Babies Don’t Cost That Much: Baby Monitor

Welcome to the first part of a new series we’ve created called “Babies Don’t Cost That Much.” Throughout this series, we will touch on different points of interest about the cost of raising a baby. We completely resent the “You have to buy this product or you’re a horrible parent” tactic that the manufacturers employ, profiting from the fears of vulnerable parents. When companies say “Don’t you want what’s best for your baby?” I normally translate it to “Don’t you want what’s best for our stockholders?” I could continue and probably get into a heated debate about Company A versus Company B and all that, but this post is just about how we saved money on one baby item…

So many people go on and on about how EXPENSIVE babies are (because you HAVE to buy the latest product) and how much WORK it is and blah blah blah. It doesn’t have to be expensive, and we definitely don’t consider raising a child “work” with the negative connotations that word invokes. It may be challenging at times, yes, but we decided to have a baby because we knew that we were ready to take whatever life throws at us and lovingly raise our child the best possible way we can. And one part of that is to not spend money that we don’t need to, otherwise known as wasting money.

The first post of this series will be about the baby monitor. Not the ones that look like a baby walkie-talkie that our parents used back in the 80s (although they probably could have bought walkie-talkies and duct taped the send button down for a continuous audio feed from the crib for a cheaper version), but the new, fancy-shmancy video ones that transmit not only audio but a video signal as well throughout your home using your wireless router. More secure from random creepsters trolling radio frequencies (I’m sure the NSA creepsters can see my baby sleep though), and the video can help us keep an eye on him and make sure he’s breathing without having to open the creaky door, walk on the creaky floor, and risk waking him up. And you can watch your naughty dog sneaking licks…

Ima_WV

Have you ever shopped for these things? Pretty expensive. And what if you want another receiver so you can watch/listen for your baby while you’re moving around your home doing things like cooking and cleaning and hanging pictures and gardening and everything you can possibly think of doing while you have the time and not have to worry about remembering to carry that monitor with you everywhere you go (when your hands are probably full anyway)? Keep on ratcheting up that price…

My solution: Wireless Security Camera. Bought it online for $60 with free shipping. That specific model is now discontinued, but both TigerDirect.com and newegg.com, have similar items in stock. And you can search other stores as well. But for $60 (and free 2-day shipping since it was right around Christmas) I was able to score a wireless security camera that I mounted above the crib, set up to work with my wireless network in the house, and I can access it from any device attached to the network. Multiple receivers = no extra cost because of the existing computers we have in the home. I can have it open on my computer in the office while I’m working. L can have it open on her computer wherever she’s working. I can have it open on my “smart” phone. And if I ever get un-lazy enough to set up remote access to my network, L and I can go out to dinner, leave WV at home with a sitter, and see/hear him from my phone while we’re enjoying duck confit and seared salmon…

And once it has served its time as a baby monitor, I can mount it near an exterior door and record if any intruders want to come inside the home with the fancy motion activated recording capability. Or run an extension cord and spy on the chickens. Or watch the garden grow. Or point it to the sky and do a cool time-lapse video the next time a hurricane comes through. Or sell it. Or never use it again and still be better off than I would be had I bought a $250 system that does the same thing.

Stay tuned for more money saving posts, and feel free to share any ways you and your family have done the same!

Our CSA Experience, so far

Remember the failed $50 grocery experiment? Well, not to be discouraged, we have continued to search for ways to lower our monthly food budget.

The past few summers, we have been pretty reliant on the Yorktown and Williamsburg Farmers Markets on Saturday mornings for our fresh, local vegetables and eggs (and sometimes meats). We knew it was a little more expensive to eat this way, but figured it was worth it to have the peace of mind that we know what we’re putting into our bodies and we’re supporting local farmers rather than giant companies with their franken-foods and huge distributors. And yes, we do grow a lot of our own, but we can only grow so much with the amount of space we have.

Our neighbor came to us to ask if we would be interested in going in together on a full CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) share. This is something I had considered in the past, but never put too much thought into it because of the upfront cost. Well, we did just a teeny tiny bit more research and found out that it is definitely worth the upfront cost, and signed up in a heartbeat. It comes out to just a little more than $13 a week for fresh, local produce from May through September. And it’s a lot of produce. We essentially get an overflowing brown paper grocery bag each Friday, which we split in half and still is an overflowing brown paper grocery bag, and we’re pretty much set on veggies for the week. With a nice note attached each week from the farmers themselves (see below). Can’t get that at the grocery store OR the market.

