Wednesday, March 30, 2011

We've had enough Sap for one year

We had another exciting week of sap making (about 1.5 weeks ago now).  Jacob's buckets were overflowing.  Also in this process, I discovered my numbers last time I wrote about this were slightly off.  We had 70 gallons total before reduction last time.  This time he has about 160.  At one point once again the weather turned nasty and this time, Jacob's makeshift sugarshack did take a beating that brought it down but he fixed it. Another frustration was that he let one pot go too long and it burned out.  This is quite messy.  Hard, dried sugar all over the pot and stove.  In this case, the pot and stove are worse for the wear.  The process took longer than expected, we were done Sunday afternoon but had originally planned to be done Saturday afternoon.  But all in all, everything turned out great.  Still, Jacob had had enough syrup reduction for the year so he pulled all his taps.  Total we have over 6 gallons of syrup.  We can't use this much in a year… or two so we are selling it if you are interested in some all natural, home brewed syrup.  It is a very dark syrup and although probably a littler thinner than commercial syrups, it tastes great.

At this point Jacob is running the syrup through cheese cloth to filter any particles out.

Oh yeah, we made cookies last week too.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Comfort Food… kind of

Well I don't know if I can classify banana bread as food… lets be serious, it is more like an indulgence.  On Sunday I had been craving some sort of comfort food all but I couldn't put my finger on it.  It wasn't pizza or wings or potato skins like I sometimes crave.  Then I opened up my fridge (for the 20th time) and the brown bananas finally hit me.  One of them had literally been in there for weeks and another brown banana and 2 halves had added up over time. I had intended on using these for bread for over a week but had not gotten around to it and wasn't too worried because banana bread is better after all when the bananas are mushy.  But then I knew they had been waiting for this day. 

Here is the my family's Banana Nut Bread Recipe. When my mom makes it, it is prefect.  
Banana Nut Bread
1 cup sugar
2 tbsp soft shortening
1 egg 
3/4 cup of milk
1 cup mashed bananas 
3 cups sifted flour
3 1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp. salt 
1/4 cup chopped nuts

Mix sugar, shortening and egg. Stir in milk and bananas . Add flour baking power and salt. Stir in nuts. Pour into well creased 9X5 loaf pan. Let stand 20 binutes before baking. Bake until toothpick stuck in center comes out clean, about 70 minutes at 350 degrees.

Well I was only wanting to indulge somewhat so as I often do, I modified a little. I only used 1/2 a cup of sugar, I used half whole wheat flour and there was probably more than a cup of bananas, but more of those is never bad.  The bread was a little more dense than when my mom makes this. I think this was because of the whole wheat.   When I make it again with whole wheat I will add even more bananas if I have them and/or maybe some applesauce.  The bread was good this dense for toasting purposes, it stayed together for the most part.

The loaf on the left is a Whole Wheat Maple bread that Jacob made the same day.  It was very good!

Tuesday, March 15, 2011


Agreed, budget cuts suck.  It it awful to see hours cut back and programs defunded but working with a realistic budget is necessary and the job of government officials.  It is good to hear someone/source recognizing, calling them on the carpet and holding them accountable.

I was devastated when I read this article that our good friend, a post 9/11 vet who is currently going to Colombia on the GI Bill, had on his facebook page.  I am all for balancing our budget but taking away a promise that was made to our troops is the wrong way to do it.  Especially including those currently enrolled.  Check out what they are doing about it, yup our friend is one of these guys. They are pretty awesome aren't they?!

Nothing on Japan, lame right? Well what can you say other than it is awful.  What I can say is that not only have I not heard any reports of looting, stealing, rioting, etc, I have heard the contrary. That people are doing whatever they can to help each other, businesses selling goods only at cost, neighbors helping neighbors and trying to conserve energy to help alleviate the energy burden.  What in inspiration in the wake of disaster.  There are many worthy causes to donate to but scams abound when disaster strikes so just make sure you are donating to a valid charity.  These sites can help you verify and even find one you like! http://www.charitynavigator.org/  http://www.bbb.org/us/charity/

Monday, March 14, 2011

Sap Success and Auction Fail

We ventured to Ikea last week. I never lived by an Ikea until we moved to Germany. I had been to one once before my freshman year of college to pick up some basic things but that was it before Germany.  Because we lived close to one in Germany and we needed a lot of 220 lamps and other things to accommodate our home there, we went to Ikea fairly regularly.  I did not realize how strongly I associated Ikea with Germany until I went there last week. First of all, this one seemed a lot smaller and the restaurant was not nearly as nice.  But what I noticed most was that I kept anticipating to hear and read German.  And it almost surprised me every time I heard English.  I guess Ikea will always be German (yes, I know it is Swedish) or European to me and the one in Pittsburgh is not nearly as nice as my "home" Ikea in Wallau.

