pizza-dough

Technique: Shaping Dough Balls

One of the burning questions that probably keep you up at night is: why do pizza bakers shape their dough into balls prior to stretching, topping and baking?

 

Above all, it’s much easier to fashion a round crust from a round ball of dough than from anything else. But even apart from that, it makes sense to have a point in your process where you measure out the exact amount of dough you want to use, and “package” it for the final stretching / baking step. This step is a transition from the dough making phase to the baking phase. You can clean up the dough mess, put away the dough making tools, and start prepping the oven and toppings. And if you are making pizza for guests, or are guest at someone else’s house where you bake (always preferable to bringing already-baked pies and use a Californo mobile pizza oven), this is a good place to stop before you let your guests arrive or before you travel. Make the balls, store them in a container, and stretch/top/bake later.

 

It is during this step that you decide how big you want your pizza to be (not during stretching), by measuring out the appropriate amount of dough. And yes, it absolutely makes sense to accurately measure the dough by weight, instead of eyeballing it. If you want, you can skip the weighing, but your crusts might end up varying more than you will like. Weighing will ensure you can turn out crusts of a consistent size and thickness (and consequently, baking qualities for a perfect crust). Baking constant size pies is also nice because you can make them fit exactly to your baking pans / screens and serveware (for instance, everything I own is made for 14″ pies).

 

I suppose there are many ways to shape a dough ball, and I’m showing here just one way to do it. I use a combination of pulling & folding movements to make the dough come together in a round ball shape. At first the ball will be on its back, but around halfway through I flip it over, then finish up by folding / tucking under more dough to get the shape really nice and round. Be firm and swift, but work with the dough, not against it. You want to try and handle it gently, so you don’t knock all the air out of it.

 

1 kg of room temperature dough, enough for two pizzas (which is why I cut it in two pieces first). This is not fridge dough but a faster, non-refrigerated dough (you’ll have to watch the full video to see the exact recipe :), but when I do use fridge dough (and I do most of the time), I usually use 500-540 grams of it for a 14″ pizza. I use scissors and a scale to measure out the amount I need from my dough bucket:

 

When the dough balls are done, they are allowed to rest again before baking. If you will bake soon (say, within 15 minutes to an hour), you can do the same as I do in the video, and wrap the balls in a well floured kitchen towel. If you don’t plan on baking them very soon, you can keep them in an oiled container in the fridge, so you can bake at a later time (this is what pizzerias usually do). Ideally, you should let refrigerated dough come fully to room temperature prior to shaping (ie. wait 1 – 2 hours), but this is not strictly necessary. Just keep in mind that the cooler the dough, the harder it will push back against your shaping efforts. A room temperature dough, on the other hand, will be supple and easy to shape.

Jewelry Gift Ideas for Her Birthday, Anniversary and Other Days

Jewelry Gift Ideas for Her Birthday, Anniversary and Other Days

There has always been a fascinating relationship between women and jewelry. Across time spans, across geographies, and across cultures, this fascination has remained unchanged. Jewelry for women is one of the finest, time-tested gift ideas that can almost never go wrong.

These gifts are available in all kinds of price range to suit anyone’s budget. From funky fashion jewelry to exotic and rare diamonds, pearls, and gemstones, there are countless jewelry gift ideas for her.

Pre-Engagement Ring and Bridal Jewelry

One of the most wonderful gifts for a longtime girlfriend can be a pre-engagement ring. This is a symbol of the man’s unwavering commitment to marriage, and an expression of his pure love for the woman.

As the wedding nears, the lady will need bridal jewelry, the most special gift that a woman can expect to receive from her fiancé. The value of the jewelry may depend on the affordability of the person, but the sentiment behind it is very special. A wedding ring, for instance, is probably the most precious gift that any woman can ever expect to receive from her man.

Jewelry Gifts for Bridesmaids

An absolutely thoughtful and gracious gesture can be to buy a special piece of jewelry for the bridesmaid as well. It can not only honor the bridesmaid, but it can also touch the bride’s heart, and add a wonderful feeling to the whole occasion.

Jewelry Gift for Her Birthday

It is difficult to go wrong with the choice of a birthday gift for her when it comes to jewelry. It could be jewelry for the wife, girlfriend, sister, mother or daughter, but in every case it makes for an equally special birthday gift. 

