We are in the process of MOVING! Yep, we went and bought a house. We must be real adults now I guess.
Through the moving process, I have become pretty interested in the idea of minimalism. Which previously I had heard of but found to be a quirky idea for people who want to go for it, but not for me. Because I didn't want to live in a house looking like this:
I found out, though, that minimalism is really about living intentionally, not about limiting the number of things you own to some arbitrary small number and living with bare walls and sparse furnishings.
So, I made my own list of questions I'm asking myself as I pack, and will ask myself again as we unpack. We really are keeping a lot of our stuff, but we are being intentional about it. Would you add any questions to this list?
What would it COST (in money, time, and effort) to replace this if I got rid of it, but ended up needing it?
Do I LOVE this? Does it make me (or my family) HAPPY to give it space in our home and life?
Would I really MISS this if it were gone? Did I even remember I owned this before coming across it?
Have I USED this recently? Do I have SPECIFIC plans (as in, on the calendar) to use it in the near future? Is there a multi-purpose item that could do the same job just as well? Do I feel good about how I use this item?
Is there an obvious PLACE or category of things this belongs with? Is that place or category already cluttered, or is there room for this without causing crowding?
Is this item SENTIMENTAL? Is it symbolic or reminiscent of something HUGELY important to my life, family and purpose? Could the memories be preserved just as well through a photo of this item?
Does this item GIVE me time and value through helping me do things that are important to me? Or, does it TAKE time from me (by having to clean it/organize it/work around it)?
Do I always think I will use this but never get around to it?
Could this item give more value or happiness to someone else than it does to me?
WHY do I have this? Do I NEED it?
So, this week I made Chili, because its fall and I wanted it--I actually wasn't even thinking about the fact that it was Halloween! I think I'm just wired to crave chili on October 31st. Then, I had the brilliant plan of having Navajo Tacos for dinner the next day--the chili was made, so all I had to do was make the fry bread! Both meals were delicious and easy to put together (well, as easy as they can be with a four month old in the house ;-)
Then I was thinking,,, what are some other meals that could work this way? Prepare one part of it for dinner one night, then later use that as part of a meal a day or two later? I brainstormed a list.
What others can you think of? PLEASE comment with your ideas! For reals, guys. I'd just write this as a post on social media, but I thought it would be MUCH easier to find and refer back to if it was on the blog instead. I plan to post my sourdough recipes here... soon.
In which Sarah rambles and whines about stuff but doesn't really say much of interest, other than her intention to say interesting things in the future.
Nobody ever said you'd have more time after having a baby. So I don't think anyone is surprised that this blog has been quiet for a few months.
But, I really miss it! Even if nobody else does ;-)
Though I really really miss full nights of sleep (though Verity lets us get one of those once every couple weeks) I am so glad to be a mom. Its really inspiring as well, and momming has really made me want to get back to all my creative pursuits... but hasn't left me any time for them. Oh, the irony.
Then, just when I was feeling like I had figured out this momming-and-creating thing and that I'd maybe have a bit of time here and there for ME stuff, I injured my back pretty badly. How badly, you ask? Well, I've passed the time more than once over the last week asking myself this question: Would I rather deal with THIS back injury, OR would I rather experience unmedicated labor (and recovery from said labor) ALL OVER AGAIN. The answer? Its a tough call, but I kinda think I'd go for the labor. No joke.
But I'm finally upright and somewhat functional again! And I intend to get back to regular blog updates again. I've started a post on a few of my favorite sourdough formulas I've created, and I have a few sewing projects I've done I'd like to share, and there is a book dummy competition I'd like to enter, and... I'll be back.
I am not a Graphic Designer. I am not a Photographer. I am an Illustrator. But, well, I can find my way around Photoshop, and sometimes I play around with fonts... what I'm saying is, I dabble. :-)
Next week, we are coming up on our second anniversary. Two years of marriage have been really awesome, honestly. This is our wedding announcement--I must say, I really loved the idea, and people all seemed to love it as well. As a HUGE fan of Golden-Age illustrators who have done Post covers--take a look at the master copies I did both from Rockwell and Leyendecker--it really just worked.
So, since it worked so well for the announcement, of course we had to bring the concept back for the Thank-You cards...
I really liked the idea of continuing with this theme for other life events. I really, really wanted to make a Post cover pregnancy announcement, but... I never got around to it. I just couldn't think of an image I wanted to use for it, and, well.... life.
