3.14.17 Sourdough cake, no Pi

I wonder if there is a sourdough pie recipe that I could make on Pi day next year? By then I may well be long past this sourdough madness phase. Yes, we have sourdough!

A day or two after my last post I saw an elderly widower neighbor at the community center who I’d heard makes terrific sourdough biscuits so I asked him for some tips. His face lit up as he launched into a detailed explanation on making a starter and the ingredients for his biscuits. He tore off a piece of paper and with a stubby pencil pulled from a shirt pocket (My dad always carried a pencil in his shirt pocket too.) jotted down the threads of his recipe. Once home I muddled through his spare writing then stirred up another ceramic bowl of milk and flour, this time with a smidgeon of honey. I covered it with a scrap of woven cotton cloth left over from a shirt and set it on the back of the stove for a couple of days then added more flour and milk to the bubbly mass to sit another three days. That evening someone knocked at the door just as Ed and I were finishing supper. The neighbor, Elvin, held out a lidded container, a copied pamphlet of sourdough recipes and his handwritten recipe for his sourdough biscuits. He had no idea how old his starter was — he and his wife had used it for years.

Plenty of food from supper was still on the table so we invited him to eat. For the next couple of hours we had a delightful talk as he told about sourdough, cooking, and growing vegetables. He’d grown up on the farm, only a couple of miles from here, which his grandfather had homesteaded in the 1800’s. He’s filled with lots of stories, local information, lore and legends.

As we visited I measured out enough starter to let sit overnight, eager to try his starter and recipe.

Delicious!!!

I’ve made three more batches of biscuits, and another attempt at bread. This time the bread was a bit more successful, thanks to Jocelyn‘s comment about not adding too much flour but it’s still not the lofty bread I hope to make sometime soon. Making biscuits has helped to get a feel for just how wet the dough can be / should be in order for the feeding frenzy to happen in the dough and the bubbles to form.

Two batches of starter reside in the fridge; the one Elvin brought over and the one I’d started from scratch from Elvin’s instructions. They both smell wonderfully tangy sweet. Elvin’s has a deeper, more intense tang but considering my starter is less than a month old it’s coming along nicely. I’ve been alternating between them so they’re both being used and refreshed.
Melt in the mouth tasty.

Early this morning as I was setting out the starter for biscuits to have with our soup supper I remembered seeing a Sourdough Chocolate Cake recipe. Since Tuesday is cake baking day and I’d already planned to make a chocolate cake I hunted up the recipe (King Arthur’s baking book) then measured out the half the amount needed from each jar of starter, added more flour and milk into the starter jars and set them on the counter along with the two bowls of dough; one for tonight’s biscuits, one for the cake.

The cake rose beautifully in the oven. It’s been very tempting to nibble at a corner but I’ll wait until morning when it’s frosted. A small corner might be missing when Ed takes it to the Wednesday supper crew. I hope it tastes as good as it smelled when cooking!

Why yes, I have been spinning. Next post…

PS Sorry for my lapse in replying to comments. I’ve had a heck of a time disciplining myself to replying even though I have the best of intentions and I love reading all your comments! I’ll try to do better.

Challenges

Sourdough bread is baking in the oven. This time I hope it’s a success. I tried making sourdough a year ago. It baked into a tasty failure. I’d used a powdered sourdough starter with a recipe that looked promising. Sadly, the bread did not rise in the oven. Instead it stayed a low lump becoming an extremely dense, chewy bread.

This time around I’m trying a recipe from a bread book that’s supposedly an authentic San Francisco sourdough recipe. It calls for making the starter the old fashioned way by putting some milk, water and flour into a bowl which sat at the back of the stove for 2 days  “capturing” the wild yeast in the air. The adventure started it last Wednesday morning with periodic additions of water and flour. The dough smelled wonderfully fragrant by yesterday morning and the scent of the baking bread right now is tantalizing.

February has been the wettest month on record in this area of Oregon. Perfect weather for soups and homemade bread. Other places have had record snowfall, fortunately we’re only about 300 feet above sea level so we only dealt with snow off and on from mid-December until the 2nd week of January. More days of snow than normal, which Ed and I enjoyed. We’re fortunate to work from home. Church was canceled on January 8th after I checked the hill to the church assessing the situation. Frozen rain early that morning on top of the layer of snow still on the ground and roads coated everything with ice.

