Postage PSA

Just a friendly reminder that first class postage will increase from 42 cents to 44 cents (one ounce) here in the good old US of A effective May 11, 2009. Here are the specifics.

In the meantime? Go buy some Forever Stamps at the current rate and save yourself a little green. A little here and a little there . . . it all adds up!

Photo courtesy of www.usps.com


Wordless Wednesday - Not So Early Bird



For more wordlessness, go here and here.


Follow Your Instincts

Yes, I'm writing two posts at the same time. But I was afraid the other one was getting much too long and for those who don't really care to know how I botched up the sourdough bread, I spared them the trouble of clicking away before the story was done.

If you missed the first part of this story, go here and catch up. Then come back. Or if you only care about the botching portion, stay right here in the first place.

I mentioned in my previous post that as you become accustomed to baking bread, you'll know how your dough should feel; whether you should add a little more flour, or not. So I was making my bread dough and it sure was sticky. I kept looking at my recipe, which says, "w/b a bit sticky." Mine seemed more than a bit sticky. But I've also baked my share of uber-dry and crumbly bread. So I erred on the stickier side.

Should not look like this when you've added the appropriate amount of flour

I went ahead and attempted to form it into a round-ish shape. It was rather bumpy because it was . . . too sticky. So be it. It won't be a beautiful loaf of bread, but I'm sure it'll taste good. I assumed it was turning out funky, bumpy, and un-roundish since I was photographing it for my blog. I am clearly not Barb or Pioneer Woman or even Carrie. But that's okay. I was happy to share my less-than-stellar looking loaf of sourdough with the breadophiles of the blogosphere.

I checked on it around 30 minutes. Definitely not done. No worries, stuck it back in the oven for another 10 minutes or so. The top appeared done, but I just had this bad feeling. The one that said, "You should've listened to your instincts about that too sticky dough and put in more flour." So I carefully cut into the loaf to check the center. Sure enough, it wasn't done. Popped it back into the Pyrex bowl and covered it with foil so the top wouldn't brown any further. Sourdough is NOT supposed to be brown, btw.

Cut in on the bottom to check how undone it might be

Baked it another eight minutes or so. Cut a little further in and it was a bit too doughy. Sigh. Baked it another eight minutes. At this point, it's pretty much do or die. Either it's done and we'll enjoy the entire loaf. Or the perimeter is done and some portion in the center is too doughy to eat and will end up (sadly) in the trash.

Look closely towards the top portion. It's doughy. Not as much as I thought might happen. But still. On a happy note, we'll be able to toast it and still eat almost all of the loaf.

Of course, as I typed up the previous post, I discovered something. There was a second cup of flour that was added after the sponge was bubbly and happy. I missed that during the actual preparing of the dough. I never used to miss that. Because I made this bread quite often. However, not having made it for so long, that little tidbit slipped my mind, and apparently remained unseen from my eyes on the piece of purple paper containing the recipe.

Oh, and that uber-sharp, double-edged razor blade? I didn't pull mine out. I used a Pampered Chef Santoku knife. Big mistake. It didn't slide the dough (which was too soft anyway, from a lack of flour), it just drug lines in it without actually slicing it. So guess where the gases escaped? Right out that big old burst in the side. Bah.

Looks like an angry clam monster or something

The moral of this story? We'll enjoy some portion of the perimeter of this loaf. I will be obsessed with making another loaf. A better loaf. A thoroughly done loaf. And I may even have to blog about it. Or at the very least, show photos so that you know that I really can make a nice loaf of sourdough. In the meantime, may this encourage you. In some way. Some form. Something. Or maybe you'll just laugh. And that's okay, too. Because you know what the Carrie says about laughter . . . it's the social glue."

Sweet Sourdough

I just love bread. Many different types of bread. But one that is near and dear to my heart (and sometimes my mouth) is sourdough. It's in my blood, you know. My mom being a sourdough baker and her father before her. One day I shall pass it along to my own offspring.

That's why the idea of Bread Week appealed so much to me. So I created it, thanks to Susan, who planted the idea in my head.

