Friday, December 23, 2011

Suzanna Gratia-Hupp: What the Second Amendment is REALLY For

Texas state representative, Suzanna Gratia-Hupp, whose parents were killed by an insane gunman while her gun was out in the car, gives very moving and bold testimony about the REAL reason that the second amendment was designed to protect our God-given right to keep and bear arms.

This is an incredibly awesome video. Please share it!

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

San Augustin Water Grab Hearing Date Set - Feb 7

The State Engineer has scheduled a hearing on the San Augustin Water Grab for Tuesday, February 7, 2012.   PLEASE put this on your calendar and plan to be there. Our numbers are making a difference. It's hard to ignore a crowd!

Date of the hearing: February 7, 2012
Place: Socorro District Courthouse,
  200 Church Street, Socorro
  Courtroom 1, second floor
Time: 10AM

The hearing is on the motions to dismiss the application.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Wood Stove Comfort

Copyright © Lif Strand 2011

I’ve just come in from feeding the horses and splitting some wood.  Yesterday it snowed briefly and never got above 48°.  I built my first fire in the wood stove.  I used wood that had been sitting stacked next to the stove since this past spring when I let the last fire die out, so it was plenty dry and fast to ignite.

The wood stove is my only source of heat in the house.  I hooked up a propane wall heater a while back but when I tried it, it leaked and no matter how many times I reconnected everything I couldn’t get it to stop leaking.  So wood still remains my heat source. 

Trust me – wood heating is a lot of work.  I’m a lazy person.  The two don’t go together all that well if the person in question expects to stay warm when it’s blowing and freezing outside. 

It occasionally freezes inside my house, too.  As a result I have no house plants, just those potted herbs, veggies and flowers that I’ve brought inside to keep them going a while longer.  They only last till the night I insufficiently stoke the wood stove before retiring, or when I go away and just let the house get as cold as it is going to get.

Lest you worry, the cats and dogs all have fur coats and deal with the occasional frostiness inside my house just fine.  I don’t.  Trust me on another thing:  If you’re sitting around a blustery winter evening reading, you need a wood stove to keep you warm.  Quilts, furs, fleece and down won’t keep your fingers, your nose or your toes warm enough.

Thing is, there’s so much work associated with wood heat.  Oh sure, you can get yourself  a paycheck from a 9-5 job and just buy split wood, get it delivered and stacked - but my boss is me, and I don’t get paid enough by me to spend money on the multiple cords of wood I need to get through the cold season. 

My best intentions are to cut early and the wood will be dry by the time I need it.   I choose trees on my own place that have been hit by bark beetles or are just fading away because of drought – I not only get wood for the stove but also provide a better environment for the remaining trees while making my land more wildfire resistant.  My best intentions rarely ever pan out. 

Remember my boss?  She just doesn’t ever seem to give me a break.  Work, work, work – I wear out the lettering on my keyboard keys all the time (good thing I’m a touch typist).  Typing does not = a stack of wood.

And there are so many other reasons for not going out there and cutting wood – don’t want to do it when it’s hot, can’t do it during fire season, and when it starts raining, I don’t want to do it then either.  Right now, October, is a good time of year for cutting wood, though it won’t all be as dry as it might be before I really need it in winter.  I really should be out there with the chain saw today – but I think I’ll take it into town instead and get it tuned up and sharpened.  I’ll cut wood another day.  Probably, like last year, in the dead of winter.  Hey, logs pull down the hill much easier on snow!

Even if I cave in and buy wood (it could happen!), that’s not all there is to a wood stove.  There’s splitting the wood, carrying it in every day (twice a day if it’s really cold), cleaning out the ashes regularly, sweeping up all the wood debris and dirt that falls off the logs, climbing up onto the roof every so often and banging on the stovepipe to knock the creosote off the walls and of course, stoking the fire regularly enough that all the work yields a warm house in the dead of winter.

