Sunday, 27 September 2015

The Ancient Art Of Breadmaking - My First Attempt

Last week I read a thousand recipes for bread.  I found a few that sounded good but I didn't have any yeast, so I downgraded my ambition for kneading bread and made a quick bread loaf instead.  It was a bit less than stellar, but totally edible.

My quick loaf tasted just like banana bread, but without the bananas, so a bit lacking in the deliciousness area.  A nice layer of jam made it much better, and now that loaf is gone.

When I was at the grocery store this week I indulged in some yeast packets and today I am making "real" bread.  I guess they call it yeast bread in the cooking world.

Never before have I felt the desire to bake bread.  Suddenly the idea struck me, so I've acted on it.  My household doesn't actually eat a lot of bread, but maybe homemade bread will change that.  I guess time will tell there.

The recipes all look so easy.  Activate the yeast, mix the few ingredients together and knead, let it rise, knead again (or not depending on the recipe) shape and bake.  For me the hardest part is knowing when the dough has risen enough.

I've read about 5 websites about baking bread, proofing dough, and measuring and knowing how to tell if it's time to bake.  They are all similar, but all have differences.  My method is to read a ton of ways, then use my best judgement and hope for the best!

The recipe I chose is from  It was called Traditional White Bread.  The only thing I changed (after reading other reviews) was to lessen the salt to 2 tsp, and I used one cup of whole wheat flour in place of 1 cup white.  I also didn't have "bread flour" so I used regular all purpose.

I have a lovely Kitchen Aid mixer with a dough hook.  I actually had to dig out the manual/recipe book that came with it to do a quick read on their bread-making ideas.  I used the dough hook and after my yeast was "activated" I added the first few ingredients and got started.

Everything was going swimmingly until I tried to add my 3rd cup (or so) of flour.  The dough was coming together, starting to pull away from the sides as the recipe suggested and then I poured in another half cup of flour (which is difficult to start with as the bowl lip is close to the top of the mixer) and when the hook got going it "poofed!" half the flour back out the top and all over the counter and the mixer.  It did this every time I added more flour.  I know I lost at least half a cup, but I don't know how to stop that from happening.  I think part of the deal is that my mixer is too small to make 2 loaves at once - although that's how almost every recipe is written.

After the first "proof" I kneaded the dough and split it into the two loaf pans and left it to rise again.  Just when I was pre-heating the oven we had to leave unexpectedly for 2 hours.  I imagined the bread was toast (nice pun, eh?) but my hubby said we could likely salvage it if we put it in the fridge while we were out.  Apparently hubby makes delicious cinnamon buns - says his family; I've been with him 12 years and I've never seen him bake anything - and he used a 24 hour recipe.  So that's what I did - left it to slow-rise in the fridge 2 extra hours over what the recipe suggested.

The bread baked for 35 minutes and turned out of the loaf pans beautifully.  I didn't decide until after baking that photos would have accompanied this post wonderfully.  So here's one of the loaves fresh out of the oven.

I couldn't wait for the loaves to cool completely.  I cut into the more rustic looking one, slathered some butter on it and ate it.  To my surprise it was good!  It's a smidge more dense than the recipe led to me believe, but since I added whole wheat flour and proofed in the fridge for some extra time, I'm not surprised by this.  I don't anticipate it will be hard to eat these loaves of bread!

I welcome any critiques or suggestions on my process.  One of the loaves is perfectly rounded and the other is lumpy and uneven on the top.  When I put them in the pans I could see this would happen, but short of removing it from the already greased loaf pan and re-kneading and shaping it I couldn't see a way to alter the appearance.

Also readers, if you have any other delicious easy bread recipes, feel free to share those in the comments as well!  Or tricks for add-ins or changes to make better/different tastes to my bread - I'm hoping to continue making bread, but maybe only one loaf at a time so I don't overload my mixer again!

Sunday, 20 September 2015

No Rest For The Wicked - Book Review

*This is a sponsored post - Dane Cobain sent me a copy of his book to read and review*

I read, and enjoyed, Dane Cobain's book No Rest For The Wicked.  This is my first book review, so I hope I can share my opinions in a clear fashion for you readers!

The copy I was sent was a pre-publisher print, so I now have a collectors item complete with a note from the author inside.  This appeals to my inner book nerd.

I took the book with my to the auto shop while I was having work done on my car.  I read the whole book (123 pages) in about one and a half hours.  That was fine, except I still had to wait another one and a half hours before my car was done.  That's a post for another day.

First off, let me say I enjoyed this book.  I did have to check back a chapter or two a few times, but we have to remember I was sitting in a waiting room which is rife with distractions.

The layout is 34 chapters over 123 pages, so not long chapters.  It's also a book that jumps around in time, which I think is where my slight confusion snuck in with my distractions.  I liked that he had a date under each chapter title so you can place the content of the chapter.  As I got further into the book the jumping around was much easier to follow as the character integration and development was more complete.

