February 25, 2010

Another Day, Another Project

Despite the really cruddy weather last summer, we had a great time with our garden.  The yields left a LOT to be desired but that was mainly out of my control. 

This year we're trying something new.

2/14 -- Planting Seeds

2/24 -- New Seedlings (Tomatoes & Peppers)

February 24, 2010

The Slippery Slope

I'm sitting at a point I hate.  I've been here before and you'd think I'd learn my lesson.  You'd think I know enough to not make the mistakes that put me here.  

But I don't.  I know what I need to do, I know what I should do, but I'm just not doing it.  It's more fun to take the easy way out and be lazy.

This last 6 months has been tough.  I've had many things to deal with in terms of my health.  That 6 months has taken a toll on my body.

I stopped exercising over the summer when the chiari got so badly.  Our eating habits took a turn for the worst because I didn't feel like cooking.  Surgery came and went -- we had meals delivered to our door, we ordered a lot of pizza, we ate what was convenient.  What other people made.  I was on 6 weeks of very stringent restrictions.

Then the restrictions lifted.  I started to feel better and started cooking again.  I started baking -- fun things to bide our afternoons when it was snowing, loaves upon loaves of wheat bread to find my perfect recipe, sourdough goodies to play with my sourdough starter.

Alas, it all began to catch up with me.  My physical activity didn't match the foods I was enjoying and the scale began to climb.  A pound here, a pound there.  Not enough to make me need to switch my wardrobe but enough to make me feel uncomfortable.  In both my skin and my clothes.

I'm not back to my heaviest weight by a long shot.  I'm not even back to where I was 18 months ago.  I am however closer to that weight than my goal and I want to get back.  I want to feel good in my skin again.

So I have to get back on track.  I've resigned myself to the fact that I'll never be one who can eat whatever I want with no thought to exercising.  It would be nice to be lazy and skinny.

February 23, 2010

Sunshine Surprise!

Holy cow, my husband is awesome!

Friday morning we woke up to clouds and grey skies in Moab.  I knew he had something planned for our anniversary but he completely played it off as though it was no big deal that the weather was postponing it.  As the weekend went on and the clouds lingered his mood began to match the gloom in the skies.  He pouted, he sulked.  I tried to stay upbeat and optimistic about our weekend.  Trying to make the most of our time even if it wasn't ideal.

Yesterday he seemed to be in a better mood as we woke to sun.  Still slightly edgy, but more easy going than the previous days.

On the drive out of town, he handed me a envelope with a card in it.  The front had two penguins (non flying birds for those that didn't get the subtlety that I missed as well) holding hands -- it read "You've always made me feel like I could fly.  Now it's time to give you that feeling..."  As I read the card, slightly confused, he turned off of the highway into Canyonlands Field.

My anniversary surprise was a scenic flight over Canyonlands National Park, through Redtail Aviation!  Although my stomach didn't fare as well as I'd hoped during the 1-hour flight (but I didn't puke, thank you very much) it was a fantastic adventure.  It was so amazing to see Canyonlands from the air.  The snow on the sandstone formations was beautiful -- there was so much to see that I felt like I could barely take it all in.  

Definitely a good surprise on his part and I'm thankful that the skies cleared yesterday when they did.







(KT did fairly well.  No freak outs, but she chose to lay with her head in C's lap for most of the flight.  Periodically she'd peak out the window, make a comment and lay back down.  I think it was all a little intimidating for her.  I give her a ton of credit for doing as well as she did.  And thankfully, they didn't charge us for her.)

February 22, 2010

What is that I See?

As I cracked my eyes open this morning I could sense something was different.  Something was lighter, more cheerful.  A renewal of sorts.

Perhaps a good night's sleep had refreshed my body.  A roll to the left confirmed that indeed was NOT the renewal I was sensing.  Hauling KT in the backpack carrier for a handful of miles the last couple of days had taken a toll on my body -- sore hips, a huge knot between my shoulder blades.  

Maybe I was sensing a clean, inviting hotel room.  A look at piles of dirty, somewhat smelly hiking clothes confirmed that was NOT the renewal I was sensing as well.  KT's socks have taken on a color of grunge from the hotel carpet that I might not ever get out.  That definitely wasn't cheerful either.

