheese cake. Bummer, because I would have loved to decorate.

But even with the changes, the cheesecake is the ABSOLUTE BEST one we have ever tasted. You absolutely must make time to make this.

Here is the pic from her site:

I only wish I could take great food pics like these wonderful food bloggers. Do yourselves a favor, read some great blogs and make some great food! Your family just might find themselves broadening their palate! And you will feel great mastering delicious new recipes.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Give Us This Day

Sunday dinner is one of the ties that binds the hearts of our family.

No need to spend lots of money. We enjoy beautiful, homemade breads regularly.

...and give us this day, our daily bread.

If you'd like to put delicious, easy, homemade bread on your table, I recommend this bread. I found the recipe over at Julie's blog.

It is from Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day by Jeff Hertzberg.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Daring Bakers Challenge: Lavash Crackers

There are many, many baked goods and foodstuffs that I choose to make homemade. But I must admit that I never thought about homemade crackers. Daring Bakers rectified that oversight!

Our assignment for September was to create our version of an Armenian cracker bread called Lavash.The special twist for this challenge was that it was to be a vegan cracker to be accompanied by a vegan dip accompaniament. Also, the alternative choice to make the challenge as a gluten-free, vegan dish was allowable.

I chose to make a Sesame Lavash with a Spicy Pink Bean Dip. I thought that I might have enough of a sales job on my hand coercing my "he-man, meat-eaters to try a vegan dish." I was wrong. The whole crew loved it! The crackers were gone in a flash. I served them with a sideboard casual football dinner. They were an instant hit. I will definitely be making these often.

I will say this though: If you like pita chips, you will LOVE these crackers. They are more snappy than crispy. And they are certainly ADDICTING.

For the dip, I used canned beans and freshened their flavor with fresh vibrant spices and herbs.

Below are the recipe for the basic lavash and my dip. I substituted toasted sesame oil for the oil component in the basic lavash made with wheat flour.

Lavash Crackers

Makes 1 sheet pan of crackers

* 1 1/2 cups (6.75 oz) unbleached bread flour or gluten free flour blend (If you use a blend without xanthan gum, add 1 tsp xanthan or guar gum to the recipe)
* 1/2 tsp (.13 oz) salt
* 1/2 tsp (.055 oz) instant yeast
* 1 Tb (.75 oz) agave syrup or sugar
* 1 Tb (.5 oz) vegetable oil
* 1/3 to 1/2 cup + 2 Tb (3 to 4 oz) water, at room temperature
* Poppy seeds, sesame seeds, paprika, cumin seeds, caraway seeds, or kosher salt for toppings

1. In a mixing bowl, stir together the flour, salt yeast, agave, oil, and just enough water to bring everything together into a ball. You may not need the full 1/2 cup + 2 Tb of water, but be prepared to use it all if needed.

2. For Non Gluten Free Cracker Dough: Sprinkle some flour on the counter and transfer the dough to the counter. Knead for about 10 minutes, or until the ingredients are evenly distributed. The dough should pass the windowpane test (see … ong-Enough for a discription of this) and register 77 degrees to 81 degrees Fahrenheit. The dough should be firmer than French bread dough, but not quite as firm as bagel dough (what I call medium-firm dough), satiny to the touch, not tacky, and supple enough to stretch when pulled. Lightly oil a bowl and transfer the dough to the bowl, rolling it around to coat it with oil. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap.


2. For Gluten Free Cracker Dough: The dough should be firmer than French bread dough, but not quite as firm as bagel dough (what I call medium-firm dough), and slightly tacky. Lightly oil a bowl and transfer the dough to the bowl, rolling it around to coat it with oil. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap.

3. Ferment at room temperature for 90 minutes, or until the dough doubles in size. (You can also retard the dough overnight in the refrigerator immediately after kneading or mixing).

4. For Non Gluten Free Cracker Dough: Mist the counter lightly with spray oil and transfer the dough to the counter. Press the dough into a square with your hand and dust the top of the dough lightly with flour. Roll it out with a rolling pin into a paper thin sheet about 15 inches by 12 inches. You may have to stop from time to time so that the gluten can relax. At these times, lift the dough from the counter and wave it a little, and then lay it back down. Cover it with a towel or plastic wrap while it relaxes. When it is the desired thinness, let the dough relax for 5 minutes. Line a sheet pan with baking parchment. Carefully lift the sheet of dough and lay it on the parchment. If it overlaps the edge of the pan, snip off the excess with scissors.


