Monthly Archives: July 2014

Daily Bread

I signed on this morning with the intention of forcing all the muddled stresses crushing my soul into a single, coherent post. The universe clearly understood that there’s really no way I can accomplish that and threw me a bone with a daily prompt from WP.

What do I prefer to have handmade?

I prefer my bread handmade. Really, truly handmade. I don’t have a mixer so we’re talking hand mixed, hand kneaded bread. I love it, though I suck at slicing.

I used to own a bread machine, but it rapidly became a dust collector. It was nice to set it and forget it, but cleaning it was a pain and the family could not abide the after taste. Time passed. One of us developed a severe condition that imposed unforgiving dietary restrictions and the bread machine continued to collect dust, eventually finding its way to a donation box. I was able to trust one brand of commercially available bread and relied on it for a little too long. Fresh baked bread from the store had contamination issues enough times that I’ll never buy it again. Meanwhile the commercially produced bread for people avoiding the things we were avoiding was expensive, dense and rejected. $4-5 for a loaf of safe bread that went to feed the birds visiting my compost heap. We relied on that single brand of bread until after we found it contaminated. That loaf went to the heap and was replaced with a new one.

Sick again. Compost. Wait over a week. Buy new loaf. Sick again. Flip over the package. There was no contamination issue – the ingredients changed. Our safe bread was no longer safe. We checked the bread aisles at three large grocers only to discover that we could not find a single safe loaf.

No bueno.

There were times when I wished I hadn’t given away the bread machine. They were fleeting. Throwing away homemade bread was no more appealing than throwing away store bought. I experimented on and off with making bread. We usually ended up with something similar to the specialty brands. Not terrible, but not what we wanted. My family wants bread that feels and tastes like the bread they have spent their lives eating. Because we have given up so much “normal” food, some homemade versions have to look, smell, taste and feel like their commercial counterparts. Sometimes, a runner up just won’t do. Time passed and we basically gave up bread.

Enter the holy shit! moment.

Similar failures with purchased hamburger buns had me on the lookout for bun recipes. I found one and went through the motions without high expectations. I did notice that the dough was very light and wondered if I could use it for bread. After baking, I fried some bacon and hamburgers. The buns were normal. Very normal. They were excellently fucking normal. And perfectly safe.

I watched on in excitement as my family at burgers on buns. No forks, no knives. Buns. Whole burgers lifted up to the mouth to be bitten into.

A few days later, I made the recipe again. This time, half the dough went into a bread pan. It was exactly what I was looking for! Moreover, it is a hit with the family.

I make it at least once per week, though I am striving to average twice. There are only six ingredients (flour, liquid, sugar, oil, salt, yeast) and they are mixed by hand with a spoon. The dough is kneaded by hand. It’s a process and I choose a day when I have a couple of hours to be home where I can babysit it. It forces me to be still and focused even when my stressors are out of control. Kneading dough also happens to be a great way to work out the bitter unfairness of life from time to time.

So, I prefer my bread handmade. For obvious reasons, everyone’s health and well being, ingredient control, freshness, etc. But I also prefer it for a very simple reason…making bread from scratch, a fairly abnormal thing in the modern US, has returned some normalcy to my family. White bread, toast. Sandwiches. Peanut butter and jelly. My kids can eat peanut butter and jelly! Just like everyone else. (With empathy to those who cannot.)

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Significant Car Repair Down

1,273 more to go.

This was not an easy day, nor was it an affordable one. I survived it, even though I feel like I’m going to collapse from exhaustion. Squeezed in a massive favor for a friend that had me up and moving well before dawn.

It’s going to be okay, though. I’ll figure the money out somehow. Right now, I’m just grateful that I’m not terrified to get behind the wheel. It makes such a difference in stress levels to have even one repair knocked out. Even one that there is no way in Hell I can afford. (I borrowed money to pay for it. Bad, I know. Choice, I didn’t have.)

I will figure this out. And I will do so more quickly because my brain is no longer clouded by fear. Because I no longer have to worry about making sure there is tow money in the bank. There is more than a week’s food in the house. No utilities are due to get shut off. This will be okay.

One Moment of Appreciation

I’m pretty sure I’ll beat the grocery goal. Mostly because I have no choice. One of the kids has to have a procedure ASAP and a hefty chunk is due upfront. And the car is getting pretty damned sick of me limping it along with promises of a trip to the mechanic sometime “soon.” At least two utilities are getting skipped in July and I’m trying to keep enough in the bank to cover a tow just in case.

