One of our family traditions is literally that song. Every year we head “down to the river” for our family Christmas gathering with my mother’s people. I live in rural Texas, and this is an hour out into the bush from where I live. It’s remote, really remote. Your cell phone won’t work and you had better have plenty of gas in your car in case you get caught down there when the river rises during a storm because you will have to take “the back way” out, which adds an extra hour to the trip.
“The River” is in Shackelford** County on the Brazos River. We drive until the pavement ends, then keep driving and driving and driving. This area is very much a part of the Frontier History of Texas. Some of the land was once a Comanche Indian reservation. It also had a civil war era medical station on it. We’ve seen all manner of skittish wildlife like mountain lions and bald eagles.
Sometimes it’s hard to imagine that most of Texas and the western U.S. were like this. You really are in the middle of nowhere.
The sky was beautiful this afternoon. The clouds started to break up as the sun was setting. I took these photos around 5 p.m. today. The night sky was even more beautiful because it’s a new moon with cold high pressure air. That makes for a clear sky, perfect for seeing the Milky Way. Unfortunately my photography skills do not extend to nighttime panorama. But here are a few of my favorites from today.
A good homemade pizza pie is a wonderful thing. This is not Viktor’s Special, but it’s my special version and it’s always a crowd pleaser.
1 ¾ to 2 C. bread flour (plus more for kneading)
¾ C. Warm water (110 degrees)
¼ C. Olive oil
1 Tsp Rapid rise yeast
1 Tbs Honey or sugar
1 Tsp Salt
Add yeast to the warm water, add the sugar/honey. Give it a stir and let it stand for a couple minutes. It should be foamy and opaque after a few minutes. Mix the flour and salt together and set aside. (All-purpose flour can be used instead of bread flour.)
Create a well in the bottom of the bowl with the flour. Add the water mixture and oil. Mix together until the dough comes together. Add more flour if needed. Tonight I started with 1 ¾ flour but added ½ cup more because it was a really humid day here and my dough was too sticky otherwise.
Turn it out and knead for a few minutes. Pizza dough should be on the wet and sticky side.
Form into a ball and grease bowl well with more olive oil. Toss the dough in the bowl to coat with oil. Put the dough in a warm place to rise until doubled, about 1 to 1 ½ hours. I like to heat my oven up to about 150 degrees, then turn it off to let it start to cool, then I put the dough in to rise.
After it has risen, punch down and add a tablespoon or so of flour to the dough and knead lightly for a few turns inside the bowl. Get your oven going again by preheating it to 475 degrees. (note that my pizza stone is already in the oven here). if you don’t have a pizza stone, no problem. You can bake your pizza on a cookie sheet or pizza pan instead.
Pull out onto a large piece of cling wrap (I stitch two pieces together with the seam in the middle). Dust the top of the dough with flour. Place a sheet of parchment paper over the dough and flip to the parchment side—cling-wrap side up. Add a little more flour if needed. Roll the dough out to a 14-inch round or larger. When you are happy with the shape and thickness of the pizza crust, leave it to rest for at least 10 minutes.
This pizza pan has been through it all. I bought this when I was in college and moved into an apartment for the first time. I didn’t have anything that resembled a cookie sheet or pizza pan. I couldn’t afford both so I got this so it could do double duty. It has been one of the cheapest and handiest of kitchen utilities. 20 years later I’m still using it almost daily to make everything from cinnamon toast to biscuits. I’m about to use it in place of a pizza peel (that’s one of those wooden paddle-looking-things with a long handle – the pizza bakers slide pies in and out of the wood burning ovens with the peel.)
Slide the pan (or cookie sheet) under the dough and beneath the parchment. This is how we’re getting the dough onto the pizza stone. Remember pizza dough is sticky and once the pie is loaded up, it’s heavy. After you get it on the pan, take the cling wrap off. Ta-dah.
Now we’re ready to put on the toppings. Use your favorite bottled sauce or you can make a quickie sauce. Spread the sauce around. Add the meat of choice (or not). Here I’m using pepperoni and sausage. No need to brown the sausage prior, it will thoroughly cook in the overall process. Add your veggies. In this pie, I’m adding green and black olives with orange bell pepper. It’s really about what you like at this point. If you want to skip the whole thing you can. Top with mozzarella cheese.
Slide the pizza onto the stone inside the oven. The parchment can go right on top of the pizza stone. (I only have 2 hands so, that was impossible to capture in photos. Sorry, y’all)
OMG! I have died and gone to pizza heaven. And, Yes! It is worth it to make your very own homemade pizza pie.
