I’ve never made bread, and I definitely have never made sourdough starter but that is exactly what I accomplished this past week. My husband is the bread maker in this house and he makes wonderful bread. He has even taught some friends how to make bread. So I really never had an incentive. Why take on such a task when I can just eat his beautiful creations? But then while browsing in a local bookstore I found a gorgeous magazine called Sift. The photographs were beautiful and it promised 65+ Fall Recipes, Prize-winning Breads and Baking with Cider. I was hooked and paid the $12.95 and happily took it home. However once I really started looking through it I found most of the recipes I was interested in called for sourdough starter. Oh yeah, I should have noticed that other line on the cover, 10 Sourdough Recipes to Try Now. Sourdough starter? Where do I get that? Well the short answer is you can buy it but you still have to feed it and keep it going and you are out $9.00 plus postage so I researched making my own. Basically your biggest investment is time, and a bag of flour, so I thought ,”What can I lose?” After consulting the internet for some recipes, I settled on the one from King Arthur Flour and dove in. And even though we live in a fairly cool house (one of the many warnings) I had success.
After numerous feedings of flour and water it was doing really well by Day 4. And since when you feed it you discard half of the mixture I decide to save a cup and try one of the recipes from the magazine. (A side note, by Day 6 my starter was all it could be and I refrigerated it for later recipes.) The bread I decided to try first was Nutty-Fruity Sourdough because it was a one day bread, that is, no overnight rising.
In a large bowl combine 1 cup sourdough starter, 1 cup lukewarm water, 3/4 cup whole wheat flour (or pumpernickel), 2.5 cups all-purpose flour, 1.5 tsp salt and 1 tsp active dry yeast. Mix until the dough comes together, adding more water or flour depending on if your mixture is too dry or too wet.
Knead by hand for 10 minutes. Halfway through the kneading add in the 1.5 cups of dry mixed fruit and 1 cup chopped nuts. I used currants, cherries, raisins, apricots and walnuts. This was pretty difficult since the dough is really firm. Next time I will mix them in during the first step. As it was I resorted to flattening out the dough, adding some of the fruit mixture and then rolling and kneading it in.
I did this about 4 times till it was all incorporated. Put the dough in a greased bowl, cover and let rise about 1.5 hours. It gets puffy but doesn’t double in size.Once the first rise is complete shape the dough into a boule or a log and place on a parchment lined baking sheet. You can also divide it into two loaves. Cover with greased plastic and let rise another hour. After second rise, slash the top (dust with flour or brush with an egg wash) and bake for 45 minutes until the bread is golden brown. Note: recipe said 30-34 min. but 45 worked for me. (internal temp should be about 190° F.)
And then it came out. I was really excited and could hardly wait till it cooled so I could cut it. I am happy to say it was a success. It is a pale bread but that is what the recipe said. No sugar but the fruit lends a subtle sweetness. I think it is good just plain but Curt says toasted with butter is the way to go. So if you happen to have sourdough starter around or get ambitious to make some, this is a good first bread to try, especially if you are a beginner like me.
As you may have noticed in my previous post we were in the Florida Keys, not to view devastation, though there was plenty of that, but to look for birds. We weren’t even sure the trip was going to “fly”, so to speak, but Road Scholar assured us we would be fine so off we went. Ended up there were five of us plus our guide and our driver/coordinator. A lot of people were scared off. So we had almost individualized birding guidance.
The hurricane changed some habitats, plus the day before we arrived they had 9 inches of rain. So areas where shorebirds were usually found (shallow waters) had no birds. The water was just too deep. Some shorelines had been changed by the winds which moved sand pretty far inland. At one beach there were guys with little bulldozers literally pushing the sand back on to the shore. So even though our guide had scoped out the areas we planned to visit, things had changed, birds had moved on and we just had to work a little harder.
But even with these challenges we added 41 birds to our yearly list, seven of those were life birds.
