Thursday, December 24, 2009

Finnish Pulla

I love baking bread. Activating the yeast, preparing the warm dough, and kneading it until it's just the right sort of springy, firm consistency... it's an act that grounds me in food-making as I engage muscles and grit to put it together. I don't think there's any cooking I do that I enjoy so much.

Two days ago, I baked some Finnish Pulla for the first time since I was pregnant. This is my favorite bread recipe - it brings my grandma into my kitchen with me every time I make it, and it's always a crowd pleaser. When I got a text message on Tuesday announcing the homebirth of my Finnish friend's baby (and the boys' nanny for over a year), I immediately opened to my hand-written recipe and started in on the dough. It took about 12 hours for me to finish the whole process - the reality of making it with two toddlers under foot was pretty much as chaotic as I expected, but with three of my friends giving birth to babies in the past month, and two of them Finnish, I was determined to get it done. Sadly, one of these friends is in China right now, but the other two families got fresh sweet cardamom bread yesterday. It was a joy to put it into their hands! Here's the recipe:

Cardamom Bread - Finnish Pulla

1 package dry active yeast
1/4 cup warm water
1 cup scalded milk
1/2 cup sugar
2 beaten eggs
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cardamom
1/4 teaspoon mace or nutmeg
2 teaspoons salt
1/2 cup soft butter
5 1/2 - 6 cups of flour (use white, spelt, or a combination of whole wheat and white)

Soften yeast in water with a teaspoon of sugar.

Combine milk, salt, sugar, and butter in a large mixing bowl. Cool to lukewarm and stir in 2c flour. Add eggs and beat well. Stir in yeast, mace, cardamom, and remaining flour until dough forms. Turn onto a floured surface and knead for 8-10 minutes, until a springy, firm dough forms. It will still be slightly sticky - this will lessen as the dough rises.

Clean out and oil bowl, then set dough in bowl. Oil or butter the top of the dough if desired, and cover with a damp towel. Allow dough to double in size, then punch down. Divide dough into two balls, cover and rest for 10 minutes. Divide one ball into thirds, and roll each into a strand about 12-15" long. Pinch top ends together and braid, pinching bottom ends and folding under loaf. Allow to rise to double size, then bake 20-25 minutes at 350 degrees, until top is golden brown. Brush butter on hot bread and allow to cool before slicing.

Perfect with hot coffee or toasted with butter and jam.

Some people like to frost this bread with a confectioner's sugar glaze, while others brush on an egg wash before baking. I prefer it without these, myself.

My next bread is going to be challah, I think. I would really love to be baking bread weekly, but we'll see how that goes. Do you have a favorite bread recipe you'd like to share?

Enjoy, and Happy Holidasys!

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

a month in photos

Well, here I am, so many weeks since a post, and all I'm going to do is show you some photos. How lame! But really, it's been so incredibly busy, I just haven't had any time. Within a couple of weeks, I hope to have a new childcare situation for the boys a few days a week, and maybe that will give me time during the day to get so much done that at night I can go back to writing our little story.

It's amazing to me that December isn't over and yet so much has happened in these three weeks of the month! I now have two walking boys on my hands, and I couldn't be happier about it. I love to see them picking up strength and speed on their little legs. We've got more words, more signing, more tantrums, more picky eating... in short, all the things you'd expect from two vibrant, healthy toddlers. I love these guys so much, and I am so lucky to have them. So here you go - a link to my December photo set - just click the photo. Enjoy!!

Sunday, December 6, 2009

the bright side of these brothers

Hey, so I'm really ok... I just have to blow off a little steam every now and then! Yes, the sleep thing does really get to me, but if you know me in person, you know that I have a tendency to stress out a little too easily, so no worries.

As the boys get older, it's so awesome to see these little glimmers emerging of their relationship as brothers. They play peek-a-boo several times a day, and belly button tickling is an endless source of brother giggles. They chase each other down the hall, play imitation games at meals, and make each other laugh with their antics.

see this? it's my BELLY!

Belly? That's cool, but wait... PEEK-A-BOOOOOOO!!!

Equally present and increasingly problematic is the inevitable sibling rivalry... or maybe it's not rivalry yet, but it's more the fact that they're not problem solvers in time yet. When one sees something the other one is playing with, he becomes fascinated and wants to take it immediately, despite the fact that the same toy might be sitting beside him. It's a source of a lot of crying, hair pulling, pushing and biting. I'm dealing with it in stride, I think... our worst biting problem is not from these situations of frustration but either tiredness or affection. Shoghi's expression in the form of locking his jaws on people has been going on for 6 months now, and I really haven't yet found a working strategy for handling it.