And yes, it’s worth it.  There’s something about the heat from a wood stove that is very different from any other heat.  It’s as if it reaches out to something in my very being and touches my core with comfort and security, not just physical warmth.  When it’s snowing and blowing outside and there’s a cheery blaze in the wood stove, enough logs in the burn chamber to last the night and a stack of wood nearby to build the fire up again in the morning, when I turn out the lights and see the yellow flickering light cast by the flames through the vents in the door and I feel that warmth on my skin all the way to my bones, I know all’s right with my world.
Baseboard heaters just don’t do that for me.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Living in Freedom

Terrorism isn't about blowing up buildings or killing people.  Terrorism is intimidation. The attacks of September 11, 2001 have achieved a terrorist victory that we Americans gave to them:  They hit the twin towers, but we've allowed ourselves - encouraged ourselves - to succumb to the fear.  Full article

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Living My Life: High Summer

copyright (c) 2011 Lif Strand

Part 2 of the series.  Go to Part 1
There’s summer, with day after day of clear blue skies, white hot sun beating down, so dry that you don’t even sweat because any moisture you produce evaporates before it can bead up. Every afternoon you bless the shadows that are finally cast, shade that feels cool in comparison to earlier in the day, even though it’s still in the high 80s in the shadow. All that wind from spring is gone and you wish it back, you welcome the slightest stirring of air to provide some relief from the searing heat.

That’s summer. And then there’s high summer, when we have rain. The brown grass turns a verdant green, a riot of flowers are heavy with pollen, lush fruit ripens and bends the stalk. That’s now.

I’m sitting in my car, engine off, waiting for my friend to meet me so we can car pool to town. Everyone car pools around here – or at least the women do – partly to save gas money and partly because most people prefer to have company when they drove a lot. I don’t – I do some of my best thinking while driving – but the gas savings is still important, and my friend generally prefers company when she drives.

It’s pouring rain. The sky is blue in two directions, black in the other two plus overhead. It could only be the Southwest in monsoon season - July, August or September - when sometimes it rains on a cow’s left horn but not on the right.

Living at the end of a long dirt two-track means extreme planning for at least two seasons:  High summer (now, the rainy season) and dead of winter (January through March, when there’s the most likelihood of snow and ice). Our soil here has a high clay content – slick snot when it’s wet. It’s amusing to see the tracks of vehicles that have gone before you, leaving the wandering tracks across the road like a drunk driver's, maybe even with the bonus of a gouged rut in a ditch where the car or truck slid off the crown. It’s entertaining – until it happens to you.

So you plan. You avoid driving when it’s actively raining and for a good half hour or more after. You watch weather reports so you can get out and back while the road is still a road and not an amusement park slide. You make sure you’ve got enough supplies to last at least a week, preferably two, in case of flooding when the road can be bad for days in a row. In the winter you get out while the road’s still frozen, come in after dark when it freezes up again.

The thunder is moving on; rain now just a light shower. I wouldn’t risk driving the two miles home from here right now if that’s where I was headed even though the road surface doesn’t look all that bad. I know that’s deceptive, and that within just a few feet the tire treads would be packed and the rubber coated half an inch or more with clay. I can see from here the first spot where I’d be sweating it, a very slight curve around a juniper tree – just enough for me and others to slide off the edge. It happened so often I finally took a chainsaw to the offending branches, but it’s still not a straight shot.

There are a few other spots after that – one place where there’s a slight bump, another couple areas where water pools a foot deep, creating an additional twelve inches of mush at the bottom. All fixable if I owned the road, untouchable as BLM property unless I jumped through some expensive hoops and put myself in a position of public liability. No thanks. I’ll risk the drive as is.

In spite of all the planning, the four wheel drive, the mud tires, I still get stuck every so often.  I never know until I turn off the engine if I'll make it home if I try at the wrong time.  Last week I had two close calls driving in with a load of hay. The road at those places looks like a tank battle took place – and it was a battle of sorts; my skill vs. the mud pit. That time I got out, but it was very close.