Just a refresher here. We keep two lists. One is a Yearly List which is all of the bird species we see in the year. So the first robin, the first bluejay, the first chickadee of the year and so on. So far I have 220 for 2017. Our second list is the Life List. This is the total species we have seen in our lifetime. So not a lot get added every year unless we travel to different habitats. Our Life Birds from this trip included the Brown Booby and the Masked Booby (both seen from our boat on the way to the Dry Tortugas), the White-crowned Pigeon and the Worm-eating Warbler (in the Everglades), the Common Ground Dove, the Short-tailed Hawk, and the Magnificent Frigatebird. The Frigatebird is the only one I was able to photograph and she is at the top of this post. You probably are more familiar with the male in his breeding plumage. He is all black and he puffs up a bright red pouch under his bill.
Here are my photos I was able to get of some of the birds we added to our 2017 list.
An uncle asked me recently ,”Why do you travel so far to see birds?” The only answer I could think of was, “That’s where they are. And besides, there aren’t any Frigatebirds in Wisconsin.” Bottomline, we don’t ski, or play hockey or run marathons. This is our sport, this is our fun.
September 10, 2017 : At 9am EST Hurricane Irma made landfall on the Florida Keys with Category 4 winds. By the afternoon a storm surge of 10 foot waves hit the same area. Key West, Sugarloaf Key, Summerland Key, Ramrod Key, Little Torch Key, Big Pine Key and Marathon were flooded by the storm surge, and tornadoes were reported at Sugarloaf Key.
October 30, 2017 : Curt and I arrive in Florida to participate in a Road Scholar birdwatching trip on Key Largo and Key West. We had been assured that our accommodations were fine (we were moved from Marathon Key to Key Largo) and that the birds were back.
True, many of the birds were back but things had changed. I will talk about birds in another post, right now I just want you to see what it looks like seven weeks after a hurricane. And this is just what we could see from the main roads. No one ever hears very much about aftermath. It just seems like they got things cleaned up and life goes on and the golfing in Mar a Lago is fine, but it will be years before everyone is back to “normal.” I have read that people who had their homes destroyed when Hurricane Sandy went up the East Coast five years ago are still waiting for their insurance money from FEMA. (side note: regular hurricane insurance in Florida costs $12,000 a year, most can’t afford it)
So this is what we were told by residents of the Keys and this is a little of what we saw. Basically right now they are still trying to remove all of the debris. Residents are told to drag anything and everything out to the curb or the road edge. Natural stuff, like trees and bushes, should be in a separate pile from the drywall, appliances, carpeting, furniture, boats, clothing, mattresses, well…basically everything else. Some of these piles look like this. ( Forgive my photography. All were shot from the car as we were not allowed out and about in these areas.)Bulldozers come through and fill up huge semi trucks and they cart off the load to a site where it becomes a bigger pile.
Now this was just on the main roads. In our search for birds we went down a few ordinary residential streets. Every house has a pile outside their home. Piles of trees and vegetation are everywhere and we were told that it will be picked up last. Biggest problem, finding trucks and haulers because Houston is also cleaning up and a ton of truckers went there first. And for every pile waiting on the road there are many, many areas that haven’t been touched. From our car we saw lots of junk intermingled with downed trees or just stuff, someone’s stuff. The storm also brought in sand and we saw piles waiting to be ….. I’m not sure, put back into the ocean?
But all is not gloom and doom. Yes, there is a mess and it will be a lot of work for a long time. We saw a lot of roofers and a lot of tarps on roofs. We heard stories from people who have to rebuild from scratch but we also saw homes and businesses that were spared or have had a chance to clean up. We had a good time, good accommodations and good food.
And the birds were back.
“Great readers (are) those who know early that there is never going to be time to read all there is to read, but do their darnedest anyway.”
― Larry McMurtry,
Of the 14 books discussed this time, about a third of them were about slaves or orphans. Are there just a lot of books out there about slaves and orphans or is my book group into bondage and homelessness? Nah! Just a coincidence but I am always amazed how themes pop up in this group of very different people most of whom never see each other until we get together for book group. In the list I will mark these particular titles with an asterisk. Hey!! TOUCHDOWN! Oh don’t mind me, I am typing and watching the Green Bay Packers play the New Orleans Saints. Talk about multi-tasking…..:)
1. The Good People by Hannah Kent (2016) 384p.* This is a tale of the lore and superstitions of Ireland in the 1800s, a place and time where fairies are seen in a different light. The book opens with the death of Nora’s husband Martin. Because of her daughter’s death and her son-in-law not wanting him, Nora is now left to be the sole caretaker of her grandson, a four year old that can neither talk nor walk and screams constantly at night.
