I’ve been around homemade bread all my life, and learned from my mom how to mix yeast and water and flour and salt.  My favorite part is the kneading, because I love to feel the dough go from a lumpy mess to a smooth round by working it with my hands.  One of my new years resolutions this year was to bake more bread, and to that end I bought the book Flour Water Salt Yeast by Ken Forkish (which Amazon highly recommended to me).  This book is full of recipes that approach bread-baking in a strange (to me) way; all of the recipes recommend using a very small amount of yeast and letting your dough rise for several hours – which runs contrary to my instincts, which are to use 2 1/4 teaspoons of yeast and about an hour per rise.

So I decided to try this low-yeast-long-rise method of Mr. Forkish’s yesterday.  I also ordered two proofing baskets, which are definitely not strictly necessary to this technique but which do make the loaves of bread very pretty after baking.

I started around 9:30 am by mixing 7 3/4 cup of flour with 3 1/8 cup of warm water.  I let this sit for maybe 20 minutes, and then added one teaspoon of yeast and one tablespoon of salt.  I mixed this up using the “pinching method,” which basically means that you imagine you are a lobster who likes bread dough.  After getting the salt and yeast all mixed in, I let the dough rest another 20-30 minutes or so.  The “kneading” part is next, but it doesn’t really count as kneading (imo).  It’s more of a “up and over” movement – you grab a quarter of the dough from the bottom of the bowl, pull it to the top, and repeat three more times.  This particular dough is folded just two times, but it worked anyway.  After letting it rise until 4:00 ish, the dough was just as smooth and soft as if you’d kneaded it for ten minutes.

The book said to wait until the dough had tripled in size, but because I am impatient I only waited until it had doubled.  I then separated it into two loaves, and put each into their respective proofing baskets.  By the way, “proofing” is just a fancy work for the final rise.

So I let them proof another hour or so.

As it turns out, the trick to a really nice, crunchy crust is to bake your bread in a dutch oven.  I have a really nice cast iron dutch oven that I’ve been using for this.  It’s a little more complicated than just using regular loaf pans, but it’s worth it if you like a nice crust.  You put your dutch oven (lid on) into the oven and preheat to 475*.  Then you take it out, add the bread (which you’ve just gentle dumped out of your proofing basket), replace the lid, and stick it back into the oven for about 30 minutes.  After the timer goes off, take off the lid and let it back until you’re happy with the color – another 10-20 minutes.

And this is what you end up with!

In other news, I’m thinking of going on a bread and wine diet.



Ren Faire costume, last update

So!  We went to the Tennessee Renaissance Fair a few weeks ago, and I have forgotten to post pictures until now.  It was astonishingly and refreshingly cool the weekend that we went, which meant that I got to wear my cloak without getting hot.  I meant to take more pictures, but it was a lot more crowded this year than last year and I tend to get overwhelmed in crowds, so mainly just didn’t want to add an extra “thing” (taking pictures).  Not a good excuse, but whatever.  Most of these pictures below were taken right before we left, actually (except this one, which was taken at Castle Gwynn).


So!  Here is the costume.  I made the skirt out of sheets from Southern Thrift.  I made the brown dress part from a size 4XL dress I found, also at Southern Thrift; I cut it down the middle, hemmed both sides, added eyelets to the top, and took in the sides.  I made the cloak last year, of course.  I made the waist cincher from a roll of leather…cut my pieces, added eyelets, and then found a book of renaissance designs on, printed one out, and traced it onto the leather.  I ended up stitching MOST of it, and then adding some gold highlights.  Also threw together a quick belt made of the same leather, for carrying around my pouch (made from deer skin leather), and the dagger and mug that I bought on-site.

renfaire detailrenfaire full tworenfaire full

SO!  I thought it turned out really well!!  And I would really like to be able to wear this in public without going to LARPing events.  Maybe we should start taking road trips to ren faires in nearby cities.  I hear Atlanta has a pretty great one, actually…..

Mother’s Day and Being a Birthmother

As with most of my blog posts, this is not going to be well thought-out.  It’s on my mind, so I’m trying to write to understand myself a little better.

