Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Dogwoods and rhodies

Last week while out randomly walking the neighborhood streets I came upon a sight so beautiful that I went back yesterday with the camera. Unfortunately, we had a lot of rain over the weekend so most of what made it so beautiful was missing. You can sort of see to the right and left, remnants of pink dogwood, along with the gorgeous pink rhododendrons. I think they'll perk up, but the petals were droopy from sheer water saturation and hadn't been hit by the sun to dry out.

Fortunately, there were lots of other things to see along my path. Rhodies and dogwoods. Being a southern girl, dogwoods are near and dear to my heart. But the local rhodies are a right up there with them.

This small dogwood had the advantage of being in the full sun so its petals had a chance to dry out. There were a few others along the way, but nothing so spectacular as the first photo should and would have been had I perhaps been there a little later in the morning.

These blue flowers, whatever they are, are blooming in masses alongside this long running trail. Not well represented here, but my walk did not take me to the area where they are most prolific.

See why I love walking these neighborhoods? Something lovely to see year round, it seems.

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Sourdough and other changes

I've spent the last 10 days or so tackling the challenge of raising a sourdough starter using only wild yeasts and lactobacilli in the air.The first two attempts failed miserably, and quickly. But being the stubborn sort, I wasn't about to give up that easily. On the third effort I actually had a mixture with bubbles in it by the 2nd morning.  Success!                                                             

As directed, I carefully weighed out the appropriate amount of starter using a digital
scale, added the exact amounts of water and flour and returned the jar of stuff to my room. Since it was bubbly, I didn't want to toss any of it, so I put the rest into another container and left it on the cupboard shelf in the kitchen. I did add a bit of flour to it.

By the following morning, the 'neglected' batch in the kitchen was far more bubbly than the 'coddled' batch in my room. Eventually, both ended up in the cupboard since that is infinitely easier, but I still kept two batches going, measuring the one carefully every morning and then feeding, and feeding the other one by feel.  As the days went on, sometimes one would be frothier than the other. I gave up the measuring because the 'neglected' jar was still usually better than the weighed batch. Sometimes, when one was frothier than the other, I'd mix them together and then reallocate into the two jars.

Yesterday, both were the frothiest yet -- lots of big bubbles throughout, showing on the sides and bottoms of the jars. Naturally, I didn't get a photo of that because I thought surely there'd be another opportunity. I added a bit of flour and when I went back upstairs an hour or so later the smaller of the two had totally erupted and overflowed onto the shelf! It wasn't all that full, but it was lively. Both were really lively, but have not regained that liveliness. The bottom photo above is how one of the batches looks right now, after a morning feeding and a few hours of fermentation. The other jar is a bit behind, but getting there. The top photo is of the 'neglected' batch after the first day, I believe.

I've satisfied myself that I can do it, and I've learned a lot about sourdough starters and baking in the process. If I were going to use it to bake something, I need to keep up this feeding routine for a few more days to make it nice and strong. But, realistically I will not be using it to bake with anytime soon because the process simply requires more space (counter and refrigerator) than I have available to me here. Nor do I want to bother keeping this healthy and alive for months without using it. So, the experiment is ending. I know I can do it now, so when I get a home of my own (hallelujah, that day will be!) I can make another one. It was fun and I loved the challenge.

Another reason for stopping now is that on April 1 we were given 60 days notice to vacate the premises because the owner is going to place it on the market! It'll be inconvenient to make a temporary move, certainly, but I can't say I'm sorry to move from this place.  Things seem really tense around here -- I know my roommate is annoyed by my morning-person movements and sounds (although I keep those to a minimum). She got angry in an email then later told me not to worry about it. Now I get the sense that she's angry again. Mind you, my biggest early-morning noise is the squeaky floor of my bedroom as I walk across it for a very necessary trip to the bathroom! No running water or other noises. It would help if she didn't stay up all night and want to sleep until noon, at least, every day. So -- I'm uncomfortable because I hate the idea that the simplest and most necessary things I do are bothering her. Hard to know what's really bothering her because we still rarely see one another. She's always smiling and gracious when we do meet, but there have been a couple of explosive, angry emails from her -- one last fall and another one a couple of weeks ago.

So -- it's off to find a new place to live. Not wanting too much excess baggage to take with me, such as a hungry sourdough starter. And I may need to settle for a temporary place where I have less cabinet and refrigerator space than I have now!

That's what's going on here today. Not exciting, but not totally dull, either. And I think it's time for a nap -- need to catch up on sleep since there was precious little of it last night.

Monday, April 4, 2016

The foibles of spring

Fifteen minutes ago I looked out my window and saw bright sunshine. Yes, there was a bit of darkness further west, but rain is expected around 10 so that made sense. I opted for a short walk. By the time I brushed my teeth and combed my hair, put on shoes and walked up the stairs it was raining! I heard it on the skylights when I got to the top of the stairs. I think it's already stopped -- but it won't be for long. I think there will be no more efforts to walk today. But -- that's ok, because we have sunshine on the horizon for the next 9 days, and some warm (80+) weather along with it for a day or so. I can wait.

I'm reading another book -- this one by Elizabeth Gilbert (Eat Pray Love fame), a non-fiction account about living a creative life. She talks about how she must be writing something or she will go mad. She also talks about not thinking or caring about how your writing is received, but merely writing for yourself. Because you have to. That's something I can relate to.

It's why I write here and on my other blogs. Because I have to. Not always, but when inspiration and need come together long enough, I have to. So I do. I don't worry about how people feel about it, and certainly not about how many people read what I write because then I'd really be depressed. My 'audience' is miniscule to non-existent. And I don't care. I've never cared, because I write for myself, because I have to.

There was a time when I had more energy to put into writing, and I was into it full bore. Those days are gone -- energy? What's that? Or, to be more precise, mental energy. I do well enough with physical energy, but that old bugaboo mental energy left me behind a good while back. Probably because I don't get enough sleep, probably because of stressors in my life, possibly because of boredom in my life. Whatever. Whyever. Mental energy is rare these days.

So this is what's left to me, and I'm thankful to have it. Because you see, I really need to write. Something. Anything.

Saturday, April 2, 2016

When a horse is not merely a horse

Now there's a real Arabian horse! A desert-bred Arabian, not to be confused with the overbred and almost unrecognizable modern-day Western-bred variety. I speak as a person obsessed with Arabs since my teens, and someone who has owned a couple in my time. This horse is beautiful, quintessential to the fabled breed.  Photo from Fantasia Horse Festival in Algeria, via CNN. Lots of lovely photos in this article, photos that could have as easily been taken 100 years ago or, had photography existed then, several hundred years ago. Yet they are current.