2. Fallout by Sarah Paretsky (2017) 448p. V.I. Warshawski #18 Private Eye Warshawski leaves Chicago to head to Kansas to find a missing actress and the documentarian hired to film her “origin story.” The two have gone missing and the clannish locals don’t want to discuss it.
3. Slaves in the Family by Edward Ball (1998) 505p.* The author, a descendant of South Carolina slave masters, sets out to trace the lineage of the slaves who lived on his ancestors’ plantations. Through amazing detective work, Ball is able to locate and re-tell the story of many of his family’s slaves, some of whom were the offspring of master-slave sexual relations, and therefore distant relatives.
4. Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi (2016) 305p.* Spanning centuries and continents, this novel follows two families, one from the slave trading Fante nation and another from the Asante warrior nation, in the British colony that is now Ghana. This novel has won the American Book Award for 2017, among other honors.
5. Before I Go to Sleep by S.J. Watson (2011) 359p. This thriller is about a woman who has amnesia and cannot remember her memories from day to day. Determined to discover who she is, she begins keeping a journal before she goes to sleep, before she can forget again. The truth may be more than she can handle.
6. Orphan Train by Christina Baker Kline (2013) 288p.* A novel based on an historical truth. “Between 1854 and 1929, more than 200,00 homeless, orphaned or abandoned children were sent to the Midwest: ostensibly for adoption but often more became indentured servitude, to people who wanted a worker rather than a child. ” – Goodreads
7. Like Family: Growing Up in Other People’s Houses by Paula McLain (2003) 240p.* From the author of the bestseller The Paris Wife, this book is a powerful and haunting memoir of the years she and her two sisters spent as foster children.
8. The House of Hawthorne by Erika Robuck (2015) 403p. This book of historical fiction focuses on the relationship and marriage between the author, Nathaniel Hawthorne, and his wife Sophia, who excelled at drawing and painting and was an artist in her own right. The book is told from Sophia’s point of view.
9. Lara: The Untold Love Story and the Inspiration for Doctor Zhivago by Anna Pasternak (2017) 310p. This is the true love story that was fictionalized and written into Dr. Zhivago. The author is the granddaughter of Boris Pasternak’s sister Josephine and had considerable access to a lot of family members and archives.
10. The Firebird by Susannah Kearsley (2013) 484p. Nicola Marter is able to touch an object and get glimpses of those who have owned it before. A woman arrives one day at the gallery where Nicola works. She has a small wooden carving of a bird and claims it is an artifact called The Firebird, owned by the 18th century Empress Catherine of Russia. Nicola believes her. But in order to prove this, Nicola must ask for help from a friend and former lover, Rob McMorran, whose psychic gift is even stronger.
11. Hillbilly Elegy; A Memoir of a Family and Culture in Crisis by J.D. Vance (2016) 264p. The author, a former Marine and Yale Law School Graduate, gives a poignant account of growing up in a poor Appalachian town. This book offers a broader look at the struggles of America’s white working class. (Touted as a book that explains the rise of Trump. Try to put your political leanings aside and read this with an open mind.)
12. The Bible by Inspired Authors (First printed by Johannes Gutenberg in the 1450’s) King James Version published in 1611. 1590p.* Sue, one of our members, said she didn’t have a book to report on this month because she is taking a 6 week course on The Bible, and that is all she’s been reading. I felt I should include it in our list, and it also has orphans and slaves.
13. The Store by James Patterson (2017) 259p. One of Patterson’s latest about a future of unparalleled convenience. A powerful retailer, The Store, can deliver anything to your door, anticipating the needs and desires you didn’t even know you had. Hmm, sounds a lot like Amazon.
14. The Memory Box by Eva Lesko Natiello (2014) 358p. A bunch of gossipy suburban moms get together and start googling other moms to gossip about. Caroline, a mother of two, decides to beat them to it and googles herself. What she finds out shocks her.
