Simeon's Quilt

Remember this boy and his quilt?

Recently finishing all the not-so-very-square squares
quite by his happy little self, 
and arranging them like so,
the precious pieces were entrusted to his mama.

Being the imperfectionist that I continue to be,
I left his free form square-ish squares quite alone
only pressing them a very tiny little bit:

 The brown in betweeny stuff,
the negative space,
is pieced,
which was no easy task, this mama might add.

Modern quilts,
or those made without the use of perfectly detailed patterns,
with measurements and rules,
can be a tad trickedy,
but is still most definitely preferred by this silly girl.

A little quilty sandwich making,
and a lot of squiggly free motion quilting:

all while this boy excitedly waits
and waits

and waits some more....


Wednesday's Bread

Blt on a homemade rye, parmesan and onion bread


Some Favorites and Some Hopefuls

The first of the year has become the distant past
and the traditional season of 
happy new-year-making resolutions
and grandiouse-goal setting
has  ceased.

We like setting goals.
We like setting our eyes on the high and exciting
and dreaming,
of a better ... everything,
for this is how the great rise to their potential,
Usually, yes.

Well, a rather good Lead Man 
and his wifey wife - that's me
were going to set aside some timedy time 
for grand list making of our own
in hopes of making it a grand year, indeed. 

Alas, we have given up. 
Now, a bad thing it is not, I think. 
This couple of 28 goal-setting seasons
resigned to 'going with the flow' this year, 
which in all honesty of honesties, 
is what really happens each and every year in spite of our nicely enumerated high-hopes. 

This man and his wife remember the life dreamed of
sitting on a grassy hill.
Teenagers in love.
Hand in hand.
There we knew the names of our first 2 children,
and knew we would spend our lives as one.
We knew an adventure lied ahead.
An adventure 
from beginning to end
lead by our God.

Our goals set on that grassy hill
though simple, occasionally have been lost sight of,
due to things that matter not
to this wife and her man.
However urgent thingy things appeared for a while,
urgent they were not,
for insignificant they were.
Back to the simple,
or for us, the foundational,
again we return.

On that grassy hill...
we decide to grow old together.
To be the grandparents 
who tell stories of God's faithfulness,
of the wonders of God's grace in their lives.
We choose to make it to the end

On that grassy hill...
we decide our family is our center.
Our primary purpose.
It is.
It will always be.
Only thingy things that 
are for the good of our family
will be paths we take.
Is it a distraction?
Or will it encourage our children?
To love?
To grow in their gifts and build character?
Will it show them more of who their God is?
If not, we say "fare thee well",
great pathy path of things not for us.

On that grassy hill...
I decide to be an encouraging wife.
College for me a goal was not.
A good friend and support 
to my Lead Man in his endeavors
this is what I want to be.
This rather imperfect wifey wife
thinks a college degree would have been a simpler feat,
but moment by moment 
an encouraging wife I still aim to be.

On that grassy hill...
he chose to provide
so I could be a home school mom.
A good provider he has always been
though some of our days have been lean,
this man puts his head down in determination,
and patiently presses forward out of love.

So for all these things I choose to pray.
That God's blessing would be
on this simple family
and our days
in the year ahead
as we pursue His purposes.

So what about 2010? 
Some of my favorite things past:

Favorite quilt - Levi's.
Favorite quilt, ever. 
For many reasons. 
God answered prayer. My friend is well.

Favorite scary thing conquered:

Driving to SF and taking the transit to Hannah's work.  I have become very thankful for smart phones when I am not.

A favorite realization:

I've learned that I really don't enjoy making things with the purpose to sell, but truly enjoy making things for those I love. I'm comfortable with not having a cottage business. My goal for this blog is to just put myself out there in hopes that from time to time it might encourage others in some meaningful way. I'm thankful for a husband who makes my comfy sweet life possible.

A favorite event:

Nerf gun war with the whole family Christmas evening.

A few favorite additions:

A real camera, a real sewing machine, and a tent trailer. When one doesn't have babies any more these become considered as 'additions'.

A favorite read-aloud:

Heidi. I read it to my oldest two quite a while back, and now to my youngest two. Being boys, they thought they could not possibly enjoy a book with a girl's name as the title. Within a few paragraphs, their mind's were changed. We loved every page of it. Even the parts where mom teared up. Last time through, I remember handing Hannah the book to let her continue the reading when I would get weepy. This time I just kept reading, weepy or not. Sometimes they snickered at me. Sometimes they smiled at me. Somewhere near the end of the book, they said they would always fondly remember mom tearing up during story-time. 