Side Note: I will offer my photos here, however, it's a faulty loaf of bread. I didn't follow my own advice, and had some issues. I'll share those later. Just know that yours will probably look much more smooth and lovely than mine.

My sponge took off quite well yesterday, once I obtained some fresh starter. Sorry, Susan, I don't know how to start a starter from nothing. I just get it from someone else - typically my mom. If you really don't know anyone at all from whom you can get starter, you can order it from King Arthur Flour. My sister has some from them and she really likes it.

My starter is a milk-based starter. There are also those that use water. It's just a personal choice.

To make sponge:
1 cup starter
1 1/2 cups warm, not hot, water
2 tsp sugar
2 tsp salt
4 cups flour

Mix it up in a glass, plastic, or stoneware bowl (no metal), cover it with plastic wrap and let it set 18-24 hours. If it's warm where you leave it, it'll happen quicker. If it's cold, the opposite. You should get a very active, bubbly sponge. When first mixed, it will be fairly thick, but that's fine. Also if your bowl is not real big, and there's a chance the sponge could run into the plastic wrap, spray it with oil first.

Happy, bubbly sponge

The next day, after it's become all bubbly and happy, add 1 cup flour and 1/2 tsp baking soda. I use my awesome dough hook for this part. Then knead in anywhere up to another cup of flour. Use your hands. They will feel silky soft afterward. Really. The dough will still be a bit sticky, which is fine. That's what you want.

My beautiful dough hook

Side note: bread making is not an exact science. There are too many individual influences, such as temperature, humidity, and altitude. The more you bake bread, the more you'll get to the place of knowing how your dough should feel. Sometimes, when it's very dry (like in Colorado), you'll need a little less flour. And vice versa.

At this point, you'll need to put your dough into some sort of pan, bowl, etc. I bake mine in a 2-quart round Pyrex bowl. Greased first, of course. You could just make it a big blob and bake it on a stone. You can also get those nifty little couches, bagette pans, etc. Yes, King Arthur carries those as well. No, they're not paying me. They don't even know I'm writing about them. But my mom, sister, friends, and I all get things from them. We love them. A lot.

Anyway, back to your bread recipe in progress.

You can pretty much make this in whatever shape floats your boat. I happen to like the round Pyrex bowl shape. Once placed in its container of choice, cover with greased/sprayed plastic wrap and let it rise for a couple of hours. Or so. This stuff is so flexible. As long as it's not too warm and doesn't rise right up over the sides of the container and fall down the edges. Then you left it for much too long. And that's not good.

Yes, mine is all lumpy and less-than-lovely. There's a valid explanation for this. In another post. You can read about it here.

Now, before you pop that baby in the oven, take a very fine and sharp item, such as a razor blade. No, not the Mach 3 or 4 or 20 that your husband has in the shower. A good old-fashioned, super ultra sharp, double-edged razor blade. I keep mine in a special index card all folded into an envelope and taped closed in my cupboard. Out of reach of children and teenage boys. Take the blade and ever so gently make 3-4 thin cuts along the top of your loaf. If you skip this step, your loaf will likely burst on the side, and no longer be a lovely round (or whatever) shape any more. There are some sort of gases that just need to be released in the baking process. And they'll get out one way or the other.

Preheat your oven to 375. You could obviously do this a little sooner than here and now. Or you could be like me and wait until now. That's okay, too. Bake for about 40-45 minutes, depending upon size and shape. Like if you made two small loaves, you may want to check them at 30-35 minutes. And so on.


In order to determine doneness, I typically look at the bottom of the loaf. It's a pretty good determiner of how done (or not) my bread is (or isn't). Then if I think it's done, I slip it out of the Pyrex bowl (using mitts) and turn it over to take a closer look. You should be able to tap on it and get kind of a drum-type sound.

Now you can let it cool. Only enough to be able to cut it without burning yourself. Because hot, fresh sourdough bread with melted butter on it? There's nothing like it. So go forth, bake bread, and eateth it with delicious melty butter. Or maybe honey.


I know, I know, this is getting terribly long. If you're satisfied you know enough about sourdough now, feel free to go leave me a comment or click away to some other part of the blogosphere. If you want to find out what I did to botch my bread, click here as I've put that part of the story in another post.

