Thursday, May 26, 2011

Tough Decision

Those of you that have known me for at least a year, probably also knew that I had set up an Etsy shop for my handdyed yarns.  It was an accident really - one day I was bored (it's how a lot of my adventures start), I threw some yarn in a pot with some color, and the resulting skein was so cool!  I thought "surely I must share this joy with the world, and I'll be a FAMOUS dyer and I'll be RICH and can sit around and play with yarn ALL DAY!"


After about a year of seeing the reality that dyeing, drying, reskeining, photographing, listing, shipping, tracking, and updating take a lot of time, and that there were not enough hours in the day for me to make money from it and enjoy it, I've pulled the plug on my Etsy shop and closed the accounts that were linked to it.  Immediately, I felt disappointed that I didn't succeed, but that quickly gave way to feeling a huge weight had been taken off my shoulders.  On the plus side, all those skeins that I didn't want to part with, but I needed inventory for the shop?  MINE.

Here's to dyeing being fun again.  raises glass

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Weekend at the Racetrack!

My goodness, am I sunburned and windburned from this last weekend, but I had a ton of fun at our local racetrack celebrating Ferrari Days!  And have I mentioned that my "local track" is actually Laguna Seca, one of the most technical circuits in the world (and the best track ever, but I'm biased).

He just wanted a picture of the car.
This weekend was to celebrate all things Ferrari, and did they ever show up in style.  The paddock was full of Ferraris that would be racing or doing exhibition laps through out the weekend, and fans brought their cars as well to show off and join in the camaraderie.  I pointed out to my husband that you couldn't leave your junk in the back seat like you could in a normal car, a) because most of them don't have backseats, and b) because 1000 people were looking in your car's windows and oohing and aahing over every knob, lever, and suede interior.  And then declaring "whaaaaaat?!  It's an automatic???!"

This wasn't a weekend of too many races, but what we got was fun.  These guys are so competitive and go all out on the track, and it's not uncommon to see cars making contact, dragging pieces of other cars, and dropping tires over the edge of the track and kicking up dust.  Depending on where you sit you can see a good portion of the track - Laguna Seca is known for its elevation change (there's a 300 ft difference from its lowest point to its highest point).  There are great views everywhere, though of course there are better spots to watch the best passing and creative driving.  Laguna Seca is also home to the world famous Corkscrew - a quick left-right turn that drops 59 feet in elevation in only 450 feet of track.  I've been in a car around the track, and at the top of the Corkscrew you can not see ANY road beyond the hood of your car - it's like driving off a cliff.  It feels like that first drop on a roller coaster and it is SO COOL.  Racing down that hill competitively would be extremely intense.

My absolute favorite part of the weekend was not a race, but the exhibition of old Formula 1 cars that they sent around the track.  Nothing compares to these cars - they are FAST and LOUD.  There is so much power in these machine that you can feel the engine in your chest from 30 feet away, and you can hear exactly where they each are on the track.  The most recent was the 2004 Schumacher Ferrari, going all the way back to a 1972 Ferrari driven by Jacky Ickx.  The change in technology in that time was staggering, and while the late 90s/early 00s models sounded like angry hornets, the 70s model sounded like muscle.  It was so cool, and outshone everything else we saw that weekend.  It really got it set in our mind that we HAVE to see the F1 race when it comes to Texas next year.  A track full of these beasts would be incredible.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Sourdough Like You Mean It

A few days ago I showed you my mom's gift and shared my excitement to try and make my own sourdough.  There are the easy ways to do it where you put everything in the machine like you could with many other breads, but real sourdough flavor means time, and letting the natural yeast in the starter work for itself - not adding additional commercial yeast.  So when it came time to make mine, I let my machine do only the mixing, and time and I took over after that.  I admit, I slept for most of it - but 16 hours later, I had some GOOD bread!  You really don't even need the machine at all, I just wanted to save the time since I'm busy (lazy).

Let's start at the beginning.  Ingredients!