So, anyway, in and around the things that challenge me, there are the bright, lovely times that remind me that pulling out all my reserves (every day!) is worth it, and that I am on the path I love, even when it's hard. I am so lucky to be a mama, and even more so to get to be mama to these two amazing boys. I love them so much!

all belly buttons, all the time

Saturday, December 5, 2009

not so fast

i finally gave in and let m have a second nap at 3:30 after his 20-minute nap from 11:30-11:50.

Well, I don't know about this one nap thing. The boys are clearly not ready for it. I'd show you the pictures and video I took during our extremely LONG and WHINY day yesterday, but the tears and snot would probably gross you out, and the whining in the video might just split your eardrums. I'd probably lose my entire readership in one post.

too tired to even eat lunch at 11am, we resorted to bottles with some rice cereal added to fill up hungry, sleepy tummies.

So, yeah. Today we're back to two naps. The little guys were so exhausted from the change, which was expressed by Max in his verbal/emotional way (i.e. lots of crying and whining) and by Shoghi in his physical/kinetic way (i.e. lots of biting). I guess for now I'm just going to have to find a peaceful place in my heart about not having any time by myself during the day. I think it must be in there, but it's very, very small. I need time alone - I needed it before having children, and even more so now that I'm using every neural connection to try to succeed at finding my way in this phase of my life. In short order, I'm going to have to get brave and accept some of the childcare help that's been offered... if you and I are friends on facebook, you no doubt know what I mean, since most of my chatter about this subject gets directed there.

What that means is that Bamboo Village is taking over the downstairs. All kinds of things find their way into the boys' hands. Prototypes of new designs for the spring are lying in various states of production, and all flat surfaces seem to be gathering more and more layers of items to be packed, made into final products, photographed or put away. It's kind of crazy, but with the boys at my feet all day, what else can I do?

a ruler's not dangerous, right?
that was yesterday... just look at those tired eyes!

max today with his smart new haircut - behind him you can see one of my double happiness fish towels

Today I had to take the boys to get yet another haircut. All the food in the long hair is pretty gross. Turns out, today is exactly a month since their first haircuts. Max's hair is so thin, it probably won't need a trim for a while, but I had them cut Shoghi's hair extra short, since it grows so very fast.

To be honest, even though S looks adorable with his new do, I'm not so crazy about this truly boyish style. It just seems so tough somehow... too hard? Too mature? I don't know... for some reason, it brought forward a lot of thoughts and fears about having a rough and tumble boy... I am having such a hard time teaching Shoghi to be gentle - Max currently has three nasty bruises from Shoghi biting him. It'll grow on me, I know... there was just a little shock seeing him look so different today!

Thursday, December 3, 2009

down to one

Hey, thanks for all the birthday wishes! It was such a lovely day, and your kind words went straight to my heart!

It's been such a hectic time here. Napping has been way off for both the little fellas, with Max showing clear signs that he just won't sleep for more than a combined 11-12 hours per 24 hours. My ability to get stuff done for Bamboo Village was seriously diminished by having many days in a row of absolutely no alone time as the boys were snoozing at different times, not to mention being able to achieve the basics of, oh, you know... minor things like washing diapers or cooking meals.

Finally I decided three days ago that it's time to switch from two naps a day to one... or at least try it and see what happens. It's unfortunate for little Shoghurt, or "sho-du" as Max calls him -- he's a very happy sleeper, and adores his morning and afternoon nods.

So far, it's going fairly well. Max still hasn't had a day of napping for more than 90 minutes, and is still waking up between 5 and 6am, much to my dismay. Today we made morning stops at two friend's homes, and by 11am when we got home for lunch, Shoghi just couldn't make it a second longer. Laurie and I laughed hysterical but sympathetic bursts while the little fella struggled to keep his eyes open... we tried jiggling him, feeding him, standing him up on his feet, but his eyes kept rolling, and finally he dropped off to dreamland while I was changing his diaper. It was so pathetically funny. I was very bummed that my camera was without batteries! It was super sweet.

So, now that our visits with family and friends are over until my parents come in February (we can hardly wait!), I'm trying to get the house back in order, pack some things for our upcoming move, keep these active boys entertained, and tend to my lovely Bamboo Village. I even managed to post over there today about some of the creative projects in the works, as well as some brief words on the challenges of doing this with the boys under foot.