Oh, a little linky love here. While I'm far below the radar of Pioneer Woman, I did find that she's been playing along with Bread Week, unbeknownst to her. And me. So check out her awesome bread-type posts. They're fab, of course.

PW's pretzels
PW's bagels


Bread Week - Update

My personal Bread Week didn't pan out quite so well (nice pun, don't you think?). That lovely starter that I shared in my post earlier this week was pretty much deceased. I tried for days to resuscitate it, dumping some out, adding milk and flour, but it never really came to. Midway through the week, my mom was kind enough to share some of hers. Now I have some happy, active starter, so today I finally got a nice bowl of sponge happening. Tomorrow it will be a beautiful loaf of homemade sourdough bread. I'll be sure to take some photos to post.

In the meantime, please click on the links in the original post for some fabulous bread recipes, photos, and tutorials (okay, I said click the original links and now I provided them here):

Beth at From the Stovetop shares a delicious-looking Basic Bread recipe. If you live at a high altitude, you'll definitely want to check this out - she's baking at 8,000+ feet. But she clearly indicates what adjustments are made for high altitude, so you can still use her recipe anywhere else. Also, if you have a bread machine you'd like to put to good use, she makes good use of it for the first part of the process.

Susan at Scraps of Life (who kindly got me heading down this path in the first place), provides not just one post, but two. Go here for her Super Yummy Cinnamon Rolls (I can almost taste that cinnamon-sugar goodness) and here for her beautiful herbed focaccia bread. Looks like the perfect accompaniment to some homemade spaghetti.

Donna at Way More Homemade offers up her sourdough recipe which looks incredibly good. Hers appears to be a much crisper, crustier bread than mine. I love the variety in sourdough. Her bread is stunning. It looks like what you would buy in a bakery. But don't let that intimidate you. Just like the rest, she has clear instructions.

Kristin at We are That Family shares not only the successful side of break baking, but also the pitfalls that sometimes happen. But you know what I love about her post? They found good in an even a less-than-perfect loaf of bread. Not only that, but her husband jumped on board the challenge of baking good bread. And he succeeded. But not without a little, um, damage. The final product, though? Beautiful!! And now, according to Kristen, they're bread making machines at their house.

Connie at Six in the Northwest shares a famous no-knead crusty bread. This one looks as tasty as any artisan bread you'll find at your local bakery. It also has its own special oven within an oven which promotes that lovely crust.

It's not too late to join in. Feel free to share your bread baking experiences with us. The good, the bad, and the ugly. Or at least come back later Sunday for my sourdough bread. In the meantime, go leave some comment love for the above ladies.


Wordless Wednesday - Road Trip

For more wordlessness, go here and here. Enjoy!


Bread Week

While tweeting with my friend, Susan she happened to mention her plans to make sourdough, having been spurred on by another person. I haven't made sourdough in probably a year and a half, if not longer. The more we tweeted, the more we decided that it should be a bread-baking week. So here it is . . .

. . . BREAD WEEK!!

Come join us. Bake some type of bread or bread item (cinnamon rolls, dinner rolls, flatbread, etc.) and post it on your blog. Then come back here, sign the linky, and leave a comment. Even if you don't bake anything, share your homemade bread knowledge - a recipe, a tip, a memory, or whatever else comes to mind.

Personally, I plan to make sourdough, which means I need to some sponge going (glad it'll be warmer this week - that'll certainly help). Now that I've unboxed my grain mill, I believe a big old batch of whole wheat dough is in order. That will likely result in a loaf of bread, a batch of cinnamon rolls, and maybe some sandwich rolls.

Here's my sourdough starter, fresh out of refrigerated hibernation, ready and willing to become a bubbly, aromatic sponge.

Happy Baking!!


Zero Miles Per Hour

I was perusing some draft posts and look what I found from December:

My mom, sister, two nieces, the boys, and I were all on our way home from a day of being out and about when we happened upon a huge traffic back-up, about 17 miles from home. We assumed that since it was 5:15 p.m. on the Friday before Christmas, it was probably just some heavy traffic. Surely it would get moving. Ha! Ha! Ha! Silly, foolish us.

