Monthly Archives: July 2012

The Best Thing Since Sliced Bread…Is Home-Baked Bread

I had a rare burst of energy yesterday (Sunday) that included some much-dreaded but much-neede housekeeping and some lightbulb changing, topped off with a little domestic goddess-ness. Godliness? In other words, I baked homemade bread. For the first time ever.  And you know what? It was easy. I’ve always assumed it was somewhat of a chore, with the yeast rising and the kneading, but it was a cinch. Forget those fancy bread-making machines. All you need is a big bowl, an oven and a pair of (clean) hands.

I pulled out a 1972 edition of Sandra and Bruce Sandler’s The Home Bakebook of Natural Breads And Goodies and followed the basic whole wheat bread recipe. All that it required was whole wheat flour, dry yeast, a little salt and a little sugar. First I dissolved the yeast in warm water for 10 minutes. After that, I poured in all the dry ingredients and mixed well.  Kneading the bread was a lot of fun, and very satisfying.  I felt like a professional baker! Now the fun begins.

Shape the dough and place into loaf pans.

Cover with clean dishtowels and let the bread rise to double its original height.

The dough has risen. Make decorative cuts if desired.

Voila! Fresh, warm, toasty bread!

The best part: It’s eatin’ time!

According to the Sandlers, the bread should have lots of tiny holes, if kneaded and prepared correctly. Otherwise it’s full of large holes. Looks like small holes to me! The whole house smelled like fresh bread, it was incredible. I’ve never eaten warm, just-baked bread before. It was fantastic with a little margarine on it. There’s no white flour in this,only whole wheat, so the bread is incredibly dense.  I’m happy because now I’m all set for sandwich bread for several days.

The recipe made two loaves.  I made the full recipe so I could freeze one loaf. But I posted pictures on Facebook and a co-worker Liked the photo last night, then complained to me today that he had expected a fresh loaf of bread and some jam by the kitchen area this morning.  I felt bad. 😦  I don’t know how well this would go over with morning coffee for my co-workers. I’d like to bake some molasses-sweetened anadama bread next.  Autumn will be here before we know it, and pumpkin puree will be more readily available.  I’m dying to try the pumpkin bread.  Maybe I’ll bring that into work one of these days. If my co-workers are nice to me… 😉


Snazzy Socks, Spinning Salt, & Seventeenth-Century Saturdays

I don’t remember much from high-school science class thanks to my awesome ability to block out any information that a) I know I will never apply to daily life, and b) I don’t understand in the first place. But one thing I do remember is the trick for remembering all the colors in a spectrum by creating a person’s name out of the first letter of each color: Roy G. Biv. We all remember that little gem of information, right? Red-Orange-Yellow-Green-Blue-Indigo-Violet.  Science class memories came flooding back to me this week as the colors formed on the Zauberball sock I’m knitting.  The colorway I’m using is made of all the colors of the rainbow. Also Skittles. I love the bright, cheerful colors, although I’m knitting the rainbow backwards here. The violet, which is very deep and really more of a black than violet, is first. So I’m knitting Vib. G. Yor. Hmm. Maybe Vib is Roy’s cousin from Russia, or some other faraway locale. It sounds like some mysterious, exotic name, doesn’t it?

I’ve worked on this sock for a little over a week now, in front of the tv, on my front porch, and in a hospital waiting room. I began this project for its portability due to some hospital appointments I needed to take my mom to. At the same time I bought the Zauberball, I picked up 4 skeins of Cascade Pima Cotton to start the Semele shawl as a nice lightweight summer project.  But the guilt from all the unfinished objects piling up is starting to weigh heavily on me.  Despite the addition of two more projects, the following are still languishing away in project bags and paper shopping bags, competing for my attention:

  1. Cloudsong Cowl  The main color and contrasting color change several times, but the box colors don’t change on the chart. This threw me off, so I put it down.
  2. Cambrian Cowl    From Coastal Knits. This is a thick, quick knit, but I reached a point where the pattern said to block before continuing. I didn’t feel like going through the trouble, so I put it down.
  3. Albers Cowl   I threw this over in favor of the Cloudsong, with its fancy schmancy colorwork. Go figure.
  4.   Jaywalker socks. I finished one sock, ran out of yarn, ordered another skein (it’s handdyed) and it’s not exactly the same. Eh, I’ll finish these eventually.
  5. Cardigan #4    From Noro’s Catwalk 2 pattern collection. I’m actually more than halfway done, with only the right front and two short sleeves to go. But I put it down because it got too hot to knit. Last July.

I know. I’m not proud of myself.

Sometimes, we spinners, however isolated we may feel from time to time, come across a cosmic gesture that lets us know we are definitely not alone. Sometimes we come across a little reminder that lets us know that someone has been on the same path, and we’re reminded that–and this is important–spinning is a thing.

I came across this salt and pepper shaker set yesterday in a downtown antique store.  It only cost $6 for the set. At first I wasn’t sure I wanted to buy it. Despite the low price, I told myself I didn’t need another piece of junk cluttering up my house.  Yet I couldn’t shake the lure of the wheel, not even in tiny, salt-dispensing form.  It’s not the prettiest piece of ceramics I’ve ever seen, but I find its earthy utilitarianism somewhat comforting.

