Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Adventures with Sourdough

So my dad gave me a sourdough starter a few weeks before Thanksgiving last year and gave me strict instructions for caring for it and extremely vague directions for actually making bread out of it. The instructions included feeding it daily and weighing water and flour to do so. I immediately went off the grid on that. An overflowing scoop of flour, a scoop and a half of water, mix, call it good. It worked out okay.

I kept my sourdough in the fridge in a half gallon mason jar at first, but then I transferred it to a crock on the counter. I wanted to use the mason jar for something else. The crock has a lid that just kind of sets on top, so I put a cotton napkin under it as added protection from fruit flies who seem to love sourdough. This proved a bad idea, especially when the weather was warm (we have no air conditioner), so it went back in the fridge after a few weeks. When it lives in the fridge, it's a good idea to take the sourdough out the night before you want to make bread so it can wake up a bit before it needs to perform.

Baking Sourdough Bread

As for the actual making of the bread, that worked out fine. Here's how I do it:

First, I scoop out nearly all of the sour dough starter and put it in a mixing bowl. I make bread once a week and feeding it about a half cup of flour a day seems to give me just the quantity I need for two loaves and a pizza.

I add a cup of flour and cup of water to the stuff in the bowl and mix it up, then I take a cup out and put it back in my crock and put it to bed. Then I add another cup of flour and water to my mixing bowl and mix that up an let it set for a few hours. When I see active bubbles again, I add as much flour as the dough can hold. When it becomes difficult to mix, I turn it out onto a floured surface and knead it, adding more flour, kneading until its sticky, then adding more and kneading till its sticky again until it stops becoming sticky.

My Great Grandmother, who was much better at making bread than I will ever be, used to say that the dough was ready when it felt like an ear. So pinch your ear lobe. Ignore the lump from your piercing. When you pinch your ear it gives, but it maintains a few millimeters distance between your fingers. You should be able to pinch the bread without your fingers meeting. It should be dry and and flexible. When you get it to this point, you are done kneading.

Now I simply gather the bread together in a ball and set it right on the counter where I kneaded it and cover it with a damp cotton napkin and leave it alone for a few hours or until it's grown quite big. Then I knead it again for about five minutes. (It won't feel as dry anymore.) and shape it into loaves or pizza crust and then let it be again. (You'll want to start preheating the oven at this point 350F should do.)

My grandmother always called this rising "the proof". And one thing I've noticed about sourdough bread is that it doesn't "proof" as high as other types, especially her favorite potato bread, but it does tend to do more rising in the oven. So let it proof a couple of hours and if it is making a disappointing show of it, give it a shot in the oven anyway.

You'll want to bake it about an hour, depending on the shape of your loaf. Loaf pans about an hour, dinner rolls 40 minutes, pizza about 30. If you flick it with your fingernail, it should make a kind of hollow sound to let you know its done.

If your bread is in a pan, remove it immediately from the pan because it will get soggy if you don't. Then let it cool before cutting.

Sourdough Pancakes

First, I dump almost all of my sourdough into a mixing dough and add equal parts flour and water, mix it well and dump half of it back into my crock and put it to bed. Then I let the batter sit for awhile till it gets bubbly, you should have about two cups of batter. Next, I add a tablespoon of baking powder, an egg, some melted butter or oil and a little sugar and some finely ground walnuts. Mix it all up and voila! Pancake batter. Just make it as you would pancakes.

Personally, I am not overly impressed with sourdough pancakes. They are good. Quite tasty indeed. But I prefer buttermilk buckwheat pancakes. It's just a personal preference.

The Sourdough Verdict

I am not good at taking care of sourdough. I have nearly killed it and wondered if it was safe way too many times. In the summer, I don't make bread as often because it is just. too. hot. Also, sourdough has a texture my family isn't overly fond of. So, after the final death of my starter, I declare the sourdough experiment at an end. I can buy yeast. However, having had this particular adventure, I can rest secure in the knowledge that should the Zombies rise and packaged yeast become a commodity worth shooting people over, I can always make a sourdough starter.

Friday, January 9, 2015

Wordpress Foray Fail

So I thought I'd move the website to Wordpress. To have more control, etc. But this has turned out to be an utter failure. Wordpress requires me to do too many updates and my host, (Ipower) does not seem to like them. It is just too buggy and their customer service people are incapable of doing anything but trying to sell additional services when you call to ask them why. So my updates fail and I just get a message that says 'Update failed' and can't log into my stuff and nobody can tell me why, but assure me if I give them another $50 a year, it'll stop happening. Whatever. I will be looking at a new host. In the meantime, I will return here to blog and will probably blog in both places indefinitely. Although it feels weird, because I believe I now have followers on both sites so what else is a girl to do?