Ironically, I've made time to put together another one now that I have a little one keeping me awake all night and demanding food all day. Go figure ;-)
As I mentioned in my last post, I’ve been baking bread for over a year now. Not long enough to be an expert by any stretch of the imagination, but certainly long enough to have learned a few things.
Maybe it's the artist in me, but since pretty early on in my bread-making, I have been adapting and creating my own recipes for sourdough bread. I’ve joked more than once that I seem incapable of following a recipe as written, even if it is a recipe that I myself created!
Many times I’ve heard people say that improvising and trying new things is all well in good when you’re cooking, but when you’re baking you’re dealing with science, so messing around with baking recipes is just a bad idea and will probably end up with a flop.
Honestly, I think that is a pretty dumb attitude. If you’re really going to learn to make bread, you’ll learn the basic principles of how it works. And once you understand those principles, why on earth would you not do your own experimenting? Experimenting is what makes baking fun!
I will admit, I have had the occasional flop. But your basic bread ingredients--flour, water, and salt--are cheap, and I usually learn something from each flop too. So I keep experimenting.
So if you have any interest at all in creating your own recipes, or making significant adaptations to recipes created by others, here are a few things I started with early on that have helped me to do that with a reasonable amount of success. There will always be loaves that don’t live up to your expectations, whether you follow somebody else’s recipe or not, but there is an extra level of satisfaction when, not only did you make that loaf of bread, you made the recipe that made it--and that's worth a failed loaf now and then in my book.
Use weight measurements, not volume
Really, I suggest you do this whether you intend to create your own recipes or not. Weight measurements are just so much more accurate than using cups and tablespoons and such.
I still clearly remember in my middle school cooking class when the teacher measured a cup of sifted flour, and then a cup of packed flour, and then weighed them both. The weights were more different than any of us would have guessed. Volume measurements are just really “ISH”. So get a kitchen scale and use it--problem solved.
Honestly, I was skeptical starting out, and I didn’t want to clutter up my kitchen with one more thing that wouldn’t get used. So, I got the smallest, cheapest scale I could find. It is still working and I’m glad I have it, but if I could go back I would go back and get something a little higher quality. Someday, I’ll get a nicer scale, that is even more accurate than my little cheap one!
People who have seen me in my kitchen might find this weird, coming from me. I’m one of those “just toss some in until it looks right” type cooks. But as a baker it's a bit more important to know how much of each ingredient you’re working with. In a kind of backwards way, being able to know EXACTLY how much of each ingredient I’m putting in really frees me up to try new things. It helps me to feel comfortable with trying new combinations and ingredients, because I know that my ratios are still correct.
Speaking of ratios…
1, 2, 3, Sourdough Formula
Early on, all of the recipes I created were based on the 1, 2, 3 Sourdough formula. Though I haven’t depended on it as much lately, it is still my go-to when I just need a quick basic batch of dough and I want to be able to hold the recipe in my head. Thats right, no recipe cards or constantly refreshing your phone screen to put this dough together. This is all it takes:
1 part sourdough starter
2 parts water
3 parts flour
2% of the flours weight in salt
Obviously after my whole spiel above, these ratios are by WEIGHT, not volume. And they probably all make sense except maybe the salt, so let me give you an example.
Lets say I want to make a small sourdough boule. I choose 250 grams as my base measurement.
So, my recipe would look like this:
250 grams sourdough starter
500 grams water (thats 250x2)
750 grams flour (thats 250x3)
15 grams salt (thats 750x0.02)
Let me explain the salt measurement. To figure out what two percent of the flour weight is, we multiply it by .02. Our flour measurement is 750 grams, which multiplied by .02 is 15.
But there is an easier way you can do in your head, if you don’t have a calculator handy (or don’t want it to get covered in flour ;-). Just use 1 gram of salt for every 50 grams of flour in your recipe. If 50 doesn’t divide evenly into your flour number, I’d just ignore the leftover--you’re close enough. So, 750/50=15.
But how does knowing this formula help you to create your own bread recipes?
Simple. First, the water ratio can include ALL of your wet ingredients. So in my recipe above, if I want to use milk, an egg, and some butter instead of water (adding in some fat for a nice soft loaf, plus the egg white helps with rise/structure), I just make sure that the total weight of those three ingredients equals 500 grams.