The Surprise Jacket isn’t much larger than in the last post. It was bigger until I saw a major error way down about 4 inches from the cast on row. It sat in time-out for a couple weeks and now sees only sporadic action as spinning has taken precedence.

I joined the Jenkins YarnTools Ravelry group in the February Challenge. What a great challenge for it forced me out of my comfort zone for spinning.
The challenge was to select a mixture of 10 or more colors and/or fibers totaling 50 grams, blend & spin. Stash busting opportunity! The ten colors were from various rovings plus light grey angora, dark grey alpaca, a light brown/grey romney/cotton blend, and white BFL/silk. Working with so many colors was definitely not a direction I’d normally choose.

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Hoping to avoid a muddy looking yarn each of the above segments of colors/roving/wools were divided into 4 equal piles which were then arranged into two groups destined for the 2 singles.

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I started off using hand carders during the monthly spinning group,
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but it didn’t take long to realize a more time efficient method was required.

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Off and on through the years I’ve tackled batts and rolags but always return to spinning from combed top. I love how smooth fibers slip through my fingers. Dealing with slubs and odd bits doesn’t feel right, no matter how I try drawing the fibers into the twist.

Despite not enjoying the feel of the fibers or the way I needed to be more careful to spin such variety as smoothly and evenly as possible, I was happily surprised with the colors of the singles.
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In the end I’m very pleased with the yarn and am glad that I took on the challenge.
50 grams, approximately 82 yards.
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The bread is out of the oven and has cooled off enough to eat. It’s still more dense and chewy than I’d hoped, though not as bad as last year’s attempt, and it is delicious. I need to figure out what needs to be done to make it lighter, more airy.

January spinning and knitting

A short post tonight. I’m determined to post every month this year. Here it is almost 10 pm the last day of January and only the first post of 2017.

Life is full. Life is good. Fiber stuff keeps happening, as does sending out spindles, preaching, and sundry miscellaneous stuff. December was filled with unexpected happenings and January started off that way. I’m grateful that it’s settling back into a more typical rhythm.

Fiber recap of January
A four ounce braid from Mosaic Moon, colorway “The 4th Doctor” turned into approximately 176 yards of 2-ply squishiness. Not sure yet what it will become.dsc05200Wool fiber and yarns tend to call out the hunter in Ebo. He can’t seem to help but want to attack good fiber. I have to guard it like a sheepdog when Ebo’s around.

Another braid of Alpaca/Silk from Upstream Alpaca has been spun into 750+ yards of singles. This skein has gone into the bin with the other skeins of alpaca singles that will eventually be woven into material.

dsc05206Last weekend I had to attend some church related meetings for several hours Friday evening and all day Saturday. It was a perfect time to start a new knitting project that would be fairly mindless with its rows of garter stitch. A Surprise Jacket for my grandson who sweetly asked me to make him a new one as he’d outgrown the one I made for him two years ago.
He asked it to be made with green and yellow because “I like the Oregon Ducks.”
“But don’t you like the Boise Broncos anymore, Wesley?” I asked since last year they were his favorite team.
“Yes, I like the Broncos, but I like the Ducks too. So you can make it with blue and orange too.”
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A Long Weekend

What a weekend!
Friday morning Violet and I attempted to make divinity for the band members. Instead, it turned into concrete. It took several kettles of boiling water and clipping away at the hardened stuff before the mixing bowl was finally freed of the stuck mess. I haven’t a clue as to what went wrong and hope that the next try will be successful. Divinity was one of my Christmas candy standbys until our kids left home, then I gravitated to making holiday bread for gifting instead.

Then Jeanne and I drove over to Newberg for a called meeting of Representatives from each church in the organization of Friends that our church belongs to. Friday afternoon and evening and all of Saturday was spent in discussion with all the other representations, and listening to each other and the holy spirit as we worked through a situation in which one of the member churches no longer wishes to honor our Faith and Practices, (Friends’, aka Quakers, legal document) but still wants to remain an active part of the organization. No decisive resolution was made but excellent progress was made. When we adjourned about 4:30 the atmosphere was peaceful and we had the sense that things are moving in the right direction.

Jeanne and I sped home as quickly as the speed limits and dark country roads allowed, with little time to spare in grabbing a bite to eat and rushing up to the church to set up for the Annual Christmas Sing-Along which was scheduled to start at 7. People started arriving before 6:30, as the musicians were finishing up sound checks, making sure instruments were all tuned, and shuffling our chairs to make room near a music stand for a couple more instrumentalists who joined in the fun.