Over the next few days I'll start posting on here what I posted there that you may have missed. And some new stuff and, when I can get Wordpress going again, I will post new stuff there too.

I created a really neat header for myself. I sketched it and showed everyone at the family Thanksgiving and Christmas parties and asked for input and got quite a bit and my husband promised to do some digital magic on it if I scanned it and sent it to him. I tore it out of my sketchbook in preparation for scanning and put it, who the hell knows where.

And Mercury retrograde hasn't started yet.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

#Review and #Giveaway of Orpheus and Eurydice

I am absolutely thrilled to be able to share the book Orpheus and Eurydice from Barefoot Books with you. This book was written by Hugh Lupton and Daniel Morden and illustrated by Carole Henaff. I am a big fan of this book, and I think you will be too.

The first thing I did when I received this book was look at the end. It had a happy ending. I said to my husband "WTF, this story doesn't have a happy ending! They messed with it!" he laughed at me. Then I read it from the beginning and wow! They totally made the happy ending work. I LOVE this book. I think I love it more than Demeter and Persephone.

As a Pagan Parent and specifically one of Hellenic leaning, I have always been a big fan of the ancient Greek myths and I share them with my kids at every opportunity. Mostly I tell the stories verbally (a road trip tradition) because there simply aren't a lot of story books suitable for children that stick close enough to the stories to suit my taste. That is why I was so giddy with excitement when I discovered this Greek Mythology series. These are great stories for elementary school aged kids and they maintain the flavor of the original.

It is true that the authors make the stories their own, and who can blame them, I always did. But they do so that is respectful not only of the story but of the story's own personality. (Does this make any sense). While modernizing the language, it is still epic. And the images, while they don't look anything like ancient Greek pottery art, they somehow have the flavor of ancient Greek pottery art. This book is beautiful to the ear when read aloud and also beautiful to the eye.

Parents who are sensitive to scenes of violence should know that there is a little bit in this one. Remember the Eurydice gets bit by a snake and dies (that's how it starts) and Orpheus gets dismembered by Maenads. I hope that wasn't a spoiler for anyone. And there are pictures of all this violence. But it's much less than what your average kid sees on TV.

So, there's my review. Now on to the giveaway!

You should know that this book was provided to me for free.

The giveaway is open to people in the US because I can't afford to ship outside the US (sorry). It will run from tonight to next Wednesday, October 29 at midnight. There is no cost to enter, just a few painless hoops. Observe below:

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Thursday, October 16, 2014

Demeter and Persephone #review #giveaway

I was super-excited get my review copy of Demeter and Persephone from Barefoot Books, just in time for Samhain. (I also got a copy of Orpheus and Eurydice, but that will be another post and another giveaway!) Now it is here and I am excited to share it with you!

First, you should know that I am somewhat of a purist when it comes to the myths. I despise most of the modern feminist retellings of this story because so many of them miss the point. And I am irritated with the versions that make Hades into some kind of evil monster randomly kidnapping a maiden for no apparent reason. It drives me crazy that a perfectly good story should be messed with. But, I also understand that when you are adapting a traditional Greek myth for modern children, it will have to be messed with, at least a little bit. After all, I mess with it when I retell it, but I have a very high opinion of my ability to do it properly. As excited as I was to get my hands on this book, I was also really worried that it would be so altered that I would hate it.

Well, it's altered. But I don't hate it.

Hades is grim, but not evil, as it should be. The fact that Persephone is to be Queen of the Underworld and not just some captive, and that Zeus agreed to the match is made clear. Demeter's travels are included; many retellings, including my own, skip that bit. However, the family of Demophon and Metaneira (whose names are not mentioned) is structured completely differently, but I suppose this simplifies things. Also, many important characters are missing: There is no Gaia, Hecate, Helios or Iambe in this story.

What the authors have done is take an ancient story, modernized it a bit and made it accessible to young readers. It is a good story. It is exciting and emotional and it moves along at a good clip (another departure from Homer who does like to dwell on things, like food and flowers). I very much enjoyed this book; even though I am a purist, and the book was written for 8 year olds. It's a short book, 33 pages, not including the end notes.