You’d think that going home would be easier since it’s downhill, but when I get truly and deeply stuck, it’s always in the downhill direction. That's why I always carry a tarp for the hay – not just to protect the load from rain but from cows, too, if the truck has to be abandoned.  And that’s why I always carry rubber boots and a rain coat.  Even though I'm usually not a happy camper when I first start the hike back, my boots picking up the same clay that the tires would have and making them dead weights as I slog through the muck, by the time I've gone a little ways I'm at peace again with the world.  I love high summer.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Living My Life: It's a tough job but somebody's got to do it

July 17, 2011

There’s really only one thing anyone wants to read about: Something about themselves or that could be about themselves, or something that’s going to help them live their lives – which really is still about themselves. We’re a selfish bunch, we humans – but all living beings are. It’s the only way to ensure survival of the species.

What I’m here to tell you about is how I live my life. Everyone’s life is fascinating in the hands of a good storyteller, but some of us live different enough lives that no matter who the storyteller is or how she tells it, the story carries itself.

So here I am, a mature woman (sorry, I may never grow up enough to be a senior), raised conventionally, who turned out… different. The reasons aren’t really important now. (That’s one of the great things about having sufficient years under the belt – you start looking at the big picture and realize the small stuff is just that. You finally get to focus on what’s important and best of all, because you’re old enough, there’s no one around to tell you to pay attention to all those pesky details).

But I digress – I tend to wax philosophical but I’ll try to cut that down to a minimum. What I’m trying to say here is that my life nowadays is different enough that it might actually be meaningful - or at least entertaining - for others.

How different could it be, you might well ask. Here’s a partial list. You decide.

  • I’ve lived in a straw bale cabin for about 13 years. That is, a house made of straw bales and not much else. None of that plaster stuff covering the straw, so wind tends to blow through. Birds nest in the walls and a resident four foot (and growing) bull snake keeps the chick population under control. My house does have a roof (it leaks), and doors and windows though, and someday I guess I’ll get around to the plastering. I love my little place (700 square feet and no interior walls) - snakes, bugs, birds, wind and all.
  • I have no heat other than a wood stove. Sometimes in the winter if it’s really, really cold and I’m too lazy to get up during the night, it freezes indoors. Potted plants don’t do well in my house and it can get annoying when I don't have anything liquid to brush my teeth with in the morning, but somehow these winter issues feel more like challenges than problems.
  • I don’t have real indoor plumbing, unless you include a hose poked through a wall with a garden spray nozzle delivery system as indoor plumbing. For years I heated water on my wood stove (or propane kitchen stove), but this year I made a solar hot water system and it works great when the sun’s shining. My shower involves a big pot holding suitable temperature water and a quart-sized ladle to get the water on my body. It works just fine, and I suppose someday I’ll fix it, but I'm in no hurry to fix what ain’t broke.
  • No indoor toilet. No outhouse, either. The old chamber pot system works just fine. I compost the results.
  • Off the grid – the nearest electrical lines are a mile away. Solar power has its drawbacks, but the great benefit is no monthly utility bill, and for a low-income person, that’s great.
  • No cell phone service. Maybe that’ s not such a big deal – after all, plenty of people live in little hollows where there’s no service. But I’m happy there’s no service.
  • Nearest neighbor is a mile and a half away. And that’s too close in my opinion.
  • Nearest store is 30 miles away. Almost far enough.
  • I live in the Southwest, so when it rains it pours. My little valley floods periodically and I can't leave for a few days. That's like vacation time for me.
  • I’ve been self employed almost all my adult life. From house painter to dude ranch wrangler to technical writer, I’ve somehow avoided 9-5 jobs almost the whole 4 1/2 decades since I left my childhood home. I don’t always have a lot of money, or even enough money, but that means I improvise. I do as much of the building and repair work by myself as I can. As for the rest – does it really matter if it gets done?
  • I care for six horses now – down from a lifetime high of around 50 at one point in my past. There’s no shoer nearby these days, so I deal with horse feet myself. There’s no vet nearby, so I treat the horses myself. And if needed, when the time comes I move a horse (or dog or cat) on to the next plane myself with my trusty .38. It’s a hard job, but it’s an ultimate act of love.
  • I have little to no social life. After my husband died suddenly over ten years ago, I’ve lived alone. I found I don’t need a man in my life. I’m not helpless. I’m free to become a hermit if I want or do anything in the world I want to do. I love it.