Then!  A moment of inspiration!  I jumped out of bed and gingerly made my way to the heavily curtained window.  Yes!  There it was -- the source of the renewal and cheerfulness.


On the morning of our departure the glorious sun has finally made an appearance.  I'm reminded of how beautiful this place is, and how much we enjoy being here.  It's sad that we have to leave today but we're inspired to be back in Moab before another 2 years has passed.

February 21, 2010

Holding Pattern

The clouds still obscure the red rocks and the snow flakes fall beautifully on the town today.  With temps in the 30's and no sun shining through the haze, plans for today had to be chosen carefully.  Someone (i.e. me) forgot to pack snow boots for the tiny tater (really, who would have thought there would be this much snow here) so we have to plan for adventuring in places where the mud is minimal.

Our plans worked out wonderfully and we hiked part of the Slickrock Bike Trail after breakfast.  The snow on the red sandstone made for an amazing backdrop and the cold weather meant very few people to bump into.  KT was been a trooper -- thankfully she loves hiking and doesn't mind the snow -- especially when encouraged by promises of Oreos and the large, flat screen television in the hotel room.

Even with snow and cold, who can argue with getting out to enjoy scenery like this?





February 20, 2010

Sneak Peek

The sun has shone through the clouds for all of about 10 minutes since we pulled into town on Thursday.  Temps are about twenty degrees below normal; the weather continuously changes from rain to snow and back to rain.  Hikes have been postpones; hikes have been attempted in the wet weather.  KT has fallen off the beds in the hotel room numerous times and yet still jumps around like a monkey.

My anniversary consisted of eating breakfast at my favorite diner in Moab, watching big fat snowflakes fall.  The hike C had planned was postponed due to weather.  Instead we drove through Arches National Park, viewing a side of the Park we'd never seen.  The clouds hung low and thick, obscuring the panoramic views and clouding the beautiful red sandstone.  The rain and snow drove us back into town for an afternoon nap and roses waiting at the hotel.  Post-nap we ventured out to drive along Kane Creek and laughed about the first mountain biking attempt we'd tried there many years ago.  Once again the rain and snow drove us back into town.  Dinner consisted of our favorite microbrews, fabulous onion rings, amazing chocolate cake and a once in a lifetime feat that we'll talk about forever (I dropped a butter knife into C's pint glass, busting the bottom out of his beer).

Even though the weather made it nearly impossible to get out and "adventure", it was a great day.  I spent it with the people I love in a place that I love, laughing about memories past and making ones for the future.

Very little has gone to plan and it's been a blast.

February 19, 2010

A Decade Gone By

10 years ago we said our vows in a tiny little church in Franksville, Wisconsin.  Surrounded by our closest family and friends, blanketed by the newly fallen snow of one of the worst storms to hit the Midwest in years.

9 years ago we celebrated our 1st anniversary in our tiny little rental house in Provo.  The cold drafts blew through the windows as though the glass was peppered with shotgun shot holes.  Many nights we lay in bed and the red and blue police lights decorated our bedroom walls as the officers harassed the local bums.

8 years ago we celebrated our 2nd anniversary amidst the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City.  We were both horribly sick with colds and never ventured out to any of the events as we'd hoped.

7 years ago we celebrated our 3nd anniversary with the talk of moving out of our apartment and into a house of our own.  We dreamed of a yard, a garden and perhaps a dog to keep us company.

6 years ago we celebrated our 4th anniversary in our own home.  Our dreams of a yard and a dog had come true.  My visions of a garden were semi-fulfilled with my grad research -- gallon pots of alfalfa grown in the BYU greenhouse.

5 years ago we celebrated our 5th anniversary with visions of a baby swimming in our head and hearts.  The beginning of March we opted for another dog.

4 years ago we celebrated our 6th anniversary with heavy hearts.  We'd experienced the heartache of 2 miscarriages since our last celebration and still longed for a baby.  Little did we know that our dreams were coming true at that very moment.

3 years ago we celebrated our 7th anniversary with the blood shot eyes of new parents.  We ventured out for dinner as a family; surrounded by our love for each other and the new life we'd created.

2 years ago we celebrated our 8th anniversary amidst a pile a dirty laundry, hiking gear and crabbiness.  We had just attempted our first trip to Moab with a toddler; it hadn't gone as well as hoped.

