Sunday, June 12, 2011

Water Kefir - Natural Soda

Can I tell you how excited I am about this? A few weeks ago I had never even heard of Water Kefir and now it is one of my favorite things to serve my family! In our quest to return to food the way God intended it, one of the things that had to go in our house (although I still allow the kids to order it when we are out) is soda. That’s a difficult change-over when it has been given regularly as a treat. When I began to learn about Water Kefir, I was hesitantly optimistic to use it as a soda replacement. It seemed like a lot of work to do just for that though. The more I learned about it, though, I realized that it was not just a soda replacement, it had all sorts of merits by itself. Try this on for size from Yemoos

Why is kefir good for your health?
It is loaded with valuable enzymes, easily digestible sugars, beneficial acids, vitamins and minerals. Water kefir is also generally suitable for some diabetics (though personal discretion is advised). It also is a nice option if you are trying to avoid the caffeine present in kombucha, but still seeking a probiotic drink. Water kefir supplies your body with billions of healthy bacteria and yeast strains. Some store-bought probiotic foods or supplements can help, but they are not as potent, and do not contain the beneficial yeasts usually (just bacteria). Within your body there are already billions of bacteria and yeast. Your internal microflora support proper digestion, synthesis of vitamins and minerals, and your immune system by warding off foreign and harmful bacteria, yeast and viruses. It has thus long been known to promote and aid in digestion and overall health. Some studies show it may be anti-mutagenic and help manage free radicals in the body. Folic acid (and B vitamins) increases as the length of the ferment increases. Some people let the strained kefir sit on the counter or the fridge another day to increase the folic acid and B vitamin content before drinking (this will increase the acidity too). Kefir may also help reduce blood pressure and cholesterol. As with most things we've personally found, food and health is too difficult to reduce to facts and statistics. While kefir is not a magic bullet for health (what is) we believe kefir has a myriad of possible health benefits, and those will be individual for everyone. Some feel it helps them digest better, others get colds and viruses less often, some get more energy, and some people feel nothing much in particular, but enjoy the taste and value of it over store-bought yogurt, kombucha or kefir.

Not only is kefir better for you than soda, it is also better than fruit juice. I struggled with whether or not to eliminate fruit juice because in all honesty I hate serving water with every meal. We do milk once per day, but more than that and I’d go broke on milk! When we started trying the water kefir with fruit juice added in small quantities, we had found a winner! The kids love the fizz, mom loves the probiotics and vitamins – not to mention the significantly reduced sugar – what’s not to love?


So, just how much work is involved in making water kefir? Just a few minutes a day. I started by ordering my water kefir grains from Cultures for Health. They came in a dehydrated state to maintain their viability in the mail. The first step was to reactivate the grains. You do this in basically the same way you will culture them once they are going – by stirring them into sugar water. Suggestion, do this at a convenient time of day because you will need to be doing it every day after you start. The grains will need to sit in a warm spot away from other cultures (like sourdough or kombucha) for 3-4 days. Once the grains are plump, you can start fermenting regular batches of water kefir.

So, each day after the grains are plump, you prepare the bottles that the kefir will be poured into and a fresh batch of sugar water to put the grains in…

Kefir ( 8 )

I use two 16 oz. glass bottles with grolsch- style tops for each batch. I add 1/4 cup of organic 100% juice to each bottle.

Kefir ( 11 )

Then I split the kefir between the two bottles, straining out the grains as I go.

Kefir ( 12 )

These bottles need to sit out on the counter up to 24 hours. Gas will build up inside, so be careful! Always leave plenty of head room.

Kefir ( 20 )

You’ll need to have another jar with 1/4 cup of sugar and 4 cups of dechlorinated water ready to plop the grains into.

Kefir ( 22 )

Tuck it away into a warm spot and start over again tomorrow!
How do you know when your kefir is done? The two most common ways to tell is the taste test and the color test. With the taste test, you sip the sugar water at the beginning and then again the next day. If the water is less sweet, then you’re getting there. They say that 80% of the sugar has been consumed by the kefir grains leaving a more vinegar flavor. So, the sweeter you want it, the less time you should let it ferment – making sure it sits for at least 24 hours.
The color test only works with darker sugar. I started out using organic evaporated cane juice, but the grains had a difficult time balancing resulting in the “off” smell I mentioned in an earlier post. I added a 1/2 teaspoon of molasses to each batch and that helped, but later switched to Rapadura or Sucanat – organic unrefined sugar. The grains are so much happier now! So, this is where the color test comes in. When you mix up the sugar and the water, it is a very dark brown. After the kefir grains have eaten some of the sugar, the color changes to a lighter brown. When placed side by side, you can tell that the kefir is finished!