So there you go. I little strange, but perhaps stranger even is how much satisfaction I get from living my chosen lifestyle.

I dream of even greater independence – I’d like to fully raise my own food, for instance – and I’ve been working towards that it seems forever. I’m in no rush, though - it’s the journey towards self-sufficiency that holds the fascination for me. I’m not so very good at all of it, but in the end, who cares? I don’t want to wait for perfection to do what I want in life.

Next: High Summer

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Quemado Independence Day Celebration



· 11 a.m. ParadeTheme: Thank You Fire Fighters
· 11 a.m. Senior Bake Sale
· Noon BBQ(Quemado Fire Department)
· All Day Vendors around town


BBQ meat by Matthew Massey 

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Open letter to NM Gov. Susana Martinez on AWSA projects and protection of true stakeholders

June 21, 2011

Office of the Governor
490 Old Santa Fe Trail
Room 400
Santa Fe, NM 87501

Subject:  AWSA projects and protection of true stakeholders

Dear Governor Martinez:

The Interstate Stream Commission (ISC) has been authorized by the state of New Mexico to assume responsibility for the design, construction, operation, maintenance, and replacement of projects for waters designated available by the Arizona Water Settlements Act (AWSA).  To that end, people of the four counties of southwestern New Mexico for which the AWSA waters are available have been working since 2004 to develop projects to submit to ISC. 

It is the ISC’s mandate to apply the best available science to consideration of these projects, taking into account the ecological impacts of the proposed water uses while also considering the historic uses of and future demands for water in the Gila Basin, and the traditions, cultures and customs affecting those uses.

Unfortunately, what is and should be a relatively straightforward legal process has been distorted beyond functionality by non-stakeholders who were given “rights” to participate in the process by your predecessor.  Mr. Richardson added a level of bureaucracy through the creation of a stakeholders group that included individuals who are not water rights holders and who therefore cannot be directly impacted by AWSA waters decisions.  AWSA project process development has operated through stakeholder group consensus, thereby effectively providing the non-stakeholders with veto power.  These non-stakeholders were further aided by Richardson’s environmentalist-group-supported declaration that AWSA projects could not include planning or consideration of construction of dams on the Gila and San Francisco Rivers.  Since the only realistic way to have water to use during dry times of the year without cutting into downstream flow is to trap and retain it during times of extreme flow, such as during flood or snow melt, Richardson essentially blocked the most logical and potentially viable projects that could be submitted to ISC for consideration. 

The intent of the AWSA was to address the legitimate water use needs of the four county area of New Mexico.  The people who hold existing water rights are the true stakeholders impacted by the ISC’s choice of projects, however these very people for whom the water was intended have to compete with non-stakeholders for projects, and ultimately for the water needed by water rights holders to live and thrive today and in the future.

The AWSA is not about creating healthy watersheds so as to possibly produce more water or about conserving water, as important as these issues are.  AWSA is solely about finding beneficial uses for 14,000 acre feet of water annually.  It is essentially a “use it or lose it” proposition with a 2014 deadline.  Consensus veto power and non-stakeholder opinion have no place in ISC's AWSA project evaluation or decisions.

Governor Martinez, with your support the ISC can make wise decisions about projects for the stakeholders of the four county area.  I strongly urge you to instruct the ISC to resist the pressures of non-stakeholders with respect to ASWA waters.  Furthermore, I urge you to instruct the ISC to not consider proposals submitted by the US Forest Service, no matter the merit of the projects, given that the AWSA water was meant for New Mexico water users, not federal agencies.

Thank you for consideration of my comments.
Lif Strand
Quemado, NM

Estevan Lopez, ISC Director
Jim Dunlap, ISC Chairman
John D'Antonio, State Engineer
Craig Roepke, ISC Deputy Director

Monday, May 23, 2011

Sourdough cinnamon raisin bread - WARNING: non-dietetic!

I tried a new recipe for sourdough cinnamon raisin bread that I have been taste-testing all morning (in the interests of research only, to be sure).  I got it from

As you might be aware, I’m not into cooking, but I have this thing about sourdough – I don’t know why but I feel compelled to succeed at making a great loaf of sourdough bread.  I have set my handicaps:  Little patience for kneading, no cheating with electrical appliances, and, oh yeah, no oven.

