Hobbies

Sourdough Bread!

May 22, 2020

I have always loved sourdough bread. And while I’m a decent baker, making my own sourdough was never within reach. Sourdough differs from regular bread because it doesn’t use conventional yeast. Instead, you grow your own yeast within your own bread starter. Water + flour + warmth = a yeasty concoction that helps (your bread) hang on. You dump a little flour/water in there to feed it and boom…starter. Easy, right?

Not for me. I tried four times in the past to grow my own starter and never made it past day 5. I even resolved in 2018 to conquer sourdough. I have a banneton (bread proofing basket) and a bread lame (for scoring the dough to try and control where it splits) but never could get the dough going to use my sweet tools.

Finally, magic struck for me a few weeks ago. This is my starter!

sourdough starter in a jar
[gurgle!]

She lives in a pickle jar in my (turned off) oven when I’m actively feeding her, and in my refrigerator when I’m not. I didn’t follow a recipe to make her, mostly because most starter recipe online call for cups of flour at a time and that’s pretty wasteful to me. I started with 25g of wheat flour and 25g of water. Put it in a jar, put the lid on but don’t tighten it, put a rubber band around the jar to mark the height, and leave it alone in a warm spot. The next day, dump out half, add 25g flour (I switched to white) and 25g water, repeat. Repeat the next day. It should be rising to twice its height and then sinking back down before the next feeding. Three or four days into it, start feeding it 12 hours apart. Ish. I switched to 50g each of flour and water in the days before I was planning on baking a recipe that required 100g of starter. I wing it, which I think is why it worked.

The bread recipe I use is from Homestead and Chill, a favorite gardening blog of mine. It makes only one loaf, which is great because there are only 2 of us.

LOOK AT THIS BEAUTY!

sourdough loaf
The floury lines are from proofing it in the flour-lined basket overnight. I tried to create a Pac-man shape, but the bread split across the other side.

And because I thought I couldn’t repeat it, LOOK AT THE SECOND ONE!

another sourdough loaf
This one I scored deeply down the middle, and lightly on the sides.

It tastes amazing. Not San Francisco worthy, but definitely Kim’s Kitchen worthy.

When you’re done with the starter, put her in the fridge and feed her once a week. A few days before you plan on baking again, take her out, get her to room temp, and feed her at least twice before baking. Don’t ever use your full amount to bake, or else you’ll have to start over.

sourdough bread cut in half.
This is called a ‘crumb shot’ and you might think I am lying about this but it’s 100% true.

It’s the Friday of Memorial Day weekend. NJ beaches are open but I’m going to stay home for a while, thank you very much. I’m going to let everyone else test the waters first and see if our New Jersey COVID cases pop in 2 weeks. It’s also pouring rain which is why I’m inside blogging about sourdough victories instead of sitting outside. Tomorrow we should be attending Collingswood Mayfair, which has tentatively been rescheduled to September 26.

But I have a cozy home and good health and a full belly so I won’t complain. TNP closed at 1pm today for the long weekend and we had takeout for lunch from Iron Hill Brewery. I added a growler of their De La Sol beer to try this weekend. My favorite Instagram Dance Party will be coming live at 5pm. And tonight is online movie night with our friends.

MOST importantly, today marks the 13th anniversary (ish) of when WM drove out from Michigan to live in our Dee-luxe Apartment in the Sky. It was also the Friday before Memorial Day. He took a hell of a chance on this broken lady and I am ever thankful.

Look at where we are, look at where we started…

Life

My curse

May 15, 2020

The first half of my life I never put anything away and was plagued by wasting time trying to find things in every single room.

sunflower

Here in the back nine of my life, I put things away, but because I don’t think of myself as a person who puts things away, I’m plagued by wasting time trying to find things in every single room when the object is actually where it should be.

Typed after I spent 45 minutes looking for a packet of seeds in every single room and finding them in the plastic case labeled “Flowers – Annual.”

Work

A (Work)Day in the Life

May 7, 2020

I used to work from home one day a week — usually Mondays. As of March 16th all of us at TNP are working from home until June 1st at the earliest. Here is a typical work-from-home day…

7:30 – My alarm goes off. If I actually travel to work, it’s set for 5:45. I don’t know how I’ll ever go back to that.

7:45-8:25, depending on laziness – Go downstairs to the office.

8:26 – Turn laptop on, connect it to large monitor, press the USB switcher button that switches my mouse and keyboard from the desktop to the laptop

8:27 – Windows update. Another one! I just had one two days ago. Go upstairs with WM and make breakfast. Sometimes yogurt, sometimes oatmeal. Always coffee. Start a load of laundry.

me, dressed like a slob holding a cup of coffee
So profesh.

Outfit: Leggings, tee-shirt, sweatshirt, Mickey Mouse beanie, socks, slippers. The downstairs is on a concrete slab so I’m always chilly. I’m also running a space heater.

8:40 — Update done. Breakfast happily consumed while I check email and update my bullet journal with the day’s tasks and projects.

I keep a bullet journal for work — NOT a bullet journal that you see on Pinterest but the original super-minimalist version that bullet journals were supposed to be before they became arts and crafts projects.