It has been a busy and exciting week.  Other than our trip to Ikea, we went up to Jacob's parents last week so Jacob could start cooking the Maple sap he has been collecting to make syrup.  He has taps in trees at his parents and at a friends' up the road.  By the time we got up there the taps had been in about 2  weeks and he estimated he had 40 gallons of sap.  There is a reason pure maple syrup costs so much.  You can only tap trees for a few months ( maybe less) of the year and from that 40 gallons of sap, we got about 2 gallons of syrup total.  You can't just do this on your stove for this amount there is so much moisture when boiling it down, it would eventually ruin your drywall. So, Jacob hooked up a stove out side and collected some very large pots and started boiling.

The weather was crappy.  It was raining and very windy.  He started this process on Tuesday night.  He went outside and checked the sap and refilled the pots every few hours.  By Wednesday morning the weather was not getting better so he decided to build a shack around the stove .  I wish I had pictures of this. It was actually quite impressive. He put it together quickly, it withstood the awful wind and yet made it so he could take it down easily and put it back up again. He said he noticed an improvement of the rate of reduction immediately. He continued to monitor and refill pots every couple hours until Thursday morning when it was all reduced perfectly to syrup.

Yup, that's it.  It is pretty good. We are going to do this process again. I'm interested to see how much more we get. 

Oh, pictures of Aurora. Who wants my blog without those. Well I didn't get any pictures of her helping with this but while we were home we did go to the Farm Auction.  This was one of those things I had high expectations for but it turned out to be a fail.  We called to find out the time and were told the animals start at noon but they do random stuff before that around 11am. That is just my kind of thing plus we thought you could walk around and see the animals before hand so we got there about 11am.  Well, area to see the animals was much smaller than 12 years ago, the last time Jacob went. And it was actually a long platform above the animals.  This is the best picture we could get. 
You can kind of see the stalls below, but no animals. I was planning on taking more pictures but someone told us they didn't allow it…. they were worried about PETA.  All that was in this section were cows and a lot of them. Although I had wanted there to be more for Aurora to see, she was pretty thrilled with this.  She loved just watching them.  She and the cows were talking, they were quite vocal.  We went in to sit down about 11:20 thinking something had to start soon.  After trying to get Aurora to be sit for 1.5 hours, finally at 1pm the auction started. We had almost left but held out.  I was still excited for her.  The stuff before the animals turned out to be all farm stuff or crap, but I have heard sometimes they have cool stuff.  Then came the animals, I was still excited for her. Then, it didn't start as we had excepted. Jacob recalled that they started with the small animals first and moved to the big ones.  We knew Aurora would like chickens and baby goats.  Well they started with the horses.  Aurora liked that and there were not too many of them.  Then they moved to the cows… and there were so many of them.  And we knew it because we saw so many.  The auction process went fast but not fast enough for a girl who was past her nap time, made to sit for over 2 hours now and now sick of cows.  She was say "bye cow" or "go cow" every time another one came in.  We were exhausted too.  So unfortunately, we left not seeing as much as we had thought we would.  But we learned a few things about the auction and will try again.  We did get a bonus on the way out. Aurora and I were waiting by the workers entrance for Jacob to get the car, remember it awful weather and raining, and we were looking at a horse when one of the workers said "Come here mom, I have something more her size" and he led us into a baby goat stall.  Just opened the door right up and let us in. Aurora was nervous to touch them at first but she warmed up and gave them a pet.  She was giggling and thrilled. When I turned around Mr. Helpful was gone.  

I promise I'll include more Aurora pictures in the next post. 

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Naan, Clothes and Spitting…

Naan Making

We came to love Naan living in Germany and having it easily available and cheap at the turkish groceries and restaurants.  It is neither cheap or easily available here. Jacob decided to make it the other night.  He picked this recipe which we found at allrecipes which I love and it turned out great.  It is a bit time consuming but he does not seem to mind. He has made it both times thus far… I don't do the charcoal grill (which is all we have). Some reviews say it can be made with George Foreman or in a skillet… I might attempt this. 


  • 1 (.25 ounce) package active dry yeast
  • 1 cup warm water
  • 1/4 cup white sugar
  • 3 tablespoons milk
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 4 1/2 cups bread flour
  • 2 teaspoons minced garlic (optional)
  • 1/4 cup butter, melted


  1. In a large bowl, dissolve yeast in warm water. Let stand about 10 minutes, until frothy. Stir in sugar, milk, egg, salt, and enough flour to make a soft dough. Knead for 6 to 8 minutes on a lightly floured surface, or until smooth. Place dough in a well oiled bowl, cover with a damp cloth, and set aside to rise. Let it rise 1 hour, until the dough has doubled in volume.
  2. Punch down dough, and knead in garlic. Pinch off small handfuls of dough about the size of a golf ball. Roll into balls, and place on a tray. Cover with a towel, and allow to rise until doubled in size, about 30 minutes.
  3. During the second rising, preheat grill to high heat.
  4. At grill side, roll one ball of dough out into a thin circle. Lightly oil grill. Place dough on grill, and cook for 2 to 3 minutes, or until puffy and lightly browned. Brush uncooked side with butter, and turn over. Brush cooked side with butter, and cook until browned, another 2 to 4 minutes. Remove from grill, and continue the process until all the naan has been prepared.

