Monday, April 26, 2010

our Sunday morning

A lot can happen between breakfast and church when it starts at 1:00pm. Some people in our house like to sleep. Others like to dress themselves in fierce costumes and hunt for aliens. And there are those that go the tickle fight route. As for myself, I typically am motivated by my stomach and choose the "eat my way through a Sunday morning while fixing dinner so we don't have to wait a single second to eat when we get home" option. In which camp are you?

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Happy Earth Day everyone!

It's beginning to look a lot like Earth Day - that special time of year that families gather together to mourn the human destruction of earth and to pat themselves on their backs for reducing their footprint.

We've been gearing up for Earth Day at our house too. My strategy is to embed in my children what the earth means to our family, a marvelous gift from God to be used for our sustenance and to bring us joy. And as with all gifts from God we have the responsibility to be wise stewards over it; to use its bounty with consideration. My hope is that this will be their reality and they will be able to see through the shallow overtures that seem to be epitomized on Earth Day. For instance, I hope #1 will see the irony in bringing home a ream of worksheets and coloring pages about saving the trees.

For more on my Earth Day feelings, see this post from 2009.

If you don't want to read my previous post you can also watch this video (only 2 minutes), which sums up my feelings perfectly.

Monday, April 19, 2010

More on the Solar Oven

Because so many of you expressed interest in my solar oven I will share with you my experiences with it so far.

Experience 1: Pot Roast.

I broke open my solar oven box around 1:00pm and read the accompanying material to discover that I was already about four hours behind. Optimal baking time for a big piece of meat is around 6-8 hours and the brightest sunlight is before noon. But the makers of my solar oven are in Michigan and I figured that they had underestimated the strength of the Phoenix sun, so I went ahead and got everything set up. I put the meat and some of the veggies in one pot and the rest of the seasoned veggies in the other pot. The oven came with optional heat reflectors that you can use on less sunny days or to speed up your cooking, so I figured if I used those I'd be good to go.

I checked the roast several times during the afternoon but the oven temperature never got higher than 180. Around 5pm I brought the pots inside to check for doneness and found the meat and vegetables only about halfway cooked. I was disappointed and went online to the company's website to see if I had done something wrong. What I discovered is that I had not peeled off the white protective film from the clear plastic lid. Duh! It's no wonder the oven hadn't be able to get very hot. The white film was reflecting the sun instead of allowing it in to cook the food!

Anyway, although it was still light enough to get another good hour of cooking from the sun I just decided to finish cooking the roast in my regular oven. But since it wouldn't be done for a while we ordered pizza. We reheated the pot roast the next night for dinner.

I know some of you are now very worried about the safety of the food. I too checked up on this. #1) Inside the dark pots where the food is, is actually hotter than the spot where the oven thermometer is. #2) Cooking begins to happen at 180 degrees, so as long as the oven is at least that hot, it is too hot for bacteria to grow. #3) I wasn't going to be eating the roast anyway, just Spouse and the kids, what did I care?

I'm just kidding about #3. Except for the part about not me eating the roast.

Here is a picture of what my solar oven looks like (except my pot lids are black):

But this is what mine looked like all afternoon, not getting hot because of that darn white film reflecting the sun! It's so reflective you can't even see the oven in the picture!

Experience 2: baked potatoes

Now that I had the kinks worked out I really wanted to see this baby exercise it's full potential. What could be safer than baked potatoes? Sunday morning I washed and wrapped the potatoes in tin foil and place them out in the oven. After a few minutes Spouse went outside to see the oven in action for the first time and made the obvious observation that perhaps I should not have wrapped the potatoes in tin foil (reflective! hello!? what is my problem?!?). Placed in the black pots, that's the best way to bake a potato in a solar oven. Apparently the black pots are a pretty integral part of solar oven cooking.

Problem corrected, the potatoes began baking around 10:30 with the oven at about 250 degrees. Before we left for church I turned the oven to face southwest to catch the sun as the afternoon passed. As soon as we got home from church, around 4:30 (ugh! I know) I went out to check the potatoes and was frustrated to see the oven in the shade! I hadn't thought that one through. But fortunately the oven was still piping hot and most of the potatoes were cooked perfectly. These were huge, 1 lbs baking potatoes and the ones at the bottom of the pots were not as done as the potatoes near the top.

Next time I will take into consideration the actual placement of the oven to be sure it doesn't get shaded as the sun moves. And when I do potatoes again I will try to get them in the oven earlier, maybe around 9:30, and I will want to rotate the potatoes halfway through, so they can cook more evenly.

Overall I think my experiences have been positive. Nothing exploded, no one died from food poisoning. Next up? Chocolate cake.

{I hereby do solemnly swear that this blog will not turn into a Pioneer Baking or a Mother Survivalists blog. Soon, I'll be back to my regular programming. Star wars jokes, and embarrassing moments. Be sure to check back on Earth Day. It's going to be good.}

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Two Steps Forward One Step Back

.... on the technology spectrum.

Forward: I got a cell phone! You read it correctly, dear readers. I am now in possession of my (1st) very own cell phone! A few of you may have received an excited text or two. (or twenty!) Texting is hard. (but fun!) And as it became apparent in a recent sacrament meeting talk, saying 'texting' too many times begins to sound like a different word all together. But how to do you decide on a ring tone?

Back: Solar oven! What could be better than cooking your dinner under the natural heat and energy of the glorious, free sun? (Maybe cooking it in a WOLF 60" dual fuel range) It is amazing to me that a little black box with a clear lid can cook a roast, bake a cake and steam rice. I'm saying goodbye to my Whirlpool gas range for the summer and hello to my new solar oven.

Thank you Dad for both. Now, I'm going out back to check on my pot roast.

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Balboa Beach

So, there are like 200,000 beaches in California. I found this out when I googled "family friendly California beach," while I was planning our vacation. Fortunately, Balboa Beach proved to be everything the internet promised. It was clean, had restrooms, a pier and good parking.

We brought a picnic lunch and made a day out of it.

As soon as we got to the sand #1 and #2 dropped their stuff and sprinted to the water, squealing with excitement. It was their first time in the ocean and it seemed that they never tired of chasing the waves in and out. As I witnessed their unfettered joy my heart swelled with happiness at the perfection of the moment. Definitely in my top ten moments of motherhood.

#3 was more cautious with her introduction to the water. She wanted to go in the water but needed a hand to hold. I was happy to oblige. Soon she gained confidence and ran free with the other two.

Near the end of the day we gathered up the kids (who were very reluctant to leave) to walk down the pier and around the little beach town. We found an ice cream stand where Spouse ordered THE HUGEST shaved ice I have ever seen. Seriously, it was at least 3 pounds. The picture below is after half of it was eaten. I tried a local specialty, the Balboa Bar. A bar of vanilla ice cream dipped in dark chocolate and rolled in chopped nuts. So good!

On our way back to the jeep we stopped by one of the open air shops for the kids to pick out some shells to bring home. It was evening and the shadows were fading into dusk. We were all exhausted, happy tired and only a little sunburned.

Happy days.