So, how does it taste you might ask? We’ve been using a lot of grape juice for flavoring, so ours tastes a lot like grape soda right now. The sucanat gives it a richness that you don’t find in soda and paired with the flavor from fermenting make take a little getting used to – but it’s SO worth it!

Come over some time, and I’ll let you try it for yourself.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Falling off the wagon

WARNING - This is a Really long post because I'm covering all I did for the last week!

So I did really well for almost three weeks.  Then I just got excited :).  Last week I ended up doing both of the soaked grain baked goods lessons (making pancakes, tortillas, pasta, biscuits and muffins).  I started my water kefir, my bulgarian yogurt (using Kitchen Stewardship's method), cooked a whole chicken and made stock and got rid of my microwave and coffee pot.  So much for baby steps :).  I'm doing better this week - which allows for me to write about last week's insanity.

Every time I try to do too many things, it increases my stress and things don't general turn out the way I hope they will.  I stressed over my yogurt like crazy - but it turned out to be the best yogurt I've ever made.  I was worried that I had completely destroyed my water kefir grains - but they are coming around this week.  Will I ever learn to slow down?  Probably not :).

Soaked Grain Baked Goods:
I entered this arena with much trepidation.  I read through Nourishing Tradition's take on grains, and I was a little overwhelmed.  After reading Katie at Kitchen Stewardship's great grain debates I felt even more confused about what was best.  I almost gave up on the whole deal, but stepped back and tried to look at it realisitically.
I know that whole grains are better for us than refined ones.  After learning about phytic acid and enzyme inhibitors (see Katie's material for an excellent explanation of the subject) I understand the need to work towards minimizing their effect on our grains.  It seems the jury is still out on the "best" way of doing this, so I have to find the way that balances  effectiveness and practicallity.  I'm not to the point yet where I want to sprout my grain, then dehydrate it, then grind it, then bake with it.  That just seems like too many steps for too little benefit. 
Soaking grains in an acidic medium (Raw Apple Cider Vinegar, Kombucha, Whey, Lemon Juice, etc.) before using seemed doable, so I'm starting there.  Seems like Wardeh at GNOWFGLINS thought the same thing since she made soaking lessons 2-4 and baking with sprouted flour lesson 13.  Last week I went through both of her soaked baked goods lessons (3 & 4) and found that it was even easier than I expected.  After reading the forum on her lesson, I was a little worried about having a fermented or vinegar flavor to my baked goods, but surprisingly they came out wonderfully!  My youngest was the only one that turned up his nose a little at the pancakes, but he was fine once he covered them in his usual butter and syrup. 
I soaked the flour for the tortillas and muffins Sunday night, and then fixed them on my usual Monday baking morning.  Then I soaked the flour for the pancakes Monday night and fixed them Tuesday morning.  Wednesday morning, I started the flour soaking for the biscuits that I fixed to go with chili that evening.  Friday evening I started the flour soaking for the pasta, which I fixed on Saturday to go with the chicken.  So see, it's not as nuts as it sounds at first - right?  Okay, I know I'm just fooling myself.