I love antiquing, and in every shop I visit, it’s obvious that salt and pepper shakers have been very popular down through time.  If it exists in real life, someone’s made salt and pepper shakers out of it.  There are many sets that were made as vacation souvenirs because they were popular items to take home, or to give as presents. I wondered who would make a salt and pepper set shaped like a spinning wheel and stool, and it occurred to me that whomever owned this set before me had to have been a spinner.  Who else would want a set shaped like a wheel? Maybe that person received this as a gift.

The store owner couldn’t tell me how old the set was or where it was made. There was no paper label so she ruled out Japan, and thinks it could have been made here in the US. I’ll try to do some research to shed some light on this mystery. She told me that a few years ago she purchased 250 sets of salt and pepper shakers from another dealer, and this set was the only one she had left.  She played around with the stool and laughed that she wasn’t sure if it went in front of the wheel or in the back behind the distaff.  As soon as she said that, I wasn’t sure, either, since I don’t use a wheel styled like the antique wheels. Fortunately, the answer to my question was already in my iPhone from the day before…

The stool goes on the side! You already knew that. Living in Salem, I’ve grown accustomed to coming across random witches and pirates.  Sometimes I even meet random Colonial citizens.  This summer, Saturdays have been dubbed Seventeenth-Century Saturdays, where we modern folk get to meet and greet our forefathers and foremothers. Last Saturday there was a group assembled in front of the Witch House. Many men in army uniforms were gathering for a muster, and sought recruits from the passersby.  Several ladies were present, demonstrating traditional crafts. There were also Colonial toys and games for children to try. I chatted for a few minutes with this lovely lady spinning flax for linen. The wheel is a 1970s reproduction of an antique wheel. She showed me flax that had been dyed with natural dyes such as marigold and logwood, in ranges from gray to natural to black, and light golden shades. The flax was beautiful and incredibly fine.  Some ladies behind her were sewing linen shirts by hand.

Eventually the men departed the camp to, I don’t know, march against the British or something.  The spinner also left. I don’t know if she went on a lunch break, or if the army needed her for some reason, but the other ladies were left to their own crafty devices under the saving grace of some shade trees on a 90-degree day.

These fine ladies fanned themselves against the heat:

These good ladies worked on their knitting and quilting:

It was a scene of productivity and ingenuity; things that we take for granted today. I vowed to appreciate these ideals more. Then I headed over to Rita’s, to take advantage of the Italian ice, and the air conditioning.

Knitting and Cooking in 90 degree heat, or, Feelin’ Hot Hot Hot

It was 90 degrees out today.  I have no air conditioning in my house. So what did I do? I started knitting a sock and I made a pie. 🙂 It was either that, or go to bed at 7:30 again tonight because it’s too hot to do anything.  Sadly, this is how my entire week went down.  The plan was just to lay under the ceiling fan above my bed until I cooled off a little. Unfortunately, I’ve fallen asleep under that fan way too early every night this week.  This meant I woke up around midnight, tossed and turned for a few hours and, if I was lucky, fell asleep for a couple of hours before the alarm clock went off.   Sleep this week has been intermittent with all the Independence Day festivities going on up and down my block.  My neighbors have kindly been putting on illegal firework displays for my entertainment every morning–at 1 o’clock or so–all week.  Right in front of my house.  Cherry bombs are one thing, but when commercial-grade flares are going off over my roof, then I start to panic.  I nearly had a heart attack at 1:00 Thursday morning when I heard the distinctive shriek of what sounded like missiles right outside my house. I looked out the window and saw someone had set something off in the middle of the street right in front of my house. Flares were flying into the air and over the roofs of my very densely populated neighborhood.  There were no tragedies on my street,  but every year around this time I hold my breath and hope and pray nothing bad happens. I want to know how people get their hands on commercial-grade fireworks!

The one good thing about fireworks this year was this: I discovered I can see most of the city’s firework display from my front deck.  It’s not as good as being at the harbor with an orchestra playing, but it was great nonetheless. The rain held off until the display was almost over, but for a while I was watching fireworks while thunder and lightning started to come in.  There’s something frighteningly exhilarating about watching fireworks and lightning light up the sky at the same time, but it wasn’t long before I ducked inside for safety. When people started returning from the display carrying their deck chairs, I was glad I didn’t have to walk back in the storm.

This is the ball of Zauberball sock yarn I bought last week.  My LYS assured me that one ball will make a complete pair of socks. It was hard to pick a color from the variety of multicolored balls at the shop. but I couldn’t resist the blues and oranges in this ball of rainbowy goodness.  This yarn is incredibly soft and lofty; you can see the halo around it in the photo.  I’m only on the cuff but already I’m dreaming about wearing socks made from this. I bet they’ll be incredibly soft.   I will be taking my mom to some doctor appointments this week, and socks are a good waiting-room project.

On to the vegan baking.  Behold my lemon pie made with Ener-G egg replacer (Shhhh: it’s made from potato starch!) 😉 These days I guess I would call myself half-vegetarian, half-vegan. I appreciate the reasons for going vegan, and I’m all for creating  a healthy meal using exclusively plant-based foods, but veganism is very challenging.  And let’s face it, sometimes I crave cheese! I can usually break the week up into all-vegan days mixed with cheese/dairy days. This pie is from the back of  the  Ener-G box, and takes some lemon juice, sugar and water. It’s poured into a pre-baked pie crust and served chilled. I’ve made other lemon pies, and I like using chocolate pie crusts with lemon filling.  Lemon and chocolate work so nicely together, and it’s a somewhat unexpected combination.


There. It’s 10 pm.  That’s a decent time to go to bed, right?