Saturday, March 31, 2012

Of Mugs, Knees and Beach Views

I can't believe it's been a whole week since I was breathing that delicious sea air. How I miss it!   It seems really long since I've posted and I have lots to share.  I'm really missing my camera, but have a few good ones on my phone.  The best beach pics are on Rob's iPhone which is with him in California so I'll talk about the beach portion now and when I have the other pics I'll talk about the Old Town.  

The beach trip was awesome, I love the beach so much and it never fails to put me in the best frame of mind possible.  The condo was on Anastasia Beach near St. Augustine.  Mother and Auntie lovingly gave us the master bedroom for our week and this was the view we woke up to every morning. 

And this was the face of happiness that accompanied each sunrise...

The condo was nicely situated, just over the boardwalk and we were on the beach.  We strolled just about every morning and every evening.  The weather was heavenly.

I have combed the beach for shells on every trip we've taken since Rob and I were first married.  I never had enough for a display (I quite picky, while I have a few pretty ones, I'm partial to the odd looking and misshapen ones) but I doubled the collection this trip and had enough to put them in my footed bowl on the side table in the family room. 

We spent one day just lounging on the beach, Rob falls asleep the minute he sits in his chair. 

 I couldn't keep my nose out of my Nook.  I downloaded the Shades of Grey trilogy for this trip and raced through them.  I love a smutty beach read and I'm not afraid to say so!  I did look up long enough to enjoy the pretty view.

The balcony got lots of use as well. We sat and caught up with Mother and Auntie aka "The Ducks" and sipped cold, crisp white wine while taking in the view.


 There was some good shopping, too.  I picked up this fun and fabulous handbag for summer.

And some hot sauce.  The Datil Pepper was brought over to St. Augustine from Minorca in the 18th century and flourished in the climate.  There are hot sauce shops on every corner, they have made a great business selling various sauces made from the Datil Pepper.  I wanted all of them, but chose this one.  It is HOT but has amazing flavor.  I'll be sad when it's gone.

My mug collection has gotten out of hand but that didn't stop me from snapping up these beauties at the cupcake bakery.  I just love them!  Auntie insisted on buying them for me because I paid for the cupcakes for our dessert that evening.  She would have paid for the cupcakes, too, she's so good that way but now that I'm "all grown up" I like to treat her when I can.

Rob didn't come away empty handed.  We spent some time in a tea and spice shop and he chose 3 different selections of loose leaf tea to brew.  The coconut oolong was a most delicious choice along with Darjeeling and a Ginger Turmeric herbal infusion which we have yet to try.  

Rob put a moratorium on mugs but he's in California and I was in TJ Maxx yesterday somehow this one ended up with my coffee in it this morning.

I was in TJ Maxx looking for new sneakers and picked up these Skechers Shape Ups for $25!  They feel weird but are very springy they feel like shock absorbers for my knees which is what I need since my delicate right knee has been bugging me.  On one of our walks this week Tally zigged and my right knee zagged and now I'm paying the price.  Sent Tally to daycare today so I could rest and ice my knee.  I'm going to see the Chiropractor next week, so hopefully it won't be too much of a problem for me.  *fingers crossed*

To close out this novel, here's an update on The Fountainbread.  He's doing great!  I made a beautiful loaf to bring with us to the beach and it was big hit.  I'm going to put up some sourdough to soak overnight and attempt sourdough foccacia tomorrow.  Mmmm, I can't wait to see how that turns out.  I'll keep you posted. 

Have a joyous weekend!

Friday, March 16, 2012

Homemade Whole Wheat Sourdough Bread

(Let me apologize in advance for the quality of the photos.  I loaned my camera to my sister for her Disney trip, so these were taken with my smartphone.)

After reading about Lori's sourdough English muffins at Finding Radiance, I decided to try my hand at sourdough starter.  (Check out this interesting article on the health benefits of sourdough.)  I mixed equal parts 100% white whole wheat flour and water in a bowl.

I covered it loosely with a paper towel and set it on my baker's rack.  Meet Howard Roark, aka The Fountainbread...

I fed starter with equal parts of flour and water on a daily basis, discarding some of the starter each time so it wouldn't take over the house.  After five days there was activity!  The kitchen started smelling like a bakery, all yeasty and delicious.

I transferred it to a clean mason jar and kept up with daily feedings and the activity got stronger. 

Yesterday I started the dough for the bread.  I mixed up 1.5 cups of warm water  with 1.5 teaspoons of kosher salt and 0.5 cups of The Fountainbread.  I mixed in a pound of 100% white whole wheat flour until a dough formed.

I covered the bowl and stashed it in the oven (in off position) for 19 hours to proof.

