Sunday, March 27, 2016

Sunday Snapshot for Easter

Spring in the Rockies. Isn't it lovely and green? HAHAHA

Currently Reading:

Waiting Game by Sheri Cobb South: Just get together already you two! Sheesh!

The Art Forger by BA Shapiro: Only about a half hour into the audiobook so far.


My day in the life for 2016, and a Weekend Cooking post on making bread with starter instead of commercial yeast.

oprah likes bread
Oprah really likes her bread.

Movies watched:

Just a couple of rewatches this week.

my big fat greek wedding
My Big Fat Greek Wedding, starring Nia Vardalos and John Corbett

A little dated (e.g., there are these new things called computers that might help our business!), but still hilarious. Corbett's character is like the most understanding man in the history of the world.

10 commandments movie poster
The Ten Commandments, starring Charlton Heston and Yul Brynner

It's been a while since I watched this. Kind of a weird movie, yeah? It's so stylized. In nearly every scene, the actors stop and pose as if they're modeling for a series of Old Testament illustrations. Bad ones. From the Baroque period. Definitely a film from another time, and that time does not feel like the 1950s.

This week in heidenkindom:

A pretty busy week. Not only was I making bread, but a ton of writing assignments came in with short deadlines and I also decided I needed to do a bunch of stuff I've been putting off, like shop around for new auto insurance and check my credit report. Real fun. Still haven't made that eye doctor appointment, though!


I think this post by Andi of Estella's Revenge on "whole assing" the important stuff is worth reading and considering. I probably half-ass more stuff than I should. One thing I definitely don't half-ass is food, but I'm not sure what this provides me in terms of monetary or emotional compensation.

Have a great week, everyone!

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Saturday, March 26, 2016

Weekend Cooking: Making Bread from Starter

bread made from starter instead of yeast

One of the things I learned from the Netflix series Cooked is that bread was not originally made with little packets of dried up yeast you buy in a grocery store and mix with warm water. I know, DUH. I may have wondered what people did before yeast packets, but I didn't wonder hard enough to look it up.

Anyway, before handy dandy little yeast packets, people made bread with starter–basically water and flower allowed to sit until yeast and bacteria started to grow. A little of the starter was then used to leaven, or puff up, the bread.

Why is this important? Because starter leavens bread more slowly than commercial yeast, giving the glutens in bread time to ferment and break down. Some think that the reason so many people have problems with gluten now is because commercial yeast doesn't break it down enough to be easily digestible.

Before watching Cooked, I had been thinking about getting back into the bread baking game, for the simple reason that the closest place to buy decent bread around here is an hour's drive away. However, I wasn't sure I could call my previous adventures in bread baking "decent." While they were mostly edible, the loaves of bread I made were invariably salty and dense, with a clump of dough in the middle that was honestly fairly unappetizing. Add to that the fact that I'd have to: 1. go to the grocery store and buy yeast; and 2. dig my pizza stone out of storage, and surprise surprise I never got around to baking bread.

BUT. Making bread from starter doesn't require buying yeast, or any other special ingredients. And it's healthier for you! So I decided to try making completely all-natural bread with starter.

oprah bread

I bought sourdough culture from Cultures for Health via Amazon (about $13 for one packet–a bargain when you consider that, if you take care of your starter, you'll never have to buy another culture again), but you can skip this step and just use flour and water.

The Cultures for Health starter came with directions for both activating the starter and baking sourdough, but they were a little confusing, so I was not feeling confident when it came time to bake my bread. I eventually decided to go with this recipe from The Kitchn, because it said I could just use a colander and not have to buy a proofing basket.

