Baking Needs: Utensils, a Mixer and Moxy

Anyone who is new to baking probably approaches it with a lot of excitement, but perhaps some apprehension, as well. Most of us grew up enjoying the wonderful creations of mothers and grandmothers, from cookies to cakes to homemade bread, so it’s not surprising that we might be intimidated by the idea of living up to their standards.

bakingIn reality, though, baking doesn’t have to be that scary. It’s mainly just a matter of following recipes, and expecting and accepting any mistakes you might make. Even your boo-boos may still be quiet edible or even tasty, and in the meantime, you’ve learned from the experience.

If you’re going to play the baking game well, though, you need to have the proper equipment. In that sense, it’s no different from any other pursuit: would you try playing tennis without a racquet?

Of the many utensils and appliances a complete kitchen might need for baking, one of the most functional ones is a good mixer. From beating eggs to preparing cookie dough, these devices are a great time-saver, and so critical to your success if you are, like most of us, short on time.

For the heavier jobs, such as kneading, you really need to be looking at top-of-the-line electric stand mixers. These heavy-duty machines are designed to handle the toughest jobs, and come with a variety of accessories, including dough hooks that will make preparing bread, for instance, a much less labor-intensive job.

Kitchenaid is arguably the leading brand on the market today, offering a nice balance between reliability and cost, but there are many others to choose from. Establish your budget, do some research, and we’re sure you’ll find a stand mixer to suit your needs.

Photogenic Deer: Considering a Trail Camera

As I mentioned in my last post, we’ve been working our way through old photos. A fair number of these are from family vacations, including National Parks and other strikingly beautiful wild places.

This got us to thinking about trying to get more pictures of wildlife. There are a couple of nature preserves near our home, and many others within easy driving distance. Besides that, we have friends who own a large piece of undeveloped land about an hour or so down the road, and they often speak of finding signs of deer and bear on their property.

Of course, wild animals aren’t likely to cooperate in terms of posing for their portrait, and they tend to be rather shy of us humans … which got us thinking about game cameras. Often called deer or trail cams, these devices can be fastened to trees or other stable objects, then automatically take photos or video when motion is detected by the built-in sensor.

Here is a video of some great pics:

This looks like it would be a rather fun hobby, and there are some great resources on the web for helping newbies like us select a camera that will do the job. As with most technology, there are a number of factors to consider, from the type of lighting (flash vs. infrared vs. “black flash”) to battery life to the “detection zone” (range within which the sensor is triggered).

Also, since we’re just looking at this as a casual pastime, at least to begin with, we don’t want to spend a lot of money. So, trying to find the best trail cam for our budget is important.

Right now, the wildlife photography bug hasn’t quite bit us yet: it’s sort of just buzzing around our heads at this point. If we do decide to give it a go, though, we’ll be sure to share our photos with you all!

Scanning Our Visual History

One of our big ongoing projects is going through family slides and photographs. And like many folks, we have a LOT of them!

Our biggest challenge is not only which ones to keep, but also how to save and preserve them. We could foresee lots of headaches in terms of storage space, acid-free containers, etc.

Stacks of photosSo, we’re basically chickening out and opting to have them all digitized. That way, we can keep them all and not worry about having inadvertently destroyed evidence of an important moment in our lives.

Once the digitization is finished, we will feel comfortable disposing of most of the photos, although we’ll likely keep a few from various times in our family history as mementoes you can actually touch.

As we consider the best way to do this, it became obvious that there are two basic choices: sending them off to a company that will scan and convert them into digital files, or purchase a desktop machine and do the job ourselves.

From our standpoint, there are pros and cons to each of these options.

The greatest advantage of the third-party solution is that we wouldn’t have to do the scanning ourselves, saving tons of time and eliminating the looming specter of procrastination. The resulting images may also be of higher quality, assuming they are using commercial-grade equipment for the purpose.

On the downside, since we’re talking about hundreds, if not thousands of photos, paying someone else to take care of this will likely be quite expensive. We’re also concerned about sending our only copies of treasured pictures off to some company, hoping that they will be returned in good condition.

As for investing in a scanner, the one-time expense would almost certainly be significantly less than paying someone else to do the job, and we keep the photos in our own hands. The machine itself could also be useful going forward for digitizing documents and such. And many of them also serve as printers, so we wouldn’t necessarily be adding another device to our already crowded office.

Of course, the problem with doing it ourselves is finding the time and motivation to get it done.

We have actually thought of a “middle way”: buy a scanner, then persuade relatives to pitch in and help us get the job done. Our parents, for instance, are all now retired. They, like so many of us, enjoy look through old photos, so with a little instruction, they would have the pleasure of perusing pictures while also digitizing and organizing them. Naturally, we would be happy to let them use our scanner for their own images, as well.

This would still be a slow process, but it would take a fair bit of the work off of our shoulders, and give us a reason to see more of our folks at the same time.

We’re rather pleased by this idea, and it’s a great example of what we’re about here at Second Wind: finding alternative solutions when the obvious ones don’t seem to fit. We hope this helps!

