What I Knead

I beg you not to hate me for what I’m about to tell you: I make my own bread.

I know, I know! I’m one of those people. I probably have my own wheat fields and store my scythe next to the 200-year-old quilting loom, which I’ve used to make intricate quilt patterns since I was three.

Okay, it’s not that bad. I just make bread. After breaking three bread machines, I went back to basics. Yes, it takes a big chunk out of my day, so I make about eight loaves at a time. This lasts us almost three weeks…if I don’t give any away. But I like to give it away.


I’m soy intolerant. It’s tough to find store-bought bread that isn’t made with soy products—the flour, the oil, the lecithin. Mainly, the soybean oil. That one really messes with me.

I could buy some specialty breads, but they cost at least twice as much. Homemade bread is equivalent to the price of the regular, store-bought varieties. That cost includes using butter, milk, honey, wheat germ, and sea salt. So, it’s healthier, heartier, and it tastes incredible.

It’s also a perk that my children think store-bought bread is a treat. Whoo hoo! We get Nature’s Own and Skippy today? Suddenly, I’m the greatest mom ever.

Punch that dough into shape!
Punch that dough into shape!

My sister came over to learn how to make bread. When it came time to knead it, I asked, “Wanna try?”

She worked the dough for a while. “Is this good?” she asked, showing me her progress.

“It needs to be more elastic. Punch and roll it.” I showed her what I meant. “Remember the Tae-Bo fast punch? That’s a good one.” I demonstrated.

She started laughing. “So this is why you like making bread,” she said as I socked the dough with a right uppercut.


Here’s my bread recipe presently. It changes. (Currently, I’m experimenting with yeast substitutes, since that’s the most expensive ingredient.) Feel free to substitute bread flour, since the bromate makes the bread less likely to fall apart. Using all-purpose flour means having to work the dough more to get a firmer loaf.

Homemade Honey Wheat Bread

(Makes 4 loaves)

2 cups scalded milk
½ cup honey
5 1/3 Tbsp. butter, melted
2 Tbsp. salt
2 pkg. (1 ½ Tbsp.) active dry yeast
2 cups cold water
1 cup wheat germ
2 cups whole wheat flour
6 cups all-purpose flour

Mix melted butter, honey, and salt, pouring in scalded milk. Add the cold water. Sprinkle yeast over the top and stir until dissolved. Add wheat germ, whole wheat flour, and 1 cup of all-purpose flour. Beat well with electric mixer. Add enough remaining flour to make a soft dough, stirring with a wooden spoon or dough hooks.

Turn dough onto floured board and knead for 10 minutes. Place in a greased bowl; let rise until doubled in bulk (1 ½ hours). Punch down; let rise again until doubled (1 hour). Shape into 4 loaves, and place in greased loaf pans. Let rise until doubled (1 ¼ – 1 ½ hours).

Bake at 375, keeping low in oven for 25-30 minutes for freezing or 35 minutes, or until golden brown, for serving.

One of these days I hope to get my own grain mill. Electric. No, I don’t intend to grind wheat by hand. Really.


Home. Drive.

I grew up on the First Coast. My family still lives there. I don’t. Yes, I miss it. I even miss the sweltering summers, though the heat we meet with every summer should have cured me by now. We came down in tropical storm Debby two years ago; and while we were there, the water stopped running at my parents’ house. Ironic that. The roads were flooding, and we couldn’t flush a toilet. But that got fixed, and then my sister’s boyfriend had the nerve to show up. (I guess I should add that his plans to visit had been made before we jumped in the car and sped down there, but I really don’t think that’s important—we were there first.) Nobody kicked us out of the house or anything, but my sister was there, and my 91-year-old grandmother was there, and my mom and dad were there (being their house and all). Then the boyfriend arrived.

By ABC Television (eBay item photo front photo back) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons
Stuffing our Cunningham family of five into the house was a bit much, we thought. So we asked folks in the congregation there if we could bunk at someone’s house for a couple of days. Seriously, there is nothing like having church family! You get all up in each other’s business and aggravate one another to no end, and, somehow, you can’t get enough of ‘em.