DaySpring1

Now, we still have to go to the store to buy a few things, but we really enjoy picking up a bag of fresh produce each Friday afternoon. And we play a little guessing game as to what we think will be in the bag each time. So far we’ve had some absolutely delicious strawberries, lettuce, mixed greens, green onions, cabbage, radish, Swiss chard, Pac Choy, arugula, and broccoli. It also forces us to come up with or find new recipes to eat what we have on hand (stay tuned for additions to the recipes page throughout the next few months). So between the CSA and our own garden, we should be pretty set for not only eating fresh produce throughout the summer, but saving what we don’t eat (need to buy a pressure canner… any advice?).

I won’t go into full details on the cost breakdown of our food budget just yet, as we have to wait a few months to see the results of the initial upfront investment, but I just wanted to share about our experience so far with the CSA and the delicious produce we have received. Here’s a link to the farm if you are interested in finding out more information: Dayspring Farm.

Replacing the Third Brake Light – 2009 Honda Civic EX Coupe

DO NOT TAKE YOUR CAR ANYWHERE TO GET THIS DONE! IT IS SUPER EASY!

“But I don’t know anything about cars, I’m too afraid that I might mess something up and then have to take it to the shop to get more work done,” you might say. Fine with me – you’re not spending my money. But doing your own work on your vehicle, even if you’re not a mechanic, saves you a TON of money* and gives you a sense of satisfaction and accomplishment. And I’m not saying don’t ever go to a shop. There are things I can’t do, I don’t have the necessary tools, I don’t know how to weld, etc. Definitely support your local businesses, but support yourself too. Mechanics have to put food on the table for their families, but you have to keep food on the table for your family.

So here’s the story: I take my 2009 Civic in to get new tires installed. I don’t have the necessary tools to mount the tire on the wheel, so that’s one of the instances I take it to the shop. My inspection expires this month, so I say go ahead and inspect it while it’s there. Normally I check everything myself before I take it in so I can fix whatever’s wrong before it fails, but it was already there and it’s a 4 year old car, I figured I was safe. WRONG. The third brake light (the one in the middle above the trunk) was out. And Honda has decided they need to make more money, so instead of replacing a bulb like you would do in any normal car, you have to replace the entire LED strip. And you HAVE to get it from Honda, as AutoZone does not carry it. The shop wanted $175. $90 for the part, $85 for the labor. Holy cow!

They said it was so expensive because they had to entirely dismantle the rear portion of the car and it’s a very time intensive process ~ around 2 hours. I figured if it takes a mechanic 2 hours, it will take me 4 (or 8, or 2 weekends…), so I waited until I had a free afternoon to take care of it. That afternoon was this past Sunday. I dropped off my thesis to get bound on Saturday morning, then on the way home went to the Honda stealership to pick up the part so I would have it for the next day. It looks like a cheap piece of plastic that some 5 year old Chinese kid made for a total cost of about $3.87, but it cost me $88.59 after tax.

L and I had spent the hottest part of the day in the garden, which was good because I could wait until it cooled down a bit before I started my auto repair work. (I hate having to crawl around under an engine, under the hood, or contorting my body to squeeze into the back of the 2-door Civic and work with tools while I’m dripping in sweat.) My Haynes manual didn’t have anything about replacing the third light (second time they have failed me – first was when I was replacing L’s timing belt in her 2007 Accent), so I did a quick online search and found a text-based walk through on a Civic forum. This post, however, is complete with pictures and my own snarky “humor”. So enjoy!

1. Remove the jogging stroller from the trunk.

2. Lay down the back seats, feeding the center seat belt through the slit so the seat lays down easily.
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3. Disconnect the wire that leads to the brake light. This is the view from inside the trunk, looking up.
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4. There are indentations on the front of the rear panel. This is where the panel attaches itself to the rest of the car. Put your fingers under there and pry up. It pops off easily. Don’t break anything (on the car or your body).
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5. The wire that you disconnected from the wiring of the car is still attached to the body. See the little plastic thingy sticking up in the picture below? (You should, it’s circled.) Squeeze it and feed the wire through the hole.The panel is also attached near the rear windshield. Apply a little bit of pressure back there as well, and lift the panel.
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6. Get out of the car, turn the panel over, and remove the screws attaching the speaker protector to the panel.
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7. Remove the non-working LED strip, replace it with the new one.