 

Teen Jewelry Gifts

Pierced and non-pierced earrings, anklets, toe rings, bracelets, or junk jewelry make a wonderful gift for teenage girls and daughters. Sometimes parents also like to gift a promise ring to their daughter on a special day, such as her 16th birthday.

A promise ring symbolizes a personal bonding between the parents and the daughter, and usually extracts a promise from the daughter to uphold their values and advice. Jewelry for prom is also a great gift idea for a teenage girl.

Popular Jewelry Gifts for Women

Some of the most popular jewelry gift ideas for women include gold chains, diamond pendants, earrings in diamonds or gemstones, pretty baubles, bracelets, and hair accessories. Jewelry gift boxes are also quite popular presents for women. Whether it is jewelry gifts for a girlfriend or a Thanksgiving or Mother’s Day jewelry gift, the idea gets appreciated for all women in all age groups.

Jewelry Gifts for Anniversary, Graduation Day, Valentine’s Day

Certain days are very special in a woman’s life. Her wedding anniversary, graduation day, and the Valentine’s Day mean a lot to her. A gift of jewelry can be the best way to make her occasion very special and memorable for the rest of her life. 

 

If you want to check more options for a perfect romantic gift, click here.

Teeth whitening: the best way to get a better smile

Teeth whitening: the best way to get a better smile

Tooth whitening can have a few side effects and may be limited in its effectiveness. Sensitive teeth and gum irritation are the most common side effects from tooth whitening treatments. If you have a mouth tray that does not fit the right way, then that could be why your gums are irritated. At the start of your whitening procedure is when your teeth are the most sensitive.

 

If you are dealing with these side effects, you can get rid of them if you do these things.

– If you are utilizing a tray, you might want to use it less frequently or reduce the amount of time it is used. The outcome will be the same, just not as fast. – Stop using it for a couple of days and then restart the treatments. – A toothpaste intended for teeth that are sensitive is another option you can try. Potassium nitrate works to soothe the tooth’s nerve endings and is added to these types of toothpastes. – Your dentist can give you products which contain fluoride to protect your teeth and replace the minerals. The product needs to be used both before and after the whitening treatments. You can learn more about this from your dentist or consulting Whitening Station. – Irritation of the gums can be helped with over the counter products.

 

Some individuals’ mouths are more sensitive than others. Minor tooth sensitivity and gum irritation is experienced by roughly half the people who try teeth whitening products.

 

Composite Fillings, Crowns and Veneers

Teeth whitening is not recommended for people with crowns, veneers or composite fillings. In truth, unless you get a new crown or veneer, you could find yourself having teeth that are different colors. It is suggested that you get all composite work done on your teeth before any whitening work commences. Otherwise you will have to have it redone.

 

Gum Disease, Cavities or Worn Tooth Enamel

 Teeth whitening bleach is not recommended for those who have any of these conditions.

 

Tetracycline Staining

If you have quite a bit of staining on your teeth from tetracycline, it’s possible you won’t see a major difference after using teeth bleaching. However, you will see some improvement after an extended period of time.

 

Age

 It is suggested that children under 16 years of age not try tooth whitening procedures. At this age, the nerves are enlarged and teeth are still growing. It’s possible that teeth whitening can cause sensitivity and damage.

 

Pregnancy

Tooth whitening is not recommended for pregnant women or those who are lactating. If a pregnant woman swallows even a tiny amount of whitening bleach, her fetus may be harmed.

 

Allergies

It goes without saying that you shouldn’t use a tooth whitening product if you have an allergy to peroxide.

 

There are people who expect that their teeth will be glowingly white after just one whitening treatment. They may be in for a disappointment. The whitening method used, the condition of the teeth, and the person’s genetics will factor into the results. Also, remember that the whitening is only temporary. With some luck, you may not need another treatment for at least a year. To know more about healthy teeth whitening, click here.

How Parents Can Help Their Special Needs Children

How Parents Can Help Their Special Needs ChildrenWhen parents first learn their children have special needs or fall under the category of Special Education, it can be devastating. Once reality has settled in and parents have had time to grieve and accept the situation, it’s important they known their rights.