The couple who took us in must feel the same way about us because they didn’t mind telling us, “You guys can stay here or not, we just wanted to keep the kids.” My husband and I felt we could accommodate them and promptly made plans to spend a night in St. Augustine, which happens to be my absolute favorite place to wander around. Realm picked the place we stayed. While it wasn’t solely based on what we were having for breakfast, he admitted that was a big factor in the decision-making process. The style of our room was ‘vintage,’ quaint and lovely, and I had a delightful assortment of hot teas to choose from in the morning. The breakfast was hearty. Our host shared his recipes and experiences, which had me wishing I ran a bed and breakfast—a wish that is rekindled every time I stay in one. I was very pleased.

Then we went all around the city, wherever I wanted to go. I almost killed Realm because I had him trekking in direct sunlight halfway up the boulevard and back. He came close to having sunstroke, I think. He became increasingly nauseated while I was paying for my raspberry sorbetto, handed me the keys, and got out two words: “Home. Drive.”

Advice to St. Augustine tourists: The Old City should be taken in doses and not in the midday heat. The locals know a siesta is more than just about a nap. You’d think that, as many times as I’ve been there, I’d heed my own advice, but I become too giddy with the adventure of scouring the city again for more tidbits of history.

It ended up being a refreshing visit to Florida after Realm recovered. And when it was time to leave, I toted out my suitcase to find a go-kart strapped to the top of our minivan. (We stored a go-kart in my dad’s shed when we moved from Florida.)

Yes, that's me on the go-kart before we moved. As you can see by the lack of glaring sun and my bulky sweater, it's a typical Florida winter.
Yes, that’s me on the go-kart before we moved. As you can see by the lack of glaring sun and my bulky sweater, it’s a typical Florida winter.

Now, I love go-karting. It releases some crazy, competitive monster in me when I race around a track breathing in oil fumes and tire particles. But it’s just not the same feeling, the wind whipping the bungee cords and ratcheted straps of the go-kart tied to the roof of the van. As though it wasn’t enough that Realm drives like a maniac, we were perfect targets for any annoyed driver who wished to pinpoint our location by satellite throughout our trip.

About two hours into the drive, Realm began to regret his great idea:

“We are getting terrible gas mileage.”

“Oh, really? You should see the stares we’re getting from the drivers we’re passing.”

“We aren’t getting any stares.”

“No? Try slowing down and driving in the right-hand lane for a while.”

My backseat driver sarcasm didn’t faze him. Early on in our marriage, he dubbed me “The Naggravator.” Besides, he was too busy scouting out a semi to draft behind.

And you know what? I’m missing Florida again. I guess it’s time to “Home. Drive.”

Wooed by Smoke and Flame

I’m married to the grill master of my dreams. We’re having beautiful weather here, and Realm has been grilling out once a week. He’s a charcoal grill connoisseur. We tried gas once. The flavor’s not the same.

By Brian Chu (Own work) [CC-BY-2.5 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.5)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons
My favorite cologne for Realm is eau de Grill. I can smell it in his hair when he walks in from the porch. Some people sniff markers and glue; I tiptoe up to my husband and breathe in smoky bliss. He thinks it’s funny. I think it’s delicious.

He cooks steak to perfection…and herbed salmon, honey Italian marinated chicken, shish kabob—Oh! Shish kabob with garlic and onions, mushrooms, zucchini, and tomatoes is my favorite! I eat up all the cloves of garlic and onions before they reach the table. (My scent is eau de Halitosis.)

Of course, there’s the occasional burnt fare. Realm hates when this happens. I lurve it! The only thing better than grilled meat is charred grilled meat! I’m not saying I want ash here, but a burger that’s blackened is so yummy.

Realm and I just celebrated our 18th anniversary. Our marriage is an adult now. I’m very much in love with him. I think one secret to a happy 18 years is having a husband who knows how to woo his wife long after the “I do.” I like flowers. I like chocolate. But there is nothing like, “Honey, I cooked dinner.”

“Fat.” There, I Said It.

I have two copies of the first book in The Bobbsey Twins series. One is a 1961 edition, and the other is from 1989. My kids and I found, while reading along with these two versions, that an adjective from the nicknames of the youngest set of Bobbsey twins had been removed. Flossie is nicknamed “my fat little fairy” by her father, and Fred has the loving epitaph, “fat little fireman.” “Fat” was completely missing in the 1989 version.