Two New Seats at the Table: Dealing with Twins

A friend of ours gave birth to twins about a year ago. She’s been just a little bit nuts ever since. 😉

Seriously, though, every parent knows how much time and energy even one child can demand, and doubling that seems to actually increase the effort required and stress generated by more than one hundred percent.

twinsThese two beautiful girls are not her first children … she has another girl and a boy … so our friend already owns many of the things needed to take care of them. Unfortunately, though, they are all for only one baby, and she has two to raise now.

For example, she has a very nice pram that worked well for her two older kids, but now needs to upgrade to a tandem stroller for the twins. Besides the additional expense, he and her husband now have had to make a significant shift in how they organize their time, as well as a change in mindset.

One of the websites our busy mom has mentioned multiple times is According to her, it’s proven invaluable in providing guidance on everything from how to get through the first year with twins to tips on making travel less stressful.

Another thing our friends did a great job on was preparing their older kids for the twin’s arrival, and then making sure they didn’t feel left out after their birth. For instance, they made sure that some of the guests at the baby shower also brought gifts for the three and six-year-olds, so the party felt just as much like it was for them.

They also spent a lot of time explaining to the children what was happening, especially to the younger girl, since the boy had some memory of his sister’s birth and clearly had a better idea of what was going on.

Lastly, their Dad’s company allowed paternity leave, so he took full advantage of it, and devoted a lot of that time to the older children to make sure they still felt loved and cared for. Trips to the zoo and other favorite places were a big part of this. It also helped him further bond with his kids, making the whole family a stronger unit.

All in all, we’ve enjoyed, and even marveled, at how well this couple has handled the situation, and hope that other parents can be just as successful in raising their own kids.

Next on their agenda: getting the six-year-old ready for school while continuing to care for the preschooler and twins. No time to rest, but plenty of time for love, it seems!

Save That Outdoor Party with Canopies and Planning

If you’ve ever done any entertaining, you’ve likely had things go wrong. In fact, it’s extremely rare for everything to go according to plan with, say, a backyard party. Maybe the food doesn’t turn out quite right, you forget to pick something up from the store, or the weather doesn’t cooperate. While your guests will likely make understanding comments, and largely mean them, they may be a little less likely to accept future invitations if things went rather badly.

Here are a few things you can do to make future get-togethers more enjoyable:

One of the biggest issues with outdoor gatherings is often bugs. From mosquitoes to bees and wasps and beyond, no one really likes these guys buzzing around their heads, let alone being stung by them. They are frequently attracted by food, as well, making eating an annoying experience.

eating outsideA good way to help address this is with a screened-in canopy. If you live in areas where flying insects are a regular problem, getting one big enough to fit a table in might be a good idea, so people can eat in peace. At the very least, a smaller one to protect the food if you’re serving buffet style is worth the investment. Just remember not to actually cook under the canopy, as flames and sparks could create a dangerous situation very quickly.

Screened tents come in a wide variety of sizes and price ranges, so you should be able to find one that fits your budget. The folks at offer an excellent guide, covering the various types that might suit your needs.

If you’re throwing a potluck, where each guest is bringing a dish, get organized about it. Make sure you know what each person is providing, so you don’t have a ton of desserts and no side dishes. In general, especially if you are grilling, it’s easier if the host supplies the meat. If you’ve got a friend who’s a grill master or a butcher, though, by all means, let them handle that part.

Even if you’re doing the entire meal as the host, asking guests to BYOB is often a wise choice. If you’ve invited more than three or four people over, chances are their tastes in beverages will vary widely, so trying to stock up on everything could be problematic. This is especially true if, say, you know the husband well, but not the wife. Does she like beer or wine? Is she a teetotaler? You see the difficulty.

Regardless, of course, you should keep an eye on the folks who are drinking alcohol, and do your best to make sure they don’t drive drunk. This is supposed to be a fun occasion, so no one wants it ending in tragedy.

These are just a few ideas for making your next party a successful one. When you send out the invitations, make sure your invitees know what you’re doing differently this time. They’ll be pleased that you’re trying to improve on your last effort, and will undoubtedly have a good time. Enjoy!

What is Second Wind?

Greetings! This is Second Wind, a blog about pushing the reset button.

We’ve all been there at one time or another: you set out to achieve a goal, create a plan (or not), then go for it. But at some point, you run into a roadblock, and for whatever reason, you just can’t seem to figure out how to get over, under, through or around it.

Sometimes, there may be real, genuine objects in your way, like a lack of funds, a legal barrier, or a small workspace. In other instances, it could be more of a mindset issue: lack of confidence or focus, for example.

Either way, the net result is often that you give up on reaching your goal, and quit.

And we’re not just talking about things like losing weight, starting a new business or buying a home. It could be something like learning to bake bread, becoming fluent in Spanish or improving your free throw shooting.

At Second Wind, we’ll be discussing how you should go about getting back up after you’ve fallen down. To accomplish this, we’ll use specific examples, then explain how you can adapt the approach to your own situation.

We’ll be getting started soon, so check back often to see what we have cooking. Thanks!