I'm a sucker for any sci-fi or fantasy story.  Usually the more complex, the better (as long as it's well written, of course!)  This book did not disappoint.  The story managed to explain itself after a few short chapters, and the end was about what you'd expect.  I'd draw a parallel to some Stephen King endings where the resolution isn't quite resolved and it can leave you wondering.

There isn't a lot I can say about the actual story without giving big pieces away.  I will lend the book to my friends and family - it's definitely interesting enough to want to pass along.  If you like supernatural, science-y, sci-fi stories than I would recommend you check out No Rest For The Wicked by Dane Cobain.

I'd love a review of my review.  What else should I be talking about?  Since this is my first one, I'm quite unsure of what I'm doing!  Please leave me a comment below.  And thanks for reading!

Saturday, 19 September 2015

7 Things I Forget When September Rolls Around Again

Back to school is always a busy time.  It was busier than normal for me this year because little Rose started JK this year.  She seems to be enjoying it so far.  No fights with either of them in the mornings (yet - I'm sure they'll happen somewhere along the way.)

This September I've managed to forget everything we were doing in June, as it pertained to school.  Here are a few of things I forgot about during the carefree days of summer this year:

  1. The bus comes early.  And I mean really early.  We have to leave the house by 7:40 so we aren't late.  So I have to get the kids up at 6:30.  That is also early.
  2. My kids don't really eat lunch.  During the lazy days of summer they often just graze, and we don't have to prepare a "main course" style lunch.  At school I've had notes sent home in the past that suggested Emma didn't have a "lunch" when I packed many different snack options in the hope she'd actually eat something.  So far this year lunch has gone alright. *fingers crossed*
  3. Library days (and library books).  Emma managed to lose track of her first book she brought home from the school library this year.  Luckily we located it, but where do I keep these books that are "theirs" but not "ours" without losing them in the mountains of books we have at home?
  4. How tired kids can be after being at school all day.  I'm pretty sure Rose could go to bed at 6 most nights now.  Granted, she's still adjusting to the whole school idea, and a 6pm bedtime would be a 5am wake-up so we won't go there, but she's so tired!
  5. How small my big kids are.  Rose in a backpack looks so tiny!  And once you put a full lunch pail, her communication book and a water bottle in there she can barely walk in it.  But also it's super cute.
  6. Germs!  We are two weeks into school and we've already had one bout of night-time vomiting, and right now both girls are working on colds.  Now my kids go to daycare during the summer months full time, so I feel like we should be somewhat immune to the early colds, but we're not.  Also I work in a pharmacy so I must bring home all sorts of crazy bugs, but still September is the start of everyone rotating through colds all fall and winter.
What school- or routine-related things trip you up in September?  I'm sure I'm not the only one out there who lets things slide until 2 days before school starts, am I?  I am actually surprised how smoothly things have been going so far this year. *touch wood*  Now we're amping back up into ballet lessons, and this modelling stuff has events right now so I'm feeling a bit overwhelmed in all of the extra-curriculars as well.  I know it will all become routine before long, it's just a matter of getting settled into it, right??

Monday, 14 September 2015

Do You Find Time To Read? A Voracious Reader's Decline In The Face Of Family Life

I received the book I'm supposed to review.  Dane Cobain mailed me the book from the UK.  It's a first-run copy, with a personalized note to me in the front.  So awesome!

Angels by Dane Cobain
Angels by Dane Cobain
I am totally a book nerd.  He asked me if I wanted the digital copy.  I don't do "digital" reading, unless it's blog stuff or interesting articles (or anything on Facebook...)  I need a book in my hands, otherwise my focus wanders.  So here is my new book!

So I would like to hear from other busy family people.  If you liked to read before (significant others, kids, careers etc) do you still find time to read now, as much as you'd like?  Now that my daughters are older, I'm finding it a tiny bit easier to sneak in some book time, but it's still rare.

I often try to read before bed.  That is never a good idea, as I drift off after about 10 minutes, unless it's a really (and I mean amazingly, crazy, super) riveting read.  I found the Game of Thrones series great for putting me to sleep - not because it wasn't interesting (I actually loved the series!) but because it was complicated and so many things were going on over so many books I really had to be awake to focus on it all!

On my quiet Wednesdays I can usually carve out an hour, at least, to read whatever I like.  This week it will be this book (to be reviewed as No Rest For The Wicked - watch for that to appear in the next week or so!) and I hope to make a sizeable dent in it.  I'd love to finish reading it for the weekend.

In my previous (before kids) life I could polish this little book off in about 2 days.  I don't think that will happen this week.  When my husband saw it he joked I could read it in one sitting.  It's true there was a time I could, but that time is not now.