We learned, via a news station on the radio, that there was a jacknifed semi a mile or two south of us. From the exit where the accident occurred, the interstate was closed. Of course, there was nowhere to go, so we sat in the left lane, doing exactly that. I noticed there was a "Reduce Speed Ahead" sign. Oh, the irony.

It took us ONE HOUR & FIFTY-FIVE MINUTES to drive approximately two miles. Well, that was WHEN we were actually driving. What totally gets me, though, is the people who deem themselves more important or in more of a hurry than the rest of the tons of people waiting for things to clear up. They take off and drive down the shoulder AROUND EVERYONE ELSE!! What the heck?!?! I could understand there may be a person or two with a true emergency. But there were WAAAY more than a few taking that route.

Adding to our frustration and discomfort - full bladders. Man. It was dark and cold and you never really knew if the traffic might start moving. Not a good combination.

On a happy note (yes, there is a positive side to all this), we had a mini DVD player which entertained my four year old niece quite nicely. My sister even brought 4-5 movies, not just one or two. Definitely a providential move. We had a mostly full tank of gas. We had snacks and water. Although water was somewhat out of the question for the time being. We were in a warm van. It wasn't raining or snowing or blizzarding (we are supposed to have cold and snow tomorrow). We were only a couple miles from the exit, not in the previous couple of miles, enduring an even longer wait. There definitely could've been worse circumstances. Always look on the bright side, right? It served us well.

After our two-hour crawl, we finally made it to the exit and over to a grocery store for a quick restroom break before the last leg of our journey. I'm not sure about my mom and sister, but we had dinner at 9:00pm! At least we had dinner, right?

Turns out that the interstate was closed for three hours. Glad we didn't have to sit there that long. We'd have been making a quick run to a dark field.


Learning Styles & Ah-Ha Moments

I was chatting with my friend about homeschool, public and private education, and right-brained versus left-brained learners. Since I have a couple of right-brained kids – one a little more than the other, and I personally am all over the place, schizophrenic-brained, I think. Or maybe it’s ambidextrous-brained? Anyway . . . I was reminded of two very clear, defining moments during which I became acutely aware of certain things about my youngest son and his personal bent.

The first was back in 3rd grade while he was still in public school. Worksheets were sent home Monday through Thursday utilizing the spelling words. On Wednesdays, he was to write a paragraph using about 10 of those words. For this particular week, he was to write about an “everyday activity.” He was very frustrated and kept insisting he couldn’t do it. Granted, some weeks the words were NOT very conducive to the topic they (the curriculum folks) assigned. However, this didn’t seem insurmountable. Since we had just had a yard sale recently, I told him he could write about a yard sale and proceeded to give him a few ideas for using the assigned words. He looked at me very seriously and said, “But we don’t have a yard sale every day.”

Ah ha!

The second moment took place in his 5th grade class. Still in public school. Another language arts assignment – this one required him to read a short story; about 3-4 pages long, and then complete some questions. He was to write three things that were interesting about each of the three children in the story. Once again, I got the complaints of “I can’t do it!” I asked if he’d like me to read the story with him – maybe he needed a review. Nope, he’d already read it a couple of times and he knew what it said. So I began reading it and started to comment. As I listed some things about the children and their interests, I mentioned that their likes and interests were similar to my son's, and gee, wasn’t that interesting? Again, the very serious look with “That’s not interesting, that’s plain.” I said that it was kind of interesting that they were like him and with the same serious look got “I’m not supposed to write about how they’re like me. I’m supposed to write what’s interesting about them. There’s nothing interesting about them.”

Ah ha!

He wasn’t trying to be difficult in either situation (or many others in his educational career), he’s just wired a little differently and he truly could not come up with answers that fit what was being asked of him. This caused extreme frustration, because he genuinely “could not do it.” Many things are very black and white and trying to explain it in shades of gray just doesn’t fly.

These are the moments I have to remember as I seek to educate him at home. He’s a very intelligent boy, but it has to make sense to him, it has to be presented in a way that works in his paradigm because he truly cannot grasp it any other way. And that’s okay – God made him this way and God can enable me to teach to his strengths.