I was thrilled when a young cowboy came in with his fiddle and settled in where he could share my music. Feeling exhausted and run down I wasn’t sure how well I’d be able to play but having another fiddler was energizing. He didn’t read music notation but played by ear and knew chords (much of my “music” is the lyrics with chords). Having another fiddler was wonderful. Usually there are four or five guitars, a couple banjos, and mandolins. One of the banjo players brings a container of 12 harmonicas – one for each key – and a mountain dulcimer. He does have fun making music!

I forgot to take my camera. 😦

Someone said it was the biggest turnout we’ve had. The building was packed upstairs and downstairs, where all the food was laid out on tables. People congregated in classrooms and corners visiting and catching up with friends and making new connections. Scott from the scout ranch brought his crew of “cowboys”, young people from 12 on up who help almost every weekend with the cub scouts and horse program. They have a vibrant program with about 70 head of horses at the ranch. The young man who brought his fiddle is this year’s intern at the ranch learning administration skills along with running a horse camp. I hope he’ll join us if we have any jam sessions.

People enthusiastically sang themselves hoarse as they chose from over 50 songs that we have printed up in our Christmas books. People write the song they’d like to sing on a big whiteboard and as the list is sung it’s erased with more songs continually added so that anyone who wants to request one has ample chance. I have no idea how many songs we went through in those 2 hours as we sang and played non-stop.

By the time we’d said our goodbyes, straightened up the church and cleaned up the kitchen I didn’t crawl into bed until after 10:30. Within an hour I woke up to a pounding heart, tingling arms, nausea and malaise. Dysautonomia strikes again. I got up and drank some water with electrolytes hoping that would calm things down. It was a very long night with lots of praying.

I was able to teach Sunday School, while sitting down. I’m so thankful that early in October I was approached by another woman who enjoys preaching from time to time asking if she could preach in December saying that God had given her a Christmas message on Joy. The third Sunday in Advent centers on joy so we agreed that would be the perfect Sunday for her. So, not only did I not have to preach yesterday, I got to hear a good message about the joy that God gives, a message that was balm to my soul. Even when things feel out of control God is at work behind the scenes.

Between drinking over 100 ounces of water yesterday and getting 10 hours of sleep last night, today has been much better. Drinking plenty of water is key to keeping my blood pressure at a decent level (low blood pressure is one of the problems with autonomic dysfunction aka dysautonomia). I try to drink at least 90 ounces every day but with the long representative meetings Friday and Saturday I wasn’t able to drink as much water and must have gotten a bit dehydrated.

One great thing about the long discussions was having ample knitting time! I finished the hat for my son as well as some spinning with a kuchulu. I think only about five people in the same pew knew that I was doing something with my hands. 🙂

The hat is currently drying. I’ll take a picture of it tomorrow.

I’m very grateful to those who comment on these posts. Thank you! They are encouraging and help me to continue to post, even if sporadically. There are a number of comments that I plan to catch up with and reply to, hopefully tomorrow. For now, I need to get to bed.
Last Thursday this flower was blooming in the garden. The freeze that we had between Thursday night and Saturday put an end to the late autumn blooms.

dsc04643Thankful that even when life seems askew, God’s got me.

Early December

I have the feeling this month will fly past too quickly. The first four days were already filled with activities. Lots of people came to the town’s Christmas tree lighting ceremony at the city park Thursday evening. This year the band decided to use one group mic rather than dealing with several as we have in the past. We had more people compliment us than before telling us that they could hear everyone. The best part was having all the kids from the Bible club jam onto the small covered bridge “stage”, to lustily sing with us. During Jingle Bells they got to stomping their feet in rhythm on the wooden floor. So much enthusiasm and fun! Lots of parents recording the kids on their phones.