This is a pic of the inscription.  In case you can't read it, it says:

Hi Jess, Thanks so much for agreeing to review No Rest For The Wicked.  This is one of fifteen copies that I had printed before I signed with Forsaken - enjoy your rare book. :)
All the best, Dane Cobain

How fun is that??  If my review of this book makes him an international superstar, I'll have a super rare pre-publisher copy!

So needless to say, I'm super stoked to read this book.  It better be good, I don't want to have a write a bad review!  But I don't want to start reading it until I know I have some serious time to devote to reading.  Occasionally I have a tough time getting into a story, and I don't want that to be the case here.

How do you find time to read in your busy family lives?  Short of going outside to read on the deck, I find it hard to fit reading into the daylight hours.  Well, unless I'm at work where I can read on my breaks.  But then it's getting through a book in 15 minute chunks which isn't ideal (at least for me and my reading style).  And then I often have 2 books (at least) on the go, one at work and one at home, which can cause it's own confusion if they're similar at all.

Well, wish me luck setting aside time to get lost in my new book.  And watch for my review sometime in the next week.  I'm sure I'll enjoy this story, and hopefully you'll enjoy my review of it as well!

Monday, 7 September 2015

Labour Day Weekend Party - Fun and Frivolity - Then Back To School!

We had a party.  A family friendly, everyone we knew was invited, party on the Sunday of the long weekend.  We didn't inspire many more people to show up than the usual suspects, but we had a great weekend.  So much so that I hosted a party Part 2 on the holiday Monday.  I mean I had a ton of wine and foodstuffs left over (even after I sent people home with stuff!) so a second gathering seemed like a great idea!

I guess at peak population there were 25 people.  My boss came, as well as a prior co-worker (with her 2 little ones).  Hubby's business partner came with his little guy and a family friend with his 10 year old.  Of course our neighbour friend Abby was by - she even showed up early!  Plus some of my family members, and Hubby's mom.  Our daycare lady, and her daughter - our babysitter - arrived right on time.  It was a great afternoon.  Some people I thought may appear did not, but that didn't dampen our spirits any.  Food and drink was plentiful and I think most folks had a nice time.

I was genuinely surprised at my kids.  They sat at the kid's table with the other kids (both big and small) and really didn't mingle with the adults at all.  No lap sitting, no begging to be pushed on the swing (they all pushed each other), and not much fighting.  I forget how old my kids are now, and how easy it is for them to amuse themselves with each other!

So summer is over for the kiddos now.  It's back to school tomorrow, although technically summer doesn't end until the middle-end of September.  Hopefully the weekends stay nice and "free" so the kids can hang out and do their own things before the weather starts to turn cold.  I hope to have a few more nice weekends for barbeques and outdoor time.  It was nice to squeeze in the extra visits this afternoon with some friends.

I love hosting parties since it gives us a serious reason to tidy the house.  We have reorganized so much stuff even I feel like I have no idea where stuff is.  The kids rooms easily turn into disaster zones now that we've put all their stuff upstairs.  Life is always a work-in-progress, but when I can't find my stuff it definitely feels more like "work" than "progress"!

I hope everyone else's summer ended on a high note.  We've had a great season and I hope to continue it into the fall.  Once this humidity breaks I'll be one happy mama!  Fall weather is my favourite for sure.

Happy Back-To-School to everyone out there - enjoy the season!  Toodles!

Saturday, 5 September 2015

Using Your Blog To Help Others - And Sometimes Get Free Stuff!

So I'm branching out.  I've been selected through to review a book.  The author has contacted me directly and I'm very excited to be able to read this book (for free!) and then talk about it.

I won't receive any direct compensation for this, but I feel I'm finally starting to figure out different ways to reach out in the blogging communities and help others.  My blog following is not nearly large enough for some of the "money making" sites and companies, but I feel quite lucky to have this opportunity.

The author I'm reviewing is Dane Cobain and his book is called No Rest For The Wicked.  I know, it sounds good already, right?  He told me he was hoping to get the book in the mail yesterday, but it may not be until Monday.  I assured him I'd put aside whatever I'm reading when it gets here and start right away.  I also warned him that sometimes I just can't read.  Life is busy and this week the kids go back to school, so there's that extra layer of things to do that I am out of practice with!

If there's anyone out there, dear readers, who has other connections to opportunities for product reviews or other interesting things, please let me know!  I'm happy to tailor posts that are still my own to include mentions of things that I like, can use, or are enjoyable for me and the family.

This was a short post tonight, but I'm formulating a post for my other blog (2 Talented Daughters) about the modelling opportunity they - my 2 cutie girls - both took part in at the end of last week.  I've got photos to sort through before I can illustrate a good post!  Please be patient with me, I've got some stuff on my plate this weekend at home.

Thanks for any suggestions blogger friends, and I'll be back soon!