4. For Gluten Free Cracker Dough: Lay out two sheets of parchment paper. Divide the cracker dough in half and then sandwich the dough between the two sheets of parchment. Roll out the dough until it is a paper thin sheet about 15 inches by 12 inches. Slowly peel away the top layer of parchment paper. Then set the bottom layer of parchment paper with the cracker dough on it onto a baking sheet.

5. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit with the oven rack on the middle shelf. Mist the top of the dough with water and sprinkle a covering of seeds or spices on the dough (such as alternating rows of poppy seeds, sesame seeds, paprika, cumin seeds, caraway seeds, kosher or pretzel salt, etc.) Be careful with spices and salt - a little goes a long way. If you want to precut the cracker, use a pizza cutter (rolling blade) and cut diamonds or rectangles in the dough. You do not need to separate the pieces, as they will snap apart after baking. If you want to make shards, bake the sheet of dough without cutting it first.

5. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, or until the crackers begin to brown evenly across the top (the time will depend on how thinly and evenly you rolled the dough).

6. When the crackers are baked, remove the pan from the oven and let them cool in the pan for about 10 minutes. You can then snap them apart or snap off shards and serve.

Spicy Pink Bean Dip

1 14 oz. can Pink Beans (Habichuelas Rosadas)
2 Cloves Fresh Garlic
1 Fully Ripened Fresh Jalapeno Pepper (red)
1 Tbsp. Minced Fresh onion
Handful of fresh cilantro leaves
Juice of one Lemon
1/4 c. Extra Virgin Olive Oil (use the good stuff)
Salt to taste

Rinse and drain canned beans. To food processor, add all ingredients except beans and salt and puree. Add the beans, and process until smooth. If too thick, stream in more olive oil. Salt to taste. Chill overnight for best flavor before serving.

RECIPE - Recipe Reference: The Bread Baker's Apprentice: Mastering The Art of Extraordinary Bread, by Peter Reinhart. Ten Speed Press, Berkeley, CA. Copyright 2001. ISBN-10: 1-58008-268-8, ISBN-13: 978-158008-268-6.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

It's Not An Anomaly Folks

There were good points made today regarding the status of the American economy.

“What has happened these last eight years is not some historical anomaly, so we know what to expect if we try these policies for another four. When lobbyists run your campaign, the special interests end up gaming the system. When the White House is hostile to any kind of oversight, corporations cut corners and consumers pay the price. When regulators are chosen for their disdain for regulation and we gut their ability to enforce the law, then the interests of the American people are not protected. It’s an ideology that intentionally breeds incompetence in Washington and irresponsibility on Wall Street, and it’s time to turn the page.”

Head on over, to read the whole text.

Sunday, August 31, 2008

Daring Bakers Challenge: Eclairs!

Today is my first official "reveal" with the Daring Bakers. I was a little taken aback when I read that the August challenge was: ECLAIRS!

Specifically, the bakers were challenged to Pierre's Herme's Chocolate Eclair recipe. We were instructed that we had to use the Choux Pastry recipe as written. However we were allowed to substitute one of the chocolate components, if we liked.

I was successful the first time out of the gate with the puffs! I was quite well pleased.

Then it was on to the filling. I opted for a vanilla custard filling and used the chocolate sauce to top.

All in all, the family was happy and my friends impressed.

I was proud.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

The Omnivore's One Hundred

The Omnivore’s One Hundred

I read this survey on one of my subs in my feeds:

Here’s a chance for a little interactivity for all the bloggers out there. Below is a list of 100 things that I think every good omnivore should have tried at least once in their life. The list includes fine food, strange food, everyday food and even some pretty bad food - but a good omnivore should really try it all. Don’t worry if you haven’t, mind you; neither have I, though I’ll be sure to work on it. Don’t worry if you don’t recognise everything in the hundred, either; Wikipedia has the answers.

Here’s what I want you to do:

1) Copy this list into your blog or journal, including these instructions.
2) Bold all the items you’ve eaten.
3) Cross out any items that you would never consider eating.
4) Optional extra: Post a comment here at linking to your results.