Wednesday, I said goodbye to my Little Free Library. ( To learn all about Little Free Libraries and see when mine first went out, read this earlier post ). It first went up in June of 2012 on a rural road in the Town of Scott in Wisconsin. Use at first was slow but then we would get the occasional person out for a walk or some kids on bikes. I put a sign at the road with an arrow so people were aware of its existence. Soon a car would stop and books weren’t just taken but dropped off as well. I kept track of what went out and tried to stock my library with a variety to please different tastes. But when you can only get a maximum of 30 books into your little box at one time that variety is slim. Still I would “circulate ” 40 – 50 books in a good year.
The trouble with being on a rural road in Wisconsin is the winter. Because of snowplows my Little Free Library went into storage from November through April, prime reading time for most people in the winter. This spring/summer has been the worst. Maybe 15 books went out and 3 or 4 were dropped off. I had to admit it was time to retire my precious LFL. Two years ago I had redesigned and repainted the library and Curt had come up with a new base idea so I was sure I would have no trouble finding a new steward. Using Facebook as my notice board I found a taker in a few minutes. But when that person discovered it would be difficult to put it on her property and had to decline, it only took about 5 more minutes before the 2nd hand went up. So this past Wednesday we took it down and loaded LFL #1776 into the SUV.
The new owner was only 5 minutes away and she had a friend who was handy.
On Thursday, the very next day, it was resurrected at its new home. We sent along good visual instructions so once the base was level it went up quickly. The neighbor children immediately came over to help put the books in.
The road it is on is called Bay Settlement and it is fairly busy with cars but also bikes and joggers, and scooters, so I expect it will be used and loved. If you live on that road, pay it a visit, I gave the new owner a box of books but she has a lot of her own so it should have a fairly lively collection. It is so close I’ll probably visit it too. Oh, and drop off a book once in awhile too.
Or what did you do all day? This was a question that we got a lot when we first retired. Usually when asked this I go blank. I know I didn’t just sit around (though that occurs), or take a nap (Curt does like to nap) or read ( yep, everyday), but what exactly did I do with the rest of the time? Well here goes, not a typical day but close.
I am not an early riser but I did want to go to the Farmer’s Market yesterday morning and Curt promised he wasn’t planning on being out the door at 7am. So we were up at 8 am and out the door by 8:20 am. We found a good parking space (yes, it is much more crowded when you get there a bit later) and hit the market. Four bags later we had mushrooms, zucchini, butternut squash, eggs, raddichio, peppers, cilantro, Spartan apples, carrots, eggplant, baby pattypan squashes, blueberry kringle (our breakfast) and apricots. Home by 9:30 where we made coffee and ate the kringle.
Once home I got the first of two loads of laundry in the washer. Curt started working on his chicken which was to be smoked. I got the miscellaneous dishes cleaned up and loaded the rest in the dishwasher. By now it is close to lunchtime. After lunch I got the last load into the dryer and went off to printmaking workshop over at the university. Last weekend we were part of a huge printing project ( 26 artists, each doing a 7″x7″ woodblock of a letter of the alphabet. These were put together into one huge print.) This week the print studio was open to anyone who wanted to do shorter individual prints using the same letters. I did three prints. You may notice I made a rookie mistake on one of the prints. Yes, the word DRIB was supposed to be BIRD. Whoops! Later I’m cutting the letters apart.
I had muffins planned for the zucchini I had bought in the morning so I got those mixed and into the oven. While they baked I folded and sorted the laundry.
The potatoes for our dinner were done and cooling. The chicken was done. So Curt worked on a batch of cherry tomatoes (blanched and skinned) to put in the smoker. These get frozen in small batches and are great additions to soup, stew or sauce.
The tomatoes and chicken got packed and put into the freezer. We had a great dinner of potato/smoked chicken salad and finished out the day cleaning up the kitchen which looked pretty trashed after all the cooking and smoking and baking. Time to collapse into those comfy front room chairs.
What’s on for today? I think some reading, napping, a little football (Go Pack!). Afterall, Sunday is the day of rest. Ha! Oh wait, I was going to do something with those apples.
“Harry — I think I’ve just understood something! I’ve got to go to the library!”
And she sprinted away, up the stairs.
“What does she understand?” said Harry distractedly, still looking around, trying to tell where the voice had come from.
“Loads more than I do,” said Ron, shaking his head.
“But why’s she got to go to the library?”
“Because that’s what Hermione does,” said Ron, shrugging.