I check the bowl today at noon and success!  I scraped the dough onto a floured surface, patted it out and folded it in thirds and thirds again, I placed the dough back in the cool oven to rise again.  Take note of the parchment sling, this is for easy transfer.

Three hours later ready to bake.

I preheated my enamel cast iron pan, cover and all, in the oven to 450 degrees then carefully removed the lid and put the dough into the pan.  It baked for 30 minutes with the lid on and 15 minutes with the lid off.

The loaf came out crusty and golden.  I didn't get that much rise, I'm thinking it might be because I used whole grain flour for both the starter and the loaf.  

But the lack of rise on the baked loaf in no way compromised the wonderful sourdough flavor and chewy texture.  I was more than pleased with the first try.

Next time I will try all purpose flour with the whole wheat starter and compare the results.  Until then I'm going keep nurturing The Fountainbread so he'll get stronger and more active and more flavorful.

It's amazing how some things can sound so complicated yet turn out to be so simple. Go ahead and mix up a batch of starter and see what happens.  You might surprise yourself, I sure did!

Friday, March 9, 2012

Hello Strangers!

You didn't think I forgot about you, did you?  

I have been back from Boston for just over a week but I'm still feeling a little disoriented.  My trip was amazing, the best ever.  That last minute change that allowed me to have a whole extra week with my family was a major boon.  We visited, hugged, ate, drank, shopped 'til we dropped, laughed our heads off and repeated!  I did quite a bit of cooking while I was up there, including a 10-pound beef tenderloin for the big family dinner.

 Brontosaurus Loin

I was really nervous as I had never cooked a roast that big before, let alone one that cost as much as that.  But it came out perfectly.  I also made potato pie, steamed asparagus and the homemade Bearnaise sauce was a revelation.  A good time was had by all.

The weather was absolutely beautiful and I didn't want to come home.  My nephew PJ told me he would give his Pizza Friday money (the only day he doesn't bring his own lunch) to me so I could change my plane ticket and stay another week.  I needed a dozen tissues for those tears.  I'm not waiting another year to head back, that's for sure.  I already have tentative dates for later in the year marked on the calendar and Rob is building up frequent flyer miles as we speak.

My suitcase hasn't been put up yet as we're off to the sunny shores of Florida later this month.  My Mother and Auntie rented a three-bedroom on the beach at St. Augustine for the month of March.  I can't wait to get to spend more time with Mom and Auntie and take lovely long beach walks with Rob.  With his new job and my recent trip, we've not spent more than a few days in the past 5 weeks.

Did you have the lovely non-winter winter and super-early spring occur in your neck of the woods? I certainly could get used to skipping winter, all that sunshine was so good!  It made the gardens go crazy, our daffodils popped up in December, bloomed in January and were gone over by the time I got home on Leap Day.  The azaleas are blooming and my gorgeous Japanese Magnolia bloomed and already started dropping fragrant pink petals.

In other news, my newly purchased copy of Sally Fallon's Nourishing Traditions has been mocking me from the coffee table since I've been back but I have another couple of books in my Nook to finish.  I may read ahead about making a sourdough starter because my fingers have been itching to do that since late last year.  I think a wonderful homemade sourdough boule and homemade jam would make a fabulous hostess gift to bring to FL with us.  

I'm still getting out there walking with Tally but my gym membership has expired and my motivation is pretty low.  I'm toying with the idea of joining a boot camp or cross fit type program because I had such great results when I was working with the personal trainer.  Weight training coupled with HIIT (high intensity interval training) is tough but that sort of a kick in the butt is what I need to improve my fitness.  I've got to make the rounds to price out the programs and find one that is closest to me.  Because I know me, the closer I am to where the activity is the more inclined I am to participate.  Have you ever tried out cross fit/boot camp?  If so, please share your experiences with me!

It's good to be back sharing with you, I hope you'll stay with me and keep reading and sharing, too!  Happy Friday.

Friday, March 2, 2012

Thank You Davy

I had just returned home from the airport on Wednesday afternoon when my sister called.  She was sobbing as she told me of the death of Davy Jones.  We cried together as we reminisced about our favorite Monkee. 

We grew up watching The Monkees reruns, the "Getting Davy Jones" episode of The Brady Bunch was our absolute favorite.  Davy Jones was the reason for our very special nickname for one another.  My sister and I sang the song "Girl" to each other so many times that we started calling each other Girl which evolved into Girlie, which we have called each other for the past 25 years.  

We still have a giggle about the time we screeched like lunatics in the cinema when Davy appeared in a cameo in 1995's  The Brady Bunch Movie and sang an updated version of "Girl."  It was awesome!  

I bristled when the radio announcer referred to Davy Jones as "former heart throb" because to Girlie and me, there is nothing former about it.