Da Bee's Knees' Omnivore’s Hundred:

1. Venison
2. Nettle tea
3. Huevos rancheros
4. Steak tartare
5. Crocodile (I hope alligator is close enough!)
6. Black pudding
7. Cheese fondue
8. Carp
9. Borscht
10. Baba ghanoush
11. Calamari (yum!)
12. Pho
13. PB&J sandwich
14. Aloo gobi
15. Hot dog from a street cart
16. Epoisses
17. Black truffle
18. Fruit wine made from something other than grapes
19. Steamed pork buns
20. Pistachio ice cream
21. Heirloom tomatoes
22. Fresh wild berries
23. Foie gras
24. Rice and beans
25. Brawn, or head cheese (ate it as a young child with my Father. Found out what it was as a teen...Yech!)
26. Raw Scotch Bonnet pepper
27. Dulce de leche (Homemade by the abuelita!)
28. Oysters
29. Baklava
30. Bagna cauda
31. Wasabi peas
32. Clam chowder in a sourdough bowl
33. Salted lassi Honey lassi rocks, though....
34. Sauerkraut
35. Root beer float
36. Cognac with a fat cigar
37. Clotted cream tea
38. Vodka jelly/Jell-O (and had the headache to prove it)
39. Gumbo (ain’t none bettah dan Nana’s, no.)
40. Oxtail
41. Curried goat
42. Whole insects
43. Phaal
44. Goat’s milk
45. Malt whisky from a bottle worth £60/$120 or more
46. Fugu
47. Chicken tikka masala
48. Eel
49. Krispy Kreme original glazed doughnut
50. Sea urchin
51. Prickly pear
52. Umeboshi
53. Abalone
54. Paneer
55. McDonald’s Big Mac Meal
56. Spaetzle
57. Dirty gin martini
58. Beer above 8% ABV
59. Poutine
60. Carob chips
61. S’mores
62. Sweetbreads
63. Kaolin
64. Currywurst
65. Durian (Fruit should NOT smell like that!)
66. Frogs’ legs
67. Beignets, churros, elephant ears or funnel cake
68. Haggis
69. Fried plantain
70. Chitterlings, or andouillette (Ewwwwww......... foiled by Daddy again!)
71. Gazpacho
72. Caviar and blini (over rated, IMHO)
73. Louche absinthe
74. Gjetost, or brunost
75. Roadkill
76. Baijiu
77. Hostess Fruit Pie
78. Snail
79. Lapsang souchong
80. Bellini
81. Tom yum
82. Eggs Benedict
83. Pocky (And my kids love them, too!)
84. Tasting menu at a three-Michelin-star restaurant.
85. Kobe beef
86. Hare
87. Goulash
88. Flowers
89. Horse
90. Criollo chocolate
91. Spam
92. Soft shell crab
93. Rose harissa (I’ve had harissa in West Indian food... it that the same?)
94. Catfish
95. Mole poblano
96. Bagel and lox
97. Lobster Thermidor
98. Polenta
99. Jamaican Blue Mountain coffee
100. Snake

Seventy-three of the hundred listed! Not bad, eh???

Friday, August 22, 2008

Chocolate Chip Cookie or A Brownie?

Why would anyone choose between a chocolate chip cookie or a brownie, when you can have both?

Beats me.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Love On a Plate

Weekends at home with my sons are the best. Even better? When THEY cook for mama. I confess, I've purposely shared my love of cooking with them.

Sunday was my birthday. One of may favorite meals was waiting for me in the morning. A Southwestern Breakfast Quiche, Cheese Grits and Fruit Salad.

Love on a plate.

Thursday, June 5, 2008


There are times when I just laugh and shake my head at myself.

Hot weather today... just over ninety degrees....Nearing the end of lunch break... pulled into parking lot. I sat in the car gathering up all the items that needed to go inside. I arranged them for optimum chance of not dropping anything.

Okay, got it all together. Hopped out of the car, shut the door and stood there thinking, "uh oh.... someone left their car running." So, I decided to be a good samaritan to find out who.... so.........

I opened the door to put down the items, and realized that it was MY car running when I heard the radio playing.

I don't know if I just didn't hear the key alarm "ding ding ding" or what.

Anyway, turned off the car and headed in.

All the while, shaking my head at myself.

Gotta love me.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Strudel and Danish

I admit it. I am a food blog junkie. Finally, the pressure became too much for this foodie. I already love to cook. So, why not try baking?

Actually, I bake the day to day stuff rather nicely. But my foray into puff pastry with croissants, less than great.

Today, I wanted to try strudel and danish from scratch.

It really wasn't difficult. And the results have turned me into a believer.

AJ liked the danish best: Apple, Cheese and Raspberry choices. Isaac and I liked the strudel.

There just might be something to this from scratch baking stuff!

Sunday, May 25, 2008

Open For Discussion

Late last night I was up number crunching. It was a depressing affair. I have spent the last six years working on money management skills, and made great strides. For the first time in my adult life I not only had a savings account with more than a minimum balance, I had one that was not laughable.