Under state and federal laws special education students are guaranteed certain in-school services. Parents should served as advocates for their children, being proactive and taking needed steps for ensuring their special needs kids receive the appropriate services.

Parents and Their Special Needs Children’s IEEs

Parents have the right to receive an Independent Educational Evaluation (IEE) for their special needs children for determining the type of special education program best suited for them. Typically, an IEE is done outside of a school system. Although parents can’t decide if a child qualifies for an IEP (Individual Educational Program), they can participate in the development of such as program.

Tips for Helping Special Needs Kids With Homework

Helping Special Needs Kids With HomeworkHomework can be even more challenging for special needs kids, as well as for their parents.

  • Help children with organizational skills. In addition to having an assignment notebook, parents of special education students need to help their kids organize their backpacks, books, notebooks and school supplies.
  • Designate a homework zone. Don’t allow children to do homework in a different spot each day. Instead, set aside a space that’s designed only for doing homework and studying.
  • Minimize distractions. Children with special needs are usually more unfocused than other kids so it’s important to get rid of distractions. Take the phone off the hook, turn off the television and eliminate other factors that are likely to interrupt a child’s attention.
  • Work with teachers. Don’t depend solely on the child to know assignments, but regularly check with teachers and any internet information regarding the child’s daily homework. It’s also important parents are on the same page as teachers and not go overboard in overindulging them as sometimes parents of special needs children make too many allowances for inappropriate behavior.
  • Be adaptable. Although getting homework done is important, sometimes it’s necessary to take into consideration outside factors that may hinder the child from doing his assignments. Also, ensure the homework is adjusted to the child’s needs. Usually, adjustments are made by special education teachers, but if it isn’t done, parents need to stand up for their kids.

Diet, Sleep, and Exercise for Special Needs Kidshealthy diet for special needs kids

A well balanced diet is vital for any child and is especially important for a special needs kid. Start teaching the child how to make healthy food choices by avoiding foods loaded with sugar, starch and salt early.

Sleep is imperative for academic success because when a child is tired it’s even harder to focus and learn. Sleep schedules, including bedtimes and wake-up times should be reasonable and consistent.

Exercise is important. Often exercise is an excellent prescription for children with learning disabilities as it helps them unwind and focus better in class. Besides ensuring the child gets plenty of exercise at home, parents should also check with the child’s teacher to make sure he’s included in an exercise program adapted to his needs.

Most of all, school success is important, but what’s more important is a child living a full and happy life. A parent’s continual encouragement, love and support can make all the different in a special needs child feeling confident enough to tackle new challenges and overcome each roadblock standing in the way of continued success.

Introduction to Farsightedness – Hyperopia

Longsightedness is a Fairly Common and Treatable Condition

Farsightedness is a vision problem caused by a short eyeball or a lens that is not flexible enough to maintain a stretched shape under natural conditions of focusing.

It has been estimated that up to a quarter of the United States population is hyperopic.

The scientific term for the condition is hyperopia. With hyperopia, the focusing mechanism results in an image of a near object that lies beyond the retina instead of on it. As an object comes nearer, the power of the cornea and lens are not enough to keep the image focused on the retina and the image appears blurred. Children can commonly be born with the condition yet eventually outgrow it as their eyeballs lengthen.

Hyperopia

The Experience of Farsightedness

Farsighted individuals may experience headaches and fatigue easily when performing close range work. There is difficulty concentrating and focusing on near objects. The eye is easily strained in such situations and may be exacerbated by the compensatory mechanism of squinting. Wearing contact lenses with hydrogel material at reasonable prices can help in preventing the eye strain.

The condition is difficult to detect during common vision screenings in school and is often only diagnosed by an ophthalmologist through an optometric examination. In detecting hyperopia, a wet refraction test may be used whereby the pupils of the eyes are dilated so that the eyes’ accommodative reflex cannot hide the condition.

Classifying the Condition

An ophthalmologist may term the condition by clinical appearance as being simple, pathological or functional. The condition is often categorized according to the amount of an element known as refractive error. This term quantifies the inability of the eye’s focusing mechanism to bend light to a suitable extent and is commonly measured in diopters. Low hyperopia involves a refractive error of around +2 diopters or less. Moderate hyperopia involves a refractive error of between +2.25 and +5 diopters while severe hyperopia involves a refractive error of around +5.25 diopters or more. In relation to the focusing mechanism of the eye, hyperopia can be further classified into several subtypes.