That’s another story, the oven thing.

Anyway, now that my stomach is full of mildly underbaked sourdough cinnamon raisin bread, I have a new challenge:  Getting the baked-on sugar cement off the pan.

See,  I didn't follow the recipe exactly – I always preach following exactly the first time I make something from someone else’s recipe but in fact I rarely do that myself.  In this case I didn't have brown sugar (well, I probably do have some but I didn't look very hard for it after a cursory glance at the front of the shelves).  I also added a little dried lemon zest I had - I like the citrus taste in cinnamon rolls I enjoy at one particular local restaurant and thought that citrus might be a nice addition to the bread.  The result is pretty good but I think orange would be better. 

As for the sugar cement - the recipe calls for sealing the edges of the dough when rolling it up after sprinkling the dough with the sugar/spice mix.  I didn’t do much of a job kneading and maybe the recipe doesn’t call for enough flour (or maybe I didn’t measure the liquid part accurately – it eyeballed about right, it seemed to me) but for whatever reason, there was a lot of sugar leakage.

That didn’t seem all that important at the time.  I got a hint when I went to pick up the loaf to put in a bowl to rise and it started falling apart.  And after being left to rise overnight, the dough was kind of sitting in some sweet liquid broth – from the raisins?  Don’t know, but I poured some out.  Guess whatever it was, it had a high sugar content so now I have baked sugar cement on the bottom of the pan.  Also, as I mentioned above, it's undercooked – the recipe called for preheating to 450 and baking at 400, I preheated to 400 and ended up baking at 375 more or less.  That’s because I’m using a stove-top camping oven that just doesn’t like getting much higher than 400.  Like I said, that’s another story.

Meanwhile, the bread still is yummy - with all that cinnamon, sugar and raisins, how could it not be?  

Thursday, May 19, 2011

AWSA New Mexico Water for New Mexicans

This is a call for help. Please pass it on if you agree!  Please act if you are willing!

The Arizona Water Settlements Act of 2004 allows for an additional average of 14,000 acre feet of water to be developed in New Mexico from the Gila and San Francisco Rivers as well as $66M up to $128M for project development. People have been working since 2004  to develop plans for use of the water and money in the four county region of Catron, Grant, Luna and Hidalgo counties.  The Interstate Stream Commission has developed a two tier application procedure for projects (actually Tier II is still under development).

It is important to understand that by law this additional water use cannot impact the downstream water rights.  Since the water cannot cut into the downstream flow so as to reduce what people downstream are entitled to, it is obvious that the only way to get the water is to trap it during times of extreme flow, such as during flood or snow melt.

The problem is that the environmental community objects to dams and diversions on the Gila or San Francisco River.  The result would be that there is no way to keep water in New Mexico and the water continues on to Arizona.  This is not water that would be taken from wildlife habitat or farmers downstream - it is water that is flooding away to either just evaporate or end up in the ocean.  Environmental groups are urging their members to send letters to the State Engineer, the Interstate Stream Commission and others to promote their cause.  I probably don’t need to tell you the importance of keeping the water here, but suffice it to say that water = life. 

If we are to live here in Southwest NM, we must have water, too. Why should only people downstream of us have it to fill swimming pools, wash cars and water lawns while many of us are not even allowed to have faucets outside our houses to fill a dog's dish?  If we let this opportunity go now, it will probably never recur. 

Without going into the Act any deeper at this time, I am simply asking to you to send an email letter to Mr. Estevan Lopez, Director of the Interstate Stream Commission, Mr. Jim Dunlap, Chairman of the Interstate Stream Commission, to Mr. John D’Antonio, State Engineer, and/or to Governor Susana Martinez.  I am pasting an example letter you can work from or develop your own.  Note: this letter was supplied by Vance Lee, Chairman of the Gila/San Francisco Water Commission.  More info can be obtained at

Mr. Lopez:
Mr. Dunlap: (email address corrected 05/20/11)
Mr. D’Antonio:
Governor Martinez:

-------------------- sample email letter ---------------

May 19, 2011

Mr. Estevan Lopez, Director
New Mexico Interstate Stream Commission

Dear Mr. Lopez:

In regards to the Arizona Water Settlements Act and the effort of the Interstate Stream Commission to determine use of the additional water and money, please consider this as a request for the Commission to make every effort to base its decisions on keeping the additional water in Southwest New Mexico.  It is unacceptable to continue to allow water that can be made available for use in New Mexico to continue to flow downstream into Arizona.  I am confident that there will be acceptable proposals via the application procedure in place to develop the additional water and to put it to beneficial use.