8. Put everything back together, connect the wire, drink a celebratory beer.

Total time: ~5 minutes.

I then proceeded to make a chocolate cake, which took way longer than replacing the brake light.

A side note: I was fully expecting this to take all afternoon, not 5 minutes. This prohibited me from fixing it right away and bringing it back the next day for re-inspection (in the middle of the month). I ended up having to wait almost 3 hours on 4/29 because of everyone else waiting until the last minute. Chalk this up as another life lesson and add it to the list of reasons why I find it extremely difficult to trust mechanics. Had I allowed them to do the work, would they have been honest and tell me that it only took 5 minutes so they were not charging me the quoted price? Or would they keep that their little secret and pocket that extra cash? It sickens me to think of the latter, and to think that so many nice, well meaning people get taken advantage of by sneaky sharks trying to make a buck.

If you still find yourself reluctant to do the work, bring me your car, the part(s), and something awesome (beer/pie/bratwurst/baseball tickets/baby sitting promise) and I’d be more than happy to do it for or with you!

Join me next weekend (or next next weekend, or next next next weekend) when I replace the heater core in my 1997 Blazer!

———————————————————-
*1 ton of pennies = $3,628.74, rounded to the nearest cent.
*1 ton of nickels = $9,071.85, rounded to the nearest nickle
*1 ton of dimes = $39,999.30, rounded to the nearest dime
*1 ton of quarters = $39,999.25, rounded to the nearest quarter
*1 ton of half-dollars = $39,999.50, rounded to the nearest half-dollar
*1 ton of dollar coins = $111,998, rounded to the nearest dollar
*1 ton of dollar bills = $907,185, rounded to the nearest dollar (each US bank note, regardless of denomination, weighs 1 gram. You can figure the rest out from here…)

Baseball Has Arrived!

I wanted to get a baseball post up at the beginning of the season, but that pesky master’s project and thesis kept getting in the way. So here’s my first (of many?) posts about baseball, two and a half weeks into the season.

P1050008If you know me at all, or have read the about us page, you know that I am a Braves fan. Thanks to my uncles being huge fans and Ted Turner broadcasting Braves games to wherever we happened to be living, I’ve been following them since I knew what baseball was. I finally got to see them play live at age 14 after we moved to northern Virginia and my dad surprised us with tickets to see the Braves play in Baltimore (the Expos hadn’t moved to DC yet and interleague play was still new). It was AMAZING! I still remember Andruw Jones tracking down a deep fly ball – he was positioned in right center, the ball was crushed to left center, I thought for sure it was gone. Next thing I know he’s leaping at the wall, snatching the ball out of the air to take away a home run. I knew he was fast from watching him on TV, but it really puts into perspective how much ground he had to cover when you’re sitting there watching it happen in front of you.

2011-04-21_00-14-28_337Thirteen years later, I still am giddy with excitement whenever I get to go to the ballpark to see the Braves play. I was lucky that a couple of years ago their west coast road trip aligned with a business trip I took that put me just north of Los Angeles. My boss, knowing how much of a Braves fan I am, let me go early one afternoon so I could make the drive south to go see them play. It was awesome. I even got a signed ball from Eddie Perez, as I was the only one in Braves gear surrounded by a sea of Dodger blue (just days after the incident with the SF fan…). I’ve seen them a few times in Atlanta, and since we only live about three hours from DC, I try to make the drive at least once a season to see them play the Nats.

This past weekend was one of those times to make the drive. I looked at the schedule as soon as it was made public, saw that April 12, 13, 14 was the only weekend series for the Braves in DC, looked at my work load to finish my MS degree, and made a plan. I’ll defend my thesis on the 12th and then drive up to see them play that weekend as a celebration with my wife and baby.