1 cup sourdough starter
3/4 cup warm water (cold slows down the yeast cultures, hot kills them)
2 and 2/3 cups bread flour
1 1/2 tsp salt

Notice: no extra yeast!  Sourdough starter is alive and has all the yeast you need, though at its own pace.  It won't work as rapidly as a packet of yeast, so try to plan ahead when you want this bread!  You of course CAN add yeast if you're in a hurry, though I suspect the flavor won't develop completely.

Dough in a bowl
OK, mix your ingredients.  Remember, I'm busy or lazy, so I had my machine mix for me.  My machine's dough cycle also lets the dough rest and rise, but since I didn't want to leave it in the machine I removed it as soon as it was done mixing - about 30 minutes in.  When I removed it, I put the dough into a bowl that I had coated with a thin layer of olive oil - you'll realize why as soon as you pick up the dough.  It is the stickiest thing in the world and you will feel like a movie villain that has sour dough for hands.  Coating your hands in flour before picking up the dough probably would have been a good idea.  IN to the oiled bowl it goes!  I also put a sheet of plastic wrap over the dough (not tightly, it's going to grow), and then a cotton towel over that.  Pardon the low light in the pictures - this was at 9 o'clock at night.  I figured I needed a lot of time for it to rise and do its thing, so what time better than overnight for it to be left alone and for me to not poke it all day!

So that was at 9 on Friday night - take a look at what I found at 9 on Saturday morning!
Whoa!  First of all, the light is BETTER.  But more importantly, this about quadrupled in size.  Look on the side of the bowl - see all those bubbles along the sides?  That's what the whole loaf is doing.  The yeast in the sourdough is creating gasses and bubbles that get trapped in the dough, and cause it to poof up like that.  As such, this is going to collapse when we touch it, but that's ok!  We actually NEED to break those larger bubbles, so we're going to pop this out of the bowl and do a little punching.  FIRST, we'll put some flour on a board, and some flour on our hands, too.  Even with the oil in the bowl this will stick, which oughta tell you what you're up against!

 Get your dough out of the bowl and on to your floured surface (some will stick, and do the best you can) and PUNCH IT.  You're not trying to give it a concussion, you're just trying to point out that there's a SlugBug, ok?  Now it's all flat and all the big bubbles have popped out of it.  This doesn't look like a loaf of bread!  No, it doesn't - because that's not what it is, yet!  We're actually going to do this AGAIN!  Pick up your dough and pull it in to a ball, basically folding the edges inward and leaving a small, round, taut surface.  It's pretty.

Then it doesn't matter how pretty it is, because you're chucking it back in to the bowl to rise again.

I don't bother putting plastic wrap on this round, because it's not going to rise as far as it did the first time.  Also, it won't take as long to rise either - it'll take about half the time, if even that.  At least in my house, it's much warmer during the day than overnight (maybe 68 vs 55), so mine was ready to go 4 hours later.  Repeat the steps again - flop it on a floured board, pull it back in to that pretty ball, but some slits in the top, and throw it on a stone (or a baking sheet) in the oven!

I'm still getting used to the oven part of this.  I tend to start at 350, and when it starts to expand it get a light colored crust on it, I turn it up to 400 to get the golden color on it.  Maybe I should start at a higher temp, I don't know.  So far my method is working for me, so if someone introduces a better method, I'll try it then!  When all goes well, I get this:

It's not a tumah!  Even cutting slits in it, I still tend to get weird growth patterns with my bread, but that doesn't matter.  I'm not selling it, I'm not trying to impress anyone.  I have my own tasty, ugly bread, that's deliciously chewy in the middle and with a crunchy, crusty crust.

Aren't you drooling yet?  Make this already!

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Mother's Day Goodies

We're celebrating Mother's Day tonight, which means I can finally show off my gift!

I made the photo big so you can see how blurry it is!  :D  But seriously, isn't it pretty?  I got the basket from Longaberger, who are kind of a big deal in the basket making world, and the craftsmanship on it is really beautiful.  Mom has collected these baskets for a while so I thought a new one would be nice!

