moments from the week

Lijah running across the dusty softball field at sunset

sunset at the softball field

A few moments from the past week.

Lijah riding a green mini-golf brontosaurus

Rt 1 Mini-Golf not yet extinct!

Zion, Mama, and Lijah sitting beside the Concord River

down by the riverside

Harvey picking blueberries at the farm

much bigger than Little Sal

Samuel toasting a marshmallow on an 8-foot stick

the safe way to toast marshmallows

Zion leaning out of the window to catch raindrops on his tongue, at sunset after a thunderstorm

catching raindrops

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a stroke of heat

It's been really hot here the last couple days: hot enough to take over our lives—our entire theory of existence. But we put the air conditioner up in the bedroom (to make napping possible) and I figured out how to open most of the stuck windows, so I think we're going to pull through. I got to the windows this morning when I went downstairs to discover it was maybe ten degrees warmer inside the house than outside—too much to fix with the doors open before the sun got up and the outdoor temperature raced back up again. So the house was warmish today, and we didn't know what we were going to do with ourselves all day; until the boys solved our dilemma by coming down with a debilitating fever. Then they were happy to lie on the couch with the fan on them and alternate between sleeping and watching movies!

Two of them, anyways; Lijah has escaped so far, so he spent his time at home jumping on his brothers, messing with the iPad, and putting the vomit bucket on his head as a helmet. To defend them he got to go on errands with Mama and Dada, and enjoy AC and samples at stores as diverse as Whole Foods and Costco (no points for guessing which outing goes with which parent). Here's a picture of Zion sleeping on the floor this morning; he dropped there on the way to the breakfast table for pancakes, and if Lijah hadn't sat on him he probably would have been there all day. As it was he transitioned to the couch where he stayed all day—until maybe 7:00 when he got up to have a pancake at long last.

Zion asleep on the kitchen floor

needs his rest

By that time the heat had broken (after a terrific windstorm with only a little rain). Yesterday it never broke at all: terrible hot well after dark. And we were all healthy, though less raring to go than we would have been in more temperate conditions. Though in retrospect, maybe the early warning signs were there. We certainly took very well to the news that it was, apparently, National Hammock Day.

Harvey in the hammock reading an Asterix book

celebrating in style

Just the thing when the heat index is over 100°.

I have no problem with it being hot in the summer. It's to be expected. And I think with the AC and the windows (and the hammock!) we're all set for a couple more days of this craziness—all set, that is, as long as the other three of us don't get sick!

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adequate bread

I'm maybe starting to figure out this sourdough bread business. At least, I've settled on a process that accomplishes three key goals: it keeps the starter alive, doesn't take too much time or effort, and turns out acceptable bread.

a round loaf of sourdough bread

something like that

For me, one key is not keeping the starter in the refrigerator. When I did that I could never manage the long-term scheduling required to get it out, let it warm up, feed it, and then make the bread—with all the steps that requires. It's a two-day process, minimum, and at my current stage in life that is very much beyond me. So my starter lives on the counter, where I feed it every morning with a quarter cup of water and half a cup of all purpose flour (which we buy in bulk).

When I want to make bread, I start the night before by scooping a cup of starter into a separate container and feeding it (as above) before I go to bed. Then in the morning I put all that starter into the stand mixer bowl together with 3/4 cup of water, a half tablespoon of kosher salt, and about two-and-a-half cups of bread flour. I let it mix all up with the dough hook for 20 minutes or so while I do other things (trying to remember to check to make sure it's not too wet, in which case I want to add more flour). If it's dry I knead the dough for a couple minutes by hand—if it's wet enough the machine does fine—and then I form it into a ball and leave it in a glass bowl, covered with a wet cloth.

There it stays until it's doubled in size or I get back from the day's outing or I get bored of looking at the bowl. I "punch it down" and let it rest for ten minutes, then I shape it amateurishly into a ball or, less frequently, a baguette, and leave it to proof on a heavy aluminum baking sheet greased with butter. Usually it can proof uncovered, in this summer weather at least—but if the day seems particularly dry I'll cover it with a wet cloth for at least the beginning of the proofing.

