Five Random Thoughts

  1. My ideas come in herds. Some days, some weeks, some months, the creative bubbles are few and far between. Then some weeks I can barely keep ahead of them. There’s no rhyme or reason to the clusters. It isn’t related to how much writing I’m doing or the regularity of it, and it doesn’t track with the weather or the seasons. (YES I AM THE DATA DORK WHO WILL TRACK SUCH THINGS.) July was a creative flood month, with ideas like “Pachinko Life” which would be a story about how we bounce along from event to person to event from birth until death (complete with sound effects), Winter Cold Kindness, which is only a title and a non-wordable concept in my head so far, and a Felicity & Justin short that would frame some of his backstory. That one really, really wants to be written but I have two other worlds requiring my time first. Alas.
  2. A thing that’s been bugging me because I keep seeing articles about “duty” applied to people’s jobs. As in, “you have a duty to show up.” NOPE. No employer deserves the level of life investment implied by the word Duty unless oaths of fealty were sworn (see: military & religion) Employment is contractual: by definition it means employees commit to doing a job as defined in return for compensation. PERIOD.
    Belief that any job or a career is anything more is the result of cultural brainwashing and insidious corporate propaganda. I say this despite also believing passionately in the goal of doing work that means more to the world than bringing home a paycheck. Conflating the importance of the work with the intrinsic worth of the institution administering that work is a dangerous error.
  3. I’ve been recording a lot of life stuff on this blog that I haven’t published and likely won’t ever publish. They may be too personal or private or plain too surreal to inflict on others. I can’t judge right now, the world is too surreal, and until I can, they stay in draft mode. I needed to write them. (this blog is my version of the neat little notebook many writers have. I don’t do handwriting. At. All. DON’T JUDGE ME & I WON’T JUDGE you) But I don’t need to share them. I think everyone should have an outlet like that. Point 2 up there almost ended up being one of those unposted thoughts, but I decided, meh, why not.
  4. This may end up being My Year of Series Re-Reads. So far I’ve revisited the Liaden Universe, caught up with the Chronicles of the Kencyrath, and re-read all the Valdemar novels, Dresden Files, and Guild Hunter books. And I am now embarking on an October Daye marathon that should keep me booked for a month.
    If none of these series sound familiar, I recommend all of them, some with caveats, some without.
  5. Expect more listish posts like this one when I have no major ideas to expound on, or reviews to post, and I forget to post the little things one at a time over teh course of a given week.

Until later!

A copy of Rough Passages, with Unity & Affirmation pins on one side, and on the other side, Unity & Mercury supporter patches.
Look, a pretty picture of a book & other buyable things!

My go-to slow&easy bread recipe

Imma start with a disclaimer:  I reviewed  “no-knead bread” recipes from my cookbook collection & the interwebs, noted the elements they had in common, and came up with this recipe designed for minimum work. There are MANY similar recipes with lots of excellent pictures & far more interesting backstories, and they’re all adaptable. I encourage you to explore them like I did.

(This wouldn’t be my blog if it didn’t immediately wander into a digression, right?)

I’ll put a couple of my favorite recipe variations at the bottom of the post.

NECESSARY INGREDIENTS

Dry components:

3 cups flour
1/2 teaspoon or more instant/bread machine yeast.
1/2 teaspoon salt

Wet components:

1 1/2 cups liquid

-The liquid can be water, milk, honey, fats like oil or melted butter or any combination of them…be as creative as you like. As long as the total liquid component is 1.5 cups, the recipe ALWAYS works out for me.
-Yes, that’s the same as 12 oz for those of you thinking, “Beer bread?”

INSTRUCTIONS
  1. Mix or sift together dry ingredients in a Big Bowl
  2. Add the liquid, stir until it’s fully combined into a dough.
    How do you know it’s combined? It’s not sticking to the bowl & there’s no dry flour sitting in the bottom.  I see the word “shaggy” used in a lot of recipes. Whatever.
  3. Let rest 12-24 hrs. I usually go a full day, because my house is cool & the rise is slow.
    AFTER THE RISE
  4. Shape into rolls or into a round loaf or whatever combo of rolls & loaves you want.
  5. Grease appropriate baking dishes or line with parchment.  I like oil spray. It’s easy.
  6. Let dough rise again in the baking dish(es) 1 to 4 hours.
    Using the fancy proofer setting on my fancy new oven, they’re usually re-inflated & ready to rock after an hour.
  7. PREHEAT oven to 400 degrees. Yes, pre-heating matters for this.
  8. Bake at 400 degrees for 25-45 minutes depending on loaf/roll size.
    I use a thermometer to test doneness because I always overcook if I do it by eye.
    Internal temp of 200+ degrees F = done.

That’s it. Mix, wait, shape, wait, bake. One bowl, no mess on the counter, no “proving” the yeast, no specific kneading steps, no fuss.