But, Mother’s Day always makes me feel sort of conflicted.  I am a birth mother, which puts me in a subset of Motherhood – but one that is usually written off by other people as not being legitimate or worth remembering.  It puts me in a weird place, though, because while I don’t want to bring it up regularly and talk about it with everyone, it’s still VERY MUCH a part of my past and of who I am now — so I usually find myself, around Mother’s Day, feeling sort of left out.  Like I’m just asking for attention if I want to feel special on this day, and like I should just be able to let it go because I’m not a “real mother.”  (No one has actually said that to me – just my brain.)

I don’t know that I want any more than to just be accepted and known as a woman who bore a child for 9 months, has a bona fide birthing story, and who made the best decision that she could for her daughter.  I know, it’s easy to forget these things about me because I don’t talk about them often, and because Sarah has parents who love her and are not me.

Oh, I don’t know.  I just wish that I could bring this up more easily — without feeling like I’m asking for attention or sympathy.  I just want to tell you about my experience, and to let you know that even though I don’t understand what it’s like to raise children, I do know what it’s like to love and want the beautiful baby you just gave birth to.

lunch today: scrambled egg carbanara and samoas

accidentally microwaved my leftover pasta too long, which turned the sauce into scrambled eggs.  damn.  so I’m eating the top, and finishing off this blasted sleeve of Samoas that I couldn’t resist buying the other day.  left them at work; otherwise they would have been gone the day I bought them.

I utilized my lunch break to run to the post office, where I mailed THREEEE orders off!!  two should have been mailed before today but because of all the ice, I didn’t actually get out of the house until yesterday.  I should have mailed them yesterday…but, uh, that didn’t happen, so, you know.  oh well.  have I mentioned just how gratifying it is to be making money on these things??!  I mean, it’s great!!  I actually bought a case of bubble mailers and some tape today, because I keep needing them!!  whoo hoo.

so Saturday is going to be the 2 year anniversary of Matt’s death, which feels weird to say.  I had a dream about him last night, which hasn’t happened in a looong time – I can’t remember when I dreamt about him last.  these last 4 years have been so odd, and disjointed.  this last year has been full of recovery and living.  year before that I was covered in grief.  year before that I was equal parts hopeful and frightened.  year before that I was apprehensive and starting to be frightened.  it’s been very strange, and ten years ago I would have never been able to guess what was in store for me.

well, lost my train of thought thanks to blogging at work.  oops.  but I brought it up because I’m trying to decide what I want to do on Saturday.  maybe I’ll buy a bottle of mead in honor of Matt.  we’re supposed to get more snow on Friday so I don’t know about hiking — but if it’s warm enough and not raining/snowing, I might.  I wonder how he would have wanted me to spend these February 21’s.  I know that he would be happy with my life as it is right now, and proud of me.  so it’s kind of a moot point, I guess.  maybe I should see what Ryan’s doing.


this is turning into self-promotion central

though, really, isn’t that what this blog has always been?

I have listed 3 new pieces in the last 2 days, and one of them sold after being up for about 2 hours.  It was a Skyrim apothecary’s satchel that I’d made a few months ago and then rejected in disgust as it was rather off-center.  See figure 1.

satchel askew open

fig. 1

Anyway, I listed it for $20, which is apparently far too cheap for even an askew-apothecary’s satchel.

Other two items listed were oak leaf purses.  One of them is significantly less expensive than the other, because I almost rejected it in disgust as well, after mucking up the dyeing job (fig. 2).  Gah.  I loved this purse and then had to go try to dye it.  I had added oil to my leather dye because it was turning solid (BAD IDEA — will add alcohol if anything in the future) and it basically went on all splotchy, because of that and also because I didn’t apply with a wet rag.  Oh well, live and learn.  I made another similar bag last night, out of a thick veg tan that has a soft, suede-like surface (fig. 3).  Very pretty.  I sort of want to keep it.  Might make myself one that’s larger and will hold a couple of books.

oak purse front tan oak 2

(fig 2.)                                                                           (fig. 3)

Anyway, so yeah, there you have it.

It’s been a tolerably good week so far, though I am awfully glad that it’s Friday.  We’re going to see the Grand Budapest Hotel at the Belcourt tonight – I’m pretty sure that it might be the first Wes Anderson movie I’ve actually seen in a theater.  (Unless — Anna Laura/Carla, did we see Darjeeling Limited together?  or am I thinking of the Terminal?)  Not sure what else will happen this weekend, other than sleeping in.  It’s supposed to be partly cloudy/partly sunny all weekend, and cold, so possibly a hike…or possibly reading…or…..we’ll see.