Then I got crafty and made a basket liner out of linen, which I was nervous about working with at first because some friends had negative experiences with it, but I actually really enjoyed it!  It is definitely NOT wool, so going in not expecting it to be like something you normally knit with helped, and although it was a bit crisp and twiney as I was knitting it, it blocked beautifully and will only get more amazing the more it's used and washed and pushed around.  I am very seriously considering making some placemats for my home, or possibly even a wearable item like a skirt out of linen, but that's said while I firmly try to ignore the 100 skeins of yarn that I already own!

And wait, what else is in that basket?


I was very jealous and sad that I wasn't going to get to keep this loaf.  It baked up so pretty in the oven,  it smells incredible, plus I just had so much fun making it!  This was more fun with sourdough, and as I have a strong need (not a want - a NEED) to make another one for myself, the recipe will be coming soon.  The ingredients were nothing out of the ordinary - just flour, water, sourdough starter, and salt (yes really - only 4 ingredients!), but it was so cool letting it rise for hours and having it double in size, punching it down, and watching it do it again.  So very soon we'll go on a sourdough adventure once I get a loaf of this for myself.

In the meantime, off to deliver this to Mom!

Monday, May 9, 2011

An FO!

 Yay for another Finished Object!  You might remember my Honey Cowl that I've been working on.  I'm not working on it any longer!

I feel quite stylish wearing this one.  Good thing we're expected to get a couple more days of rain this week so I can show it off!

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Sourdough Bread - with OATMEAL

Before a recent cholesterol test, I asked a couple friends that are in better health if they had any tips for me.  I try to eat pretty well anyway, and am I huge fan of eating fish as often as possible as well as my leafy greens, but I'm still not exactly a saint with everything I eat (just ask any loaf of warm, fresh bread that's recently out of the machine, when there's only half of it left an hour later).  A friend recommended I up my uptake of oatmeal, which I know but I always seem to forget.  So I forgot that tip promptly, and a few days later as I was poking through bread recipes I discovered a sourdough loaf with oatmeal.  It sounded "healthy", but I was really pleased to discover that it was REALLY good!  The sourdough flavor was light and the loaf was pretty solid and somewhat dense.  I thought it was perfect for a turkey sandwich, PB&J, or even just grabbing a hunk of it and nomming it plain!

3/4 cup of sourdough starter
3/4 cup milk
4 tsp butter - cut up so you don't get all your butter in one spot
3 cups bread flour
1 tbsp brown sugar
3/4 tsp salt
1 tsp active dry yeast


1/3 cup of rolled oats (I like the Quaker ones in the cylinder)

The oats go on a baking sheet in a 350F oven for 10-15 minutes, stirring occasionally, until they starting browning and smelling toasty (NOT burnt!).  In the meantime, throw the rest of the ingredients in the machine and prepare to set it to the regular white bread setting, at 1.5 pounds.  Add your toasted oats on top and start the machine!

Random question: have you ever spent WAY too much time trying to photograph a PB&J sandwich?

Tuesday, May 3, 2011


OK, have you seen this?  QWOP is a hilarious web game that uses 4 keys - Q, W, O, and P, to move your guy's legs and have him "run" a 100 meter race.  It's not quite what you expect, as Q and W control your thighs, and O and P control your calves, so that combined with the ragdoll physics when you fall make for laugh-out-loud moments as you have the near-impossible task of making your legs work.  If walking were this hard in real life, the human race would be known for its tendency to lay on the floor and drag ourselves places with our chins.

I can usually make it about 8 meters before I fall on my face (just like real life, LOLOL).  The other night my brother was over and we got to talking about QWOP, to which my husband said "what are you guys talking about??"  OPPORTUNITY!  I grabbed my laptop and set it in front of him with the website, and explained how it worked and the goal.  He tried it and quickly ended up with his ankle behind his head, and we erupted in laughter.  He hit the space bar to reset and try a second time, and off he went.  It was slow and steady, but soon he was up to 5 meters, 10, 20, 35, 50 meters!  He jumped a hurdle and kept going - I had never even SEEN that hurdle and have wasted countless hours playing this amazing game.  He continued on, on only his second try of the game.  Not long after, we got this screenshot:

That's just MESSED UP.

Monday, May 2, 2011