Original No-Knead Bread

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I read an article recently about the advantages of slow fermentation during the process of baking bread. A slow rise contributes not only to better flavor, but also to increased nutrition. This caused me to think about the fact that I’ve been taking short cuts for years, and it was time to get back to some original roots.

When Mark Bittman first published Jim Lahey’s technique for no-knead bread in the New York Times in 2006, bread bakers and non-bread bakers alike jumped on the band wagon with wild enthusiasm. The Lahey technique involves using a tiny amount of yeast and a 12-18 hour fermentation process, but, as the name indicates, no kneading. The complete process is fully explained on line.

Many variations followed. A whole industry of bread books mushroomed. The technique I’ve adopted over the years involves more yeast, a two hour initial rise, and an overnight rise in the refrigerator. It works well. The thing is, I made the original recipe the other day, and found the flavor to be more pronounced, and the crust darker and richer with a delightful crunch. So, at least for no-knead bread, I plan to go back to basics.

 

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Daffodils

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tucked
in a corner
sheltered
from wind
caressed
by sun

signaling
spring

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Packing Light

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I’ve learned a few things about packing recently. The smaller and lighter the suitcase, the better.

Knowing that we were going to be juggling airports and planes, and hopping onto trains when we went to Great Britain, I limited myself to one small, lightweight suitcase. and a roomy carry-on bag that slipped over the suitcase handle. This was just fine for two weeks of travel.

Perhaps thinking that we would be traveling to Florida by car and overestimating the amount of clothes I would need for the cruise, I opted for my large suitcase. I did try to use my carry-on bag for one night hotel stays, but dragging the big bag out for our unexpected week on the road, Disney, and the cruise was a pain and in retrospect, totally unnecessary. With better planning and laundry facilities in hotels, I could have done very well with far fewer clothes.

New rule: If something isn’t lightweight and wrinkle-free, it doesn’t make it into the bag. And by bag, I mean the the small, lightweight, easy to handle suitcase. The big red bag will remain at home.

On the subject of laundry facilities, I was actually surprised by their availability. This was another one of those Plan B situations. My original thought was that we would have the opportunity to wash clothes at our friend’s condo. When that was no longer part of the plan, I had to look into other options. Didn’t know before this trip that hotels had laundry facilities other that the pay by the piece option.

Both the Marriott and Hyatt chains have simple, clean, coin operated washers and dryers. Of course, Disney took it to a whole new level, with a state of the art laundry room with a dozen washers and dryers. At Disney, you pay by credit card, and can set up your phone to be notified when your machines are finished. Even Holland America has added a new laundry option. They now have a laundry bag. For $20, anything that fits in the bag will be washed and folded and returned in one day.

Now let’s be realistic. No one goes on vacation with the idea of doing laundry, and a week or two trip probably wouldn’t require it. But for a long trip, if having the option of occasionally washing jerseys, underwear, and socks means traveling more lightly, it’s worth doing.

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Nature and Art

Sunlight glinting on glass.
Elf-like creatures
teetering on balls
and skipping over logs.
Woven baskets
spun
by fairy hands,
and left to float
among lily pads.

A towering cube
suspended on edge.

Capturing, reflecting,
spinning
sunlight,
and color and wonder.

Art and nature in perfect union.

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Plan B

Had an “Aha” moment at the Naples Botanical Gardens. Tucked in the greenery was a sign:  “The key to life is how well you deal with plan B.” The truth behind that statement is almost glaring in its simplicity, but I had never really thought about it before.

On the day of our visit to the gardens, we were in the midst of Plan B. Our original plan involved spending a week with our friends, Peter and Janet, at their condo in Naples. As we were traveling in their direction, we got word that they were both down with bronchitis. Given that we were projecting a week with the kids at Disney followed by a cruise, it didn’t seem prudent to put ourselves in contact with them. Besides that, they were really sick and didn’t need to add us to the mix. So on to Plan B.

A positive attitude and the willingness to be flexible led us to places and adventures we wouldn’t have otherwise had. We spent a few days in Sarasota, managing to connect with neighbors from home for dinner. During our time in Sarasota, we fit in two visits to the amazing Ringling Museum, and had the best Cuban sandwich ever at Columbia Restaurant.

North of Naples, we saw an eight foot alligator in the wild at Corkscrew Swamp. We reveled in the beauty of the Botanical Gardens. Adding to the delight were the touches of whimsey provided by the glass sculptures sprinkled around the grounds. We found Opa, a great Greek restaurant that we both loved.

The week wasn’t what we had planned, and we missed spending time with Peter and Janet, but it was memorable and fun. I’m going to try hard to remember that quote when other situations inevitably arise necessitating reverting to Plan B.

 

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Natural Beauty

Life seems to be settling back into its normal steady hum of routine. I’ve been making soup and bread. Two things we missed on our trip.

It’s been a smooth transition for the most part, but I did wake up a couple of nights ago in the middle of the night. In the haze of sleep, I wondered what hotel we were in and where the bathroom was located. We were in a lot of different hotels on this trip!

Happily, when I think of the trip, I don’t dwell on the long hours in the car. I think of the alligator lazily swimming at Corkscrew Swamp. I remember the almost magical natural sculptures on Driftwood Beach at the tip of Jekyll Island. And the peace of Horton Pond where we were captivated by turtles and two alligators sunning on a platform in the middle of the pond.

I’m not a camper, and long hikes have never had appeal, but the time we spent in natural surroundings were the times that stand out in my mind. I loved the Naples Botanical Gardens, and the gardens and coastline of the Ringling Museum in Sarasota, in addition to the Audubon Sanctuary at Corkscrew Swamp, and Horton Pond and Driftwood Beach on Jekyll Island, GA.

Perhaps I already knew this about myself, but this trip reinforced that I respond happily to settings of natural beauty. I would rather see an alligator in a pond than a picture of an alligator on a museum wall.

 

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Home Again

Back at the nest. Our winter escape to warmer climates has come full cycle. Being away for almost six weeks has certain advantages. In spite of the fact that our trip was, on the whole, pretty special and wonderful, I’m currently basking in an appreciation of home. When we left, I was seeing its flaws. I came home to value its strengths.

To say our trip was diversified would be a major understatement. For one thing, it was,  in large part, a road trip. We drove to Florida, averaging six hours of travel per day. While in Florida, we visited Naples and Sarasota, spent a week with the kids at Disney World, and hopped onto a Caribbean cruise for another week. We then drove to St. Simon’s Island to spend a week in a rented condo before heading home.

As with most journeys, it was a learning experience that I’m still processing. I actually have a running list of observations and notes regarding things as simple as packing tips to more complicated thoughts about things I learned about myself.

Over time, I hope to explore some of these thoughts on this blog. But, after today, I won’t be publishing on Facebook. I’ve been away from it for some time, and have decided that my off again, on again relationship with Facebook has run its course.

I plan to continue with the blog, and would be delighted to have my friends with me on that journey. Please sign up at my address included as part of this post if you would like to know when I’ve published a blog.

 

 

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