Water Kefir:
I was so excited to try out water kefir that when my Cultures for Health order came on Monday I could hardly contain myself.  I only managed to hold off for about 24 hours!  So, I read through the water kefir lesson at GNOWFGLINS as well as the extensive forum discussion, read the instructions that came with it and watched the videos at Cultures for Health, and then headed over to Dom's Water Kefir page to round things out.  I decided to go with 1/4 cup of evaporated cane juice and 1/16th tsp of baking soda as my starting recipe with 1 quart of dechlorinated water.  After three days, I started seeing little bubbles and the grains looked nice and plump so I dumped out the starting mix and began my first firment of the water kefir.
Imagine my dismay when I pulled out the jar at the end of it's first firment and it smelled strongly of cheese!  "This can't be right," I thought.  With some trepidation, I added in my grape juice and left it out on the counter for the second ferment and put the grains into a new batch of sugar-water.  I sent out a couple of "help" notes, but being Memorial Day, I didn't receive any replies.  I went ahead and served it at dinner, and although my husband and I barely got it down with the smell, the kids' training held up and no one complained :).  In retrospect, I should never have served it - but I didn't know what kefir was supposed to smell like!  And here we are, healthy and whole so I can write about it with a smile. 
I did some research on the Cultures for Health website and found that the baking soda can cause the grains to become slimy if too much is used.  Now, I do not have a 1/16th tsp measuring spoon and I was just eyeballing it, so that could have been the issue.  The other possible issue is that as the kefir grains rehydrate, they can go through a process of needing to rebalance the yeast/bacteria.  This can also cause an "off" odor.  The troubleshooting guide suggested a mixture of evaporated cane juice and 1/2 tsp molasses to help the grains balance, so I began trying that.  I also started letting my water dechlorinate overnight on the counter instead of boiling it.
Three batches later, my grains smell MUCH better and I'm doing a second fermentation again.  I tossed out the other three batches just in case ;).  If it all comes out good, I'll do a post later about the actual process.
So, I stressed terribly the whole time my yogurt was incubating, and all for nothing!  It came out the creamiest and thickest of any yogurt I've ever made.  I made a mother culture from the Bulgarian starter I received from Cultures for Health on following their directions.  Then I made my first full batch of raw milk yogurt as well as a fresh mother culture using Katie from Kitchen Stewardship's amazingly easy yogurt method.  I had little hope for my raw yogurt coming out well, because both Katie and Wardeh from GNOWFGLINS did not have good experiences, but it was PERFECT.  Thick, creamy, everything a person could want in yogurt!  I got a bunch of good pictures from the process and I'll post about it later this week :).

So, the absolute cheapest way to buy organic chicken is whole, but that's a little outside of my comfort zone with cooking.  I've only cooked a whole chicken a few times in my life, and never with excellent results.  I'm happy to report that it was incredibly easy both to cook the chicken and make the broth.  I have one more chicken in my freezer, so I'll take pictures and blog about it when I make that one.

Well, if you've made it this far, I'm impressed!  Thanks for sticking with me, and stay tuned for my yogurt and kefir posts - hopefully this weekend.

In Him,

Thursday, May 26, 2011

My New Excalibur

My incredible, supportive husband went above and beyond last week and purchased an Excalibur dehydrator for me!  I can't tell you how excited I am.  It arrived on Friday and within the first week I've dehydrated sage, oregano, bread for crumbs, orange peel, rhubarb, and yogurt is incubating in it as I type (watch for an upcoming post on yogurt!).  The possibilities are staggering!

Food storage becomes much more reasonable.  The water is removed at low temperatures (below 118) to maintain the vitamins, minerals, and digestive enzymes.  It also shrinks the size significantly.  Four cups of thawed rhubarb from the freezer became 1/2 cup of dehydrated rhubarb.  The next time I harvest, I'll try dehydrating fresh rhubarb and see if I get the same results.  So the food is healthier and smaller than canned food!

I'm also excited about the yogurt making possibilities.  I could make much larger batches in serving-size containers.  That would simplify my breakfast prep significantly. 

Our new "pets"

Last Friday, my Mom sent us home with some new "pets." She had purchased a praying mantis cocoon at Watson's Greenhouse, and the previous weekend it had hatched with hundreds of little guys filling the plastic tub she had it in.  There were so many, that she decided to share and sent several (12-15) of the little guys home with us. 

The theory behind the project is to have a natural form of pest control for the garden.  The praying mantids eat all the "bad bugs" like aphids and they are rather pleasant to have around.  They do not bite or sting and they offer endless opportunities for photography practice as they sit very still.  While they are in confinement in their containers, we have to bring in food and a little water for them, but once outside they should require no maintenance at all, except for being careful not to drop them into the compost pile when we do weeding and trimming.

My youngest is fascinated.  He loves anything little, and bugs are a big hit with him.  The first day we went to feed them we hunted outside for anything smaller than they were.  We found a few leaves with aphids and some tiny ants on them.  Evidently these ants were "farming" the aphids.  We tossed them in the praying mantis container, and a few hours later when we went to check on them we were met with carnage.  There were dead mantids all over - and happy little ants gathering them into piles and feeding them to the aphids.  We quickly removed the ants for the containers, but our numbers were down to about 9 or 10 mantids. 