The mayor of the town (a professional chef) made a huge pot of delicious chili as well as pans of cornbread, plus there were homemade chocolate chip cookies, hot chocolate and coffee. Perfect food for a cold evening. First year in several that it didn’t rain, or even threaten to rain, nor was it as cold as some years have been. Santa and Mrs arrived in their shiny black wagon decorated in lights pulled by two huge draft horses decked out with big jingle bells. This year they sat next to the bridge to greet the children (and parents) while we played music and people sang.
dsc04620This is a small town with, as is typical of most places, a few people doing most of the work but there is plenty of wonderful enthusiasm and support for this annual event.
The picnic structure were the food was served.
dsc04622The covered bridge and the picnic structure face each other. The tree has been lit, Santa and wife have driven off on the horse-drawn wagon and most people have returned to their homes.
dsc04624Friday was our Violet Day. She’d had extremely busy days since the day before Thanksgiving and was quite tuckered. Often she loves to go shopping with Papa but not Friday, not even to the wood store up near Portland where she likes to help Papa pick out pretty woods.

Instead we measured Papa’s feet to make Christmas slippers for him and made his duct tape foot forms (lasts). Then she and Papa painted while I worked in the office packing up twenty spindles to send to a store in Pittsburg, PA: Dyed in the Wool. (DITW) I’m not sure if they plan to sell online for just through their brick and mortar store.
dsc04632Yesterday morning Ed drove up to the wood store while I worked some more on today’s sermon, finalized the Advent Candle passage for the responsive reading and selected  hymns. (The song leader prefers for me to choose them.) I also managed to practice a few of the tricky songs that have violin breaks.  We decorated the church in the afternoon then went back up there at six for a three-hour practice for next Saturday’s Christmas sing-along.
dsc04633The picture was taken before most of the instrumentalists arrived. After this I was too focused on playing to think about more pictures.

The piano has a brand new quilt cover sewn together by one of our women who has more energy and drive than most of us put together. The blue flannel is the inside, I need to get a picture of the outside of the quilt. See the advent candle and wreath with the pink flower next to the white Christ Child candle? While decorating the outside railing one of the twins discovered the camellia bush has some blooms so she picked on for the candle. In December! Tonight’s first freeze of this winter will be hard on them.

I hope you all had a good weekend and aren’t stressing about this oft too busy month!

Thirty day success

Whew! Thirty days of posting has been accomplished. A number of days it was hard making the time or finding the words to write. An outline of a subject plan at the beginning of November would have helped but that’s not the way my brain tends to work. Organization has never been a strength, I love organized environments but I’m sadly lacking in the knowing how to get organized. Both my mom and dad were orderly, organized people. How did I miss out?

When our kids were in elementary school I was the 1st grade classroom assistant for a couple of years. The teacher was a very organized person whom I enjoyed working with, not just for her pleasant, easy going personality, but because she was masterful in keeping a tidy, well-organized, user-friendly classroom. During that time I realized that inside I’m an organized person who can’t figure out how to get organized.

My office is a quite chaotic. I’ve tried to reorganize it only to end up spinning my wheels. (Not in the fiber sense.) I’d like to take the time in December to work my way all around it starting in one corner and get it organized so I’m more efficient. (Which will take organizing my time – another deficiency in my life.) Then I need to tackle the filing cabinet. My methods are too scattered. I need an organizational coach! As a 50th birthday gift a dear friend from Texas came for a visit and to help me to organize my cabinets and office. She arrived with printed labels ready and a master sheet to work from. We ended up running off to the coast to play. Considering that we hadn’t seen each other in about 10 years who could blame us!

December tends to be a very busy month, starting already with our band playing for the town’s annual Christmas tree lighting ceremony at the city park tomorrow evening. Saturday afternoon we’ll decorate the church for and have a long rehearsal/practice for the sing-along on the 10th. I’ve been terrible at practicing for it this year and must buckle down to some serious work on a few of the trickier songs that I don’t have music for, which we’ve transposed to more singable keys.

I’m still hoping to spin and knit hats for the grandkids in time for Christmas. It’ll be interesting to see how far I get. Lately all I’ve wanted to do is spin. My knitting mojo has disappeared.

Rather than posting every day I’d like to continue posting two or three times per week. We’ll see. The blog is a wonderful way of keeping track of what’s happening and I’d like to keep it up more consistently.

Meanwhile, this happened in November:
dsc04505 dsc04506Just as the odometer moved across the 100,000 mile mark and keeps rolling steadily along I can keep moving forward with my goals.

Posting daily has proven that I can do something when I set my mind to it, am disciplined and make the effort. I need to keep applying that determined focus to the areas in my life / house that need to be organized. Here’s to a productive December!

Thank you for reading along through these 30 days of November!