Aurora loves clothes so much she wants to wear as much as possible when she sees it.  Here she has her undershirt on with 2 bathing suits on top but before she was done she added 2 pairs of leggings and a sweater.  

Along with developing her potty skills, Aurora has also been working on her brushing her teeth on her won skills.  Before we just brushed them at night for her in her bedroom as part of the bedtime routine.  A few months ago she became interested in brushing them in the morning with us and just this week we started brushing them at night in the bathroom.  She does it first then we find the spots she missed.  She is pretty good at sucking toothpaste and drinking water but still working on the brushing and spitting out water.  The spitting out water is really the most amusing part. She wants to spit like we do but she swallows the toothpaste and the extra water we let her drink. The extra water is pretty funny because she makes a concentrated effort to spit but can't stop herself from swallowing. In any case she follows it up with leaning far over the sink and trying to find some left over saliva to spit.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

Potty Chronicles

Yes, for some reason it does seem okay to write about Aurora's potty habits.  Slightly weird, yes, but okay. Anyway, we started letting her run around without her diaper more because she was getting some bumps on her behind.  I am not sure if it was this that prompted the more frequent potty use but now she is telling us when she has to go.  At first I was constantly asking her when she did not have her diapers on, but now in the morning when she has her diaper on she will tell us when she has to go number 2.  Once she goes on the pot once, we will let her keep her diaper off.  Luckily we have not had any number 2 accidents since the last update but we did have a couple pee accidents today.  Even this is rare.  We are pretty excited.  The other morning after she told me she had to go number 2 while she had her diaper on I told her she could have a treat. She chose leftover french toast from breakfast.  

Watching the snow melt and looking for squirrels. 

Thursday, March 3, 2011

End of Feb Recap

Well it has been a while and a lot of fun things have happened…. or at least since I last uploaded pictures.  I'm not sure if it is because it was so long ago or because I have pushed it out of my memory but apparently it snow again since I last posted pictures. I may have hated it but as usual Aurora loved it. I do remember that part of it.

Trying to skate. 

Tigger, the neighborhood dog.  

Some great college friends came over last Thursday.  Carla brought her adorable son, Mason. Aurora enjoyed how agreeable Mason was.  This may have had a lot to do with the fact that Mason is too young to object to Aurora trading toys or taking him for stroller rides.
Mason was about to fall asleep until Aurora tried to run over the bee. 

Mason: She is crazy!

She is independent.  Even when it comes to fashion.  We were getting dressed one morning and after I had her dress and leggings on she ran into her closet to get some shoes.  She came out with her panda shoes. I tried to explain they did not match her outfit, mainly because she had brown leggings on and the shoes are black and white but also, I thought the style did not match. Aurora's response: "It's beautiful, mom!" So I did not argue. 

It is late, I guess I will have to get to the potty stories later. 

Frustrating Awesome Day

I took Aurora to play group this morning (I originally started writing this last Thursday). Meeting for this play group through the Catholic mom's group forces me to drive new places, generally on the other side of the city from me.  Although I am not a fan, I know it is good for me and it is much less stressful with T (our TomTom). Also, I get some socializing time in between chasing her around making sure she is not abusing other kids.   For a long time now we have been working on not allowing her to take toys from other kids.  She always gets corrected, told that she cannot take something when someone else is already playing with it, she gives it back and says sorry.  This is really starting to get old, I'm ready for her to be a perfectly polite child.  I know someday she will wait her turn and share without being asked, some day all the correcting will pay off just like the endless counting to 10 did.
Also, I was still shaking in anger when I got home.  I was driving down 65 when all of a sudden a fast food paper bag comes flying out of the car in front of me.  This did not seem accidental at all. Litter is one of my super pet peeves.  Honestly, I can't believe people still do this.  The person is driving kind of slow for me anyway (and in the left lane) so I pull up next to the car and the window is still down and the girl sitting there is clearly rooting around the car looking for more trash.  I say "the highway is not your trash can" and I don't speed up or slow down I just kind of wait but she does not say anything she just kind of sits there.  I don't speed off or anything but like I said, they were driving kind of slow so I start going my normal speed and get ahead of them.  Shortly I slow down to take my turn and don't you know as they pass me the girl is yelling and swearing at me.  Seriously, not only is littering one of my pet peeves, selfish and inconsiderate, but it is illegal and this girl is going to swear at me!
Well I started this post so long ago I don't quite remember what made it awesome but I have a feeling it had something to do with Aurora's bowl movements or the weather. I think it may have been the start of Aurora telling us when she had to go potty. More on that next….