Friday, January 28, 2011

I CAN Live on Bread Alone...

if it's THIS bread! OK, so I'm going through a bit of a farm girl phase here, and for the last couple of weeks have been lusting after home-baked bread. Or better, the IDEA of home-baked bread. Then, last week at my book club my friend told me she was getting in to baking her own bread, too. I was inspired. A couple of days later, I headed for my co-op and bought some whole wheat bread flour and made plans.
I could already smell that wonderful yeast-y smell emanating from my warm kitchen as I opened my laptop and pointed my browser to my most favorite farm girl, Ree Drummond, a.k.a. The Pioneer Woman. If you haven't been to her site, you must go. But be prepared to lose the rest of your day, because you can't just go to her site for 10 minutes and leave. But that's a whole other story. I was talking about bread... so I went to her site, clicked over to the Cooking section and headed straight for the Breads. What I found was heaven on a LCD monitor: "The Bread, In His Words". Oh, lovely, lovely, loveliness! But I didn't just drool on the screen-- I actually went so far as to print the recipe! AND make it!!
Oh, how I wish I had a great camera like Ree! But I don't, so you will have to forgive my substandard photos. I try. This is a before-the-bake shot. I used 3 cups of the whole wheat bread flour and 1 cup white all-purpose, so it did not get a dough-y as Ree's. I did not get the "window pane" (read the recipe; you'll see what I mean), but I figured that much whole wheat flour just isn't going to act like white. That's OK by me. So here it is, scored and ready for the oven. I do not have a Dutch Oven, so I put the ball on a baking sheet in a 450 degree oven for 10 minutes, then reduced to 375 for another 40 minutes. This was per Ryan's comments, since a lot of readers were in the same boat as me. I also put a bowl of water in the oven in an attempt to create steam. I don't know if that really worked or not; I later read that I should have used a pre-heated metal pan for the water. Next time.
So, after 50 minutes, it came out like this:
It bloomed! I let it rest a few minutes-- and congratulated myself on my saint-like patience-- and then cut in:
Ooooh baby! It was worth the wait!! Yum. Yum. I say, yum.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Cheap Thrills

I have always wanted to do a blog post on this; actually, given enough ideas, I would love to do a whole blog on this: cheap thrills! Especially in "these economic times" (don't you just love that, as if there could ever be anything but THESE economic times), but even in more prosperous times, I have always been on the lookout for little indulgences. They can be anything from a great piece of chocolate to a fabulous pair of shoes for $20. But whatever they are, they don't break the bank, they're fun, and they make you feel faaaabulous!

I have a few I'll share now and who knows, maybe this will turn into a regular thing.... Being a highly spontaneous person (Aquarius on the cusp of Pisces, that's me) not given over to planning, you just never know.

So, one of my favorite, favorite indulgences is actually FREE! Yes, I said FREE! And it's in a place you would never expect to get anything great for free: Starbucks! I'm a girl who still does love her $4 lattes, even though every time I buy one I think to myself that next time I will- I WILL- just get the dark roast. But I digress. So, Starbucks can be blamed for a lot of expensive addictions, but one thing that you can get there for free- FREE- is great music. I'm not talking about the CD's that they tantalizingly put right there at the cash register that you just can't help but pick up to look at the playlist, put back down, pick back up, and guiltily slide across the countertop. "Yes, I'll take this, too. Thank you. I have no willpower." No, I'm talking about the little cards that I know no one takes because there is always a ton of them sitting there, that are coupons for free songs! Grab that little credit card-sized bit of wonderfulness, stuff it in your pocket, and when you get home, go to the iTunes store and click on "Redeem". Enter your code and voila, you have just discovered what could be your next favorite band. Or not. Doesn't matter because it was FREE. Now, if the card ended up costing you $25 because you bought a latte, a mug and one of those cute little bears, don't look at me. Apparently you also have no willpower.

My next cheap thrill is so incredibly girl-y that I'm almost embarrassed. Almost. But not quite, because it's really the artist in me that loves this stuff: nail polish. I really, really do love it, tolulene and all! The husband of a friend of mine once asked me what it is about nail polish that is so appealing (he so didn't get it, so I tried to enlighten him). I told him that it's because I adore color so much, that any chance to put it on my body is welcome. That shut him up. (The exception is tattoos, the explanation for which I just don't have time to go into right now, but suffice to say it has nothing to do with propriety. I just have a hard time committing to anything. Except my hub.) But nail polish is wonderful; it comes in absolutely any color you can imagine, it totally transforms the look of any outfit (glam? goth? innocent? vamp? it all can be communicated in the nail polish!), and it's CHEAP! What's not to love?! Personally, my favorites are OPI and moreso, China Glaze. China Glaze makes the most amazing, brilliant colors that will just knock your socks off. It can be hard to find, but Sally Beauty Supply always has it. It's just totally yummy. Right now I'm wearing "Mediterranean Charm". It's my little weapon in the battle against these godforsaken Minnesota winters.

