Monday, December 21, 2015

Thomas Family Christmas Letter 2015: Magical Mystery Tour

Let’s call 2015 the magical mystery tour. We began in Brigham City (Utah) watching football with the Farrs in their hotel room. As Michigan fans, they were amazingly gracious about Ohio State’s victory, and about Hailey becoming a Thomas. The temple was lovely, the weather cold but sunny—even wedding pictures and a broken tooth proved painless. The only danger came that night when bride and groom left the party through a gauntlet of sparklers—lung damage for all and scattered reports of fire alarms at the historic reception hall in SLC. The Rexburg reception convened at a less historic hotel but had more drama, as guests (including VIPs) waited for the newlyweds to arrive. Eleven months later Jordan and Hailey are seniors in college, skilled at work, and “parents” of Bang the klutzy pink-nosed adolescent cat, who just had surgery on knee ligaments (really). In August we drove them to Portland (Oregon) to catch their “bargain flight” to Alaska for a belated honeymoon—not really a nearby airport, but it meant that we got to await their return on the Oregon coast, and apparently Alaska was mostly magical.
Hannah and Riley celebrated their first anniversary with some magically mysterious steak at a house owned by Ruth or Chris or someone. Meanwhile Riley moved from preparing food to designing and scouting solar panels, so now he works like Santa Claus, a bearded man in a brightly colored uniform prancing on roofs. Hannah managed to be a good student and excellent museum intern despite high anxiety about human interaction, and that seems pretty magical, and she has raised the level of our cultural life with museum tours.  She has enough credits to graduate, but may do one more semester if BYU allows. They moved into their second apartment and bought a second car, with which they traveled to Riley’s family in Washington, where Hannah took a side trip to alpine Leavenworth. She also joined us for a magical day trip to Zion’s Park in April. Riley plays magical and mysterious board and video games.
Brooke worked some magic: her job disappeared and reappeared within a day, in the viable (?) remnant of the original company. When her roommate vanished (sort of), she moved into her grandparents’ home while they were abroad and managed to stay there undetected when they returned (well, not really undetected). Sometimes she uses vacation days (or regular days) to slip away from work to magical places like Las Vegas, Chicago, and Medford (Oregon). She’d love a mystery tour that landed her a new job and some answers about the future. Suggestions are welcome.
Maria would really enjoy grandchildren, she thinks, but settles for a grand-kitten (patience, dear). To spice up her life, she’s just resigned from Madison Education Foundation, seven years into her three-year term. Her term as a Relief Society teacher ended, so next she gets to compile the annual ward history, which could be a chance to say something edgy about neighborhood life. She took a trip or two to Medford to see her dad and other relatives, plus several trips to family and friends in Utah. She loved whale-spotting at Depoe Bay and seal-spotting at Lincoln Beach and would love another trip to the Oregon coast, especially if her children came along to make it more magical. John says she’s looking younger than ever; in other news, his eye doctor prescribed some mysterious “multifocal” contact lenses.
“That was magical,” John told a nurse in February, as he emerged from sedation—a scope had taken a mystery tour of his inner vessel, after he “cleansed” it the night before. Too much information? The Camry disappeared in less than 24 hours with help from Craig’s List—underpriced perhaps. The professor taught hundreds of students (i.e., he stood while they sat) and wrote two different proposals for a course on religious freedom (timely topic). He also wrote a history of his grandmother’s life dreams and some other stories of noble forebears. He and Maria visited ancestral lands and cemeteries near and far (like Utah). Having seen the stark landscape of Emery County, he better appreciated grandma’s seven-mile horse ride and fainting spell on her first day of teaching in 1922. He loved early morning ocean walks in Oregon, a side trip to friends in Washington, and teaching the New Testament in Sunday School.

What else was magical or mysterious? Dubious DNA results suggested John is more Irish than English, and more European than British; two nights on a bus with students; walks and drives around western landscapes; pondering ancestors’ diaries and photos and letters; picking peas or beans or raspberries. Perhaps “magical” seems a little strong for some of those, but don’t underestimate summer morning moments. Everybody’s older, nobody’s necessarily wiser, but we still believe, and Maria still runs a magical mystery Christmas tour. It’s the trip of a lifetime.

Friday, July 17, 2015

Homemade Dairy Free Raspberry Ice-cream


I made some raspberry ice-cream the other day.  Non-dairy since my body won't do dairy products. Here  is the recipe...

1 cup of soy, almond, or cashew milk.  (I used soy because I think it is creamier and I prefer the taste.  It is best to use regular instead of light versions to get a creamier result. )
3/4 cup sugar
pinch of salt
2 cups  soy creamer (You could use almond or whatever but soy is what I can find in my store)
1 TBSP vanilla extract
1 small package vanilla instant pudding
raspberries (I put some berries through a sieve to remove seeds but you don't have to)

Blend the soy milk, sugar and salt until the sugar is dissolved. Add the creamer, vanilla and pudding. 

I chose to mix the seedless berry paste in at the beginning but didn't add the whole berries until the end of the freezing. I didn't measure. I just dumped until it looked good. You could experiment with just whole berries or all seedless berry paste. Probably follow the directions for your ice-cream maker for adding things. 

Refrigerate covered  for 1 -2 hours or overnight.  Then freeze following your ice-cream maker directions.  Mine takes about 15 minutes and then I added the whole berries for another 5 minutes or so.  

I have also made ice-cream with just soy or almond milk (no creamer) but it is more like ice-milk than ice-cream.  Basically the more fat you add to it, the creamier the texture.  Also the pudding helps to thicken it and make it creamier.  

I've made different flavors by changing the pudding flavor and have even used chocolate almond milk instead of regular. At Christmas time I added crushed candy cane and that was delicious and one of my favorite experiments. 

This recipe comes out of my ice-cream maker very soft so if you want it more firm transfer it to Tupperware and put it in a freezer for a couple hours.  You might need to let it sit out a little before serving it. 


Sunday, January 18, 2015

copy cat Great Harvest Honey Whole Wheat Bread

 Dairy-free cream of potato soup and whole wheat bread

Here is the recipe for the copy cat Great Harvest Honey Whole Wheat Bread:

1 1/2 TBSP instant yeast
2 C warm water
1/3 C honey

Let stand until frothy and bubbly

1 1/2 C flour
1 1/2 tsp salt
1/8-1/2 C add in's (seeds, nuts or whatever) Optional

Add additional flour 1/2 C at a time until dough is soft and a little sticky. 3- 5 1/2 cups total. Knead 4 minutes on low. Let rise until double. Shape loaf, place in greased bread pan. Let rise again.  Back at 350 for 30-35 minutes.  

Notes: Obviously for whole wheat bread you want to use whole wheat flour but we decided we liked it better when I accidentally used white flour for the first 1 1/2 cups.  
Also with my oven, if I used a large loaf pan and baked it for 35 minutes it was still doughy in the center so it worked better for me to make one big loaf and a couple small loaves from it. That might differ with a different oven, or different size loaf pans, etc.... You might have to play with it a little to see what works best for you.