“The Bobbsey twins were very busy that morning. They were all seated around the dining-room table, making houses and furnishing them…” By Carla Pettigrew Hufstedler [CC-BY-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons
After the kids and I discovered this, we had a good laugh. The connotation of “fat” in the U.S. is much different from its harmless meaning fifty years ago. How about centuries ago? Wasn’t fatness a desired quality during the Renaissance? One risked being considered impoverished and easily susceptible to disease without a healthy display of bulk.

My kids are slender. They are all good eaters, but I have a child who tends to lose weight easily when she’s sick. I’m always trying to plump her up with cheese and spoonfuls of peanut butter. She often requests to melt the peanut butter with chocolate chips. That works for me.

Sometimes she will ask me if a food she enjoys will help her get fat.

“Mom, are these Kippers good for making me fat?”

“Mom, can we get those Little Debbie domino brownies at the store?”

I can’t stand those.

She knows it, so she adds, “I think they will help me get fat.”

In our fat-phobic society, a nickname like “my fat little fairy” or “my fat little fireman” is tottering on abusive language. If you use a similar phrase as a term of endearment, you might be blamed for your child’s years of therapy. So, don’t do that. Just stick to something noncommittal, like “nice” or “sweet.”

What about using “fat” as a writer? Do you find you avoid certain words and phrases merely because they could be offensive to that reader whose pet pug is going to need a dog whisperer because you didn’t think anything of naming your main character’s dog Pudgy Purple Pug? Or have you ever wondered what harmless adjectives, names, or even ideals might be offensive in later years?

No, never.

I don’t either. Not at all.

Words With Two Letters

Since getting my smart phone, I’ve been playing lots of Words With Friends. I don’t play my friends because I’m embarrassed at how terrible I am at the game. I’ve played, oh, about 30-50 games against Realm. I’ve won one game. One.

Words With Friends via flickr: http://www.flickr.com/photos/scriptingnews/5344839862/
Words With Friends via flickr.

The resulting ego plunge has left me less than confident in my vocabulary skills. (Disclaimer: Though I recognize a ton of words and know their meanings, I cannot pronounce them properly to save my life. I’d blame this on society, but Dictionary.com provides an icon to listen to any word you look up…which I forget to use.) I mean, how can a writer who knows the correct spelling of omphaloskepsis go wrong? I think the answer lies in the amassing of little-known two and three-letter words, such as “qi” and “xu” and “qat.” My mom, whom I have yet to beat, uses the ingenious method of placing random letters together until she comes up with something like “vang” for an astronomical amount of points. Then she messages me, “I didn’t know that was a word!” Yeah, play innocent, Mom.

Realm knows I’m playing for serious. I want to beat him so badly. So, he’ll tease me while I’m making dinner.

“I played. Just to warn you, this one’s brutal.”

I let the green beans burn to check my board. Yep, he played “brutal.”

I’m desperate to master the skill of winning WWF. As hard as I try, I can’t seem to place my tiles on the right squares and find that perfect two-letter combination. And I don’t want to think about the time I waste on this ridiculous game, shuffling tiles and dragging and dropping nonsense combinations on squares. The blip of the “not an acceptable word” replays over and over in my ears as I try to come up with something remotely close to 10 points, a feat that draws me nowhere near Realm’s 60+ point lead. I think I’d fare better staring at my bellybutton in mystical contemplation of the cosmos. (In case you’re wondering, I pronounce it “cause-moss” now. Thank you, Joe Kurtenbach, for clearing that up in your post last week.)

One good thing could come of this. If I learn enough of these two-letter babies, they could replace the longer ones in my manuscript, reducing the word count considerably! I’ll be one with qi then.

Rilla Saves Space

I think I should wear a cape while finding places to put things in our new house. It takes super powers to organize all this stuff! Granted, I’m no neat freak. On a scale of one to five—five being “slob”—I think I’m about a 4½. I’m okay with that. Not that I want to document my mess for anyone who happens to click on my blog post…

We have smaller closets, so I’m attempting to maximize closet space. I was very spoiled in our last house because I had a closet to myself. (You might remember, I liked to hide out in there to write.) Now that I’m sharing a closet with Realm, I refuse to give up having my dresser in my closet. Keeping my clothes in one location truly saves time. Unfortunately, there was no place to put my shoes.

Until… (Ta da! Ta da!)

I try to be sensible about my shoes…except for the ones with the mismatched shoelaces. Those were free.

I found this little shoe rack at Walmart. (Dear Walmart, You can always send me $15 for this plug. Your cheerful little consumer, Rilla Zerbert.)