Thank you for your consideration of this request.



Monday, April 11, 2011

Catron County Commission Demands Wolf Incident Investigation


RESERVE, NM.  “The wolf issue is one of the biggest problems the county has faced,” said Catron County Commission Chairman Hugh B. McKeen to Tod Stevenson, Director of New Mexico Department of Game & Fish at a regularly scheduled public meeting on Wednesday, April 6, 2011.  With Mr. Stevenson were RJ Kirkpatrick, Assistant Director NM Game & Fish; Jim McClintic, Chairman New Mexico State Game Commission; and Dick Salopek, New Mexico State Game Commission.  An audience of nearly 100 people attended the meeting.

In late January a formal complaint was filed by the county with NM Governor Martinez regarding a wolf depredation investigation that occurred on January 18, 2011.  Catron County contends that NM Game & Fish wolf biologists Ellen Heilhecke and Mischa Larisch allegedly sought to influence or change the official investigation findings of Sterling Simpson and Armando Orona of US Wildlife Services during an on-site investigation as to the cause of death of a cow. 

“Influencing or attempting to influence the findings of another agency’s official investigation brings up a lot of problems,” said Catron County’s Wolf Incident Investigator, Jess Carey.  “The credibility of the game department wolf biologist is now lost.”  Simpson and Orona did confirm that the cow was killed by wolves, with Carey concurring.

“Other findings of confirmed wolf kill have been changed to probable in the past,” Carey said.  “How can you change documented evidence?”

Stevenson confirmed that Larisch did call and relay a message from Heilhecke to the Wildlife Services personnel while the investigation was in progress, but denied that any impropriety occurred.

“My staff said they did not say that Wildlife Services should modify the finding from confirmed to probable,” Stevenson said.  “My folks called and said there were feral dogs in the area to take into consideration.”

“There were no feral dogs on this ranch,” Carey said.  “Last year, several miles away, a neighbor was letting his house dogs run loose, but that problem was resolved.  Mr. Simpson concurred:  There are no feral dogs out there”. 

At the conclusion of the meeting, Catron County Attorney Ron Shortes stated that he agreed with the Commissioners’ and Carey’s call for an independent, third party investigation of the incident.

“I think you have a conflict of interest when you say you have an obligation to facilitate this Mexican wolf recovery program vs. your constitutional obligation to the people of NM to protect wildlife,” Shortes said.

“While an independent investigation is needed, my ultimate feeling is that you have a bunch of good people with the New Mexico Game Commission and NM Game & Fish trying to do their best, but I’m wondering if they’re trying to do too much,” Shortes said.  “They’re assisting the recovery program on one hand, trying to protect wildlife on the other – is there any possibility of trust while that’s going on?”

After a show of hands to see how people in the audience felt, the Catron County Commissioners voted unanimously to go ahead with their request of Governor Martinez for a full, independent investigation of the incident.  Director Stevenson volunteered to provide a synopsis of the progress of the investigation by April 15, 2011. 

“Catron County has taken a no-wolf stand,” McKeen said.  “I’m requesting that you take a no-wolf stance, too.  It’ll do us all good – we’re not only concerned about livestock but wildlife, too.”

Bill Aymar, Catron County Manager                               
PO Box 507
Reserve NM  87830
(575) 533-6423

# # #

Monday, March 21, 2011

New CritterWalls Stickers!