The Kitchn's recipe is much more complicated than the one from Cultures for Health. It's not difficult in terms of technicality or physicality, but it is time consuming. I basically felt like I was babysitting this bread dough for two days. If you do decide to go with this recipe, make sure you have two whole days blocked off for it, because you will need it.

all this for a loaf of bread

That said, as a reward I got the best loaf of bread I had ever baked in my life! It tasted like something a legit professional baker had made. The crust was crispy as all get out, the dough was super holey and spongy, but not too wet (although maybe a little wetter than it should have been–I erred on the side of damp dough since I live at high altitudes), and the flavor was superb.

So, the tl;dr version:

Pluses of making bread with starter

  • Healthier
  • Cheaper
  • More delicious
  • No kneading–With starter bread, kneading isn't necessary because so much gluten is built up through the starter. All you have to do is stretch out the dough a half dozen times and you're more or less done.
  • I want to say it's more fun?

Minuses of making bread with starter

  • TONS of time and attention.
  • Messiness–At one point my dad said to me, "That's a *EXPLETIVE* *EXPLETIVE* mess," and he wasn't wrong, friends. Starter has the consistency of wallpaper paste, so just imagine it getting... well, anywhere. Now imagine it exploding out of its container and running all over the counter.
  • If you're not already a well-equipped baker, you might have to buy some stuff like glass jars big enough to hold your starter, big bowls, a measuring scale, and a Dutch oven-type pot.

At the end of this process/experiment, do I think making bread this way is worth it? YES! However, given the energy required, it's not for everyone. I have the luxury of working from home most days, so it's not that hard for me to pop into the kitchen every thirty minutes to stretch dough. Even given that I probably won't bake bread any more frequently than once a week.

People who bake bread at home do it more as a hobby, out of a love for baking, than for economical reasons. If you're one of those people, I would definitely recommend looking into getting your own starter. There's certainly a learning curve, but it will improve your bread baking game by 1000%.

weekend cooking button

Weekend Cooking is a weekly meme hosted by Beth Fish Reads. To learn more and find links to other recipes and foodie posts, click here.

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Wednesday, March 23, 2016

A Day in the Life of a Beginner Bread Baker

a day in the life button

Trish from Love, Laughter, and a Touch of Insanity is hosting A Day in the Life once again! This is basically where you take one day in your life and share it with the world. To find out more, check out Trish's post here. You can also read my Day in the Life from 2015 here.

I decided to record yesterday, March 22nd. Mainly because it would be difficult to write about today since it isn't over yet.

9:30am-ish–Wake up. Check Accuweather, Twitter, Facebook, and email. Email contains a stressful response from a client and I resolve to never check email before coffee again.

9:45-10:15–Drink a liter of lemon water while reading in bed.

10:15–Get up. The dogs are very happy to see me! CUDDLES ALL AROUND YOU GUYS.


10:30-11–Brush my teeth, put in my contacts, moisturize, etc. etc.

11-11:30–Eat yogurt and drink coffee while watching America's Test Kitchen. Check to see what's on TV tonight... not much.

11:30–Pad back into the kitchen to check on my bread dough, which is rising in the fridge overnight. Someone has stacked other food on top of my bread!!! How can you have bread rising if there's stuff on top of it?!? I draw a grumpy cat on a sticky note to express my feels, but it winds up looking more like a dashing cat with a top hat. Oh well.

11:45–Check email, renew library books.

12:30–Goof around playing with the dogs some more. Mix up some apple cider vinegar rinse for my hair.

1pm–Shower time! Yesterday I got a new showerhead in the mail and this is the first time I get to try it out. It looks like this:


I did not like the previous showerhead because reasons. I am, admittedly, very picky about my showers. But I am very pleased with the water pressure in the new one. A++

1:15–More moisturizing (I live in a dry climate, people). Get dressed while listening to And Then There Were None on audiobook.

1:20-2pm–Pretty sure I did something in this time frame, but IDK what. I might have been trying to keep my mom from murdering the wireless printer.

2pm-ish–It's time for the bread to go in the oven! I set it to preheat and put a big pot in there (I'm following this recipe from The Kitchn).