In the bathroom I wanted to set out towels and toiletries for guests.

20140129bI bought the little white shadow box bathroom scene for 99 cents at the thrift store, along with the little pink tray holding the hand towels and wash cloths for $1.59.

20140129aI found the two-section shelf at another thrift store for $5.

Notice the magazines in the bottom section. You can tell from the lifted toilet seat that a male uses this bathroom. A couple of years ago, I learned a fascinating tip from Sheila Butt, a Christian mom of three Christian men and currently a TN State Representative. Here it is:

If you want your son to read something, put it in the bathroom.

Wisdom from a pro. That’s the reason for the stack of Discovery magazines from Apologetics Press in our bathroom. If you don’t think it works, try it. I cannot count the times my son has told me an interesting scientific fact and stated, “I read it in Discovery.”

Now to the guest bedroom closet, where I store items for welcome baskets to give to new members of our congregation. There are ladies who help me by donating gifts, so I needed a place for all these goodies. This is what I came up with:

100_1251I found the blue and green containers at the dollar store. I already had the shoe rack, which was too bulky to work in my closet. There is space behind the shoe rack to keep the rolls of cellophane for the baskets. I omitted a row to get to the rolls easily. I’m so motivated to see these containers empty!!

All this space-saving means I can sit down amidst my usual piles of stuff and write without the frustration of a dozen waiting boxes staring me down. Waiting boxes do stare. I saw one out of the corner of my eye while writing a poignant death scene the other day. And it shut its eyes in a flash when I looked up to catch it.

Next, I’m thinking craft center and a board game center. (Board games don’t get played if you can’t see them.) I just need to get a round tuit. 🙂

Clinging to the Ledge

I went ice skating for the first time on Monday. Well, I tried to ice skate at least. For a gal who has very little coordination, I was simply thrilled to stand up in the skates. I was pulled toward the rink, where kids and adults flew past me in effortless abandon. It took me back to junior high, when I’d tried to roller skate. It wasn’t a good memory. Balance is not my strong point.ImageI slipped into the rink. Slipped, yes. I held onto the side of the rink. There was a narrow–I wouldn’t call it a rail–edge of the wall just below the plexiglass. I think I made claw marks.

I froze. My legs would not move.This is impossible, I thought. I am going to die. Those were my thoughts. I’m not ashamed to admit it. Much.

I looked at my daughter, holding onto the puny ledge ahead of me. She looked back and grinned. “Come on, Mom!” she encouraged.

If she could cling to the sides and find joy in it, then certainly I could make myself do something. I pushed my heavy foot forward. Both feet decided to slide around.

Yep, I’m going to die. More claw marks. More petrification.

I looked up to see daughter number two a quarter of the way around the ledge. She was a pro in my eyes. My other daughter was waiting for me. “Are you coming?” she asked.

‘No,’ I wanted to say. ‘I’m high-tailing it back to the warmth of the snack counter.’ Then I looked toward the snack counter and met my husband’s eyes. They were laughing eyes. That irked me. He wasn’t even getting on the rink! How dare he laugh at me? That’s when I decided I would skate. I would skate plastered to the ledge for one whole lap.

I’ll show him, I thought.

So, around the rink I dragged myself, gripping the ledge for dear life and moving with snail-like velocity. Then the inevitable happened: I found someone as terrified as I was. She was moving in the opposite direction.

“It seems we’ve come to an impasse,” I said, looking at her–the fear on her face mirroring my own. You might be wondering why I made such a stupid observation, oozing with social ineptness. She didn’t. She could care less what I’d said.

“I’m horrified,” she got out.

I tried to nod in understanding and almost lost my balance. I backed up until she could reach an exit, looking forward to using the grooves her nails had etched in the ledge. I felt like a hero when she escaped.

I met a man on the other side of the glass who kept thwacking his knee. “My knee is fine!” I assured him, but he couldn’t hear me. I finally realized, halfway around the rink, he was trying to tell me to bend my knees. I tried it. I almost died.

But I made it. And would you believe I kept going? I slip-skate-slid around the rink five times. I even let go of the ledge for short, slippery intervals. My girls skated around and across the rink. They were my heroes.

I want to go back.

photo credit: <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/lilymonster/6170089165/”>Anomalily</a&gt; via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a&gt; <a href=”http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/2.0/”>cc</a&gt;