Snowy Friday Things

There are a number of things rolling around my colander brain today. That's making it incredibly difficult to come up with just one thing/theme to post here. Or would that be themething? In my world . . . probably. So I treat you to an end-of-the-week randomly rambling post, complete with photographs that may or may not connect to said ramblings.

Cripes - that door bell just scared the bejeebers out of me. Although I don't know what bejeebers are. Probably because they've all been scared out of me over the years. And the door bell? It's not connected to my house. It's the tone I use for new texts on my phone. But it's sitting next to me on the desk. And it's sort of loud.

Speaking of loud - we have thunder snow right now! LOL!! It's snowing/raining/snowing . . . precipitating like crazy here. Little beads of snow, slush, etc. Gotta love this weather - it's certainly interesting.

We're supposed to go to Longmont for the Odyssey of the Mind State Tournament tomorrow. However, the forecast in Colorado is that we're to get hammered by snow. While I know it's difficult to postpone and reschedule such a big event, I kind of hope they do. Putting all these people from around the state on the roads (or having to miss because of weather) just doesn't seem like the best plan. We would be leaving very early, too, which is when the roads tend to be the worst.

I did have to laugh this morning that everything in town seemed to shut down today. All the schools, many churches, and other organizations. Based upon a forecast. And it really only started to get significant within the past hour (around noon, mountain standard time - it's taking me a long time to complete this post). Quite the contrast from back in the day when the roads would be horrible and the place I worked didn't close down when they should have. Of course, they really should just check in with Dianne, the non-meteorologist, who knows best when to close things and when to keep them open. But the collective "they" haven't figured that out yet.

Oh, I keep forgetting to update you on the 40 Days of Water Challenge. Or was it the 10 Days of Water Challenge? Yeah, that was it. Surely it was. Because I did not do so great for 40 days. Ten days, yes. I'd love to report that I faithfully drank nothing but water for 40 days. But I didn't. I found loopholes. I was tired of being tired and having aching legs. So I compromised. On the positive side, I've had more water than I would have otherwise. And I will still donate $100 to Blood:Water Mission, because that's approximately what would have been saved.

I really don't like hand-washing dishes. Unless I have a friend to talk with on the phone. When I can plug in my headset and chat with someone, it's fun and groovy. In fact, time goes zipping right by. But since I dislike this chore so much, I've been putting it off lately. For far too long. Considering my significant lack of counter space, you'd think I wouldn't procrastinate. Ha! I just find more creative ways to stack everything up. LOL!! When we first moved into this house last year, I was pretty consistent about keeping the counter cleared off. I need to get back in that mode. But I did wash all the dishes today. I got to chat on the phone a little bit, but not the entire time. Instead, I looked out the window at the snow. Which is a blessing in and of itself. The last house I lived in had a window off to the side of the sink, but directly ahead was a dark wood wall. Oh joy. We spent three years there. The previous house? Eleven and a half years, looking at a brick wall. Originally brick red, later white. Ugh. So I am incredibly grateful for a window directly over my sink that looks out upon our back yard, the neighborhood, and the mountains. Gotta remember to be grateful for the small things in life.

The other area of cleaning in our house (okay, ONE other area...) is our finances. Things aren't terrible and hubby's still working, but we are so overdue for working on eliminating debt and not being so frivolous about getting into it. Last week, I ordered Marybeth & Curt Whalen's book, Learning to Live Financially Free. I've really been enjoying it and have been sharing its contents with hubby. We both feel that it's time to get a better handle on the debt and finances. I love their book because they struggled with so much of what we have over the years. They're so relatable. I also have a subscription to Mary Hunt's Debt-Proof Living, so I've been printing out some archived newsletters, 3-hole punching them, and sticking them in a binder for easy reference. In addition, I have her books, Debt-Proof Living and Life Your Life for Half the Price that I want to go through. I know the basic premise of what we need to do. It's a matter of sitting down and doing it. So that's our next big challenge here.