P1010830Now, this is not the first time WV has been to a game. He was 4 weeks old, and I somehow convinced L that we should drive up to DC, sit in the front row, and see the Braves because I hadn’t seen them play live yet in 2012. It rained like crazy, the 3 hour drive took us almost 5, and the game was delayed because of the weather (so we didn’t miss the beginning even though it took forever to get there). It was tied after 9 innings, but it was late because of the delay, and we still had to drive back home so I could work the next morning, so we left and listened to the Braves lose in 13 innings on the way home. We tried to go see a game with my brother and his gf back in June while WV was still on the inside, but the skies opened up and let loose a storm of biblical epic-ness and we had to settle for a nice dinner at an Ethiopian restaurant. And I quickly lost the battle of trying to convince L that we should go to the game on her due date, saying she could just deliver at the stadium and we’d be all over Sports Center. Alas…

So I defended my thesis on Friday the 12th, provided musical entertainment for a zombie obstacle challenge with my band Key’d Up on Saturday the 13th, then we made the drive to go stay with my parents for the night and go to the game on Sunday. My parents wanted to come as well, so we had a full car (dad’s SUV) driving into DC with L, WV, me, my mom, my dad (W3), my brother, and his gf.

Paul Maholm vs. Gio Gonzalez. The defending NL East champions (and the favorite not only to repeat as division winners, but to win the WS) against the “good but not as good” challengers, who were riding an 8 game win streak and trying to sweep the Nats on the road. This was going to be a great pitching battle.

P1050015Boy was I wrong. BJ Upton drove a double off the left field wall on the first pitch of the game. He scored on a Gattis double, who then scored with Justin Upton on a Chris Johnson single, and Paul Maholm was staked to a 3-0 lead before he even faced the first Nats batter. I don’t know what it is, but the Braves seem to be able to absolutely destroy top tier pitchers (Gio Gonzalez, Roy Halladay, Cole Hamels, etc.) while struggling against mediocre guys or AAA call ups (at least that was the case last year). And destroy Gio they did. El Oso Blanco drove in another run. Chris Johnson drove in two while subbing for the injured Freddie Freeman. Justin Upton continued his power barrage with a monster HR to right center. Andrelton Simmons got into the action as well depositing a 3-run jack into the Braves bullpen. All the Braves fans in the ballpark (and there were plenty) were chopping and chanting. It was as if the game was being played in Atlanta. By the end of three innings, the braves had put up 7 runs against Gio. Maholm was just having fun after that, dropping 58 mph curveballs after backing hitters off the plate with 90+ mph fastballs. It was like he was throwing wiffle balls in the backyard. He even got into the offensive action by singling and scoring on Jason Heyward’s double in the 6th. Final score: Braves 9, Nationals 0. Total attendance: 39,389. After the 7th inning the attendance was down to about 20,000, most of them Braves fans.

It was a great game to attend, watching them sweep the highly touted Nats on the road, winning their 9th in a row, and really punishing the great pitching staff that is supposedly better than theirs. As of this morning, the Braves lead the majors with a 1.83 ERA, whereas the Nats are #20 with 4.29 (even with today’s loss the Braves ERA improved to 1.77). In the 2 games that the Braves have lost, they have been outscored 3-0. In the 6 games that the Nationals have lost, they have been outscored 47-10. I could pull out more stats such as overall run differentials, inherited runners scored, home run differentials, etc. but I think that would be overkill and each point I make would likely be countered by some off the wall statistic from an opposing fan. Suffice it to say that the Braves are pitching well, with or without their offense.

P1050006Now, this isn’t a post to bash the Nats. They’re a great team and will win a ton of games (against the Marlins and Mets), and really make things interesting as the season progresses and they battle the Braves and Phillies for the division title. The season is still young (not even 10% complete), and I’m sure the Braves will falter here and there, but for now I am enjoying the fact that they are 12-2 and continue to hit the cover off the ball while the pitching stays stingy (tough 1-0 loss this afternoon, the KC pitchers should buy Doug Eddings a steak dinner for his generous strike calls). It was great to see the Braves play, great to see them win, and great to go spend some time with my parents and give them some WV time as well. The next game we will catch live will be against the Mets while we’re visiting L’s parents.

2013-04-03_18-59-12_946I do have some bad news to report… The beer glass you see in this image was my lucky Braves beer glass. I set it down wrong on a coaster the other night, and it fell over, dumping a freshly poured honey ale all over the table and breaking into a bunch of pieces. R.I.P lucky glass, may you continue to give the Braves good luck in spirit.

