Feb 3, 2013

Machine-Made Love

An old friend that I had cast aside without care for lack of appreciation has returned. All is forgiven and I will promise to nurture and value our relationship. I look forward again to how our friendship enhanced my life and those I love.

I am speaking of bread baking. Specifically bread-baking by machine.

Hot out of the Machine oven
 My first machine was an Hitachi HB-B102 Home Bakery II purchased when they first hit the shelves back in the late 80's. (That sounds positively pre-historic, doesn't it?) We lived in Pennsylvania at the time, country decor was the rage, and back-to-basics was the watch-word.We had neighbors that had one and I knew others that went so far as to grind their own grain. It baked those awkward vertical loaves that look like pencil erasers. But they were tasty erasers.
The Hitachi HB-B102. Ebay for it.

When it came to time to sell that house, I followed good advice, and set the machine to bake cinnamon bread while the potential buyers toured. During one of the worst winters in Mid-Atlantic history, when the snow was piled up so high out front of our duplex that you couldn't park and photos were needed to envision the buried back yard, that house sold in less than five weeks. I give the bread machine the credit.

But then I gradually lost interest, its space was taken over by other newer appliances, and after another move, it finally was relegated to the garage. The end was near. It was transported to the local thrift store and dumped unwanted at the front door like an abandoned old dog.

But now, with tighter times again, I was cringing at the weekly expense of my husband's crack-like addiction to crusty bakery-baked loaves. I figured an investment in a bread machine would pay for itself in a matter of months.

The West Bend Hi-Rise Breadmaker
An obsessive review-reader by nature (read: anxiety-ridden perfectionist), I studied many brands to define my personal needs and features. It must blend with my kitchen decor if it is to stay on the counter all the time, it should preferably bake horizontal loaves, be reliable, and be affordable. The winner was the West Bend Hi-Rise Breadmaker. It's black and chrome--perfect--, looks elegant on the counter, bakes horizontally in 4 sizes, even has an extra pan for purchase that bakes two small loaves simultaneously, and all for the amazingly low price of $75. Act now and you get a free packet of yeast! (jk :-)   )

I found it on my door step at 11 PM, two days after I placed my order--Go, Amazon!--and snuck it in. I still had bread flour in the freezer and some fresh-enough yeast, so I thought I'd surprise the unsuspecting Father R with that unforgettable wake-up smell. I followed the directions for Basic Bread in the manual, set it for Delay, and went to bed all aflutter.

The HORIZONTAL pan, ready for baking
At 6:45, I detected a waft. Father R did not. (Disappointment.) But the surprised delight on his face from, first the look, and then the TASTE, and I knew it was a great move. (That's the finished result at the top of the page.)

Three days later, and we have made white bread, buttermilk bread, cinnamon-cranberry-orange bread, pizza dough, and sandwich rolls for our Super Bowl Pork BBQ.  I've gained two pounds, but I'll just have to cut out something else. This time I'm going to be a trustworthy friend.

Look here for the yummy recipes.
Got Bread? Got Machine? Got Questions? Tell Mother All About It!

Bird's-Eye View of the Week: Why Be Normal? Schooling with Charlotte Mason

Every week I think, "Oh, we haven't really covered anything noteworthy this week." 

And then I scratch out a list of stuff and am, like, WOW!" Which is a good thing cuz I do have to show "regular, thorough instruction in the courses normally taught in schools." (COMAR, the Md. state homeschool law)

Fortunately our law is lenient enough that we can define HOW and WHEN we teach what is "normal." When you use a Charlotte Mason curriculum which depends on "living books", you cover so much more with more retention than the dry textbooks and the "teach to the test" parrot talk.

For instance our 6th-grader's normal history lessons on Elizabethan England and Shakespeare are gleaned from reading a 36-chapter tale, Master Skylark, of a kidnapped boy forced to join a player's guild. I'm not sure if the P.S. middle-schoolers even have any familiarity with The Bard.

Our geography study of South America and Australia utilizes a lengthy true story, Stowaway, accounting the three-year voyage of  Captain Cook's circumnavigation of the globe as told by a 10-year-old crewmate.

Science, art, music--they're all covered. But OUR way, not the "normal" way.

So what happened this week?

We concluded our nature study-- a subject NOT normally taught in schools-- with the Outdoor Hour Challenge's January focus on rocks. It culminated with a visit to a local quarry. We pass it every week on the way to jazz class so it was great to make friends with our neighbor. You can read about it in detail here.

February's study will be birds, timed with the Great Backyard Bird Count. Our existing feeders are filled, and replacements are in the mail. Can't wait to do MY favorite subject! (The link will tell you how you can participate. And they are homeschool friendly! )

We're really getting into our other history novel, Strangers in the Land, about the persecution of the Huguenots as experienced by one family. Through it, we are becoming familiar with important events in 18th c. Europe like the Treaty of Nantes. And what an inspiring character study of faith and fortitude.

For Math, Life of Fred-Fractions continues to delight. If a math program makes Mei WANT to do her work, I'll stand on my head for it. 

Her co-op composition class is developing a report on an animal of their choosing. I drew the line at the two she knows most about, dogs and horses. I wanted her to experience the rigors of researching a new topic. It didn't go over well, but she settled on clownfish, natives of the Great Barrier Reef, which will help lead us into the broader study of Australia. And they're so cute. And famous. But finding info (chuckle, haha) was as difficult as finding the Disney character.

"Breezing Up" by Winslow Homer. View it in D.C.!
"Snap the Whip" by Winslow Homer. At the Met in NYC!
Finally the art co-op I teach began their study of Winslow Homer using the Meet the Masters curriculum. This artist will introduce the kids to the concepts of value and focal point in a composition. Homer's subject range is so broad there is something to appeal to anyone, but kids especially can relate to his famous works of "Breezing Up" and "Snap the Whip." I had to explain that game, and now they want to enjoy it, of course! We're hoping next Thursday might not be so muddy. The kids won't care, but the moms might!

For ME, the big thrill was getting a  BREAD MACHINE!!  Naturally, like the good excellent homeschooling parent I am, I will find teachable moments. Chemical reactions and the study of fungi immediately come to mind. Bread-baking. Another way our school is NOT "normal."
   I'm posting my review of my little kitchen workhorse here along with our first successes and their recipes! Keep watching. Can you tell I'm excited?

That's the view from the perch this week. How about you? Do anything "normal?"  Tell Mother All About It!



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