The next issue we ran into was on the lid.  A piece of mesh window screen was attached to the top with gorilla tape for ventilation.  Unfortunately, the tape was so sticky that the little mantids legs were getting stuck and they were unable to free themselves.  Now we were down 3-4 more.  We've leveled off at about 6-7 (maybe 5) and it has held for a few days. 

I told my youngest, "Now remember, these are little buggies and sometimes they die so don't get too attached."

He replied, "I know, I won't."  Then turning to the praying mantis box said, "Hello little guys!  I love you!"

Boy I hope they make it!

Friday, May 20, 2011

Growing Organic

My middle son decided, on his own, that he wanted to learn botany this year, and so I knew long before the spring that we would be more involved in the garden this year.  What I didn't know was how much that would play into the road God would have us on this spring.  I've never been more excited about the garden, or enjoyed working in it as much as I have this year!  Even the really hard, physical stuff - like building beds and moving dirt - left me with such a sense of accomplishment and fulfillment.  But nothing compares to the joy and amazement at seeing new life.  We can plan, plant, and water, but then all that's left to us is to wait.  It is God that makes it all grow.  What a blessing to see this miracle time and time again already this spring.  Just when I'm sure I've blown it all and messed up my son's hard work, God steps in and makes it beautiful.  As I walked around watering, weeding, transplanting, and harvesting this morning (don't worry, I don't do this every day :)) I was filled with wonder. I've been through many seasons of depression in my life, but this spring is a season of joy.  Thank You, God, for showing us the true bounty of Your provision and Your amazing plan for our health.

How it All Began

It has been so amazing learning about the food we eat and where it comes from.  I used to think it was so simple.  Beef and dairy products came from cows.  Fruits and vegetables came from farms.  Eggs and chicken came from, well, chickens.  How much more do you need to know? 
God has had me on an interesting road lately.  It started with a blog post entitled "Traditional Womanly Arts for Austere Times" my mom sent me back in March.  I read it and thought, "I'd love to do all of that if only I had the time."  And then proceeded to put a hold on all the books listed in the post that they had at the library. 
My Mom asked if there were any in particular I was interested in, and I mentioned the Better Basics for the Home, party because it was the only one they didn't have at the library.  Wouldn't you know, it showed up at my door a few days later :).  I dove into it and, while it was a little more on the "green" side than I tend to be, I was fascinated by the idea that pretty much anything household product(cleaning products, toiletries, etc.) could be made at home, cheaply and simply without any chemicals.  This got me to thinking more about what we put into our bodies.  Are we really eating food the way God intended it?  Are we really eating food? 
Another author that intrigued me from the post was Joel Salatin.  As I looked him up at the library, I noticed his name associated with Food Inc.  This movie had been on my radar, but I had avoided watching it because I liked going to McDonald's.  Well, I guess it was time.  I sat down and watched it one night and I was shocked.  I knew bits and pieces of the information they shared, and I took most of it with a grain of salt realizing that the shock value was probably more than the average reality, but this really opened my eyes to what we were eating.
I started learning all I could about Real food.  Bread, milk, eggs, vegetables and fruits, meat, the more I learned, the more I realized how little I knew.  I shared what I had been learning with my husband, and while he may have thought I was going a little overboard, he was supportive of my efforts to feed our family healthy food. 
We decided that it would be best to ease into things, not trying to replace everything at once, but rather, one thing at a time.  We would eat through what was in the house, and when we ran out of something, we would replace it with a healthier option.  So, when the milk ran out, I took my first trip to Meadowwood Organic Dairy.  When the eggs ran out, I started to pick up pastured, organic eggs from the dairy, or Terry's Berries, where I had started purchasing our fresh produce.  I learned about Azure Standard, and when I shared about it with others I found a huge interest in family and friends, so I set up a drop point at my house.  We got our first drop yesterday, and I couldn't have been more pleased.  I cooked up the last of our "old" meat last night, so we're looking into local, grass-fed, organic beef and chicken next.
At times I am overwhelmed by how much in our lives needs to be changed, and then I run into times like yesterday afternoon when we were sitting at the lunch table eating chicken sandwiches on homemade bread from organic whole wheat with raw organic sharp cheddar on them and organic carrots on the side while drinking raw organic milk and I thought, "Wow, we really have come a long ways in a short time." 