AND NOW THE RANDOM EXTRA REMARKS

SCIENCE TIP 1: temperature of the liquid isn’t critical–BUT NOT OVER 115 degrees F, that will kill the yeast. The dough will take longer to rise if it starts cold. As long as the room is over 68-70 degrees, it will rise overnight. The warmer the room is, the faster it will rise. The more yeast you use, the faster it’ll rise. Want quicker yeast bread?  put in 2-3 tsp of yeast instead of 1/2 tsp. Be warned, though, the dough may not be as easy to handle.

SCIENCE TIP 2: Of COURSE you can use regular dried yeast instead of instant/bread machine — but do get it bubbling in a bit of warm water first unless you want to wait even LONGER for the rising, and obviously add that liquid to the liquid part.

SCIENCE TIP 3: In one of those little heads-scratchers of baking science, the more sugar you add to a recipe, the longer/more unpredictable the rise time. (the phenomenon is well known to watchers of the Great British Bake off, where it was the bane of many a baker.)

SCIENCE TIP 4: Less/zero fat = crustier bread with chewier texture & more open bubbly structure. More fat = softer bread & longer before it goes hard & stale.  I almost always end up using a couple of tbsps of fat in my liquid component. But I never make the liquid all fat. Because ye gobs, that would be greasy bread.

PROCEDURAL REMARK 1: Toss a bit of flour on top of the dough in the bowl before you start to shape it into things to make it easier to handle. Or keep your hands wet. Either works.

PROCEDURAL REMARK 2:  to get a batch of exactly same-sized rolls, first divide the dough in THIRDS, then divide each third in half, then each of those halves in half. You end up with 12 nice, even pieces.

PROCEDURAL REMARK 3: I’m not getting into details of how to “properly” shape bread or what kind of pan makes the “best” bread. It’s too dependent on what result you want, and this dough is super-forgiving. Squish, pull, roll, tug, whatever makes you happy, until it’s in the & sizes shapes you want. And cook it in whatever you have handy.
I use an 13×9 pan for rolls or a casserole/dutch oven for large loaves, but it’s baker’s choice.  I will note that if I use the dutch oven for a big loaf, I cook w/lid on for half the time, then off for the rest. Experiment to your heart’s content.

TWO VARIATIONS

Cider cinnamon bread: add 1/2 c. brown sugar & 1+ tsp cinnamon to the dry ingredients, Liquid component:  2 tbsp butter plus even amounts of milk & apple cider to get to 12 oz, nuke until the butter melts.

Herbed bread: add an extra 1/2 tsp of salt plus 2 TABLEspoons of mixed herbs to the dry ingredients. Liquid component:  1 c. water & 1/4 c. olive oil. Spray tops of rolls/loaf w/oil  or egg wash & sprinkle on kosher salt for extra yumminess.

And that’s all the all there is until later. Keep on keeping on, and have more bread pics:

Living the Quiet Online Life (sorta)

Followup 2 to my “Imma stop feeling guilty about dodging the gotta-be-visible-gotta-react-gotta-be-involved 24/7 noisefest that is modern life” post. Followup 1 is here.

The why of it all is simple: the choice had to be made.

I can interact, manage life’s material necessities, or ideate and create. Not all three. And the world is not forgiving of missing work shifts or failure to pay bills, so it’s the interaction I must trim back.

Each of those activities uses distinct, competing parts of my brain.  Think of them as differing fighting styles or building skills. Each one requires a different set of weapons/tools and protective equipment.

I can clank through my day using two full tool sets at once, but all three? Not happening. (With construction in my basement right now, the analogy could be that plumbers and carpenters can work at once, or HVAC and plumbers, or HVAC and the carpenters, but all three? No one would have room to move!)

Also, switching from one mentality to another is a process not unlike taking off one set of weapons and armor and donning a new set. It takes time and energy to put away all the discarded equipment  properly and get all the new buckles done up right. It’s more efficient to pick which set (s) to use and stick with them for longer timeframes.

Interactive Communications is the skillset that takes the most time and energy to use and maintain.

My non-writing professions all demand extensive, regular communication. I got into them because I’m drawn to learning difficult things over easy ones. Plus it’s much easier to handle interaction in a structured system when I have a clearly defined role. Counselor. Teacher. Retailer. Trainer. Public Service Staffer.

So I’m good at communicating and interacting with people in a variety of environments. Humility not being one of my virtues, I would even say I am VERY good it.

I take pride in being able to readily talk with acquaintances and strangers, to share, inform and persuade–but I do NOT enjoy it.

No, seriously.  The number of people in the WORLD with whom I can interact comfortably–no filter, no forethought before every word, no constant conscious processing of pitfalls and consequences–is a small number.

Writing is work too. HARD work. But it’s work that lets me create, so it’s worth the effort. Hanging out with friends is worth the effort because friends ( yes, that IS a reason.)  But those things are both hard and also two different KINDS of effort.

I can’t do the creative writing if I ALSO have to be ready and able to write or to talk my way through interactions AND have to be able to remember things like eating, dressing, paying bills, and getting to important appointments.

So. Less Interacting. MOAR WRITING. That’s the plan.

Everybody wins.

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Image by gadost0 from Pixabay