So here’s to the 2013 Braves! My tagline since opening day: Home runs and home brews! Go ahead, DC fans (or Braves haters), and tell me how it’s a long season and anything can happen. Go ahead and rub it in that the Nats won the NL East last year and the Braves lost in the one game Wild Card playoff. Go ahead and remind me that the Braves only got one WS championship during the 14-year run of consecutive division titles (which is infinitely more WS championships that the Nationals franchise won during that same period). Go ahead and say “we’ll see how much this sweep matters in October…” and other things that mean absolutely nothing but make you feel better as a Nats fan looking up and seeing the Braves atop the standings early in the season. We will see what happens come October. Maybe the Braves will continue to be hot, maybe they’ll trail off and the Nats will catch/surpass them. Maybe the Marlins will get lucky (not likely). The past is the past, this is 2013. Both teams made improvements and it will be exciting to watch them both throughout the season. GO BRAVES!

Is anyone else as excited as I am that the season is here and the Braves are kicking butt?

Productive Saturday

Well, today was a pretty productive day, especially for a Saturday. As you can see, I’m actually writing a blog post!

So here’s the day so far:

We woke up at 7:30 am. Not just L, but both of us! This never happens. Most of the time I have a gig on Friday so I don’t get home until 3, so my normal Saturday wake up time is around 11ish. But last night I had no gig – we made dinner, caught up on some Stephen Colbert, and went to bed at a normal time.

So L made coffee (Mobjack Bay Coffee) and left to go to some garage sales, I whipped up some bread batter and set it aside to let it rise, pulled out a copy of my thesis that my advisor had scribbled red ink all over, and began to brew beer. A couple weeks ago I purchased a new brew kettle – 8 gallon capacity, stainless steel, with a spigot. I’ve been itching to try it out but hadn’t had much time (stupid thesis…), but I have been working pretty hard lately and figured I could address the red ink issues with one eye while keeping the other eye on the kettle. I got the water heating up and began to work on my edits. After a while, the water had reached 155 degrees (F), so I added my grains for steeping, set the timer, and continued to work.

P1040717WV woke up around 9:30, but he wasn’t all that cranky so I changed his diaper and let him run around the kitchen in his walker until L got back (and she made delicious pancakes and sausage patties). After the wort was finished boiling, I took it out on the porch to let it cool while I took a trip to the dump. Don’t worry, it was covered so nothing could get in the beer. By the time I got back home from the dump, the wort had cooled enough where I felt comfortable transferring it to the primary fermenter. All I had to do was open the spigot and let it go!

So now I’ve got a batch of pale ale fermenting, two loaves of bread ready to go into the oven, fixed the red ink issues, and the trash and recyclables are out of the house. Doing an acoustic gig tonight, then I get to spend tomorrow with my family (and maybe work on my figures).

Ack! Don’t forget to label bottles!

Our car is a mess. A complete mess. Whenever we drive to see either of our parents, I always make sure that I clean it out for fear of one of our moms saying “Wow, you really need to clean out your car!” It’s not disgusting/unsanitary – no moldy growths from food scraps or anything – just full of papers, junk mail, an empty seltzer can or 5, coffee mugs, etc. So before we pack up the car with 13 loads of laundry, I go outside with 2 bags – one for the recyclables and one for the trash. Which normally turns into 4 bags. Sometimes 7. And then 2-3 trips back to the house carrying in coffee mugs or water cups. But it’s “clean.” I never have time (or the desire) to vacuum, wash the windows, wipe the dash, hose off the rubber floor mats, etc. Getting the trash out is enough.

But it never fails – whichever house we go to, the respective mom almost ALWAYS make some direct or indirect statement about the cleanliness of the vehicle. If only they could see a before picture…

So the other day, L decided that while I was working with one eye on my computers and the other eye on WV she would REALLY clean out the car. She removed ALL of the crap that was inside, vacuumed, washed windows, the whole works. The only thing she didn’t do was wash and wax the exterior (lazy, right?). She even found a bottle of windshield washer fluid and refilled the reservoir because it was bone dry! What a keeper! I didn’t even think we had any washer fluid because I distinctly remembered finishing off a bottle last summer and didn’t recall going to the store to buy more.