Treating the Condition

The type of treatment used can depend on factors that include age, lifestyle, and occupation. Accommodation, whereby the lens shape is altered to help focus the image onto the retina, in younger patients can compensate for farsightedness and children with the condition have a good chance of outgrowing it. Minor or low hyperopia can often be left uncorrected without any significant vision problems or complications. With increasing severity of hyperopia, there may be a need to correct with the use of convex lenses in eyeglasses or weekly contact lenses with multiple colors blending for having a natural depth to the eyes at the same time. Refractive surgery like that involved in LASIK surgery is often an effective solution to correcting specific types of hyperopia.

Babysitting Children with Special Needs

Child with special needs

How to find that one special person to take care of your child with special needs.

Do you need to get out of the house? Never mind that, do you want to get out of the house? Are your kids screaming right now as you are reading this, or are you one of the lucky ones that still get a nap time and are walking around your house like a mouse so as to not wake them up?

Having children is hard. Throw in a child with special needs and your life might as well be a circus. Sure you love them with all your heart, but you need a break. You deserve a break. So just get a babysitter. Yeah, right. I know that it is not that easy. There are so many more worries when you have a child with special needs and to trust a babysitter, for even just a couple hours, would be one more worry you don’t want to deal with right now.

So how do you choose? How do you make it easier on yourself? How do you find that special someone that will enrich your child’s life while you get to go to the movies for the first time in eight years? As a babysitter for eight years of two boys that have autism I have gained some knowledge I would love to share with you.

Change is hard. Change is hard for most people. However, for your child, change might be the worst thing in the world. Any kind of transition can trigger emotions you were not expecting. You already know this, I know.

Finding a babysitter

Step 1:

What should you do about it? Introduce the change slowly. Or in your case, introduce the babysitter slowly. Please do not call someone out of the phone book at 4pm and ask them to be at your house by 6.

If you have a recommendation of someone great in your area start there. Call that person; see what kind of vibe you get. You should know within a couple of minutes of talking if this person will be a good fit for your child(ren). If you don’t have any recommendations, try the internet. I know it’s scary, but there are many services that prescreen candidates for babysitting. Most even do background checks! But again, start with a phone call.

Step 2:

If the phone call goes well, invite this person over to meet with you and your child. Don’t force any interaction, but let your child know what is going on and if possible to be present for most of the meeting. Ask your child after the meeting what he or she thought. If they are non-verbal, try to pick up on as many signs as you can gather. After all, you know your child; you know how to distinguish the good signs from the bad signs. If all went well schedule another meeting.

This time make it more about the child and their caregiver interacting. Maybe do a load of laundry. Wash the car. Lock yourself in your bedroom with your ear to the door. Whatever you choose to do with your semi free time you must be present, but not overbearing. See if these guys can get along without you. See if a relationship could develop. Watch the interaction from afar and imagine yourself not there… Do you like that picture? If you do you have probably started a good thing. If not, try, try again.

Finalize your choice

babysitter for special needs children

Everything seems to be a good fit, but how can you know for sure? How can you tell that the minute after you leave your child will still be in good hands? First, I would say listen to your gut. You all have one and it will probably give you more insight than anything. Trust it. If you want something more concrete to put your faith in here are some traits that every good babysitter should have:

Patience. You know, that feeling you have at 8am, but somehow disappears by 1pm. Your babysitter should exude patience. You would pray this would never happen, but should your child be at his or her absolute worst you would want someone with enough patience to run a daycare alone.

Energy. This person is going to be with your child for the next few hours, and my guess is that you don’t want someone who will only get up to get the remote. Make sure your new babysitter shows you that he or she is energetic and willing to have a tea party or be Darth Vader for a while.

Common Sense. You want someone with a good head on their shoulders. If your child is on a special diet make sure this person could figure out that butter is also dairy, and there is gluten in crackers. Especially if you have a separate stash of goodies hidden for yourself!