Hopefuls for 2011:

I'm not sure if this qualifies for a hopeful, but my neighbors and sons are threatening to teach me to surf. Eee gads. I find I'm just sitting on the beach a lot with no babies to chase anymore, which basically boils down to...no more excuses.

Grow in artisan bread baking skills - My oldest son just gave me Tartine's book.

Amazing. I'm determined. My youngest son is joining me in my journey. We read the book together and are awaiting the purchase of a food scale so we can begin. My middlest son thinks it's pretty cool that the author loves to surf and has persued his passion for bread. All this leads to another hopeful:

Walk to Tartine with my Dear One to buy a loaf of bread fresh from their ovens in the city.

Improve camera skills, if only slightly - It's pretty far down the priority list, after family, fun, teaching, trips to SF, being involved in the lives of those around me. But, my camera and I pretty much do all these together, so it would be a great advantage to spend time reading up on the how-to's. And maybe even a little Photoshop or Lightroom. Here is a group of pictures that I captured while doing some second shooting at a wedding with my friend Julie.

Being a professional photographer, she touched up my pictures making them look amazing. This  shows me there is soooo much I can learn about such things. I don't make a good wedding photographer, either. I prefer capturing the unusual or personal, rather than wedding party people.

A practical hopeful, be more affectionate. I didn't grow up around touchy people so it doesn't come naturally. But I'm so far from those growing up days, that there are really no more good excuses for that one either. Time to show a bit more of what's inside.

See how many miles we can bike with the kids in a year. What I am really really really hoping for, is to try some new trails. Lead Man and I are such creatures of habit. So far...about 6 miles, one iced tea, a latte, and 2 frappes.

Take the privilege of praying for my husband and kids more seriously. I've been focusing on this a bit more lately,  and plan to continue throughout the year.

My hopefuls are pretty simple and coincide with our original on-the-grassy-hill goals. I'm pretty happy with my uncomplicated life. If any big stuff needs to change, I'm sure we'll figure that out along the way. Life has a way of leading forward.

I would love to hear some of your favorites and hopefuls, too! We are all different, with unique gifts, personalities and purposes. May your families and lives be blessed this year as you walk in your own adventure ahead.


These are my days...


Wednesday's Bread

Wednesdays are bread days in this homey home.

After some messy, confusing attempts at making this complex bread, I am getting better at it, and thought I would share what I have learned so others might attempt artisan bread baking. Although I am not a professional, either in the photographer or baker category, I thought some might like to see my process. It's the next best thing to rolling up ones sleeves and hanging out for a day and a half. Not that baking a loaf of artisan bread takes all that time, it's just snippets of time here and there, making for a great homey day. It is my hope that seeing the process in  pictures, will encourage some to give it a try.

This recipe is adapted from the book Amy's Bread by Amy Scherber and Toy Kim Bupree.

Here we go. A crazy long post mostly in pictures.


The night before, make the biga starter by doing the following:

In a large bowl combine 3/4 cups very warm water with 1/8 teaspoon active dry yeast. What is very warm water? About 105 degrees...or very hot to the touch, but not so hot you want to move your hand away.

Stir in 1 1/2 cups plus 2 tablespoons unbleached all-purpose flour.
If it is too thick like this:

add in warm water a tablespoon at a time:

until it looks more like this:

Stir vigorously with a wooden spoon for a few minutes until it becomes an elasticy batter:

Cover your biga starter with saran wrap and a towel. Set on your counter over night. In the morning your biga should have risen, and be 'alive'. It will look a little bubbly:

Set it aside for a while longer.

In another very large bowl combine 1/4 cup very warm water and 1 teaspoon active dry yeast. Let stand for a few minutes:

Meanwhile, in another bowl, combine 3 1/2 cups whole wheat flour, 2 1/3 cups unbleached bread flour, 2 cups old-fashioned rolled oats, 2 tablespoons kosher salt, 2 tablespoons sesame seeds, 2 tablespoons poppy seeds, 1/4 cup sunflower seeds,  and 2 tablespoons flax seeds. The seeds are really up to you. If you don't have them, don't use them, or put in what you like. Set aside:

Back in the bowl with the yeast and water setting, add 2 3/4 cups more cool water (75 degree-ish), 2 tablespoons molasses, 2 tablespoons canola or vegetable oil,  2 1/2 tablespoons honey:

1 1/2 cups of your biga starter:

Mix with your fingers for a few minutes until it is pretty well combined.

like this:

Now add the mixture of flours. I used a hard plastic spatula to scrape the sides of the bowl and pull the wet ingredients into the dry, but a dough scraper is recommended.