Later that night, I took the dogs out for a walk and noticed a windshield washer fluid bottle on the floor of the entryway that had a tiny, tiny bit of a fluorescent yellowy liquid in the bottom of it. While we were on the walk, the wheels in my head began to turn. I’ve never seen fluorescent yellowy windshield washer fluid. And as mentioned before, I didn’t even think we had any. What could it be?

Not Washer Fluid Aha! Last summer, I flushed the radiator of L’s car before we sold it! And since I’m frugal, I don’t buy the 50/50 solution for $10.99, I buy the same volume of fully concentrated stuff for $12.99 and cut it with water. But to be able to make my own 50/50 mixture, I have to pour 50% of the fully concentrated fluid into another receptacle, then add water to both. The empty container that I had at the time was an empty washer fluid container. I figured that since I take care of all the routine maintenance things, I’ll take one look at the bottle and know instantly that it’s not washer fluid when I see it at a later date…

I got back from walking the dogs, then came upstairs to tell L my discovery. She was feeding WV, and I walked into the room and said “I made a mistake a while ago that you unknowingly perpetuated.” She was completely confused and had no idea what I was talking about. I explained to her the situation, and that it was entirely my fault, that I should have labeled the container. She felt so bad though. She had been extremely helpful in cleaning out the car, and then going above and beyond to refill the washer fluid reservoir! How was she supposed to know that the liquid inside the bottle that said windshield washer fluid was not, in fact, windshield washer fluid?

I did a quick search to see if anyone had done this before and what could be done to fix it. I was prepared to completely disassemble the entire washer fluid system. Most of the posts in the search results were of the opposite problem – washer fluid in the coolant overflow reservoir. But nestled in the second page of results was a little post from our friends at Car Talk explaining what to do. Click and Clack save the day, again!

$1.62 for some flexible tubing for siphoning (not using my beer siphoning equipment) and a few minutes of letting gravity do it’s work and the reservoir was empty. And I didn’t have to take anything apart! (Getting to all of the components was going to be doable, but difficult and time-consuming). Refilled with windshield washer fluid, and now I’m good to go! (And if you ever need to siphon anything that you don’t want to ingest, PLEASE pre-fill the siphoning tube with water and let the water flow start the siphon)

So the moral of the story is that communication is key. Whether it’s written or verbal. Or nonverbal, for that matter, if you’re competent enough to know exactly what your wife is thinking without her having to say it. It would have taken me mere seconds to cross out “Windshield Washer Fluid” and write “50/50 Antifreeze” on the bottle, and would have saved a lot of time (not to mention the antifreeze/water mixture that I took back to the auto parts store for proper disposal). Could I have used that fluid again, or was it more advisable that I take it back to the store for disposal?

And now, a little joke to tie it all together:

Q: What’s the last thing that goes through a bug’s mind as it crashes into your windshield?

A: It’s ass.

Homemade Bread and Grateful Dead

Back when I used to have to commute an hour to and from my office, I would pass the time by listening to the radio. Mainly just switching back and forth between the news and the local classic rock station. When I would get tired of hearing about people blowing each other up because they can’t just be decent and agree to disagree I’d switch over to music. When I would get tired of hearing the same Rush and Skynyrd songs (don’t get me wrong – great bands, but WAY overplayed… need more Allman Brothers and Grateful Dead) I’d switch back to the news. Here’s some Dead for your head while you’re reading about bread – make sure you have the bass on your system turned up (shameless plug for my band, Key’d Up):

One particular day, I heard an interview on All Things Considered with a woman who had written a book called Make the Bread, Buy the Butter. The author, Jennifer Reese, had taken the time to try a bunch of different recipes (hot dog buns, pickles, bacon, vanilla extract, keeping bees, etc) and write about her experiences. She lets the readers know which items are worth making from scratch, including both time and money involved, and which ones you should just buy from the store. She and I don’t agree on everything (homemade sushi is less expensive AND worth the work, we use the hot dug bun recipe for hamburger buns and they’re just fine), but it does have a lot of good info.

So I was listening to this interview, and thought to myself, “This sounds like something right up our alley – when I get home I’ll order it and hopefully it will arrive in time for Christmas.” I got home, quickly got to my computer, and stealthily placed the order. L and I were eating dinner later that evening, talking about our days, and she mentioned this really neat interview she heard on the radio and how she thought the book sounded like a great idea and was thinking about buying it. Ugh… I had to spoil the surprise and let her know that I already ordered it for her.