My 3 year old son did not have the patience to listen to the whole story, but he was fascinated with the pictures. He kept pointing to the pictures of Demeter and Persephone gathering flowers and saying that it looked like our yard. I wish! When I turned to pages without pictures, he wanted to go back to the pictures, narrative be damned. There are pictures on about every third page and they are evocative of ancient Greek art in a way I can't really explain. It doesn't look like ancient Greek pottery painting in the least, but something about it reminds me of it. I don't know a thing about art, I just know that this book is very pretty.

In the back of the book is a map of ancient Greece, some portraits of the Greek Gods and a cute family tree with oh so many Zeuses!

And so, I highly recommend that you get this book for your young Pagan this season. It is an excellent introduction to Greek myth and the story of Persephone in particular. And to help you out, I am giving away my copy. You should know that I got this copy free from Barefoot Books.

Also, if you're interested, Barefoot Books has this book as part of a set along with Theseus and the Minotaur and Orpheus and Eurydice called The Greek Myths Set and another set including the stories of Achilles and Odysseus called the Greek Epic Paperbacks .

All images were scavenged from the Barefoot Books website with permission. (Alas, my camera is no more or I would show you how cute my Sunshine is when he's pointing at pictures.)

And Now, On to the Giveaway!
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Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Working for a Living

This week I begin a new, temporary, chapter in my life. Working full time outside the home. I was a single mother for over 10 years, I am not in unfamiliar territory. I hated it then and I hate it now. But, my mother needed surgery and wouldn't get it unless she felt things were handled and her boss trusts me, so I have agreed to do her job for six weeks.

We need money, it's true and this is a good opportunity to keep my skills fresh. (I am learning Windows 8. Yay) The most important thing is that I'm helping out my mom though. I wouldn't do it otherwise. It is simply not worth it to (as my husband dramatically puts it) let "the institution" raise my child. After I pay daycare, I have very little money left and that's going to gas, clothing and easy to prepare meals. What little is left has debts waiting for it.

Mothers who work outside the home like to sneer at mothers who stay home with their children and say "I do everything you do, plus I work full time." But the truth is they don't, I didn't before and I can't now. They make enough money to pay someone else to do what stay at home moms do all day.

Right now I am paying $41 a day for someone else to supervise, entertain and teach my child. And no, I don't think they can do it better than me. Yesterday was story time at the Library and we missed it because I had to be at the office. Tonight, I paid someone else to make Chinese food which I dropped off at home, along with my toddler to my teenager who babysat (that is, played Super Smash Bros on his DS in the same room while the toddler watched Toy Story) while I ran out to train a dog(because I still have to do my job too). I got home in time to catch the tail end of bath time with daddy and give little man a kiss goodnight, run through the week's schedule with teen man, make sure I still have three ducks, do the dishes and finally settle into the desk chair to check email and throw my angst at a hasty blog post.

Tomorrow is parent teacher conferences at the High School, the next day is Parent night at the Technical Center, so those evenings will run similarly to this evening. Unless I decide to skip Parent Teacher Conferences. I could do that... He's only in two classes at the High School and they are both variations on Gym...

You see. I've been a working mom 2 days and I already don't do the things I did as a stay at home mom.

Usually, I clean out the duck's crate daily and take the poo-soaked newspaper out to the garden and turn it into mulch. This whole process takes about a half hour. Today I didn't even collect the eggs until I was ready to put the ducks back in for the night and I just tossed clean newspaper on top of the old stuff. Wow, I am going to have to start giving away eggs because I don't have time to bake or make breakfast from scratch anymore!

Bread. Crackers. Cookies. Muffins. You can buy them if you don't have time to bake. Who knows what's in them? Is it even food? They sure cost a lot more. Yes, paying other people to do what  you don't.

I have not seen my garden in daylight since Sunday. I do not expect to do so again till Saturday. If there is anything ripe out there, something else is going to eat it. I hope it's the ducks. I hope the ducks eat my weeds. I hope nobody eats my ducks while they're all unsupervised out there all day every day.

I wish I could afford a housekeeper.

Transitions always suck for me.