Positive. You want someone happy. Someone that will smile and focus on all of the wonderful things your child does when they are together. Your child might be reaching milestone after milestone, or it might have been three years since they reached their last goal, but you need someone who will give lots of praise and encouragement.

Love. Lastly, you need someone who is warm and loving. They don’t have to be in love with your child the second they meet him or her, but to avoid 20 different babysitters (and transitions), you will want someone that could have a long term relationship with your child. It may take your child months to really become comfortable with their new babysitter and you will want someone willing to stick it out… for both of you.

There. Now you have everything I can give you. Start doing your homework so that someday soon you can get out of the house… and know that everything back home is under control.

Best Sensory Stocking Stuffers (under $5 each)

Sensory Stocking Stuffers

All mothers want their children to develop and improve concentration and fine and gross motor skills, in addition to meeting all developmental milestones and specific sensory needs. As my kids were growing up, I noticed that they have their own preferences when it comes to sensory toys and I came up with toy suggestions with all of them in mind. The toys featured in this blog post are available on Amazon and you can easily find similar toys on the website. Each item in the collage below are very affordable and costs less than $5 each, making them great year-round gifts and Christmas stocking stuffers for kids. However, please bear in mind that toy prices on Amazon do change from time to time.

Sensory Stocking Stuffers for Kids

Do you have sensory stocking stuffer ideas for kids? Let me know in the comments section below.

Preparing for our wish trip to Disney and Give Kids the World

Eve was granted a wish through the Make A Wish Foundation earlier this year. We met with our wish granters and we discussed a few different options based on Eve’s likes and abilities to participate. One place that kept coming up in the discussion was Give Kids the World village, a magical place in Orlando that welcomes families from many different wish organizations. The village is wheelchair accessible, fun and we would have all the comforts of home vs a hotel a room. Give Kids the World Village is more than just a place to stay, they have parties, things to do and places to eat. Take a look at this brief video to get a taste of this amazing place.

As part of our stay at the Give Kids the World Village, we would also get tickets to theme parks and other Florida attractions to make our stay fun and exciting. Since Eve loves aquariums and large animals, we also talked about a trip to the Clearwater Marine Aquarium during the week. We were so excited to hear that Make A Wish approved this wish and our entire family was invited to go. They are taking care of all the details, even the smallest ones so we can just enjoy family time. Eve is the happiest when we are all together and this trip will allow time away from the normal busyness of life. I don’t know that we have had a week without medical appointments or therapies this year, so this week will be great respite for all of us.

Since I am a planner by nature, I have found a few ways to keep things organized in a low key way. We are a family of 8 so we do need to plan a bit to give every child a chance to experience something fun. If you are planning a trip to Give Kids the World Village, maybe this will help you too:

Apps

These are my favorite apps for planning as well as while in Orlando. I tend to have a good connection at the parks but you may want to jot down notes if you are unsure.

Happ4Hotels: enter GKTW as the hotel code to get information about events, entertainment and other village news. This app will help you in planning which nights to enjoy parties at the village and when to stay late in the parks.

My Disney Experience is all things Walt Disney World. Make dining reservations, check park hours and even find photopass photographers.

Universal FL is an app for Universal Studios. Out the apps I looked out, this one is free and most user friendly.

Nativoo Orlando if you plan to dine outside the theme parks (or even in the theme parks), this is a great app for discovering Orlando area.

Give Kids the World Village

Give Kids the World Village website has videos and information about the village. I looked through the village guide to get an idea what was in our villa and what activities my children might enjoy. I hear the Christmas party is awesome and it’s held every week.

Facebook groups Make A Wish Disney Trips, Disney Planning Mamas Wish Trip, Disney Wish Trips for Special Needs are great ways to talk to other parents about their Disney and Universal Studios wish experiences. And it’s nice to connect with other families who understand the unique journey we are all on.

Blogs

Disney Food Blog:  food is half the fun at Walt Disney World! Learn about restaurants and best counter service spots before you go. And snacks, don’t forget about the snacks. Dole whips and mickey bars and turkey legs. Yumm!

Kenny the Pirate: where can you find your favorite character? This website will tell you where the characters are and tips on how to see them. They also have helpful crowd calendars which can help you decide which parks to choose while you are staying at the village.

