Sing Thursday, Mar 5 2009 

Mister sings.

Growing up, he spent years in formal training and being in choirs. He doesn’t do anything too formal with it anymore, but he still sings. He sings in the car. He sings in the kitchen when we wash dishes together. Little snatches of lyrics from songs passing through his head, things he heard on the radio, songs he loves, words that go with the moments we pass through.

He’s got this voice. A voice that seems bigger than himself, you initially don’t expect it to be coming from him. It is low and just a little gravelly, with a certain dark strength that crashes over you. Sometimes it gives me chills.

I have been known to sing a lot. But something about his being trained, his nonchalant talent, makes me nervous singing with or around him. He has commented on the fact that it’s not fair that he knows I belt when I’m driving, that I sing in the shower, but that I get nervous and clam up when he’s there to hear it.

There’s just something about knowing that he has got perfect pitch on his side, and that he knows when you’re making the mistakes that gets me. Nerves don’t tend to make me so hesitant and I know he will not be mean or judgmental but there still is that part of me that holds it back.

Yesterday, the moment was right. I had just arrived at his house, he had stepped out of the shower perhaps a minute or two before. His hair was still wet, he hadn’t made it into a shirt yet, and you could still smell traces of his soap on him. He hugged me, and it just kind of started.

I sang.

***Note: This post is from an old blog of mine that I have since removed. It was a first try at this blogging business that I felt didn’t have enough of a direction for me to continue it. I’m back, this is the new try, but there might be a post or two popping up here from there in the next little while, as finals are looming and time is scarce.***

Sleep Don’t Weep Thursday, Feb 5 2009 

I was doing really well this week.

I slept three nights. In a row. And not just my regular slept a little bit, things went to hell, spent the rest of the night trying to stay calm and awake pattern; actual fell asleep when Mister did and stayed asleep until his alarm went off in the morning, other than the occasional waking to turn over or cuddle in.

This hasn’t happened in a long time.

And small, silly parts of me were so happy. I thought that maybe all of this sleeping craziness was over. That maybe I was better, everything was better. That I could stop feeling so terrible for wrecking his sleep too, for scaring him too. That maybe we could just sleep like normal people now.

But no.

I came to to his voice, him trying to get me back, reel me in. And I was just so… disappointed, let down, heartbroken. It’s still happening and he’s still being dragged through it too.

He says that I need to stop being hard on myself. That I need to remember that so many facets of it have gotten much better. That maybe this was a sign of it coming to an end soon. That he’ll keep keeping me safe no matter what, sleepless or sleeping.

And he is so amazing. Sat up with me, missing his much needed sleep to kiss me better and hold me. Hummed to me because he didn’t want to be too loud. Enveloped me in strong arms and convinced me, though scared, to try again.

My Mister, I love you.

Sleep, don’t weep, my sweet love
My face it’s all wet ’cause my day was rough
So do what you must do to find yourself
Wear another shoe, or paint the shelf
Those times that I was broke, and you stood strong
I think I found a place where I feel I belong

-Damien Rice

Night Sewing Tuesday, Jan 27 2009 

I couldn’t sleep last night, the Mister is away and University is busy and my brain was just going too fast for me to try to concentrate on studying or even feebly attempt sleeping. So, I went to the sewing room and finished the top of the purple quilt.

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The border fabric is cut, but I had to leave for school, so I didn’t get it attached yet.

I really like how it turned out, the aqua and blue really makes it shine, almost iridescent.

So, some progress on the project, but now I need to catch up on my human population biology.

See you guys Thursday, cheers!

The State of the Art Tuesday, Jan 20 2009 

I seem to have run into the issue, once again, of having started projects and not finding them finished.  I got the most important project done just in time for Christmas, my first sewing project: a quilt for my mom!

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Talk about jumping into things head first!  I went from being able to attach buttons (literally never having sewed before), to making a quilt that covers a queen sized bed. It was really fun picking out color schemes and textures, and taking a pile of pieces of fabric, cutting them all up, and putting them together to make something beautiful.