1 year ago we celebrated our 9th anniversary, barely.  The months before that had been some of the hardest we'd endured.  We felt as though we were just going through the motions of being married, feeling more like 2 adults living within the same house, but not really interacting other than to argue.

Today we celebrate our 10th anniversary with a new sense of commitment to one another.  We've faced even more in the last year -- fixing our marriage, me being laid off, my depression, and chiari.  Holy hell, the chiari.  I had brain surgery.  And because of the hard work we'd put into our marriage mere months before that, he held my hand through the scariest moments of my life.  

It's been a long journey this last 10 years.  Some of the moments have left a little to be desired, some have completely left us dumbstruck but I wouldn't change it.  It ain't always beautiful, but it's been a beautiful ride.

Happy Anniversary, my love.  Here's to another fantastic decade and more beautiful moments!

February 18, 2010

Road Trippin'

Moab, Utah is a place near and dear to our hearts.  We moved to Utah shortly after we got married and spent our first 6 wedding anniversaries there (or at least we celebrated there President's Day weekend).  We skipped '07 since KT was months old and opted in '08 to try our hand at combining one of our favorite places with our new favorite little person.  When the wee sprout was just barely a year old, we loaded up the 4Runner and headed off to Moab for a weekend of adventure.  

The weekend was tough.  One of the toughest weekends I've encountered as a parent.  It was an adventure in itself but one that I didn't want to share the details about.  I struggled with visiting a place that we'd always know sans child (carefree with no time line nor worries) and trying to integrate a toddler into that atmosphere.  Plus, truthfully, she was at an age were integrating into anything wasn't easy.  There were tantrums, tears and wishes of being home.  That was just from me; I think KT handled it somewhat more gracefully than her mother.

We skipped '09 because of the (mis)adventures of '08.  I dreaded making another trip and the same mistakes.  But now 2 years has passed and we're attempting it again.  She's at a better age -- no longer needing naps, good to fall asleep in a strange bed, potty trained, excited about eating at restaurants and big enough to WANT to hike and explore.  As for me I think I'm at a better age too -- free of headaches, not stressed with work and less anxious due to the miraculous little pill called cymb@lta.

It's our 10th anniversary tomorrow.  I want to be there this year; I want to try it again.  Worse case scenario I drink a lot of wine and take a lot of pictures of the temper tantrums.

February 17, 2010

Semi-Successful Sourdough

One of the most important things I learned in this attempt is that I need to have more patience.  I need to give myself WAY more time than I think I'm going to need to make a batch of sourdough goodness.

I started this project on Monday evening with the hopes that we'd have hamburger buns for dinner on Tuesday.  We had hamburgers for dinner tonight, not last night as I'd hoped.  It wasn't a big deal at all.  I just need to make stuff well ahead of when I think I'm going to want it done.

The recipe was simple (I am posting what I did, not what the specific instructions were):
  • 2 cups sourdough starter, proofed and active
  • 3 tablespoons butter (I used unsalted)
  • 1/2 cup milk, lukewarm
  • 1 eggs, beaten
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons sugar
  • 3-5 cups all purpose flour (I used bread flour since it was all I had)
  1. Stir together everything except the flour.
  2. Work flour in gradually until it comes together and can be turned out and kneaded (in my case this was just shy of 3 cups).
  3. Knead until dough is shiny and satiny.
  4. Put in lightly oiled container and refrigerate overnight.
  1. Allow to come to room temperature and let rise until doubled in size.
  2. Punch dough down and let it rest 15-20 minutes.
  3. Turn out onto a lightly floured surface and divide dough into equal portions (I did 10, next time I'll go with only 6-8).
  4. Shape into rough circles, smooth the top by pulling the dough down under the ball then flatten to about 1/2 to 3/4" high.
  5. Place on parchment paper or greased cookie sheet, cover and let rise to desired size.
  6. Bake at 375 until golden brown, 15-18 minutes.
  7. Immediately place on cooling racks to cool.
It took until almost 3pm on Tuesday to get the dough to double in size.  I shaped the buns and let them go until a little after 6pm.  I was nervous that they weren't rising well at all and was afraid that I'd messed them up.  So in the name of experimentation I put one pan into a steamed oven and let them bake about 16 minutes.  I got a decent amount of oven spring, but they still weren't the size I wanted.  The taste was gooooooooood though.  Nice crusty exterior with a slightly sourdough inside.  They were a little dense still.