O what a beautiful morning!

Am feeling pretty positive this Wednesday morning.  Last night, I tried my hand at wet-molding leather; currently the experiment is nailed to an old cutting board and drying.  It looks like it might turn out well, but we’ll see.  I need some longer nails for this; all I could round up in the garage were little picture-hanging brads.  Which are about as long as the width of my fingers, and that makes them rather difficult to hammer.  At any rate, I did get a shape to form and stay, and if it turns out I’m sure I’ll post a picture.

After that, I just started a new purse.

unfinished purse

The red lining inside is JUST too small, so I brought more material to work with me.  I’m going to make sure to get all my actual work done before I start cutting a new lining, since I think one of the reasons I’ve felt kind of off lately is because I am not really trying my hardest at work.  And I feel like I’m doing my work ethic a disservice.  So as soon as I finish everything I can, and ask my boss(es) if I can help them with anything, I’ll work on this some more.  Brought leather, too, so I can do a flap and a strap.  I think this purse is going to look super cute once it’s finished.

I’ve been seriously thinking about taking a really long weekend and dedicating it to reading.  Does anyone know of a quiet, preferably secluded place that I/we could stay?  Like, do any of you have a cabin in the woods that I could rent for cheap?  Or an empty condo in a city that’s not Nashville?  I really can’t afford to get a hotel or B&B or anything.  Sadly.  I’m almost leaning towards going to Knoxville and maybe camping in the Smokies one night, or something.  It’s a tad cold for that right now, I know…..  Still in the brainstorming stage, but I think that getting away for several days and focusing on reading would be so good for my soul.

I’m having lots of benevolent and hopeful feelings today, and am feeling unphased by depressing news on FB.  Which is odd, but awesome.  May it last all day and into the future!  If I had a mimosa, I’d toast myself.

Things That Happened This Weekend

Went to Jackson’s with two favorite people on Friday night.

On Saturday, had breakfast at Wendell Smith’s with Stephen, then went to Rhino Books where I bought three more than the one book I was “allowed” to buy (per my budget, or lack thereof).  After that we went to Centennial Park and sat at the Parthenon, reading.  It was extraordinarily bright; or anyway, it seemed that way after all the grey, rainy days we’ve been having.

blog - parthenon us

Later, we went to a house show, and when we got home made cocktails with gin, crushed garlic, and pepper.  It was a full and good day.

blog - cocktail

Sunday, we went to Fido and then Village Pub where we mostly read, sometimes talked, and did some writing/watercoloring.

blog - village pubblog - sunday

After Village Pub, we went to the Frist to see their exhibit closing yesterday — the Art of the Dominican and Franciscan Orders.  Then to JJ’s for a caffeine pick-me-up before heading to a birthday party that one of Stephen’s friends throws for Mozart every year.  The concert featured a lot of Nashville Symphony players and was really excellent.  I was fairly exhausted but really enjoyed the music nevertheless.

Whether it was the late afternoon coffee or something else, neither of us slept very well last night, but nevertheless — it was a good weekend.  I’m looking forward to being chill the next few days, though.

good things

It’s Friday!!!

I’m getting ready to mail off my first ever Etsy sale.  May it be the first of many!

I really am liking the new bag I’m making.  Will probably be able to get it listed by this afternoon.

Got a new back door yesterday, complete with a deadbolt so that only someone with superhuman power should be able to kick it in now.  Ha!

My boyfriend loves me, which makes me feel like my soul is being embraced even when I’m here at work.  (I guess that’s true, in a sense.)

Plans for the weekend include a trip to the Frist, sleeping in, a house concert, a birthday party for Mozart, and possibly a movie.  Also I have an AT&T installation scheduled for tomorrow morning which will result in my bill decreasing by about half.

So, regardless of the inclement weather outside, I’m feeling warm and pleasant inside.  It’s nice.

assorted pictures

blog - dumplins 2
Chicken n dumplins I made for dinner last night — omg they’re so good
blog - dumplins
shamelessly showing off my new Le Creuset here
blog - quilt
quilt I made for Anna Laura/Marshall/Mary (although Mary really shouldn’t be touching it too much….eh heh…I didn’t do the best job with the star applique and with some help they could easily look much worse than they do)
blog - clutch
clutch I made for Rosa – sorry for the horrible quality of the picture
blog - satchel
final version of Liesl’s apothecary satchel (replica from Skyrim)
apothecary satchel
first version of the apothecary’s satchel, which got over 100,000 views on Imgur and 2000 upvotes on reddit. not exactly the best thing I’ve ever done, but at least the most seen.
blog - purse
purse I made for Carla….