The Mister’s mom taught me how.

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Now I’m working on a quilt for friend I went to high school with. Her favorite color is purple. It is going to be a very purple quilt. I’m excited to see how it goes, because this quilt is a lot more complicated (the first one was a very easy one), but it’s coming together slowly.

Maybe next I’ll make something I can wear, like a dress.  I could probably get a dress done a lot faster than a blanket. Classes are getting to a heavier point though, so I don’t know when I’ll get all of these things done.

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Last, there is this long-lingering project I’ve been working on but not quite finishing. I’ve got all of the squares crocheted, but it’s the putting them together that I just can’t seem to get done.

I guess I’ll update as things progress. Luckily, not sleeping gives me time to study more and get these projects done!

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And Then Comes the Bread Thursday, Jan 15 2009 

… Just in time for The Strong and Noble, Wonderfully Handsome Mister to have taken my camera with him on a short exercise. A friend is going to be around tomorrow, and has promised to lend me the use of his camera, so I’ll be adding in a picture or two of the lovely loaf I baked today.

Baking sourdough bread is much like baking any other kind of bread, the same kneading, proofing, punching down, reproofing process is used, but the proofing process just takes longer.

A trick or two that I use: whether you’re using milk or water (I prefer the milk) warm it up as it will help to speed the proofing process, same for the starter you’ll be using but be very careful not to over heat it. When you place your loaves in the oven, have a pan with some hot water in it on the lower rack, the steam it will release will help your bread to have a better crust.

If your bread comes out crustier than you’d like it to, leave it alone and try it out again the next day. It does soften considerably. There is nothing like bread fresh out of the oven, but if the crust comes out too hard, one day out of the oven can’t hurt.

Sourdough Bread

2 ½ C sourdough starter
1 ½ C milk or water
2 Tbsp sugar
2 Tbsp butter, melted
2 tsp salt
3-4 C flour (I used one cup whole wheat flour to replace one cup that would otherwise have been all purpose.)

In a bowl, mix your starter with your milk/water, the sugar butter and salt. Mix in flour slowly until a sticky dough forms. I did it by hand, but I’m sure a mixer with a dough hook wouldn’t hurt.

Turn the dough out onto the counter or a cutting board and knead in the flour until no more will go into it. It really depends on the humidity how much flour the dough will take, but when you hit that point where the dough doesn’t seem to be taking it up any more, stop! Clear away the remaining flour and knead a little more, you need the gluten to develop.

Put your ball of dough in a bowl with a little oil so that it doesn’t stick. Cover with a cloth and let it proof until the bulk is doubled. This can be a long process, especially if your water/milk was cold. Expect it to take a couple of hours. Don’t be impatient, a watched sourdough will seem to take longer to proof.

Punch down your proofed dough ball and let it rise again. The second proofing shouldn’t take as long as the first proofing. Punch down for the last time, and shape into two smallish loaves or one large one. If you go for the large one, make it skinnier than you think it should be, or else when you cut it the slices of bread will be humongous (but maybe you like your bread that way).

Let your loaves rise about half way, about 30-45 minutes, and then put it in a 375 degree oven to bake. You know it’s done when you give it a knock and it sounds hollow, it should take a ballpark of 45 minutes though.

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Some fun ideas: finely dice an onion and mix it in with your batter, or maybe a cup or so of grated sharp cheddar or another favorite cheese. You can art up your bread however you want, but both of the aforementioned are tested tasty additions.

What is a Cockle Anyway?: Beef Stew for Wintery Days Tuesday, Jan 13 2009 

It has been devilishly cold out as of late, and though I complain of it making the daily trip to campus more troublesome,  The Strong and Noble Wonderfully Handsome Mister has been feeling the cold a lot more than myself in his work. On a normal day he’ll return home with his motor oiled hands and gritty uniform tired but happy, but these last few days have shown returns of just tired and cold.