When it is all combined, turn it out on to a very lightly floured board:

I use my metal dough scraper to gather the dough into a ball:

Not a good time for a hug or an itchy nose:

I was pretty accustomed to using bunches and bunches of flour in my kneeding, but artisan breads are more wet, and require the use of as little additional flour as possible. There are 2 things I rotated between in order to help knead such a sticky dough.

One. From time to time, I simply pat my hands in a small pile of flour to flour my fingertips:

Then gently touch the dough and continue kneading:

Two. I would use the dough scraper to lift the dough when it becomes too sticky again:

After a good amount of kneading, the texture changes to a nice stretchy dough. Here is my basic kneading technique.

I lift the edge of the dough either with the scraper:

or as it becomes less sticky, with my hands:

I fold it towards me and press the heals of my hands down:

then away from me:

I turn the dough a quarter turn then fold it in half towards myself again:

press down and away again:

My camera man took a turn:

After 8-10 minutes or so of working the dough, put the nicely kneaded ball in a large bowl:

Cover with oiled saran wrap. 
Cover with a towel. 
Set aside to rest for 20 minutes or so:

Now the dough stretches easily:

 Press 1 cup toasted (and cooled) pecans into your dough in the bowl:

Knead it together in the bowl, pulling sides into the middle:

After kneading it on my board again for a few minutes, the dough goes into my large, lightly oiled bowl. Cover with oiled saran wrap and let rise 2 hours.

My second batch can be seen in the back. This recipe makes 2 loaves. I doubled it making 4 loaves and divided it into 2 bowls at this stage. It was beneficial for me to make this recipe several times to learn the techniques before doubling it to make 4 loaves rather than 2. But after you get the hang of it, it really takes hardly any extra time to make a double batch. I find I am much more eager to give away a loaf when I have an abundance.

The dough is fully risen when an indentation made by pressing your finger into the dough does not spring back:

Divide dough in half with sharp knife or dough scraper:

Press each piece into a rectangle removing all air bubbles:

Roll the skinny end away from you:

Pinch edges to seal the log:

Place seam side down in a lightly greased 5x7 bread pan.
Sprinkle with oats or sesame seeds if desired. 

If they don't stick, dip your fingertips into water and rub the top of the loaf moistening it just a smidge, then sprinkle on the oats and press down into the dough a bit.

Cover again with oiled saran wrap and let rise in a warmish place for 2 to 2 1/2 hours till doubled.

Here are my 2 other loaves. I didn't have enough bread pans, so I placed them on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. It works. I cut a few slits in the top with a sharp knife.

OK. Here is where it gets a bit tricky. But hold on. It's worth it:

20 minutes before baking place a cast-iron skillet and a mini loaf pan or foil pie plate on the floor of the oven. 
Place the oven rack to be used for the bread in the middle of the oven. 
Preheat the oven to 450 degrees.

5 minutes before the loaves are ready to bake, place 2 ice cubes in the small loaf pan in the bottom of the oven.

When the loaves are ready, place them in the oven. Pour 1 cup or so of water into the cast-iron skillet and quickly close the door. It's all about the steam! The recipe recommends a  quick spray with water after a minute, but I can't find a spray container that is not filled with some weird science project concoction, so I haven't tried it.

After 20 minutes reduce heat to 400 degrees and bake for another 20-25 minutes. This recipe says to bake till an instant read thermometer reaches 210 degrees. That seems a little over cooked to me. I like to take it out of the oven at about 190 degrees. Remove from pans as soon as cool enough to handle. Let it continue to cool on a rack. If at all possible, try to refrain from slicing and eating for at least 15 minutes, making it easier to slice. But if your home is like my home, that is quite a feat.

A few tips:
Get familiar with how 'very hot' and 'warm' water feel to the touch. Using a thermometer, get one bowl of water to 190 degrees and feel it. Then try 75-80 degrees. I can pretty much tell both my water temperatures by just touching tap water. I don't get out my thermometer any more.

Makes great toast with peanut butter and honey.

I do so hope this has been helpful. I hope it whets a desire in you to learn more about the art of baking bread. In days when everything is so fast paced and purchased, it can be quite fulfilling to slow down and create beautiful and healthy artisan breads.
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...