But the game has changed. Everyone is struggling with the price of gas. I am no exception. Less than two years ago, I could fill the tank of my PT Cruiser with seventeen dollars. No joke. I mean fill it where the tank gauge hovered oh so gently above the “F”.

Yesterday, it cost forty-seven dollars and change. I gas up around every five to six days.

I live in a small city that abuts a larger city where I work. The travel distance is just shy of thirteen miles. So at a minimum, I drive 26 miles daily. That means that I park when I arrive at work and do not move the car except to drive home. That happens most of the time. However, sometimes I must attend to business at lunch break. Or worse, I must travel further away from home to a meeting at the northern campus of my employer. That additional travel is another fifteen miles in the wrong direction. So, on those days I travel nearly 56 miles.

I cannot afford a different vehicle.

In a desperate attempt to stem the money hemorrhage inflated gas prices have caused, I have become even more diligent with trip planning. But it just isn’t working.

I have trimmed the fat in other areas of finances.

1. Leftovers have become haute cuisine in my home.
2. Gone are coffee outings
3. Gone: entertainment outings with rare exceptions allowed a few times a quarter.
4. I only buy food grown locally, as the prices are cheaper
5. The dinner table hosts many more humble meals
6. Clothing purchases are put on hold, save those absolutely necessary.
7. Car tires pressure measured at least weekly.
8. The air conditioner has been adjusted up two degrees (This IS Florida)
9. I have become the light switch monitor
10. I bake more than ever to put bread stuffs and desserts on our Sunday table. Sunday is sacrosanct.

I realize that these are common, thrifty moves. And in fact a great deal have been in practice for years. But now, I am on patrol within my household with a vengeance. And yet, gasoline prices are still winning the budgetary battle.

Carpooling is difficult, as I live in another city than most of my co-workers. The one co-worker that lives near enough by to do so often works a vastly different schedule.

The one saving grace this summer is the fact that my employer has instituted a four day work week for the summer semester. That has been a small help.

Looking at the long term effect: Vacation times will be much more mundane in the coming year. I know many folks look at vacations as an extravagance. For me, they are mental health days. The 25 dollars monthly that used to go into the vacation fund has stopped. Vacations not currently planned and paid for will not happen.

But I am left to wonder, what else can go? Where else can I trim the dollars? Oh yeah, about the finances…. That saving account is becoming laughable again.

I just don’t know.

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Ladies, Do You Know Why?

Why is it that when you visit a store and find their undergarments on sale and stock up, not all of them fit once you return home....even when they are the same size?

By the way, I came home and stripped them all of tags and tossed them in the washer. So....... returns are not an option.

Your insights appreciated. If no insight.........commisseration will work.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Feelin' Hot, Hot, HOT!

Hot! Hot! HOT!

Today there was a serious problem with temperature control in my office at work. The thermometer that I borrowed from a coworker in the next office climbed to 84 degrees Fahrenheit, before I bailed. (Around 11:00 a.m.) Her office was only a balmy 78 degrees.

Before leaving the workspace, I forwarded my office line to another worksite outside of my office, submitted a work order for maintenance to address the issue and made a sign directing patrons where to find me. (I decided to try to overlook the fact that on March 20th, I had submitted a work order for the same reason….. yeah.)


Once comfortably settled in a significantly cooler and much more comfortable workspace, I set about accessing my work Outlook email remotely. First order of business was to contact the one appointment that I had scheduled for assessments and consultation. As I pulled up the calendar feature to access the details of the appointment, I realized that I never have just ONE scheduled appointment in an afternoon. Very fortuitous indeed! I would only have to inconvenience one patron. Turns out I could not reach him. But when he showed up at two o’clock and was informed of the situation he said, “Oh, good… I really need to take care of some business but didn’t want to cancel on short notice.” Wow. Cool!

As I settled in, I realized that being outside of my office; I would be limited in productive activities to stay busy. I was at work, after all…

So, I decided to tackle my overgrown inbox in Outlook. The last month has been very hectic with scheduled meetings, college wide events, committees and a huge load of support assessments for various instructors and professors on the campus. So, each day I “put out fires” in the inbox and left the remainder for when I had the time. Well guess what? Today was the day! I was so pleased to get my mailbox back under the size limit restriction from the IT administrator! My inbox alone had over 114 messages, and then the sent file and deleted items needed to be cleaned up. I read, responded and deleted as if on a mission.