I was careful with my last grocery trip and definitely have enough food to get through the coming week. Unfortunately, I may only be able to squeeze pennies out of my next check to put toward groceries and child support has been taking longer and longer lately. I’m mentally gearing up to make what I’ve got last 2 weeks instead of one. I’m also trying not to grind my teeth into dust while I sleep.

Tonight, I roasted a chicken for dinner and served it up alongside reheated mashed potatoes, grapes and strawberries. I was beating myself up for not making breadsticks or a salad and wishing I had some corn. (Only two mini ears in the freezer and no kernel corn to be found.) I could have roasted carrots with the chicken, but I didn’t. So, I’m wandering back and forth from the stove, mentally browbeating my many shortcomings as a mother, when my oldest child made a comment about having a “simple” meal. Not simple as in lazy or too easy (it was easy, LOL), but simple as in everything was identifiable and being consumed in a recognizable form.

The chicken was seasoned and roasted. The potatoes are cooked in water, drained, and mashed – with nothing added. And they are fantastic. The strawberries are pitted and “shaved” (we don’t like the seeds). The grapes are whole. The loaf of bread and biscuits on the table were handmade using ingredients I can recite from memory without getting winded. For as broke as we are and as much as I felt I had failed the family, my child pointed out that there was plenty of quality food for us to eat tonight.

I decided to take a break from feeling inadequate and let myself enjoy dinner, and my child’s appreciation tonight.

July Food Budget: Half Month Check-In

Here are the goals:

  1. Cut 16% from what we’ve been spending on groceries.
  2. Make the breakfast muffin recipe twice each week, once as muffins and once as coffee cakes.
  3. Make bread twice each week.
  4. Add more soups to meals.
  5. Get a fall garden planned and planted.
  6. Take two recreation days.

Here are the outcomes:

  1. I seem to be doing okay here, but I really won’t know until the end of the month. This is yet another tight month with massive (to me) medical/dental bills and a car repair looming. Keep your fingers crossed that the car works out to be a cheap fix because I honestly don’t know what I will do if it isn’t.
  2. I’ve backed off on this. Its popularity has waned and been replaced by whining about how we always eat it.
  3. I seem to be hitting once per week, but not twice. It is truly a time thing.
  4. I am trying. Sadly, they are not being well received.
  5. Nope. Although I am working on the yard. I also have a tree that’s about to come down and I expect to use some of the sawdust/debris from that as part of a lasagna layer for the fall garden. I also discovered that two little pea plants I thought died weeks ago have begun to flower. They are tiny and adorable.
  6. Sort of. We went to a graduation party and saw a lot of family that we haven’t seen in ages. I’ll come up with something else somehow.

I’ve also worked through significant portions of the crafting/sewing projects that need to be completed this month. At times, I feel chained to needle and thread, but the end results are definitely worth it. The materials cost is high, unfortunately, but I am couponing like crazy to bring that way down.

Gonna manage somehow.

Nightmares at Night

I don’t really like to write two abuse posts in a row, but sometimes you just have to try to release it.

The ex is on a rampage. I was worried about his girlfriend and anyone else in a subordinate position to him, but now I am worried about us. He’s making veiled threats. You know the ones – the kind police and judges don’t take seriously. The kind that are dismissed with – see what I have to deal with? She’s crazy. The kind that mean, no matter how zen you try to be, your dreams will become nightmares that stick with you.

Daily life is a waking nightmare. Dream life is filled with nightmares. He’s gone loony and threatening and is somehow convincing everyone around him that I am the bad guy.

Last night, I had three very memorable nightmares. One, I may never forget.

I had a home. I had my family. I had peace.

I also had a cornfield next to my home. It was full of strong, organic corn. No genetic modification, no pesticides, no herbicides, no chemicals of any kind. Just lovingly cared for corn on the verge of harvest. Enough to feed my family for two years.

I caught a somewhat distant neighbor walking past my home with an armful of corn. I told her I wasn’t going to throw a fit about what she had taken, but I didn’t want her to take anymore without permission. 

I realized that I had no means of protecting my cornfield. I had no fences or cameras, no dogs, nothing to keep it safe. I was stunned by the sudden realization of the fragility of the corn I had nurtured to bounty. I resolved to harvest the next morning and consider my options for security for the next year.