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Making Homemade Vanilla: Or, What to do with a gallon of vodka

I was so inspired by this post over a the Heavenly Homemaker's blog that, after I stopped rolling on the floor laughing, I ran out and bought a gallon of vodka!  Oh, and a bunch of vanilla beans.  I had never considered how the extracts we use every day were made, and I was amazed at how simple it was.
After cleaning the gallon jar I just received in my Azure Standard drop this morning, I took the vanilla beans I purchase at Olive Nation and cut them down the middle almost to the end and tossed them in the jar.  When I was finished with the beans, I just filled the jar up to the top with vodka, and after taking a picture, tucked it into a dark corner of my pantry.  According to the Heavenly Homemaker, all I have to do from this point is shake it up every once in a while, and just before Christmas I'll have enough vanilla to share :).  If it comes out as well as I hope, I will wash the jar out and fill it back up!

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Baby Stepping

Following up on my commitment at the end of the last post, I've been looking for a good way to "Baby Step" into a real foods habit.  I've been praying about it and trying to swallow my pride and listen to my husband when he tells me I'm moving too fast and taking on too much.  I get so excited about things and I want to try it all today!  The downside is that I can't keep it all up and before too long I've burnt out and dropped it all. 

So what am I doing to keep myself from rushing in?  My current strategy is a combination of frank honesty here and signing up for an e-course membership at GNOWFGLINS.  I'm starting with their fundamentals e-course that walks you a step at a time into implementing real foods strategies into your lifestyle.  I'm pretty sure I won't be using all the things I learn (I'm still a little squeamish on lacto-fermenting) but I'm really intrigued by most of it and looking forward to new experiences.  They recommend only doing a lesson a week, and for once I am going to try to follow through with that.  I usually just go through the whole thing as quickly as possible because I'm so excited and leave with my head spinning.  But if I try just adding one new thing per week, maybe even less on weeks where I'm adding a big thing, this might just work out.

As a side note, I threw together a pot of chili in an effort to continue using up our old food stock and made some of the Heavenly Homemaker's Whole Wheat cornbread muffins to go with it on Thursday.  I added in the cracklings from our Mother's Day lard rendering, which was a fun thing to try.  Michael says he'd like to try them in a salad next time.  In retrospect, I think they were a little too greasy for the muffins and Michael likes his cornbread sweet, not savory :).  Here's a picture of how they came out!

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Fools Rush In: How to create a debacle with yogurt

I was awfully tempted not to write this post, but a recent bible study on humility along with the hope that my fumble could save someone else the trouble prompted me to plunge ahead.  So, remember the Mother's Day yogurt tasting party?  Well, don't tell anyone who ate it, but by the next day most of the yogurt was pretty nasty.  I went to reculture it with raw milk, and the smell 'bout knocked me over.  The best way to describe it was "very yeasty."  Yogurt has a rather distinctive odor, that I've come to enjoy over the years.  This was not it.  Walking the fine line between bravery and stupidity, I took a small taste of the viili, and it reminded me alot of Fun Dip.  This was not at all the smooth taste of the day before, what had gone wrong?

The first misstep I took was veering off my normal path of researching something to death before embarking upon it.  I saw a post with some information about yogurt, jumped to the website it mentioned, and bought the pack with the most variety.  What was I thinking!  Then, as I found out when I was attempting to diagnose my yogurt issue, I found out that this particular website had very poor customer service.  The next day, I came across the Cultures for Heath website which was positively chock full of helpful information and suggestions.  I will definitely be purchasing here next time!  They even had videos, which seem to be my best learning tool.

After much research, I found that ALL the cultures I had were pretty much destroyed and I had wasted quite a bit of precious Raw milk.  My kids are now on short rations (much to their dismay as they have become avid milk drinkers since we switched to Raw) to get us through until our next cowshare pickup. 

How did I end up in this place?  A lack of research and a whole lot of hurry.  I wanted to get them all cultured because they would spoil if I waited.  I wanted to have it done in time for Sunday.  I tried to do too much at once. 

What am I going to do differently?  Baby steps!  Baby steps to the dairy...  Baby steps to my first reusable yogurt culture...  Baby steps to buttermilk culture...  Maybe even baby steps to kefir or kombucha! (don't you just love "What About Bob?")