The other ongoing challenge is to free ourselves of STUFF. There is just so much of it in this house. Even though we've gotten rid of a LOT over the past six months, there's so much more to go. Of course, you're probably thinking, "Haven't I heard this here before?" If so, you'd be right. I have to keep reminding myself that it HAS GOT TO GO. As time goes by, I am less and less and less attached to my stuff, too. God keeps adjusting my attitude, which is a wonderful thing. I'd rather see someone else blessed with something than to hoard it "just in case." On this note, I've been reading Scaling Down, Living Large in a Smaller Space which has been exceptionally helpful for weeding things out. It enabled me to get rid of quite a few more clothes than I would have normally. Meaning there's actually a little bit of breathing room in the closet.

What is this? The sun is coming out? Crazy old Colorado. I saw on the forecast earlier today that in southeast Colorado there could be hail, rain, wind, and possibly an isolated tornado. We seem to be experiencing just about every type of winter/spring weather you can have . . . all today.

That crucial moment in a long and meandering blog post has arrived. Is there more to pour out through my keyboard or am I done? I still have to edit some pix and add them. Maybe that'll be it. Maybe my brain is entirely empty. Ha! Ha! Ha! That never happens. But I think this will do for today.

Do you see those shadows? What's up with that?

It was 32 degrees about 20-30 minutes earlier. Didn't stay up there for long.

Oh, this is here as a reminder that I have some books I need to review. I've read them, I just need to write the reviews. Like three of them. As much as I love writing, I have a tough time writing about other peoples' writing. So I wonder why I volunteer to review books? Because I'm kind of paradoxical like that.


Wordless Wednesday - Just One

See what others aren't saying here and here.


What a Day

Sometimes your day goes according to plans. And then there are days like Easter Sunday.

The plan? Get up, hang out for awhile, start prepping my part of Easter dinner. Pick up some lunch and head to mother-in-law's. Come home and finish frog eye salad, scalloped potatoes, and rolls. Pack up the food and head over to my sister's house. Have some dinner, clean up, play a game or two.

The reality? My sister calls in the morning to tell me she's fallen (yes, she could get up) and hurt her wrist (and knee) badly. It's bruised, has a bump that shouldn't be there, and she can hardly use it. They dropped my nieces off with us and headed to the ER.

In the meantime, I was working in the kitchen, turned on the dishwasher, and the drain began to back up into the sink. Rather significantly. So hubby pulled everything out from under the sink, only to discover that there was a lot of water under and the sink was no longer draining. Instead of getting to do the things he'd planned, he got to play plumber for the afternoon.

The kids wanted to play Wii, but that was off-limits for awhile. They couldn't watch tv because the satellite wasn't receiving any signal, thanks to much wet snow, and the DVD player wouldn't cooperate. They finally pulled out some board games (Sorry & Clue) and had a terrific time. It's a good thing to be unplugged.

We skipped MIL's house, but hubby called and chatted a bit with her. I spent quite a bit of time in the kitchen, juggling potato peeling, acini de pepe cooking, and picking up with making numerous grilled cheese sandwiches, all while skirting the pile of cleaning supplies in the middle of my floor. Once the plumbing was done, hubby helped out in that arena, too. For whatever reason, those kids were sure hungry. After the first batch of grilled cheese were gone, they wanted more sandwiches to eat!

We had planned to go with mostly paper/plastic for Easter dinner. Instead of the usual three of us (Mom, my sister, and me) to handle setting up dinner, cleaning up, and washing dishes, there were only one and a half available. Turns out my sister's hand wasn't broken, but very severely bruised. Bad enough that she can't even use it. Fortunately, it's her left hand; she's right-handed. My mom's still recovering from knee replacement surgery and she overdid it on Saturday. That left me. Or so I thought.

My dad and brother-in-law stepped in and were a tremendous help! Everything came together quite nicely and we had a lovely dinner. Once it was all cleaned up, we played a rousing game of six dice. It was the one game which my sister could easily play one handed. We didn't make her keep score.

Oh yeah, it snowed in the morning. Enormously large, wet flakes. Covered everything and was very wet. Which is a very good thing. It's been far too dry here.

And just for laughs, we looked over into the play area after dinner to discover this:

Some days are just like that.

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