Feeling Thankful

img_0726See those two? That’s my gene pool. To say that I’m proud of them wouldn’t be entirely accurate – they’re people, both of them, and being privileged enough to raise them doesn’t mean I have a lot to do with who they are. At least that’s what I believe. It was a mind-boggling, discombobulating, amazing eye-opener when I had my son (Green Eyes on the left), to learn that I was meeting an actual person, albeit little, instead of simply taking care of a baby. The second time around I already knew I’d be in for another incredible new acquaintance, and that’s what I got. Not only does my daughter (Brown Eyed Girl on the right) look different – she’s, in many ways, my son’s exact opposite – and therefore also mine, let’s call a spade a spade. And they’re both wonderful!

So one’s this mellow, friendly hippie-nerdy weirdo who loves crafting, composing music and generally creating things that weren’t there before. The other’s this logical but dramatic, driven, hilarious, totally dependable person who will do anything for a friend, who was a voracious reader even at the tender age of seven, and whose thirst for knowledge is absolutely unquenchable.

You could say that there’s a lot of differences between my kiddos, plus the seven years they’re apart. And yet, they love each other, they enjoy each other’s company, and they (most of the time) embrace their differences – it makes for interesting conversation, inventive play, and fits of the giggles like you wouldn’t believe.

Looking back, all I really did this summer vacation was: Sit back and listen to them, watch them interact, talk to them, make them lasagna once a week, and basically allow a _lot_ of ice-cream.

I managed to read multiple books, host a few absolute sweethearts of girl-friends as well as my beautiful niece M. who is always an inspiration, and generally and thoroughly decompress. There was swimming, sleeping in, baking breads, making jams, oh …. and there was quite a bunch of leisurely but goal-oriented knitting. Not to mention hanging out with my own bestie girl friends, and throwing a _nice_ bash for my birthday.

So that was what my summer was like, and I’m well rested as well as grateful.  That my husband had to work all six weeks was obviously a major source of lament, but we managed to have a good time anyway, and we did get to see him for the weekends at least – there’s a lot to be said for vacationing close to home. No major travel time, being able to bring the cats, great public transport for those of us who needed to work.

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The Pink Sweater turned out nicely, don’t you think? I’m so pleased that I managed to make something without using a pattern! And there was even enough yarn left to make a little cowl for my daughter, check it out, once again following the one and only Margaret Hubert’s instructions, and changing the pattern a wee bit, because that’s what I do.

By now, I’m already deeply immersed in two work projects, one of which is going smoothly: Translation of a witty, gritty, sexy gay romance novel. The other is, for some reason, not going that well, maybe the clients expect too much or maybe I’m failing to see what it is they want from me. Hopefully we’ll get there soon, as I’d rather be focusing on getting a grip on the book’s protagonist’s tone of voice. He’s funny, and sounds a little ‚hood, which is challenging to transport into another language. But I’m having a lot of fun with him and his significant other.

This post would probably not be complete without a recipe, and since I’ve gotten to be such a seasoned bread baker over the summer (it’s because I don’t love the stuff you can buy in the country, plus you never really know what they put in there), here’s what I do to make a nice loaf like this:

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Nice Loaf of Bread

200 g wholegrain flour

300 g white flour

(Basically, use any flour you like! I usually use what I’ve got, doesn’t matter. Obviously they all taste marginally different, but it doesn’t make the slightest bit of a difference in terms of procedure. Go for it, experiment, knock yourself out :-. I promise it’ll be gratifying!) Only last week, I substituted with oatmeal as I had run out of flour and couldn’t be bothered to make a dash for the store, and it actually tasted really great, especially toasted and topped with peanut butter and apple slices :-).

1 P dry yeast

1 1/2 cups warm water

1/2 TSP sugar

1 1/2 TSP salt

Dash of cooking oil, optional

Now contrary to what we’ve all been taught when we first learned how to make yeast dough, I never knead. In fact, I advise against anything more than mixing ingredients together, covering and letting rise for an hour. (Why? It’s because I like my breads to have holes, which are created by the air pockets the yeast will form. If you prefer a thick, solid crumb, you might as well knead all you want. Yeast dough is a really forgiving thing – it’ll probably taste wonderful no matter what you do.)

See that pic below? That’s taken the non-kneading principle to the max – letting the yeast do its thing for 16 hours, I’m not kidding. Then you also need a baking dish with a tight-fitting lid and you need to preheat both the oven and the baking dish to maximum heat for 30 minutes, pour the softish dough in, put back in the really hot oven with the lid on for approx. 45 minutes, then take off the lid and bake for an additional 30 minutes, and you end up with a beauty like the one you see here. (The physics of it, if you’re interested, is that you sort of create an oven within the oven – a very hot, humid baking bubble environment if that makes any sense. I’m sure greater cooks have explained this much more professionally, but maybe you’ll understand my ramblings anyway.) These types of breads are usually a great success at parties.

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But back to the first type of bread. Mix your ingredients until you have a soft, slightly sticky dough on your hands. Depending on the types of flour you use, you may have to adjust the amounts of water and flour a bit. Sprinkle flour on top, cover with a clean cloth and let rise for about an hour.

Then, preheat your oven to 160 °C, brush a square baking dish with oil, scrape the dough in with a spatula and bake for 45 – 50 minutes. Check the temperature, and take out once the crust is browned to your liking.

Enjoy your Baking Adventure :-).

Signing off today with a few of my favorite things about the Summer With Almost No Man.

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