When I woke in the morning, I witnessed the same neighbor, and another woman, carrying armloads of my corn. I turned to my field and it was empty, save for 4-5 ears, which they swore they would return for. I wanted to plead for my family, don’t take everything, let us eat for one day. I tried to be strong and tell them no, they could not have what was mine.

They turned to me and said that they were taking it and I would not stop them. They told me that they were angry with X for something X did and they were taking it out on me because I was X’s relative and they would continue to take it out on me until they were satisfied they had been repaid.

I told X who was pleased as punch that I was the revenge target instead of X. I came to realize that X had wronged someone and I was going to pay for what had been done. X would come out squeaky clean, exactly as X devised, I would pay for X’s sins, and there was nothing I could do about it. X did wrong, I had to pay, and my family would suffer because they were related to me.

X is one of a few individuals that appear in my dreams as a manifestation of my actual ex-husband. When X appears, it is as a relative, someone I am both connected and subordinate to. This goes back so many years that I can’t remember when it started, only when I made the connection between those symbols and him.

I looked up dream interpretations for corn and theft. Basically, a cornfield is domestic bliss, harmony, potential. Theft is someone taking that from you.

Put them together and translate them to what’s going on and you get:

My ex-husband is a dickhead who did something wrong. His actions have hurt someone and are leading to me being hurt as well. There is an intermediary (second neighbor) who will ensure that I get hurt. He will not take responsibility for his actions and will gladly shift all such responsibility to me. He will slink out of the situation and I will lose greatly. He will have no remorse for his initial actions or those that harm me as a secondary.

In other words, the last week of my life. Thanks, nightmares, I really needed a reminder of what we’re going through rather than a little break from it.

Angry Ex on the Loose

I wish I could warn his girlfriend; she’s going to get caught in the crossfire. Sure, it’s all going to start off with “Unnie is an evil bitch and she’s completely fucking me over!” and the poor thing is going to believe it. She will try to soothe his tattered ego, but she will fail. Short of showing up at my house and assaulting me, she won’t be able to heal this wound. Then he’ll unleash his wrath on her. It won’t be her fault; she will simply be in the wrong place at the wrong time. He didn’t get his way with something, I didn’t move the Earth and stars to fetch it for him, and she (Pick one: made the wrong dinner, asked the wrong question, disrespected him, didn’t realize he needed a blow job, etc). Woe be unto her if she stands up for herself. She’ll end up blaming me for setting him off and herself for not being sensitive enough to his victimization. She’ll hate me for being so cruel and she’ll try harder next time to understand what he’s going through.

I feel for her. I really wish I could warn her. What I won’t do, however, is acquiesce and give in to his commands to protect her – or anyone else in his path today. That is who I used to be. The person who took responsibility for everyone and everything. No more. I am only responsible for my family and myself. I can’t give him this one because we will get hurt. This action, these commands, they are about us and I can only consider us in my response. It sucks, but it is the only way. I can’t teach my children to stand for themselves if I won’t stand for them first.

Survived June

Somehow, I made it through June. July seems to be just as stressful, unfortunately. Let’s see if I can’t do something about that.

Meanwhile, July goal check-in:

  1. Cut 16% from what we’ve been spending on groceries.
  2. Make the breakfast muffin recipe twice each week, once as muffins and once as coffee cakes.
  3. Make bread twice each week.
  4. Add more soups to meals.
  5. Get a fall garden planned and planted.
  6. Take two recreation days.

Results:

  1. I made a meat run the other day and picked up mostly sale cuts. It was nice to leave the store with four bags of groceries and know that I had enough meat to get through nearly a week. It was also nice to get beef. I have been buying a lot of chicken to save money and, while I love chicken, I also love beef. We’ll see where the grocery tally ends up at the end of the month.
  2. I’ve made two batches of muffins and one breakfast cake. I have some apples thanks to that grocery run and may just end up making a nice apple cinnamon coffee cake.
  3. I’ve made bread once so far this week. Maybe tomorrow. Today’s a holiday.
  4. I made beef stew last night. Nobody touched it. Long story. Gonna make vegetable soup as a side for tomorrow night.
  5. No progress.
  6. None yet.  We’ll probably go out for fireworks tonight so that may count.

Gonna keep plugging along.