Wish details

Make A Wish gave us a rough idea on what to expect, but we received the final details about a week before our trip at a send off party. If you need to know how much to expect in spending money, flight or rental vehicle details, your wish granter can help you with that. Each wish organization is different in how they handle aspects of travel. Enjoy the fact that they will take care of most of the details, but it’s also nice to know there is someone taking care of things behind the scenes.

Give Kids the World also has people who customize and help you with your stay there. We received an email from the itinerary fairy, we spoke about our dietary needs and decided what parks might be fun to visit.

There are tons of Disney and Universal resources out there. If you have one that made your trip easier, let me know in the comments!

When Rejection Turns into Something Wonderful

A few months ago, one of my favorite author/speakers, Jen Hatmaker announced that she was looking for 500 writers to help her launch her new book, For The Love. Having just finished reading her book Interrupted, I knew whatever this book was about, I wanted in on it. And if I could get my hands on an advanced copy, wow, that would mean less waiting. Patience is a virtue and I possess exactly none of it.

5000 writers/bloggers applied and as luck would have it, I was not accepted. In true Jen style, her rejection email was  funny, compassionate and full of love. I let any feelings of jealousy go, because I know it was not a popularity contest, at least I hope not. But yeah, it was not the outcome I had hoped.

Then, a small number of the “rejects” (not really, but perhaps the “not chosen ones”?) named themselves #the4500, sending hilarious tweets to Jen. It was brilliant. Jen took notice and saw humor, fun and love from the group that were not chosen initially. More joined the 4500 movement and began to get to know each other in a facebook group.  Organically, the group of women gathered in a way that doesn’t happen all the time in Christian circles. Women who were longing for sisterhood, authenticity and support for their deepest Jesus dreams were finding others on a similar journey. I can’t say that I have witnessed anything so real in a long time.

I have no clue what the chosen 500 group is like, but I imagine it being very similar to the 4500. Who knew that rejection could band together hundreds of women from all denominations, walks of life and seasons of life together. And as disappointing as it was to be rejected, there was now a group of friends which felt far from rejection. Support, prayer, advice was just the tip of the iceberg with these women. Love is a verb and so there has been love extended to people to meet practical needs. Get togethers are happening around the country and previous strangers are now doing life together.

I have thought about this experience and how this happens in other aspects of my life as well. I know that there are areas of my life where rejection felt much worse than Jen’s gracious email. There have been closed doors, goodbyes, boundaries that needed to be set and there has been flat out rejection. There have been what I thought were NOs in my life that were only NOT YETs as time was not right yet. There have been what I thought were NOs that were WAIT, THERE’S SOMETHING SO MUCH BETTERs if I trusted and let go. How many times do I want to morph my NO into a YES knowing that I am trying to be a captain of a sinking ship with that YES? Do I dare to trust my NO and discover what might be on the other side? Joining a group of women has allowed me to trust other NOs as the best course for me and find my ultimate YES.

So thank you Jen, thank you #ForTheLove and most of all thank you to the ladies behind #the4500. There is a bigger lesson here and it starts with a gentle rejection and ends with love that moves us to action.

Jen’s book  For the Love: Fighting for Grace in a World of Impossible Standards  can be preordered from Amazon. I was lucky to receive a few advance chapters and I can’t wait to read the rest!

For the Love

Self Care and Special Needs Parenting

Two things that don’t seem to go together very well: self care and special needs parenting. I know moms who seem to do self care well but unfortunately I am not one of them. I was sitting at our therapy waiting room reading a book and I happened to laugh out loud (Jen Hatmaker’s new book For The Love was the culprit) attracting curious looks.

It started a conversation about how little time moms of children of medical/special needs have to themselves. I don’t read books except when I am in waiting room.  “I don’t take good care of myself” one mom confessed. We all nodded in agreement.

 

This month my husband and I are celebrating our 20th wedding anniversary. That prompted a time a reflection and needed changes in many areas of our lives. Self care rose to the top as we want to be able to give our children present, energetic parents. An empty cup has nothing to pour into others.

We are not able to go on long overnight trips, but we decided to do a short getaway. No distractions, no schedule and just time together. It will be marvelous! I feel like if I don’t plan it, it will never happen. So more things will be planned and scheduled. I hope this will be a start of intentional self care.