I failed to take a picture of the knife holder that I tooled for Joel.  Hm, I DID take a picture of the TARDIS journal I made for Havah but that doesn’t seem to have made it to my email this morning.  Oh well.  I also didn’t get pictures of the cow-themed mason jar coozies I made for Mom.  Blast.

Anyway – based on how quickly I churned these out (excepting the quilt which took forreeevvvver – or at least several months), I want to actually start selling them.  Stephen asked when he should start bugging me about it, and I said a couple of weeks into January.  So…..feel free to start bugging me yourself, if you feel so inclined.

Christmas recap, etc.

First, a poem.

A reading from the book of exile

chapter four

there are some things too meaningful for talking

and even feeling leaves us full of grief

at all we touch and need and

can never speak of

we are living lives that we can’t state the name of

we are loving things that

we can never bear

we attempt belief in things that we can not explain

and we rest uneasy in this


and we rest with tension so


its heartaching

(by Padraig O’ Tuama)

I have had a very full week.  I took Tuesday off, made 3 loaves of babka and prepped 4 linzertortes and made about 4 dozen rugelach.  I cleaned most of the house, and wrapped presents.  On Wednesday, I went to Jeff and Tammy’s and was happy to see that family (especially Bill who I hadn’t seen in quite a long time).  After, I picked up Stephen and we went to Knoxville to see the Reeves.  Christmas Day was very typical – stockings, then breakfast, then presents, then naps and general lethargy, then Aunt Carol and Uncle Walter’s for dinner and more presents.  We headed back to Nashville and got back before midnight, because I had to work on Friday.  We were able to leave work early though – around 3pm – and I then rushed to Stephen’s and we left for Chattanooga pretty much immediately.

We got to Stephen’s Mom’s house a bit late because of post-Christmas traffic, but we were still in time for dinner and to see Stephen’s nieces before they got too tired (and grumpy).  Dinner was steak, gravy, sweet potato casserole (a la Aunt Carol), mashed potatoes, roasted root veggies, cranberry salad (served with mayonnaise which was surprisingly not bad at all)….and I think I’m forgetting something.  Brussels sprouts maybe?  Hm.  Anyway – after dinner there were more presents, and then soon after was bed – which was very welcome.

Stephen has been sick for about a week and the medicine his PCP prescribed before Christmas wasn’t really helping.  So we went to a CVS clinic on Saturday morning and he was prescribed an antibiotic, an inhaler, and some cough medicine – maybe one other thing too.  That used up most of the morning, and when we got back to his Mom’s we both took naps.  Later in the day we played Dutch Blitz with his mom and his sister (it was actually kinda fun, even if I came in 3rd…), and had leftovers for dinner.  Made that Kahlua-brie bake again, and I made the fourth linzertorte of the season, and we sat around playing Carcassonne.  I was exhausted by this time and didn’t do a very good job of being social at all.  But.

Sunday was also low-key; we had bagels and lox for breakfast (er, everyone else had lox – I had bagel and cream cheese and veggies), and Stephen and I went out to a coffee shop for an hour or two.  I’ve started Cold Mountain finally, and am very much enjoying it so far.  It’s making me want to find a secluded field somewhere and read for hours.  Or even a sparsely-crowded coffee shop with overstuffed chairs would do.

Actually I think the real problem here is that I’m just over-peopled right now.  By a long shot.  I had a tiny breakdown on Saturday evening because of several little factors that added up to too much stress.  I’m such a homebody sometimes.

Overall though, I had a good Christmas.  I was glad to see my family and I think they mostly all liked my gifts to them.  I was glad to see Stephen’s family, and glad that he wanted me to go with him and also that they seem to like me.  I was glad to see the Ralston/Rogers/Kings too.  Now I’m going to be glad to sit at home and avoid socializing at least until NYE.

I would put up some pictures…..but I’ve somehow reached 75% of my data limit and don’t want to risk going over this month.  So!  Maybe this entry is interesting enough without pictures?