I had no idea what I was going to write about tonight when I came home from work… then this post magically wrote itself. Jdubs and I were wrapping presents. This is what happens when a 4 year old who can recognize a few letters does for gift tags.
Then we ditched the packages to play with the cat.
Then the dog got in on the action, and we played cat and dog and kid for a while.
Here’s Ruby trying to be playful. (I wish that darn ornament wasn’t in the way, but you will see it in every frame.)
Pussums is definitely ready to take a swipe at Ruby. Fortunately, for Ruby, those paws are sans claws.
Puss is supremely pissed. If I could hear her kitty voice I think she would say: “oh no you didn’t. No way that’s going to fly up in here.”
Here’s Ruby with two batteries on her shoulder saying: “I dare you to knock these off.” (very bad reference to a very old Duracell battery commercial.)
The aftermath of Cat and Dog—the dog pounced at the cat, scooting the tree over 3-4 feet; the cat peeled out on the tree skirt and bolted up the stairs with the dog in hot pursuit. And Jdub’s package is left behind.
How many U. S. presidents can you name? On our way home from the big city tonight I was quizzing myself with an iPhone app. I have long thought it pathetic that I can’t name all the presidents. That’s why I downloaded the app, at least a year ago, and I find myself still, tonight not having it memorized—but almost. My husband did manage to get them memorized by the end of our drive. He’s better at that than I am – I’m good at synthesizing info, not memorizing it.
My husband and I started talking about how ridiculous it is that there are only 44 U.S. presidents, yet most Americans can’t name more than 10, maybe. If you are older than 45 you can probably name a few more because of the number of leaders you’ve lived through in your lifetime.
We [as Americans] can probably name 44 C-list celebrities, how many people know the Jersey Shore characters, all the men of the Kardashian girls, and the American Idols. But the 44 most important leaders of our nation? Not even close. The ones in the middle are the hardest. But these are the most simple of our nation’s facts, we should know more.
So I commit to making amends for this and will have all the presidents memorized by the end of the week. After that, I’ll start working on learning about what major events happened during each presidency. If you want to know more visit these sites:
I was sorting through a few photos I’ve taken over the last couple months, and our pets keep coming up as a subject of my photos. Our animals are a large part of our lives, but I also take their photo because I find them funny or picturesque in a particular moment, or I’m trying to learn something with the settings on my camera and they are the most willing subject given my options.
I’ve been thinking about this post for 30 days and there was no way to write this in advance. On November 1st I decided to write a blog a day. Tonight marks the 30th post for the month of November. And I’m proud that I completed the goal. It’s been a struggle, I couldn’t’ have done it without the help of my husband in the evenings. November is a very busy month in general for our family and especially since the end of the month leads up to two of the busiest days in my annual calendar, not counting Thanksgiving.
In order to accomplish a blog a day, I had to really think and plan ahead. There were days when I would sit down at 8 or 9 p.m. wondering what I was going to write about that day. Some days the blog seemed to write itself, especially when I could recognize the gift of that day.
My favorite post was when my son got my camera and secretly took photos (A Photographer in the Making). That also happened to be one of the most viewed posts of the month.
The hardest post to write was about the Penn State child abuse scandal. (Little Lost Boys)
My favorite photo project and title of the month was When Frost Happens. This was one of those that wrote itself.
Writing daily has made me buckle down and be disciplined. The rigor of daily reflection brings perspective. This exercise has literally made me stop and “smell the roses.” Blogging consistently makes me re-frame everyday moments. It also makes me consider things more thoroughly and thoughtfully.
For me, writing is probably my single best skill. I majored in communications with an emphasis on journalism. I’ve been in PR and marketing communications jobs for the whole of my professional career. I’ve been in jobs before where my main function was to write whatever needed to be captured. Since my professional career began technology has gone from typing into a word processing typewriter to micro-blogging on Twitter with my mobile phone. Who could have imagined that?
Writing is a skill; it’s a job; and it’s a gift. Anyone can learn to write well but not everyone is a gifted writer.
Writing is cathartic for me. I’ve kept some form of a journal since I was 12 years old. I’ve been working out my emotional tribulations by writing about it almost since I was able form words into sentences. No matter if writing is a necessary skill in today’s information age or if you are a gifted writer, practice makes you better.
The awesomeness of blogging means that you get “published” every day that you decide to write. With the tools available you become a content generator. The downside is that there is a lot more content out there to sort through. But the main thing is to continue to do it regularly. Consistently producing new content is like major league at-bats. The more you’re up at the plate the more opportunities you have to hit a home run.