(A couple of my particular favorites for moisture in dough are whey leftover from my yogurt making, or potato water from boiling potatoes, or mashed potatoes. Whey gives nice flavor, potato really softens up the loaf.)
Similarly, the flour measurement can include all types of flour or other dry ingredients you want to include. So If I want use three different flours in my loaf, or add some cocoa powder or potato flakes, I just make sure the total weight of my dry ingredients equals 750 grams. (Add-ins that don’t mix into the dough, such as seeds or chunks of cheese or chocolate chips or dried fruit, aren’t included in this number, they’re just added in.)
So you could write the the 1, 2, 3, Sourdough formula thus:
1 part starter
2 parts wet ingredients
3 parts dry ingredients
2% dry ingredient weight in salt (Don’t forget the salt!)
These are enough to get you started with adapting or creating your own recipes, I think. To really invent recipes from scratch I want to talk more about hydration and baker’s percentages, but I feel like those are concepts that seem really complicated until they “click”, and should therefore have their own post. So for now, happy adapting!
Its been over a year since I first received a sourdough starter. Honestly, I had no idea that I would still be feeding it and using it over a year later! About 16 months so far, in fact. I feel like I’ve learned a lot in that time. I did a lot of things wrong and a lot of things right. Looking back, this is one piece of advice that I would give myself 16 months ago.
Just start with your starter. Worry about bread later.
I, like many, was a little over excited about making bread. I had couple super sour loaves that barely rose in the beginning as a result--as in totally inedible, not just less-than-beautiful. After those failures, I somewhat desperately took a step back and concentrated on just getting to know my starter and keeping it (and myself) happy. What I did instinctively ended up being a very wise decision. I got into a good rhythm with my starter and was sure that it was healthy and thriving…. And THEN I made bread with it.
Early on, this is what my starter looked like:
I kept an open cup of water with it so the chlorine would dissipate, which helped a little. But look at it--hardly any bubbles, and it didn't double--the rubber band marks where it was when I fed it. It rose, but didn't double and get bubbly. But since it rose, I was excited and tried making bread... which didn't work very well.
Eventually, I got my starter healthy and happy. This is what it looked like:
Notice the bubbles throughout, and the fact that it more than doubled--I was expecting this, and had the paper plate under it to catch the overflow. This starter is ready to rise bread--and I can testify that it does so very well.
I’ve read enough about starter keeping by now to know that there are about as many ways to keep a starter as there are starter keepers--a few principles remain the same across the board, but beyond that, you have to figure out what keeps you and your particular colony of yeast happy.
Here are just a few differences I’ve read about in starter-keeping:
The more I’ve read about sourdough online and elsewhere, the longer this list of differences has become. I am NOT making this list in order to overwhelm someone new to sourdough! I aim to be encouraging. I want to make it totally clear that there is no ONE right way to do this--there are many many right ways, and what works for you is what you should do--even if some amazing baker online says to do it differently.
If your starter is bubbling and doubling (or at least gets close), you’re doing it right. If it isn’t doubling yet, don’t try to make bread until it is.
If you're having a hard time, remember that flour is cheap! And the results are worth it. Let me tease you with a recent loaf...
So what works for me and my starter?
I feed my starter King Arthur brand white whole wheat flour and tap water. It does even better when I remember to leave the water out to let the chlorine dissipate, but I usually forget.
I use it a couple times a week (though not on any particular schedule), and feed it after each use.
I put my starter straight into the fridge after I’ve fed it.
I use my starter straight out of the fridge for most things I bake.
I usually have about 15-20 grams of starter left after baking, which I feed 50 grams each of water and flour. This gives me about 100 grams to bake with, and the remaining 15-20 grams to continue to keep and feed. With only two in the house to feed (for now ;-) this small amount works quite well.
This is what works for me and my starter and my schedule. But it's more than likely that something else will work better for you--you’re not me and you have a different life (I hope... If you didn’t that would be creepy ;-). Remember, you’re working with a batch of live organisms here--many people name their starter, as if it were a pet. Not a bad mindset to have. Figure out how your starter-pet fits into your life and schedule. Give yourself a week or two to do this BEFORE diving into the whole bread-making thing--because bread making gives you a whole new set of things to figure out, beyond just starter-keeping.
Though professionally I'm an Illustrator, I do a lot of other fun and interesting things in my life that I like to write about. This is where I'll put my posts about those things--recipes, projects, thoughts, and anything else going on in my life that is not specifically art related.