So I let the other pan sit on the counter for another 4 hours.  About 10 o'clock last night I popped them into a 400 degree oven and let them baked for 15 minutes.  (I always preheat my oven 25 degrees hotter and then drop in when I put the stuff in -- to compensate for the drop in temp when I open the door.  Last night I forgot to turn the heat down so they baked a little hotter than I'd intended.)  The extra 4 hours proofing gave them the extra height I was looking for and a beautiful crumb.


I give it a 7 out of 10.  Next time I'll shape the buns a little bigger, give them more time to rise and make sure to bake them at 375 instead of 400.  Definitely not bad for my first try.

February 16, 2010

Let the Baking Commence!


My sourdough starter is 14 days old and appropriately (hopefully!) active.  It's doubling with every feeding and some days wants to be fed twice a day.  So last night I pulled some out and mixed up a batch of hamburger bun dough.  It spent a nice, lazy night in the fridge to help develop flavor and is fermenting/proofing away on the counter as I type.  

My hope is to have buns for dinner tonight but I'm thinking that might be ambitious.  Worse case scenario we have something else tonight and enjoy them tomorrow.

Here's hoping for a successful sourdough attempt!

February 3, 2010

Recent Ventures

I cannot leave well enough alone.  Even though I have too many unfinished projects to count laying around my house, I continue to take on new things.

Many, many moons ago (aka pre-job, pre-child, when I was still a student moons ago) we went a couple of years without buying any store bought bread.  Every 10 days or so I'd make a double batch of whole wheat bread that resembled dark, dense bricks of carbohydrate laden goodness.  It was a recipe from a friend that was heavy on the whole wheat flour and didn't rise well and become airy.  Oh, it was tasty though.  As life got busier it fell to the wayside and became a distant memory.  The smell of fresh baked bread -- which is one of my favorite smells and reminds me of being a small child on the farm -- no longer wafted from the kitchen on a regular basis.

Recently I decided to get back into baking bread again.  This time I wanted to get more creative; I wanted to journey into recipes for artisan breads, rolls, etc.  More importantly I wanted to find a whole wheat bread recipe that I liked.  One that wasn't so dense, but was more airy, moist and had a finer crumb.  

The challenge with baking is our altitude is just shy of 4800ft above sea level.  Baking is a completely different experience than what I was used to growing up.  Yeast behaves differently, the boiling point of water is different.  Recipes need to be tweaked, oven temperatures fiddled with, proofing times adjusted.  Before I never paid any attention and just got pissed when things didn't turn out the way I'd hoped.  

I became a woman on a mission.  I armed myself with different kinds of flours, new yeast, an oven thermometer and even a cookbook on baking at higher altitudes.  I was set.

A few weeks ago the first project began -- to craft a good loaf of wheat bread.  My goal was to find a recipe that worked, even if that meant making adjustments for numerous batches.  After I found something that worked I'd commit myself to making all of our bread again.  This is a much loftier goal now that a small person in our house has significantly upped our bread intake.  It's been about 6 batches and I'm almost there.  I need to cut the sweetener (honey in this case) back just a little more.  The resulting loaves aren't fabulously high risers but they're tender, flavorful and make damned good toast in the morning.

Monday of this week I had another hair-brained idea.


It's a gooey, bubbly, smelly mess of fermenting flour and water right now.  And I'm fascinated with it.  Let's see how this venture pans out...

February 2, 2010

A New Look


I figured that with my new look (shorter, darker, some days curly hair) and my new out"look" on life it was only fitting to completely revamp this blog. 

I spruced up the background to something new and snazzy; I updated the blogs I follow; I dumped a bunch of kitschy stuff. 

More importantly though, I reworked the title, the blog description and my profile.  The Plant Girl writing today is different than the one who wrote a year ago.  My hope is that I'm better.  A new improved version of me who is no longer waiting for the next thing to happen but living in the moment.

So as a friend would say, " come in--sit, smoke, drink".  Take a look around and get a better feel for where the last 8 months has taken me.  My hope is that you'll like the new and improved versions of it all.