Here's to accountability!
In the interest of full disclosure, I'm publishing my first pictures on this blog.  Sorry they're not very appetizing :(.

Sunday, May 8, 2011

A Most Unusual Mother’s Day

Never in my wildest dreams would I have pictured the way I got to spend this Mother’s Day!
I woke to the kisses and good wishes of my family beckoning me to the table for a special breakfast prepared by my amazing husband who had not been in the country for even 24 hours.  They blessed me with gifts and then we got ready and headed out to church.  We visited my Mom’s church, Discovery, and had a great time worshipping and learning.  Then we were off to Chevy’s for a Fresh Mex dinner.
My Mom and Brother came back to the house with us where Mom and I jumped right into trying something new, one of our favorite things to do.  First on the list was rendering lard.  Yep, you read that right!  I’ve been learning a lot lately about how lard, when taken from the leaf lard of pasture-raised pork, is a very healthy form of fat.  It’s highly recommended for pie crusts and frying chicken.  I had spent some time researching it on the internet, and I was anxious to try it out.  Earlier this week, I had purchase some leaf lard from our dairy, Meadowwood Organics, and had it thawing in our fridge.  All we did was cut it into small cubes (about 1” each) and place it in a cast-iron dutch oven with about 1/2 cup of water.  I cooked it outside on my new camp stove because I had been warned about the overwhelming odor.  Everything proceeded according to the instructions I had read.  When the cracklings began floating on top, I began ladling the liquid out and straining it through coffee filters into pint jars.  By the time I finished with the first batch, the cracklings began to sink, indicating that the lard was changing into a more savory form purported to be excellent for frying foods like chicken.  The first skimming is supposed to be best for pastry.  I cooked up the cracklings a little more and brought them in to cool.  My brother didn’t appreciate their smell, so I bagged them and put them in the fridge to use for cornbread later this week. 
Why waiting for the lard to cook, Mom and I began picking the VM (vegetative matter) out of a fleece generously donated by some friends of ours for us to use in an upcoming homeschool co-op class.  We’ll be teaching Fiber Arts to Dye For in the fall, so the wool was a timely gift.  I learned a lot about the first steps in preparing wool for use.  We picked through the fleece one chunk at a time removing bits of straw, seeds and other, um, biological matter.  We fluffed it a little as we went and ended up with a bag that seemed just as full as the one we started with despite all the stuff we discarded.  Mom had assisted the judges at the Shepherd’s Extravaganza at the Spring Fair this year, so she shared with me some of the knowledge she had gleaned about types of fleece and the different qualities people look for. 
Once the fleece was finished, we joined the rest of the family inside for a yogurt tasting!  I had cultured four different types of yogurt the day before, as well as a fifth type I had prepared earlier in the week.  We put samples of them in small, labeled cups and let everyone decide which type they liked best for flavor and texture.  The five samples were:  a sweet yogurt culture I purchased at the dairy, Bulgarian, Fil Mjolk, Viili, and Piima.  The last four were purchased online from Nick’s Natural Nook.  The instructions were straight forward and went off without a hitch, which was amazing considering all the trouble and frustration I’d had when I first learned how to make my own yogurt.  The last three were counter cultures (ones that culture at room temp) and the Bulgarian was a hot culture. 
Turns out you were either going to love or hate the Viili.  It was the strangest textured yogurt I had ever eaten.  It was so smooth and creamy looking, but it was very viscous.  The nearest thing I can compare it to in texture is Elmer’s glue, but it had a gently tangy taste that I enjoyed very much.  I’m not fond of grainy or watery yogurt, so this was my favorite.  My oldest liked it too, but everyone else was creeped out by the texture.  The other top contenders were the sweet yogurt and the Fil Mjolk.  The Piima was very water and had almost not flavor.  The Bulgarian was so acidic that it ate through the paper cups we were using for sampling.  It had ultimate pucker power, but a rather grainy texture.  I’m going to try the Fil Mjolk and Viili again with raw milk this week and see if they come out the same.  I’d also like to try culturing the sweet yogurt at a lower temperature.
In the evening, we joined the in-laws to view the final episodes of this season’s Amazing Race.  All-in-all it was an enjoyable, and productive, Mother’s Day!