After he got off his boots he made his way to the sink, as always to wash away what didn’t come off during the preliminary scrub at the shop. It’s what he does after work, he grabs his scrubby brush and gets meticulous about dirt that would otherwise get ingrained if he left it. But yesterday, and today as well, the scrubby brush had to wait a few moment as the warm mater washed the pins and needles away.

Cold weather like this calls for stick-to-the-ribs, warm your cockles food, and for The Strong and Noble Wonderfully Handsome Mister, a self professed meat and potatoes guy, I made some beef stew.  The great thing about stew is that it is one of those understanding, flexible recipes. Things will not go awry if you use a little less celery or a little more potato.  And its better the next day, that is if a cold TSANWHM doesn’t eat it all! Hopefully this pot of tasty warm goodness lasts until the weekend, when it is supposed to warm a little!

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Beef Stew

2 Tbsp olive oil

1.5 lbs stewing beef, cubed

1 large onion, chopped

4-5 stalks celery, chopped

4-5 carrots, chopped

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 1/2 tsp rosemary

1 1/2 tsp thyme

salt and pepper

1 C Red Wine

2-3 C Beef stock

2-3 Tbsp tomato paste

4 potatoes, cubed

Heat the oil in your pot and brown the beef on medium high in batches, so as to not crowd the pot. You’re not looking to cook it through, that’s what the stewing process is for, this is just to heighten flavor. Remove the beef from the pot and keep on a plate for the time being.

Add your carrots, onion and celery, sauteing until sweated and perhaps picking up a little bit of color. Add the garlic, rosemary, thyme and salt and pepper, stirring until aromatic.

Deglaze with the red wine (I used the end of a Cab Sauv that was round about, but you can use whatever you like or have on hand), add the beef back into the pan and then add your stock until the beef is just covered, not swimming in it. Add the tomato paste and mix until it is mostly dissolved (it will dissolve the rest of the way while everything is stewing.

Bring everything just to a boil and add in the cubed potatoes. Reduce heat to low and let the stew, well… stew, for a couple of hours until you (or your chilly companion) are ready to eat.

If too much evaporation occurs during the stewing process, add more liquid; but remember, this is stew, not soup and so should be hearty and thick. Don’t water it down too much!

*PS: Cockles, being warmed, refers to the heart being warmed. Presumably (I should hope) because somebody made a chilly you some stew!

Watching for Bubbles: Sourdough Starter Days Two and Three Thursday, Jan 8 2009 

It looks like everything is working out properly! How can I tell? Bubbles.

If your wild yeasts are working, and fermenting away, you’ll see little bubbles on the surface of your starter. Mine looks like this:

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If you’ve got a starter, well… started and it hasn’t got bubbles yet, give it some more time, sometimes it takes longer to get going.

Soon, the characteristic smell of sourdough should get stronger. Right now, if you take a sniff of mine, it  smells like wet flour. The presence of the bubbles show that the wild yeast culture is becoming active, and as soon as the lactic acid starts to build up the sour tang should become apparent.

The process: on both day two and three, you want to add more flour and water, again in equal amounts.  Stir the starter smooth after the additions and then just cover (don’t seal) and let those bacterial cultures get happy your jar.

Phase one is complete! Now, for the next days here is what you need to do:

  • day-3Day Four (That’s Tomorrow): Just give your starter a good mixing until it is smooth. If you’ve got it in a jar, you can actually just give it a good agitative shaking and save yourself a spoon to wash (but really, is one spoon that much to wash?).
  • Day Five: Another day with just stirring. There is a lot of flour and water in there right now, the yeasts won’t dry out or starve.
  • Day Six: Feed your starter about 1/2 C flour and an equal amount of water. Stir smooth.
  • Days Seven, Eight and Nine: Repeat steps for Four, Five and Six.

On Day Ten, if all goes well, it will be time to bake some bread! Next Thursday is the date we get to see the fruition of all of this stirring labor.

I hope everyone is doing well in blog land.

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