Good day! We have entered a new season, and with Spring comes three new stickers from
These stickers are in the Fairy World line, joining the two Unicorn stickers.  The first two are round panels with beautifully detailed images of fairies and foliage by the incredible artist, Dede Lifgren.  The third is a step in a new direction, looking through a shuttered window to see a Cinderella type carriage drawn by white horses heading towards a turreted castle.
Fairy Woodland (detail)
Fairy Woodland depicts a fairy deep in thought, sitting on a lush green leaf, fairy dust all around her illuminating the mysterious woodland foliage.  18" in diameter, retail price $29.95.

Fairy Sleeping (detail)

Fairy Sleeping is our own version of Sleeping Beauty.  Illuminated by the glow of her own magic, a tiny fairy dreams away on the back of a patient cottontail rabbit.  18" in diameter, retail price $29.95.

Castle and Carriage (detail)
Carriage and Castle lets you look through a wooden shuttered window, past colorful flowers, to a view of a carriage that you know a fairy godmother had something to do with.  Is there a princess in the ornate, pink carriage pulled by a team of white horses?  Is she going to meet the price at the ball in the turreted castle on the hill?  37" x 24", retail price $29.95.

We have more stickers in the works in the Fairy World line - I know you'll love the whole Fairy World line and all CritterWalls stickers.

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Lif's Supposedly San Francisco Style Sourdough Bread

Note that my starter is iffy and my techniques are non-traditional.  I get hockey pucks as often as I get good bread.  The recipe below, however, is what I followed and got a really nice sour loaf - the longer rising time is what lets that sour develop.

1 c starter that's been sitting out at room temperature for at least 12 hours
1 c whole wheat flour
2 1/2 cups water
2 tsp salt

Whisk together all the above ingredients.  If you whisk the starter before you measure it, you'll get a better measurement (you'll whisk the bubbles out of it).

 5 cups bread flour

Add flour a cup at a time, mixing with a spoon as long as you can.  When you can't mix with the spoon any longer, start kneading the dough, adding in the flour that way.  You might need more flour or less depending on factors I have no clue about.  I occasionally wet my  hands and that keeps the dough from sticking to my skin so much, but I'm told I'm a weenie for worrying about that.

Knead bread 10-15 minutes.  Let it rest half an hour or so, then divide it into loaves or shape it as you want and let it rise at room temperature, covered, till doubled.  The original recipe I used said this would take 12-15 hours but it took my dough 48 hours in the pilot-lit oven to double.  I use the oven because 1) my house gets cold in winter and 2) fewer cat & dog hairs get into the bread - they get on the dough somehow even if it's covered.  I don't cook much so tying up my oven for 2 days is no big deal.

Preheat the oven to 375° (take the dough out first if you used the oven to let it rise!).  Slash the top of the loaves with a razor before you bake it- I don't know what good that does but the instructions say to do that and it looks cool.  Bake about 45 minutes.  The original recipe said to bake till the inside temp gets to 190° but I've never put a thermometer in the bread - I might try that sometime, since I think that would mean fewer hockey pucks.  Also, I'm at high altitude - if you're a sea level baker, the internal temperature should be 205°.  

Note:  If you have stronger starter you will probably get a shorter rise time.  If the dough gets doubled at an inconvenient time for baking, you can punch it down, knead it for a few minutes and let it rise a second time - the second rise time will be shorter.  Or you can ignore the dough for a few hours till you're ready to bake, which is what I do.  

Sunday, January 2, 2011

New Year's Resolutions

It's already January 2 - have you broken your first New Year's resolution yet?

One sure way to avoid breaking those well-intended resolutions is to just not make any at all.  Most of us are have higher expectations of ourselves than that, though, and we do want to improve.  We all have that little voice in the back of our heads that not only knows what's best for us, but has no problems nagging constantly about it.  In our better moments we heed that voice - we pick the salad over the fries, we walk up the stairs when we could take the escalator, we write the thank-you notes the next day instead of waiting till next week or next month.

It's so easy to slip back into slothful ways, though - and by slothful I don't only mean physical.  We have just as many bad mental habits as we do physical.  Actually, we have more, since the mind is where physical actions originate.

So how do you get yourself to not just pay better attention to that little voice in the back of your head, but to not end up breaking all those resolutions you make during the last minutes of a year?