Oh! I remember what I was doing before the bread now: looking up restaurants in Los Angeles to go to for my birthday. There are so many choices. Right now I have it narrowed down to three: SAAM in The Bazaar, The Little Door, and possibly The Stinking Rose.

2:15–Anyway, while I was in the shower, the gun shop owner texted me to let me know we got a website order I need to process. I get on the store's laptop to work on that and check the store's Facebook page, etc.

2:30-ish–My mom does not think the pot I picked out is appropriate for the oven. Have I mentioned that it took me literally two whole days to get to the point where the bread is ready to bake, not counting the week and a half I spent creating a starter? I do not want to be foiled in my quest this close to the finish line.

Fortunately, my mom's able to find a metal roasting pot (I don't know what these things are called; it's not a Dutch oven) from another century at the very very very back of the cabinet. Day: saved. I put it in the oven to warm up.

3:30ish–Done with the gun store work, so I switch gears and computers and get to work on the final draft of a blog post for Quirk Books while jumping up occasionally to check on the bread.

Another thing I bought this week, after YEARS of spiraling into rages trying to use Pages, is Microsoft Word. I don't love MS Word, but, to quote IAM JSON from Dear Author:

(AM I REALLY SAYING THIS???) it could be worse.

He's right, it could be Pages.

This is the first day I've had a chance to use Word, and I already feel like it's made my job 80% easier. Best $100 I've ever spent.

4:45–Submit post. Writing is the easy part; it's gathering together the pictures and citing everything that takes up the most time.

While I'm busy doing that, I forget to check the bread. OOooopsie. Run to the kitchen, where a slightly singed scent is wafting from the oven. Fortunately the bread is just a tad blackened and not burned. I take it out of the pot and set it to cool on a wire rack.


cookie monster waiting gif

4:50–Too hungry. Cut off slice of bread.

homemade sourdough bread

4:55–This is the greatest loaf of bread I've ever baked in my life! The crust is crackly, the inside is spongy and flavorful... Totally worth all the effort.

5pm–Back to work on artist profiles.

5:30pm–Realize I forgot to make an eye doctor appointment for the 57th day in a row.

6:30–Basically have all my work for the day finished. Toodle around on Facebook while looking up gifs.

7pm–Turn the computer off, grab my iPad and Kindle, and move out to the kitchen to mix a cocktail before settling on the couch.

7:30–Dinner! I use the bread to sop up the sauce from the chicken piccata, and it is delicious. Even my dad says all the work was worth it.

8-8:30–Do the dishes and mix another cocktail. Settle down with my iPad to peruse da blahgs.

9pm–Watch The Voice. Adam is so hot Tori Kelly can't stop flirting with him, not that I blame her.

9:45–Look up Sean Combs on Wikipedia. He dated Jennifer Lopez?!

10pm–Take out my contacts, get into PJs and do my nightly yoga while listening to more of And Then There Were None.

10:45pm–Tom Hiddleston on Kimmel. Hiddles McGriddles!

tom hiddleston boom pregnant
Ha! An oldie but a goodie.

11pm on–Not sure what we watched during this time. Maybe Full Frontal and The Daily Show?

1am–Bed time! I brush my teeth and give the dogs a cookie before going into my room and settling on my chaise lounge to read until I fall asleep.

This was a pretty unusual day in that I was so busy with bread baking, but otherwise it's pretty typical. I usually work somewhere between 11:30/12 until 7. I also just realized I skipped lunch! Yikes.

Thanks for hosting again, Trish. I can't wait to see what other people's days looked like.

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Sunday, March 20, 2016

Sunday Snapshot for the first day of Spring!

Spring is here! Thank god. Now that the days are longer I feel like I'm finally accomplishing things (even if I'm not).

Currently reading:
And Then There Were None by Agatha Christie: Decided to go with this as my next audiobook since it was on Hoopla. Narrated by Dan Stevens!