Unpopular opinion: If you show me a bullet journal spread and I see not one bullet, it’s not a bullet journal.

The bullet journal method is easy and has really improved my focus. See here for details on how it works. I see what didn’t get done yesterday and migrate those tasks to today’s date, plus writing in scheduled meetings. Today there is a 12-noon all-staff meeting (zoom), a 3pm meeting with my manager (zoom or phone), a 4pm webinar (zoom) followed by a 5pm networking happy hour (aaaand zoom). I’m co-facilitator of the happy hour.

9:15 – Get to work. This morning I’m doing some email outreach to members, but the BIG THING I’m working on is a Power BI dashboard that attempts to quantify how much our members are engaged with what TNP offers them. Oh, and I’m teaching myself Power BI as I go. The best way for me to learn something is to just dive in with an actual project. I created some views on our test database which pulls the data, I think I have correct formulas, and I sketched what I want the dashboard to look like in OneNote.

I keep overviews of my projects in the bullet journal, but the details live in OneNote because it’s easy to share across the organization.

screenshot of a poorly sketched graph
I love the ability to draw in OneNote. Right after this the battery died in my pencil.

10:25 – Stretch legs, move half of the wet clothes from washer to dryer. Our dryer is slowly fading away; therefore, we have to run loads smaller than what the washer can handle.

10:45 – WM tells me that it’s cold in here because we never turned the heat back up when we woke up. Makes sense.

11:55 – Remove my hat (it warmed up!) and apply eyeliner and lipstick for Zoom meeting #1. We talk about COVID-19 every week because our members are the ones in the hospitals treating the worst of it. We have 2 doctors heading our organization and 1 of them is still practicing in a hospital setting. It’s good to have leadership that understands science AND has common sense. If only that was the case federally. Anyway, the message every week is that this shit is serious. Our return to work date is still June 1, but now it’s tentative. We’re urged to use our PTO even though we’re home. I request next Friday off, and consider taking off the week that we’re going to return to the office. Maybe two.

12:41pm – LUNCHTIME! My go-to these days is a hot ham and cheese sandwich on whatever bready product we have, toasted. It’s dead easy. Heat up some deli ham and slap a store brand American cheese product single (the kind that come individually wrapped) on top until it melts. You can do this in a microwave, but we don’t have a microwave so I use a pan. It’s still only takes a few minutes. After eating, I switch the second half-load of laundry into the dryer and cut some pineapple to freeze for homemade Dole Whips later.

Here’s my pandemic privilege…our food supply is fine. We (okay WM not me) shop in person at Walmart for groceries so the food situation is not bad at all. And for years now I’ve purchased extra club packs of meat to freeze for the summers when WM doesn’t draw a paycheck, so we have that to fall back on. My hoarding talent has always been strong.

And that’s how I have the best Dole pineapples that a Walmart in New Jersey can provide during a pandemic in May. They are probably AWFUL but when you don’t know better, you don’t know better.

1:30pm – Back to work on this dashboard. Some days I don’t leave my desk at all for lunch. Those days usually coincide with rainy weather. Today is sunny!

2:25pm – I have Power BI Pro but apparently I can’t share my reports with people who don’t, which is most of the rest of my organization. This … is batshit crazy. Despair, agony. I put it aside for the day.

Zoom lipstick is Burt’s Bees Redwood Forest. Sustenance by Frito-Lay. Also, a selfie stick with a light is a gamechanger!

2:59pm – Time to touch up my lipstick for …

3:00pm – another Zoom Call. My yearly performance review. It went well.

4:00pm – Webinar, put on by the association that I’m a member of. More Zoom. It’s also COVID-19 related, since COVID-19 is wreaking havoc on the association sphere. Decompressing a bit with some Cool Ranch Doritos. I’m also folding laundry.

laptop and pile of laundry
TELL ME you’ve never done this during a conference when you’re not on camera.

Webinar Quote: “An idiot with a plan can beat a genius without a plan.” – Warren Buffet
Blog Quote: “But an average person with a plan beats both. So don’t be an idiot.” – Kim Russell

4:50pm – You’re going to think I’m crazy, but I keep a scarf in my desk drawer for when I need to look vaguely more professional. And this is a networking happy hour. With my scarf on, my Walmart sweatshirt looks like a green sweater. I also run upstairs to mix my drink, because I need to be online at 5.

5:00pm – Drink mixed. It’s pineapple juice, coconut rum, triple sec and ice poured over a muddled strawberry. It’s missing ONE THING which I can’t put my finger on but it’s still really, really good. The Happy Hour (also Zoom) goes well, fewer people than we’d liked but everyone still chatted.

mixed drink
Just tropical enough.

5:46pm – And my work day is DONE. I make a point to log out of my work laptop and switch everything over to my desktop computer, or else I will drift into and out of work mode the rest of the evening.

At first I missed the office terribly, but I have really fallen into a groove, and can easily see myself working from home all of the time. I told my manager today that if they need people to volunteer to work from home full time for next few months, I’m his person. Barring that, I’m secretly hoping I can go 3 days from home / 2 from the office when we go back in June.