“When in doubt, go to the library.”
― J.K. Rowling,
Over the last year we have been talking about moving our wonderful round table book group from the coffee shop where we meet every second Thursday to someplace that is quieter. Since its humble beginnings back in, hmm, I think 2004, when I was still a librarian, a fledgling group met to present the books they were reading in this unique place. Surrounded by books and coffee, tea and pastry, it was perfect. I blogged here about this beginning and its first transition in 2011. But then it grew and so did we. As The Attic grew, more and more people competed for tabes and more coffee was sold and thus the sound of the espresso machine grinding coffee was a constant reminder that we weren’t in our own private room. Our little group also grew. Where we once had 4 – 6 people on a good day, we now had 12 -14. We would crowd around the tables, (sometimes three tables pushed together) and try to hear our fellow book lovers discuss their latest read. Not everyone has a loud, projecting teacher voice and frankly some of us are not hearing as well as we did 10 years ago, so many were missing out on complete presentations. So we talked about other locations. Most eateries or coffee shops aren’t interested in a big noisy group who camp out for 2 hours, they want to turn tables. That is why The Attic and its owner, Bill Macier was special. I finally thought, why not go back to the library? The only reason we started here was because it began as an outreach program but I retired in 2010! We tried it last month. The room we chose was cold but the sound was great. We agreed to give it another go. So our September meeting is in a different room which we hope will be warmer. It does have softer chairs. Our biggest regret is the lack of coffee but I told our group, stop in The Attic and grab a cup before heading over to the meeting. It’s the least we can do for our host for all these years.
1. Mother Land by Paul Theroux (2017) 509p. A novel of a family held together and torn apart by its narcissistic matriarch who excels at playing her offspring against each other. Our reviewer liked the writing but found it overly long and repetitive.
2. Color of Lightning by Paulette Jiles (2009) 349p. “Eloquent, illuminating tale about frontier life in Northern Texas between 1864-1871. Based on a true story, this novel is also graphic and bloody in its descriptions of the capture and dispatching of frontiers’ people by Kiowa and Comanche.” -Goodreads
3. Cutthroat by Clive Cussler (2017) 393p. Isaac Bell series #10. The year is 1911. Chief Investigator Isaac Bell of the Van Dorn Detective Agency has been hired to find a young woman named Anna Pape who ran away from home to become an actress, Bell gets a shock when her murdered body turns up instead.
4. End of Watch by Stephen King (2016) 432p. Bill Hodges series #3. This is the 3rd book in the series. Our reviewer read it not realizing this fact. Our recommendation: Excellent series but start with Mr. Mercedes, followed by Finders Keepers.
5. Not a Sound by Heather Gudenkauf (2017) 320p. A contemporary thriller featuring a deaf protagonist. It will keep you turning the pages from the shocking opening to the twisty turning ending. It was a good summer read (or anytime of the year.)
6. Wanted Man by Lee Child (2012) 405p. Jack Reacher #17. Jack Reacher novels. They’re formulaic, completely predictable, and the action scenes are fun, in a big body count kind of way. Usually they are stand-alones but this one isn’t going to make too much sense unless you read the previous book, Worth Dying For. Odds are, if you are a Reacher fan you’ve read it, and even though this is a weak entry in the series, you won’t care.
7. Caesar by Colleen McCullough (1997) 752p. Masters of Rome #5. Excellent historical fiction. McCullough does her homework and her writing breathes life into Julius Caesar as he transforms from a master politician to a brutal military genius. This whole series has received excellent reviews and can be read out of order.
8. The Nest by Cynthis D’Aprix Sweeney ( 2016) 368p. The title of the book refers to a “nest egg” as we follow four adult siblings and the fate of the shared inheritance that has shaped their lives.
9. A Warrior of the People: How Susan La Flesche Overcame Racial and Gender Inequality to Become America’s First Indian Doctor by Joe Starita (2016) 320p. On March 14, 1889, Susan La Flesche received her medical degree—becoming the first Native American doctor in U.S. history. This is her story.
10. Then Came You by Jennifer Weiner (2010) 352p.Considered a light beach read, Weiner’s latest story is about four women whose lives become entwined by circumstance (one baby). The story unfolds as each chapter is devoted to the point of view of an individual character.