You tell the right stories, is how.

We're all always telling stories about our lives.  I don't mean fiction; I mean the stories of our daily lives.  They're colored by how we feel about ourselves and how we are living, and they're important, not just for the information they convey to others, but also to ourselves and our little voices in the back of our heads.

Here's a scenario with a one-word story we all often tell (and are told):  Guy walks up and says "Hi, how are you doing?"  We say: "Fine."

"Fine?"  What kind of a story is that?  How often is it not even true?  How often have you given that response or a similar one, when really you were in pain, or you were worried about something, or you were angry?  We naturally hide our negative thoughts and feelings from others unless we know the person well enough to expose that vulnerable side of ourselves.

Here's another scenario that's too common:  We talk to people all day long - and to ourselves - and we tell the stories of how we are and what we fear we're going to become.  We run a repeat loop soundtrack in our minds of the problems we have, the pain we're feeling, the things we fear.  And then we wonder why we break our New Year's resolutions.

Oh, my pants are tight, I need to exercise more.  Yeah, but I need to find some exercise program that I'll stick to - I've never stuck to one for very long.  There must be something easy to do out there.  But I don't have time for exercise - it takes so long and I already have tons of stuff I need to do that I don't have time for.  Maybe if I just eat less…
Oh, I'll eat a salad tomorrow.  I deserve to have what I want sometimes - I don't have to be good all the time!  I'll have the fries, thank you.
The stories we tell about ourselves, particularly the ones we tell to ourselves, are stories we're putting out to the Universe and to the little voice in our heads about who we are.  And the Universe and our little voice believe it.  Those stories, being told over and over and over every day all day long, become a huge anchor that makes change difficult, if not impossible.

You can't sail off to a new place when the anchor's still holding you back.

There is no resolution more important than changing the stories you tell about yourself, whether you tell them to the outside world or you keep them in your head.  You can't make resolutions to change anything until you change the stories.

If you tell yourself and the Universe all the time that you're a fat person, you've put an anchor down that will keep you right there.  All the resolutions in the world won't sail the ship of health if your anchor is fat.

If you tell yourself and the Universe you're tired all the time, you've put an anchor down that will keep you tired.

If you tell yourself and the Universe that you're financially strapped, you'll keep yourself there.

Whatever you tell yourself and the Universe, there you are.

Of course, almost everyone has experimented with affirmations and many have found them to be less than useful.  Why?  Because affirmations - little statements you say once or twice a day, or read on the fridge door when you walk by (at least in the beginning - eventually you don't even see them any more) - are only little statements within the big stories of our lives.  They don't have the power to move that anchor.

Only you can hoist up the anchor so you can sail off.  Just make one resolution this year, and stick to it:  Make the stories of your life that you tell be of the life you want to live, not the life you don't want to live.

Not: My pants are tight, I want to exercise more.
Instead: I'm excited about exercising because when I do it I feel so good.

Not: I need to find some exercise program that I'll stick to - I've never stuck to one for very long.
Instead: I'm looking for the perfect exercise program for me and I can't wait to try them out.

Not: I don't have time for exercise.
Instead: I always have time for exercise because I like to do it!

Not: I'll eat a salad tomorrow. I deserve to have what I want sometimes
Instead: I love salads. Yum yum!

If you change the stories you tell of your life - every story every day every time you tell one - your life will change because you will have moved your anchor.  At first it will feel like lying - but it isn't.  You are the person who makes the choice of words you use and you can choose the ones that are positive and lead to where you want to go.

And the idea here is not just to say the words, but think about them, feel them in your heart, and believe them.  There's no point in saying you love salads if the whole time you're forcing a piece of tomato in your mouth you are wishing you were putting a fry in there.  What you think is a story you're telling, too - you need to tell yourself a story about what the tomato tastes like, how rich and flavorful it is, how satisfying it is and how much you're enjoying eating it.  You need to focus on what you want rather than what you don't have - and if enjoying a salad more than fries is what you want, then that's the story you need to tell.

Hoist up that anchor and sail on into 2011 and beyond!  You can do it!