That's all for this week's edition of Cheap Thrills! Tune in next time when we talk about...well, since I'm not a planner then your guess is as good as mine! ; )

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Down the Drain

Are you ready? It's time to be an activist! Don't worry, no picketing or getting arrested involved! In fact, it will make you feel great! It's about reducing the massive piles of discarded plastic water bottles that litter our planet, fattening your wallet and getting healthier all at the same time!

Check this out: one of my favorite groups, the Environmental Working Group, has done a study and found that bottled water consumption has more than quadrupled in the last 20 years. This seems like it should be a good thing, right? Of course, drinking water every day instead of soda is great for your health, but tossing those plastic water bottles in the trash is the problem, and a study by the EWG has found that many bottled water companies won't disclose what's in their water! That's a bit frightening if you ask me. Not to mention the fact the creating all those plastic bottles consumes energy and contributes to greenhouse gasses. AND the fact that bottled water can cost 1900 times MORE than tap water!!!! Yikes!!

A better solution? Install a water filter on your kitchen faucet and fill a reusable water bottle like a SIGG bottle. I have an ancient kitchen, so I haven't been able to install a filter, so instead we fill and re-fill gallon jugs at the local co-op's water station. We make about a trip a week and fill 8 gallons of water. It's easy and it's cheap. If you decide to do that, just make sure you're refilling your jugs at a good store where you can see the water quality report from the company that's maintaining the water station.

For more about your drinking water , click here to see the report, and pledge to reduce your plastic water bottle use!

To order a SIGG bottle, try the web site backcountry.com. I've ordered from them and they're very friendly, and quickly replaced a bottle that arrived with a small dent in it. I'm on my second SIGG in about 3 years, only because I use it every day and it's pretty much attached to my hip. I heart my SIGG bottle!!

See, being an activist isn't so bad! And now you have an excuse to go out and buy a cute, new water bottle! It will pay for itself in just a few refills, and you can feel good that your cash-- and the planet-- is no longer going down the drain!

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

I'm Obsessed!

I don't know what has come over me, but I am suddenly obsessed with a certain color. It's what I call Peacock Blue. It's that teal-y, green-y, blue-y color that is in peacock tail feathers, and I am completely in love with it. I probably sound insane to most of you, but you artists out there know what I'm talking about! So, I had to have, possess, own this color NOW! I had a vision to update my living room--which already has lots of warm tones of yellow, red, and orange--and adding that blue as a counter-balance seemed the perfect solution.
I was on the hunt. I headed for the fabric store, with no luck. Everything looked too blue or too green. Nothing in the beautiful hue I was obsessed with. Next stop, Pier 1. They have lots of tropical colors there, and I hoped that they might have just what I was looking for. I walked in the front door and low and behold, there it was: the pillow! What I call my Big Lebowski pillow (it ties the room together):
See that blue-green color around the edges? THAT'S the color! Peacock Blue! Yahoo! So, I grabbed the pillow and kept looking. I found a lantern and some yellow grassy-looking things and left with a twinkle in my eye! I needed just one more piece (for now) to really make the room sing, and I knew just the place-- Homegoods! If you have not experienced the awe and wonder that is Homegoods, I am sorry for you. If it's because you don't have one in your town, I am doubly sorry for you. If it's because you just never got around to it, shame on you! Go now! No, finish reading, then GO!
Because when you see what I got there for $14.99, you are going to cry--and I got the only one! Here it is:

Isn't that the most beautiful Buddha head you have ever seen??! Of course it is! It has that crackly finish, the multiple layers of glaze, even some wear...it looks like it's about 500 years old! Yes, I am in love with my Buddha head!
You can also see the lantern next to it from Pier 1, and a strand of Tibetan flags that I got in the mail long ago (free!). All together, the mantel looks like this:
I love it, I lurv it, and the bright lightness of it is helping me to forget about the dark, cold days outside. Well, that and a hefty glass of wine! ; )