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I’ve now passed my 4th blogiversary — Happy Blog Day!  This prompts a bit of looking back at what I was doing that first month of blogging.  In some ways, things are much the same.

I still love and wear my handspun alpaca mitts.

I still love and make the NYT No-Knead bread.  This post, by way, is my most-viewed post. Lotta bread lovers out there.

I’m still spinning and dyeing.  Spinning much better now, thanks to a couple of classes with the  justly-revered Judith MacKenzie.

The dyeing has turned into a business, with actual profits!  Not huge, not a living wage, but it’s a self-sustaining hobby that pays for cool equipment and classes, lets me meet great folks, and play with color as much as I want.  I’m currently winding off yarn for a commission for Syne Mitchell, who will make it available to her students when she teaches a rigid-heddle weaving class  at the John C. Campbell Folk School. (The blurry look of the winder and swift in motion in this photo is my attempt at an arty action shot.)

But, although we’ve had our share of wintery weather, there haven’t been any more visits from the river otters.

What’s different? Mostly the kids, who don’t show up here too much. My son Erik has graduated college and is navigating the chilly job market while also doing some free-lance writing.  Fingers crossed for two projects being printed and available to the public this year (I’ll keep you posted). He’s also part of the writing team on The Mongoliad, a cool on-line serial novel.  My daughter Alex continues her studies at Savannah College of Art and Design. She’s a Dramatic Writing major, which means scripts, although her writing teacher this quarter is fine with her working on a novel.  These kids, they think one make a living  writing! Fools . . .

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The view from here

Hungry!

We were enjoying dinner the other night when my daughter looked out the window and said, “Oh, look!  A heron!” We peered down at the dock, and sure enough, there one was.  It stood still long enough for several pictures to be snapped, including this quite good one by my husband, although the massive reduction in pixel numbers wrought by the website process makes it look rather more Impressionistic than the original photo. If you’d like a copy of  the 238 KB original, I’ll be happy to send it to you.

 Curiously enough, we were having bouillabaisse, along with a fresh loaf of NYT Bread, but the heron was more interested in very fresh fish.  After we got several pictures, I walked down to see how close I could get before it flew away — about 20 feet.

Up, up, and away

If you are making bouillabaisse and have some salmon skin that you are about to throw away, try this:

Skin shot

Cut salmon skin into smallish pieces. If there is a little meat still attached to the skin, so much the better.  By the way, a hemostat is a great tool to use for pulling those pesky bones out of salmon fillets. Lightly oil a frying pan, bring to medium high heat, and toss in salmon skin. Fry on both sides until golden and crispy, adjusting heat as necessary. Salt and enjoy your delicious salmon chips!

Crispy!

Bread

I came across this amazing bread recipe that I just have to share. Share with the zeal of a convert, casting away my old ways, and considering how this can be applied to other types of bread. It’s from the New York Times, and if you make bread, it will change your life. If you have never made bread, this is absolutely the best way to start, because you will have a fabulous loaf with almost no effort.

 Cut loaf of bread

Just look at that succulent crumb, the artful holes, the crisp crust.  You would think it took hours to make, and you are right, but the actual work was about 10 minutes, tops.   The hours and hours were the rise time.  First rise, 20 hours. Second rise, 2 hours.  It could have been longer, but dinner had to be on the table early, so it had to get into the oven by 4pm.  Click over to the recipe, look at the follow-up article, and watch the short video.  All that will take more time than you will spend making the best loaf of bread to ever come out of your kitchen.

Basically, you just mix flour, salt, a tiny amount of yeast, and water together, into a very loose dough. Cover and walk away. No kneading. Come back 18 or so hours later, form into a rough loaf, cover again, and walk away. No kneading. In 2 or 3 hours, drop the very soft, floppy loaf into a blazing hot dutch oven, cover, and put into the blazing hot oven that you preheated the dutch oven in. Bake for 30 minutes or so, take off the lid, and bake until it’s done. The dutch oven holds in the moisture of the dough, so you get the effect of the expensive steam-injected ovens that artisan bakers use. I’ve tried simulating this with a spray bottle at the beginning of baking, but this is much easier.

I used a very large cast iron dutch oven that held a tremendous amount of heat. When I took the lid off after 30 minutes, the loaf was already quite brown. I only baked it for another 10 minutes or so, as I didn’t want it to get too dark a brown. The internal temp. was 200F, so it was done. The crust could have been a bit thicker, so next time I think I’ll take the cover off at 20 minutes.

 And the recipe apparently lends itself well to variations, substituting some whole wheat flour for white, throwing in some dried fruit and nuts, or herbs.  Maybe I can make my own rosemary bread, instead of paying $3.50 a loaf for it . . .

Try it!  Eat it!  Enjoy!

PS– I’m tagging this for knitters, spinners, and weavers,  because if you make this bread, you’ll have more time to knit, spin, and weave! Serve this with a hunk of good cheese and an apple for dinner, and no one will complain.