The main reason I bought the book was to save money. I figured over the years I would be saving way more than the $15 plus shipping I would be spending on the book. But it also turns out that I’m saving myself and my family from ingesting whatever crazy stuff the food industry puts in their breads. One example is L-Cysteine. Sourced mainly from human hair (although I read that they have changed to mostly duck feathers in Europe), it violates certain religious dietary restrictions, and the thought of ingesting either human hair or duck feathers is kinda gross. I haven’t done all the research to know which breads contain it and which don’t, but since we’re no longer buying bread we don’t have to worry about it.

Now, you might say “I can’t make my own bread, that’s too time consuming, and I really don’t know how to cook.” Wrong, wrong, and it doesn’t matter. You CAN make your own bread, it really doesn’t take much time at all, and my baking experience before I met L was preheating the oven to 400 degrees and throwing a frozen pizza in there for 18-20 minutes.

Here’s how little time it takes: On Saturday mornings, when L is feeding WV or making something delicious for breakfast, I mix up the bread batter. Then I stick it in loaf pans. Then I go about my day doing whatever needs to be done (oil change, garden work, Fortran code translation, procrastinating, etc.). After the bread has risen for a few hours, I stick the loaf pans in the oven. Then after 28 minutes I remove the breads from the pans and stick them back in the oven. Then after 5 minutes I turn them. Then after 5 more minutes I take them out. It’s that easy, and really not time consuming.

Recipe below with prices, permanent recipe link here. Total cost per loaf*: 94 cents, 88 cents without the flax seeds.

Ingredients:
5 1/2 cups bread (or all purpose) flour
1 3/4 cups whole wheat flour
1 tsp yeast
3 1/2 cups water
4 tsp kosher salt
Flax seeds/Sesame Seeds (optional)

Procedure:
Activate the yeast with warm water, then mix in the flours, salt, and water.
Oil the inside of two 9×5 loaf pans, put half the dough in each, then sprinkle flax seeds on the top. Or mix the flax seeds in with the dough. Your choice.
Cover the loaves with a clean, damp dish towel/cloth diaper and let rise until the dough is as high as or just above the tops of the pans.
Bake at 450 degrees in the pans for about 28 minutes, then remove from pans, put the breads back in the oven on their sides for 5 minutes, then flip them to their other sides for 5 minutes. You might want to put a shallow pan or some aluminum foil underneath so the flax seeds don’t fall the the bottom of the oven and burn (if they’re on top of the loaves).
Breads are done when they sound hollow when tapped (or when you ask your wife if that’s what hollow sounds like and she says yes).
Remove the loaves from the oven, see if you can wait until they cool to slice and eat.

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*Numbers rounded to nearest cent, tax not included. I remember a joke that my quantum physics professor once told us in class: “A mathematician will say that a series is convergent if its limit exists. A physicist will say that a series is convergent if the first term is finite.” Today, I’ll pretend to be a physicist and will be ignoring values that I don’t care about.

-King Arthur flour (each variety) is $4.19 for a 5 lb bag at our local Food Lion. Flour is (on average) 4.4 oz/cup, so a 5 lb bag will yield about 18 cups. ($4.19/18)x(5 1/2) = $1.28. 1 3/4 cups is $0.41. Other flours might be cheaper.
-My 1 lb bag of yeast was $6.99. There are about 160 tsp in 1 lb of yeast. $6.99/160 = $0.04.
-Our water comes from a well. I guess we do pay for the electricity to pump it. I ignored this.
-I bought the salt for $0.99. There are 131.5 tsp in the container. ($0.99/131.5)x4 = $0.03.
-A 15 oz bag of flax seeds at Trader Joe’s is $2.99. There are 56 tbsp in the bag. I use about 2 tbsp when I sprinkle them on the loaves. ($2.99/56)x2 = $0.11.
-I sprayed the inside of the loaf pans with cooking spray that was given to us by friends who moved. I ignored this price too.
-I don’t know how much it costs to run the oven either. So I ignored this as well.

I’m game for other bread recipes too, so if you have a favorite send it on over!