Friday, May 27, 2016

Wild Cooking Adventure: Sourdough and Jelly

We just came from the land of the sourdough, both in cooking and in locals.  (Alaska calls their long time homesteaders "Sourdoughs" for those not familiar with the term.)  And sourdough bread remains a popular baked item there.  Many have heard of Dick Proenneke from the television show and I was given some of his sourdough starter from a friend of a friend and kept it alive and well until I had my second child (plus two cats, a puppy and six chickens) and I let it go too long without feeding it and it died!  I'm still kicking myself for that, but I recently learned that you can't transport sourdough starter.  Well, you can, but over time, the local yeasts will overtake it and it will take on the local characteristics.  Sourdough is unique to the area, isn't that interesting?
Wild Yeast Trap Set.  Complete with guard dog!

So I recently began to get a hankering for sourdough again.  I always wondered where the starter came from, I'd only been given jars of starts before.  So the wonder that is Pintrest came to the rescue again and I found that you can capture wild yeast right out of thin air!  Christina Keibler is very knowledgeable has great written and video instructions, but it's basically just flour and water in equal parts.  You leave it in a bowl outside, stirring every few hours to incorporate more air into the mixture.  After about 24 hours you can see the bubbles and "hootch" (clear liquid from yeast) forming and that's it!  She also has a recipe for bread from the starter you can find on this page.  I'm still working on the quirks of Oregon yeast to get a big fluffy loaf, but the flavor is amazing!

Then I got to thinking about jelly and what I have on hand, and I recalled a recipe I have for rose petal jelly.  This rental that we're living at has an abundance of gorgeous rose bushes around it and a good many were just starting to drop their petals.  So my sweet daughter and I plucked them up and followed this recipe by Luckybeans for the jelly.  It turned out a vibrant fuscha red and took a little mending  (it didn't want to set up) but now has a lovely light flavor.  Just a beautiful process as a whole.  So lots more photos of this:

I love that glowing color!  And making good food with what we already have, and getting the little ones involved and learning new skills.  I'm going to chalk this one up as a win! =)  Do you have any fun new food projects planned?  I always love to hear what everyone is up to!  Happy Memorial Day Weekend and I hope in your celebrating you can appreciate those who serve and have served.

Thursday, May 12, 2016

A Story of Love and Loss

WARNING: I'm hijacking my own blog just for today with a very different tone. This is not a diy, adventure, or recipe post and will likely be a bit emotionally charged.  This is real life, my heartbreak and how I got through.

I had a wonderful Mother's Day this year!  After church our whole family went out to the coast and chased waves, collected seashells, played on the dunes, and nibbled saltwater taffy.  But leading up to it, I've really felt the pang of separation from my babies who didn't make it.  Some dear friends of mine have recently shared with me their stories of loss in one form or another, and even in the hardest times, it was those shared stories that I found comfort in, so I've decided to post mine here in the hopes that another person will find that they're not alone and there is hope for joyful days ahead.

About a year after we had moved to Alaska, we decided we were as ready as we were ever going to be to have a baby!  We were so excited, and sure enough, I got pregnant so fast!  Yes, this was going to be a breeze.  We told everyone immediately.  Not that that would have changed anything, but we just had no clue there was even a chance of anything going wrong.  But less than two months in, I started cramping, then bleeding.  I was so scared and rushed to the ER where I met my husband.  They did a bunch of tests, but it was obvious.  Our child was no longer with us. 

Before I get to my reactions, let me just go on to say that not long after this I had my healthy pregnancy with our boy.  But then when we were ready to try again, I had two more miscarriages before our beautiful girl came into our lives.  The doctors refused any treatment of any kind unless I had three miscarriages in a row.  Anything else was considered normal.  Normal!  That still confounds me!  But statistically it's true, one in every 3-4 pregnancies ends in miscarriage!  I just had no idea and had rarely even heard of anyone going through this let alone someone I was close to.

The first was by far the worst just because of the shock.  There was a baby crying down the hall  in the ER and I simply couldn't bear it!  I was ill and my blood pressure sky rocketed.  Unlike many women I have talked to since, there was no physical pain for me.  But my heart was searing like nothing I'd ever experienced.  I had no idea how much I could love someone that I'd really never had a chance to meet.  But he was my baby!  Did it hurt him?  Did I do something wrong?  Was it my fault?  It was agony.

I tried to go to work in the morning, but I simply could not hold myself together.  I had always felt like I was very strong and in control of my emotions.  But not now.  I could feel the sorrow, anger, bitterness growing and I hated feeling that way!  I begged God to make it right.  WHY!?  I questioned everything.  How could He let this happen!?  Is He really good?  I guess those are always the questions when things aren't going well. 