Hacker, Hoaxer, Whistleblower, Spy: The Many Faces of Anonymous by Gabriella Coleman: I'm always fascinated by Anonymous and this seems to be the book to get on them.

I also finished Blue Lily, Lily Blue before I got out of bed this morning. The ending was kind of anticlimactic.

Movies watched:

the staircase
The Staircase, directed by Jean-Xavier de Lestrade

A true crime documentary that follows the trial of novelist Michael Peterson, who allegedly beat his wife at the foot of some stairs. Or pushed her down them?? The prosecution wasn't exactly clear on that, or much else. This movie made me very glad I don't live anywhere near Durham, North Carolina.

This week in heidenkindom: Au naturelle

These past few weeks I've been on an all-natural, holistic kick. It all started when I was watching Cooked. One of the things I learned from watching the series was that commercial yeast doesn't make the same loaf of bread as one made with naturally occurring yeast cultures. Commercial yeast is created to made the bread rise at an accelerated rate, which means the glutens don't break down through fermentation as they would with the slower-rising starter. Point is, I decided I was going to make bread with all-natural starter. I've spent more than a week feeding my starter and I think it's finally ready to bake bread. I haven't made the actual bread yet, mind (this is a long process), but my starter is bubbly and gluteny and exploded out of the glass jar I had it in last night, which aside from the cleanup made me happy.

I also fell down a rabbit hole of natural hair products. While I LOVED the purple dye, it really messed up my hair, and my usual shampoo and conditioner wasn't helping at all. So I took myself to the internet and discovered a whole group of people who refuse to use shampoo at all and only treat their hair with common pantry items (honey, vinegar, etc.). They call themselves the No-Poo Movement. Seriously. You can't make this shit up.

I decided to try this recipe for DIY honey shampoo, along with an apple cider vinegar rinse to condition. Both honey and ACV have enzymes that help with dandruff, skin conditions like eczema, and so forth (IF you use them in their raw, unpasteurized form, that is–nothing is easy). The honey shampoo was too much of a pain to use everyday, but it didn't make my hair sticky, and I think it did really help repair it. As for the apple cider vinegar rinse... TOTAL CONVERT. It works just as well, if not better, than conditioner, and is easier to rinse out (a big plus for me, since my hair is thick and washing it is a chore).

So, that's what I've been up to the last week. That and trying to keep the #BBIMarch flame alive. Hopefully next week will be more productive on the writing front.

Have a great week!

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Sunday, March 6, 2016

Sunday Snapshot for Springtime!

Currently reading:

The Dream Thieves by Maggie Stiefvater: Enjoying this one a lot more than the first in the series.

I also finished The 12 Bottle Bar last night, which was okay. I plan to try out some of the recipes and gins they suggested.

Movies watched:

cooked michael pollan
Cooked, with Michael Pollan

I learned a lot watching this four-part food documentary, like the fact that in the US cheeses are usually made with "throwaway" milk not considered fit for drinking, which explains practically everything about Sargento. My two main problems with this show are niggling: one, I thought the "elements" theme of earth, fire, etc., was pretty weak, especially as the show went on. And two, Pollan's view of pre-industrialized cooking occasionally reminded me of Marie Antoinette's view of being a shepherdess. I also thought In Defense of Food made most of the same points more succinctly and was overall the better documentary, but if you enjoyed In Defense of Food (and I did) this is a really good companion piece.

This week in heidenkindom: Is Tasha having a midlife crisis?

I'm beginning to wonder. First there was the whole I-need-a-moped obsession. Then, this weekend, I decided to dye my hair purple. I love it! I feel like a superhero now.

Maybe it's just spring or something. But emotional hairstyling is generally not a good sign.


This is SUPER cool. Loving Vincent is going to be the first-ever animated feature film to be painted entirely by hand. Not only does it look absolutely gorgeous, it's about the life of Vincent van Gogh, and from what I can see I think it's going to be a fantastic portrayal. Cannot. Wait.

Have a great week, everyone!

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