That huge task done, I turned my attention to the 86 online documents that I needed to read, evaluate and rank. I am happy to say that I made a huge dent in those, too.

So, in reality what happened today was not really an inconvenience. I had the opportunity to focus my attention on two tasks needing my attention since I had no distractions of administering assessments, consulting with patrons and guiding exploration.

It was a greatly productive day.

But I still hope that they fix the air conditioning before tomorrow.

Friday, February 8, 2008

She'll Be Coming Around the Mountain

I was thinking of some of the obstacles and challenges that I face. I mean, in this life we all have difficulties. Right?

Well, I got to thinking... (dangerous, I know)

There are definitely mountains that I must climb to overcome issues. But not every problem, every situation demands that. At times, I can be so driven to reach a goal, finish a task or solve a situation... that I start doggedly hiking up the mountain. Sure there are some mountains that require me to grab my climbing gear (faith, hope and perseverance) and do the work of reaching the summit. But there are times, that I should simply go around.

Just like the football receiver running the ball......... I should feint to the left or right, without breaking stride. There are some problems that really have no solution, and in fact are only there to distract me. The problem may never go away......or may persist for a season, but that doesn't mean that I cannot find a way around it. ..Find another means of success.... find an alternate path.

Joseph took Mary and baby Jesus away to another land. He avoided obstacles and traps. But our Lord returned to the land after the season had passed.

So, my new prayer is that the Lord show me those mountains to climb with His strength and give me wisdom to go around those that serve only to slow me down or distract me.

The Righteously Moral Olympics

The Righteously Moral Olympics

I deal with sin in my life far more often than many might think a Christian would. Shocked? Don't be.

I am by the grace of God, quite a changed woman from where I started when I first came to the foot of the cross. But by no means, am I sinless.

The last week has given me an insight into Our Father's love, grace and mercy. It has also given me the opportunity to be His arms of grace and love and mercy. People need love, not condemnation.

Sin is ugly. That cannot be denied. But when a child of God is convicted, repents and resolves to make amends….. We must yield to the Father's blessing.

The title of this entry is a sarcastic nod to the attitudes swirling in many congregations within the Church.

I wonder if some folks knew of some of the debased, sinful things in my past…….. if they would ostracize me? I'm talking of sins that did not offend them. Meaning, they were not affected. Would they help me to walk in the hard won, soul wrenching forgiveness found in Jesus? Would they doubt my sincerity and demand proof? Would they ask for a public confession?

Why would they feel the right to do that?

The bible says that when a brother sins against you, to take it to the person directly:

Matthew 18: 15-16

15 "If your brother sins against you, go and show him his fault, just between the two of you. If he listens to you, you have won your brother over.

16 But if he will not listen, take one or two others along, so that 'every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.

17 If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church; and if he refuses to listen even to the church, treat him as you would a pagan or a tax collector.

However, if the person does not sin against you personally, has repented, received pastoral counseling with guidance towards healing………. Who are we to remain offended? This is NOT a case where Matthew 18 should be applied. Restoration should be the goal.

Again, it isn't the morality Olympics. We are all sinners saved by grace. A young Christian will undoubtedly need more grace, as they strive to heed the Holy Spirit……. And when they feel the bone aching remorse, leading to confession and repentance. What that person needs is edification.

Edification doesn't negate the sin. It does however promote healing and gives strength to persevere the consequences. It gives flesh and blood to forgiveness.

We must be careful to remember that it is the sin that offends. Not the person…not after they have been restored in Christ.

Brothers and sisters, we need to stop shooting our wounded. We need to help them to the Cross, and pray for them.

It isn't about us. It is about their relationship with the Father.

John 8:7

So when they continued asking him, he lifted up himself, and said unto them, He that is without sin among you, let him first cast a stone at her.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

They Don't Jump On The Bed Anymore

While standing outside on the front porch in the dark, I notice the house across the street. Specifically, I notice the flickering shadows in one of the windows.

As I continue to watch, it becomes clear what is happening behind the closed blinds. The little boys that live there are jumping on their bed. I smile to myself. As I watch, my mind recalls years ago when my two sons were both younger than six years old and jumped on their beds.

As a responsible parent, I bade them to stop....... but deep inside, I adored the screeches and giggles their raucous fun elicited.

Now, my sons are sixteen and seventeen years old. They don't jump on their beds anymore. But I still caution them against dangers seen and unseen. I still relish the glint in their eyes as they spread their wings in various ways.

I miss the childish laughter. But I am enjoying the years at hand. They are strong, smart and dashing. And they are still my babies.