But this will be a grand experiment. You see, in my memory, being a working mom was easier than being a stay-at-home mom. My house was as clean as I left it when I got home (of course I didn't have teenagers at home, just kids in school and daycare all day) and I didn't have to think of ways to entertain and mentally stimulate my kids. They got all that stuff at school and daycare and all the time I spent with them (about 3 hours a day) could be just us time. I cooked dinner, we ate dinner, we cleaned up dinner, we got ready for bed. At home I decompressed from work. At work I decompressed from home. I had work friends. My kids had school friends. I didn't have to arrange play groups or get along with their friends moms. I just had to occasionally nod and look appropriately concerned as the school or daycare people told me what terrible thing my kid had been up to that day. Nobody expected me to volunteer for anything or make snacks, because the stay at home moms had that covered and they all knew I wasn't one of them.

But what was I talking about? Oh yes! This is an experiment to explore the question: Which is easier, staying at home or working outside the home? I'll do it for science.

What I'm worried about though is how this will affect my son. For six weeks he will be in daycare from 8am to 6pm every day. And then it'll stop and he'll go back to once a week. How weird is that going to be? I am thinking it might be better to just keep working full time and keep him in daycare/pre-school, but the jobs advertised in my area are $8-10 per day. Since daycare is $40 per day, I'm not sure it's worth it. Something to chew on/research over the next six weeks.

Monday, October 6, 2014

Monday House Blessing

So the Flylady has us (Flybabies) do this thing every Monday she calls the Weekly Home Blessing Hour. This appeals to my Kitchen Witchiness so I embrace it even though  she's using the word "blessing" in a figurative sense, and I am using it magically.

Of course, the first time I did it I raced through it and read it wrong and thought that I was supposed to do a 10 minute de-clutter of every room and then go back and vacuum and dust and after about the third room I was tired and cranky and done with it. I finished with the de-cluttering, but no vacuuming or dusting got done and I was irritated with the whole process. But then I re-read and realized that I was a silly monkey and tried again next week. In truth, many of those rooms were so cluttered that vacuuming and dusting wouldn't have been possible without some pre-work anyway, so it's just as well I did it the way I did it.

The following week I got it right, except that a lot of the things she says to do simply don't apply to me; Like throwing away newspapers and magazines since we don't do magazines (though I did toss a few gardening catalogs) and the newspapers we collect from folks who actually read them get put to practical use (First they line the duck's crate or the lizard's cage, then they get used as mulch in the garden.) Anyway, my house looked and felt great but it still took longer than I liked.

By the third week I was a pro and it was done quickly and I had time to add my own little Kitchen Witchery touch with a ritual broom and some incense and my spray bottle full of salted water and basil oil (for family harmony) for a proper home blessing. The energy in my home is amazing. I invite you to visit my own online Book of Shadows to see the House Blessing spell I have now incorporated into this method at

Now I'm about to begin a six week temporary office job. It's 9 to 5 with a killer commute. I don't know how next Monday's house blessing will go! I may have to move home blessing hour to Sunday.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Flying at Night, Falling Flat, and we're up again

As you may know, I made the Hearth Day Resolution to follow the Flylady's program to get my house in order and I am proud to say that my house is looking pretty decent. Each month, she gives you a habit to work on with the goal that you will develop all these wonderful positive habits that will keep your house clean and organized and you'll just do them, because they're habits, and won't even notice. After that, I think there is some more advanced work, but I'm not there yet.

The habit for September was the before bed routine and I had a really hard time with it. I do a lot of running around all day. After dinner, I want to rest, watch Hulu or Netflix and eventually wander off to bed. I am tired. When my husband comes home and hauls my Sunshine off for his bedtime story, I am done. No routine. I'm tired. Bite me. 

But I tried. I struggled all friggin' month with this. I read and re-read her article on the subject and the testimonials from other flybabies and I was right on board with the before-bed routine being a good idea. I just couldn't get myself to do anything before bed. 

It wasn't until the last week of the month that a light bulb went off. I was stuck on the "before bed" part. Why does it have to be right before bed? It doesn't. Flylady says so herself! It doesn't even really have to be in the evening! All I needed was to give myself a list of things to complete throughout the day that needed to be finished before I went to bed (not started just before bedtime). I can get the coffee pot ready for tomorrow right after I'm finished with it in the morning. I don't have to wait 'till bedtime. I can lay out clothing for tomorrow while I'm doing laundry in the morning. I can pack tomorrow's lunches while I'm making tonight's dinner! Now all I really have to do before bed is take a peek in the kitchen to make sure it's clean, take a bath and put on my pajamas.

Yea. I got this.

And now on to October when we tackle Paper Clutter. I am a ready!