When it seems to be pretty well risen I preheat the over to 500 degrees, with a beat-up old metal 9x13 pan on the bottom rack. After 15 or 20 minutes of preheating I slash the loaf (as seen above), pour a couple cups of boiling water into the hot pan for steam, and bake for 25 minutes to half an hour. When the bread smells like bread and sounds hollow when I tap on the bottom, it's done.

Clearly, this is not the most precise of methods, and I have no doubt it's far from making the perfect loaf. But I don't care about perfect—when I worry about perfect I get paralyzed and don't make anything. Acceptable is better than nothing! There are two more pertinent problems. First, having the over on for close to an hour isn't really ideal in the summer. At least it tends to be in the evening, when it's cooler outside than in the house anyways—with windows open and fans on we don't notice the oven's heat so much.

Second, not refrigerating the starter means I have to make bread an awful lot; sometimes more often than we can manage to eat it. So I'm trying to give it away. Let me know if you'd like to try a loaf, or take some starter so you can try your hand at it yourself! If I can figure out how to make adequate bread in my spare time, I'm sure you can do even better.

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moments from the week

Zion, in his clothes, standing with his back to the sprinkler stream getting soaked

cool down time

Moments and images from the past week.

Zion pushing Megan on the pedal tractor

that's what friends do

Harvey, Zion, Lijah, and Julen eating pancakes on the back porch

unexpected visits mean extra pancakes

Zion, Lijah, and Julen running in the sprinkler park

sprinkler park morning

Zion eating raspberries at the pond

beach treat

Lijah in a Batman cape and mask

another superhero birthday party!

two glasses of home-made raspberry soda on the porch railing

raspberry soda

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big kid outings

the three boys hiking way ahead of me, walking into a clearing

look at them go

A couple days ago I took the boys out for a hike around the Old Reservoir. We walked over a mile, and Lijah was on foot almost the whole time. I was pretty confident he would be, so I didn't even bring anything to carry him; correctly so, because even when he was getting tired he couldn't stand to see his brothers walking for long without wanting to join them. He just needs to be a little quicker—as well as his legs, his voice gets a workout as he shouts after them to wait up. Sometimes they even do! Of course, every strenuous hike needs to include a snack break!

the boys sitting on a bench eating their hiking snack

just desserts

The only bad part of the outing was that Zion lost the water bottle he was carrying in the side of his backpack; it rattled right out as he ran along the trail, and we didn't notice at the time. We tried to retrace our steps to find it—and the boys were all very patient with the change in plans—but without any luck. Too bad... it was one of our best ones!

the Old Reservoir in Bedford

somewhere around there is a red water bottle...

Today it was too hot to do any hiking, or really anything at all, except go to a pond that we'd want to jump into. Other people had the same idea, so we were able to meet up not only with friends but with Grandma too! It was a great time, and all three boys—and their friends too—put in some quality swimming practice. Lijah was particularly impressive in how comfortable he is with the water: he just lay there chillin, with his hands on the bottom and the rest of him floating comfortably... He'll figure out how to swim before his big brothers if they don't hurry up!

Mama watching Lijah as he comes pretty close to really swimming

like a fish to water

Leah got to do some swimming too, all the way across that big pond. Based on past performance she was a little nervous about leaving Lijah for long, with nap time approaching, but he continues to surprise: he played happily with the big kids the whole time, and didn't mind a bit about her being gone. And I was delighted to sit in the tent out of the blazing sun and watch him.

the boys and friends playing by the water, seen from some distance through the opening of the tent

everybody's happy

This time the well-earned dessert at the end of the outing was ice cream from Bedford Farms, but I was too sticky to try and take a picture. It turns out ice cream is pretty melty in this hot weather! Harvey and Zion each almost finished a kiddie cone, which is really something—Zion actually ate more of his. Lijah isn't quite there yet, and he was still happy to share with me... but the way he's going I guess pretty soon he'll be ready for his own cone too!

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