11. Second Sister by Marie Bostwick (2015) 352p. A powerful story of two sisters, one who is loving, caring, and a bit odd, the other, a workaholic who lives life in the fast lane and just wants to forget the past and focus on the future. An unexpected tragedy occurs with Alice (the eldest) that forces her younger sister (Lucy) to come back to her roots.
Well those are the last books of August. Will we say farewell to this special place or go back in October? I will report back after our next meeting.
Lately I have had so many ideas and experienced so many events that would make great posts I really was unsure where to start. But then today as we were hanging and rehanging some of the art in our home I saw and reread the poem we got at this year’s Artstreet, the annual art fair in Green Bay, Wisconsin.
Artstreet is a three-day festival of about 200 artists booths, multiple music stages and lots of food vendors. The visual artists include painters, sculptors, printmakers, jewelers, weavers, potters or they make things like wooden bowls, clothing, baskets and furniture. At least I thought they were all visual artists until this year when we rounded one corner and saw this:
(This picture I got from a friend because I didn’t have my wits about me at the time to take a picture.) Seated at the table, was a man, the poet, in a shirt and tie, and wearing a brown fedora on his head. In front of him was a little grey manual Smith Corona typewriter. On the sandwich blackboard it said:
•Typed while you wait
•Pay whatever you choose
Curt immediately say down and said he would like a poem about birds. The poet proceeded to ask him some questions like interests, what he bought at Artstreet, and other things to get a feel for the poem he was about to write on the spot. Curt told him we were birders and we had purchased a carved feather from one of the artists but he didn’t show the poet the piece we bought. As they continued to talk I wandered off because once the poet had the information he needed he had to spend a little time thinking and typing. I was back in about 10 minutes and the poet had a piece of paper in the typewriter and was slowing working away, considering his words and his punctuation. No whiteout here so mistakes really weren’t acceptable (on ours he did change “moves” to “move” so we have a tiny cross out). When he was done, he embossed it with a seal that said: Fox River Poetry Company, est. 2012, Berlin, WI. He numbered it (#617), signed it, dated it and then he read it to us.
Look closely and you can see
the air move
s. See the dip and
curl of feathers while they
press the air and put to rest
every rule of gravity and how
we live in it. They are the ones
that look down–
from tops of trees, from the
windswept thermals, from
perches that we can only
dream of. They speak a
language of morning.
It is their song that defines
their place in the world,
that small self-claimed spot,
but they all lay claim to the air,
that lofty space above us,
where we can only fly in
when we dream.
We were quite pleased,(although Curt expected something more haiku-ish), not just with the poem but with the experience. So today we hung the poem just below the carved feather. I think it works.
If you are interested in a poem of your own you can contact Paul Wiegel at his website, Fox River Poetry or look for him at an art fair or market near you.
We had this little event on Monday called The Great American Eclipse. When I first heard about it I wasn’t too excited because the path it was taking was either way West or South of where I live in the upper Midwest. But my son visited about a month ago and said, “Well you’ll get about 78% coverage.” That seemed more significant than I originally thought so I marked it on the calendar, noting the time of maximum coverage and waited for the day.
When August 21 arrived I still hadn’t decided how I going to do to view this celestial phenomenon. But as I started watching the coverage on TV and saw the first excited crowds in Idaho, I thought I should do some preparation, quickly. I hadn’t bought any glasses but I vaguely remembered something about making a viewer from a cereal box. I did recall as a kid there was an eclipse and we just poked a pin in a piece of paper but that seemed pretty minimal. So about a half an hour before the event would begin here I found a narrow box just a bit wider than a cereal box. Note: All my cereal boxes were full of cereal. I quickly googled instructions and slapped together a viewer. It worked.
Ultimately the large colander worked the best. OooH! Aaaah!
We then remembered someone saying that during an eclipse the dappled light coming through the leaves of trees would turn into crescents. Sure enough! The left side of these pictures of the side of our house and our deck are the normal views, the right side is during the eclipse.
So without much advance preparation we had one good time last Monday even if we couldn’t experience the awe of a total eclipse. Though after what I saw on TV it might be worth driving to a nearby location for the next one full one, only seven years away.
This Great American Eclipse report brought to you by: