Originally published at my Emilia’s Playground blog in December of 2010 (twins were 3 months old, I really do think I’d lost my mind!) I’m reblogging this entry here because it ties in with my current breadmaking post and because I love it so much. My dad passed away two months after I wrote this and when I’m in the kitchen I often reminisce about him and remember all the things he taught me (and neglected to teach me, haha).
Thanks for the bread, Dad.
FIRST THE SIMPLICITY
Recently, with the birth of our twins and the realization that with 3 kids under 3 there is no way we’re going to break even… let alone get ahead, we’ve changed a lot of things in our lives. We’d already given up cable (we have netflix streaming–love it!!! who needs up-to-the-minute TV when you can have entire seasons of shows at your fingertips?) though we haven’t given up our internet access (obviously) or cell phones (but we have the most basic plan). We’re not quite ready to give up running water and electricity either but we’ve given up a lot of things that seem to clutter up our lives.
I’m discovering I really like living simply. I haven’t missed the things I’ve given up once the first withdrawal pangs subsided. I don’t miss shopping for things I really don’t need and I certainly don’t miss the vague feeling of guilt that would come later. I don’t miss eating “fancy” food and throwing away the leftovers because we forgot about them. I don’t miss lounging on the couch for an entire day either, believe it or not. I’ve reduced the number of choices I make each day which has unburdened me greatly! I don’t panic that we have nothing to eat anymore because I’ve planned everything out. I can’t leave things to the last minute because I have 3 small children and something is always bound to go wrong if I do and you always end up paying more for last minute things somehow. I shop at a grocery store that has no name-brand items thus eliminating my need to choose between four different kinds of O cereal. It’s cathartic to go into a store, knowing what I need and not being tempted by all the items trying to wink at you from the shelves (keep in mind I actually shop at 3 stores each week–the above grocery store, a discount Club, and the regular grocery store in that order. Still simpler than what I did before!). I am at peace with this “new” life I’ve chosen that has eliminated so much of the hustle and bustle and CRAP of “modern” life. To quote my husband again: I love living “old school”!
We recently re-did our budget and then talked to our daycare provider. She cannot take the girls in the Fall when I, theoretically, go back to work. There is another little girl who is just a month older than my daughters and 3 1-year olds is too many! We discussed the possibility of halftime if I job-shared but that won’t work either. We’ve been left with this dilemma: pay 1,000 extra a month to send the kids to a center or I stay home. Either way we’re about $800 short per month. That’s a no-brainer! So, in addition to brainstorming ways I can earn money while I’m at home (I’ll leave that for another post) we’ve cut back on our food budget tremendously. How? Well, we don’t buy anything extra. I cut out my Chobani yogurts (oh, I miss them but at over a dollar each they really weren’t cost-effective) and all soda/seltzers which we go through WAY too fast anyway. We’re not buying anything “just this once” and I’m actually sticking to the lists I make! There is also the shopping at three stores and price comparing like a maniac! It involves a lot more planning, especially because most shopping is done with three small children in tow and when it’s snowing or raining or just plain cold the LAST thing I want to do is make an extra trip to a store because I forgot cheese (I totally did forget cheese this week and I’m kicking myself for it!).
AND NOW FOR THE BREAD
I’m cooking a lot more, which I like, and freezing meals to make my life simpler on those days (we all have those days where nothing seems to go right!). I’ve also taken to baking my own bread. Bread is seriously expensive and we were tearing through it like nobody’s business! I realized, looking down at my 2-month old daughters, that once they start eating real food a simple meal of soup and grilled cheese is going to set us back A LOAF of bread (10 slices if we each have one sandwich… wow!).
So I whipped out my Betty Crocker cook book, bought some yeast, dusted off my bread pans (which had only ever seen meatloaf up until now) and got to work. I thought a lot about my dad that day. I remember him making bread when I was younger, maybe 10 or so. I can picture him standing at our kitchen counter kneading the bread. I remember trying to help him and feeling that it was just TOO HARD! So it was no wonder that my arms were aching in anticipation before I ever got my dough mixed. So I simmered my butter and water on the stove and even used the cooking thermometer my mother in law had given me umpteen Christmases ago so I wouldn’t kill my yeast (that can happen, right?). I used my mixer to whip everything up which felt like cheating to me, I don’t remember my dad ever doing that. I mixed in the rest of the flour, getting dough stuck to my fingers and rolling it off, back into the bowl.
Then, the kneading began. Push the dough, quarter turn, fold, push again. Kneading requires you to really put your shoulders and back to work pushing and pushing and pushing on this lump of resistant dough. I kneaded while remembering my father of twenty years ago kneading, just as I was doing now. Push, turn, fold, push, turn, fold, for seven long minutes.
How can you get simpler than that? A quick push turn fold, and you’ve made something so basic, so homey, so good. Simple. I almost turned my first attempt into cinnamon bread (I had no recipe for that, I was going to wing it!) but no, I thought, keep it simple. My mind could wander as I worked because my body was busy repeating the three steps I didn’t have the… energy, I guess is the word, to think about things that stressed me out. You are forced to knead for seven minutes. You can’t run to “just go do this one little thing”. Nope. You have to be there, in the moment, mind connected to your hands that are kneading, turning, folding… We too often forget the purification that comes with mindless manual labor like that in this overly-stimulating, far too fast-paced world. I’m taking this moment to remind you– bring mindless back into your life!
I’m still improving my bread making technique. I’ve discovered that I need to let the bread rise longer in this cold house and knead just a little more. I have made white and wheat and today plan to try an oat-wheat but I have yet to delve into the realms of baking experiments yet. I’m keeping it simple and you know what? It feels really good.