I am ashamed of where my heart was, now looking back.  I was beside myself.  I did the only thing I knew how to do from my more minor trials before this.  I (made myself) read His Word and reminded myself of who Jesus had already shown Himself to be in my own life.  He never gives up.  He turns the bad things of this world into good things.  He uses our brokenness to bring life.  He lost His Son.  He knows suffering.  He loves more than I can comprehend.   He is good. 

My pain didn't (and still hasn't) go away.  It's part of me.  But God never gave up on me through this horrendous storm and saved me through it.  I knew my heart was in jeopardy at that time, and God chose to save me again, like He always does!  And slowly I was able to live again.  Our dear children in life are just that much more miracles, but I do still miss my little ones in heaven and anticipate the day I can hold them in my arms. 

Then I had to explain to all my sweet family and friends who were excitedly asking me about my pregnancy that it was over.  I felt guilty because they were so loving that it caused them pain as well.  Wow, I feel so blessed just to be able to write that.  There were many who didn't know how to respond at all because, like I had been, they never known about anyone who had lost in this way.  I can say that the simple "I'm so sorry" and "Is there anything I can do?" are by far the best if you don't know.  And just to give me time to not be okay.  But then I was shocked and comforted by all of the women who told me they really understood because they had gone through the same thing!  Some much farther along in their pregnancies.

A few more  thoughts that were not necessarily comforting, but certainly made me think outside of the grief bubble I was in.  The first was that God is so much bigger than time or space and knows all.  Perhaps He was saving the child from something horrible?  We just don't know.  The other was shared a little after I had recovered, but it was a reminder that this is a world with sin in it.  I know there are differing opinions, but I just see this world as a place that, since "the fall" where mankind chose to disobey God, continues to fall deeper into sin (death).  And no action is without consequence, whether we recognize the correlation or not.  Like I said, not comforting, but just makes me long for heaven that much more.

So, as you can tell, I went through this feeling like my biggest battle was a spiritual one.  Medically I was basically told, "Bummer for you, but it's normal.  Try again soon."  It felt so heartless to the life of the children I'd lost.  I do believe that taking progesterone early in my pregnancy helped (though I had to fight tooth and nail to get a prescription for it, because I was still normal, right?)  That and make sure my firstborn was weaned.  I know it's not supposed to make a difference, but with "old" moms like me, some research has shown that it can (Mayo Clinic alludes to it, but also an interesting article here.)  Oh!  And if you're Rh negative, make sure you get the rogham injection after a miscarriage or your body could build up activated antibodies that could then go on to attack future pregnancies.  Words of advice from someone who's been there.

Takeaway: You're not alone, but it's not "normal" nor how it was supposed to be.  If you've lost a little one, please don't suffer alone!  You are loved and you can find joy and purpose again! 

A friend of mine who is no stranger to the pain of loss just wrote this beautiful piece about losses of women and I wanted to share it with you.  Please check out Trena's blog, Forever Blessings.  Also, huge list of helpful links, stories, and encouragement on Amateur Nester

(Note: I chose to keep this a photoless post as I have no photos to share of my beloveds in heaven)

Thursday, May 5, 2016

Color Technique: Muslin + Crayons?

Whew!  I realize this post has been almost a year in coming!  I first hinted at this technique almost a year ago when we made a banner for the lemonade stand!  I love how this turned out and have had so many people compliment it. (P.S. It still looks great after wintering outside!)  This technique is one my mother taught us when we were very young and I still have some of the pieces we made.  It takes the lowly crayon to a whole new level!

So without further ado, the muslin crayon technique:

Muslin fabric in desired size
Permanent Markers
Scrap fabric

I like to sketch out my design in pencil first and then go over it with the permanent marker so I know it will turn out how I want it.  You also may choose to place a design from another source under the fabric and trace it on.  Really the permanent marker is optional, but it really helps with definition. 

Color in as desired with the crayons.  After you are completely finished coloring, place a piece of fabric (I use an OLD, thin towel) over the colored side of the art and iron through.  The color may dull or bleed ever so slightly and will likely stain the scrap piece.  And you're done!

Just in the last year we've used this technique for banners (lemonade and craft fair), wall hangings to be framed, and a pillow case!  The possibilities are endless!  I've not yet tried this technique on clothing that would be washed frequently, but if you do would you let me know how it goes?  These have made some fun gifts and the kids love getting involved with it, too!