Saturday, February 25, 2017

Rainy Day Reading

It's Saturday and it is raining. Is there any combination better than this to catch up on one's reading? I think not. Saturdays are also my baking days so In an attempt to fix the spelt blocks of last week, I got busy in the kitchen treating my dough to some moisture therapy in the form of extra water, olive oil and a touch of molasses. They are now in the oven and I do believe these will be the best loaves yet.

On a recent internet search for rainy day books, I found a lovely blog with a post recommending just such books, and I must say, having read most of them myself, they are spot on! I've heard of winter reading lists and summer reading lists, but a rainy day reading list is something I hadn't really pursued until now. Anyone have any titles to add?

Check it out here.

Friday, February 24, 2017

Baking Notes

Ok so this baked block of spelt grain came out of my oven the other day - not very lovely. It was a new, coarser grade of grain which I was hoping would make a more rustic loaf, but alas. Although I suppose back in biblical times this was exactly what bread looked like. This loaf tastes ok, the sourdough flavour comes through quite nicely, it's just that the consistency is especially tough. It's dry and crumbly too which could probably be resolved with more liquid as I imagine coarser grains are thirstier.
This is the new grain I'm trying. It has a decidedly sandy texture as opposed to the more powdery light spelt flour below. I added olive oil to the dough like last time but it didn't seem to make much difference in the moisture, so I think the culprit must really just be the lack of water. I'll try another loaf again tomorrow so stand by!

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

History as Narrative

The benefits of reading books, both non-fiction and fiction, never cease to amaze me. This article in The Atlantic is a must-read for those who want to equip young people with tools to take on the world.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017


This retired Italian school teacher is devoting his life to sharing his love of books by bringing a library to remote villages. Check out the full story here.

Saturday, February 11, 2017

Baking Notes

I've been baking regularly but it's all pretty much the same sourdough loaves without much variation: two spelt for hubs and a wheat for me, although this one came out as more of a focaccia - better for tearing and dipping than slicing. Anywhoo. My starter seems pretty happy too, which makes things even more seamless and easy; the only thing I might change is adding some olive oil to the spelt bread to soften up the crusts.  These loaves need such a long time in the oven - a full hour - that the crusts become a bit tough. The wheat bread is happy enough to just have 40 minutes of baking time - the crust is nice and crunchy the first day but then softens up on its own once it's wrapped up in a ziplock bag and stashed in the fridge (or freezer, or countertop, etc...) And is easily re-crunched with a quick stint in the toaster. The spelt loaves age well but with a dense pumpernickel / rye type consistency it only gets chewier with time, which is great if your teeth are up for the workload, but alas. Speaking of storing bread, does anyone use or even see bread boxes on kitchen counters anymore? They were something of a feature in kitchens from my childhood, but I can't remember the last time I saw one being used. Sourdough is the only bread I know that has the kind of shelf life that would work in a bread box at room temperature, everything else gets mouldy too quickly. So unless there is an especially high consumption and turnover in your bread inventory, my bet is to store bread in a ziplock bag and park it somewhere cold. Better yet, slice it up first so you can take out a piece at a time for toasting and snacking.

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Reading Notes

Ooff. Well. I finally finished this gem a few weeks ago. It started out a lovely story, so well written and evocative of a time and place in history that makes reading historical fiction such a pleasure. But the tangents! Oh man. The first one came and went almost unnoticed as I was in such a haze of delight with the characters and story, but by the third and fourth one I was on to Charlotte's methods and started skipping large swaths of text just to get back to the actual timeline. It's too bad, really. I wanted to like this book so much that I broke with my rule of no guilt abandonment when tedium sets in (life is too short etc. ) Is there any truth to the old custom of paying authors by the word back in the day? or by the weight of the book? One can certainly see why tangents were popular for them.

Anywhoo. I'm on the fence with Villette. It's a lovely historic read if you can tolerate disorienting tangents.

So, as an antidote to classic literature, I chose this piece of modern fluff just for the sheer, easy reading fun of it. I like Gillian Flynn. I've read all three of her twisty psychological thrillers, especially Gone Girl the one that made her famous. Her writing is decent and well-paced and covers some pretty interesting aspects of human nature, although I find her use of gruesome imagery a bit much.

And then there's this one. I don't know if I qualify as an insomniac per se, but I do flirt with it on a regular basis. My nights are a series of intense but brief 'naps' interspersed with wakeful periods in which I usually read on my phone or ruminate in the dark over life's trivialities. So it was one night at 3am when I perused the website Brain Pickings on my phone and this book Sleep Demons by Bill Hayes came up as a feature of interest. It sounded like something I needed to read. I found a copy the next day at my library (actually, it was an interlibrary loan so although I 'found' it in the catalogue, it had to be brought in from another branch.) A few days later I had it in my hands and have been reading it ever since. It's wonderfully engaging and oh-so interesting! The author recounts his own experience with sleep, or the lack thereof, and weaves in some history, lore, and scientific studies. Just the kind of non-fiction I like to read.

After these? I don't know. I'd still like to keep going with the classic authors, I just need to hook up with one that clicks. I had my hand on Mark Twain's Innocents Abroad at the library the other day. Anybody read it? It looks like something I'd enjoy.

Monday, January 30, 2017

Books are not about passing time. They're about other lives. Other worlds. Far from wanting time to pass, one just wishes one had more of it.
~Alan Bennet, The Uncommon Reader

Sunday, January 22, 2017


A little solitude on a cliff overlooking the Pacific. A full bookshelf and a small kitchen here would suit me just fine.

image source