holidays diary – day 2

It has been another mind-relaxing but body-wise exhausting cleaning day! Yay!

I am almost done; I think in a half day or so, I may entirely finish the cleaning, laundering, decluttering, and minor re-arrangements here and there. Then, off to thrift stores tomorrow to even more relax my mind. Boy, do I need this 🙂

Every year the one people that I willingly gift for the holidays is my neighbours. They are great people, kind and helpful. I presented their gift today, with a nice loaf of oven-fresh sourdough. I really hope they liked it. They did gift me as well, for which I am grateful. All the little but heart-felt things in life. Good people, good feelings, not even for the holidays but for the rest of the year. This is what great neighbours mean. Hope you all have great neighbours in your life.

I was planning to go get some junk food (I know, I know – I had told I had given up, but…), yet I was so tired that I rather stayed at home, prepared some potato-based deep fried yummy stuff, and savored them with hibiscus tea. It felt incredibly good – tea I mean 🙂

I have done little re-arrangements around the house. Mostly plants finding new place to stay and flourish. I am not decluttering as much as I wished I had, and I was thinking about this. I think it is because I had already given away the shoes and jackets I was not wearing anymore. The rest is pretty much what I would like to use. So, even though I am bewildered a little bit, I will take whatever it is. All is well.

I could not get to reading a novel part yet, but tomorrow I may as well get a book or two from the thrift stores. Exciting 🙂

Let’s remember; the new year is the year or Ease, Comfort, and Appreciation 🙂

 

positive vibes

The thought crosses the mind and the heart feels.

That is what they say. I kind of believe in this.

Today, I am turning my regular thought pattern of working of problems, and rather, note the random beauty and safety around me.

Like the light coming into my bedroom window right now – what a majestic thing! It is free, available to everyone, and has found my way. I am lucky :). Ligth finds me.

The song I am listening to right now is peaceful, melodic, and intense at the same time. The guitar is both speaking and dancing. All the peaceful and lively melodies find me feed my soul, get my attention and lift my mood up.

I created two lovely sourdough loaves today and shared one with my good neighbours. To be able to share without feeling the need or enforcement is such a bliss. I like this about myself – I like to share the things I cherish. I am kind to my neighbours and I treat them time to time with nice food, little gifts. I am abundant and kind.

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I find things to do when I need to. Like today I painted a number of small terra cota pots for my yet-to-come succulents and cacti (planted seeds last week – wish me luck). I have hobbies that let me create and get excited about what I can do.

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I feel less anxious than Friday and this is wonderful. Once again, my fears triggered by external resources/people and made me remember what I should be careful about in my future steps (about work). I welcome this fear to make my future less problematic and I let it go now – it served its purpose.

I planted a number of seeds in a windy day. Some may have gone around to my neighbours’ yards. May they find their niche, germinate, and make someone happy and joyful. Nature and I have so much to share.

Rain and wind knocked some of my daffodils and tulips. One tulip is standing tall and is about to bloom. Like this tulip, I too stand up no matter what.

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Everything is available in life and I claim my part of life right here, right now.

How about this as a turn of the way I often think?

🙂

 

 

 

all the good things – check

  • sleeping well till 9 am – check
  • having my favorite breakfast with tomato and sourdough bread – check
  • opening a new canister of coffee and loving the taste and the smell of fresh coffee- check
  • deciding to keep the coffee relatively fresh by taking a part of it in a jar to use and keeping the canister secure/unopened – check
  • enjoying the snow outside – check
  • speaking with my family and loving it – check
  • getting gifted by sister and buying my wide-mouth jars – check, check, check! I have been meaning to get them for months now. I had a set purchased before the holidays and I have only 2-3 left, as I had gifted my friends with pickles but hardly any of them were returned. Now I have a new set only for my own use and I will never run out of them again (will not give them to anyone – sorry not sorry)! – check
  • cooking myself a nice meal – check
  • making clementine preserves (recipe here) 🙂 I have been wanting to do these for some time and today was the day! I will gift a small jar to my next door neighbors tomorrow and another small jar to a friend of mine. I will enjoy the rest (which are in my precious wide-mouth jars) – check
  • working, stressful first and then turning things around and being pleased with my performance – check
  • saying no to a social that involves a couple of individuals who get on my nerves frequently – check, check, check
  • being proud of myself for saying “I do not want to attend this event” to another friend of mine, who though I should be attending the social. She is a wonderful person and a great friend. She was surprised to hear this from me, but she understood how busy and tired I was. It felt great to be direct and understood. I know that I will continue to preserve my time, energy, and nerves to myself by limiting my interactions with undelightful people and by not undertaking other people’s work or responsibilities- check
  • enjoying the quiet night and feeling good – multi-check

 

good neighbours

My next door neighbours are the best I have ever encountered in my life – it is a couple at 60s and young son at around 30 years of age. I have seen nothing but help and kindness from them. They are also the only people that I consistently and lovingly gift during the holidays. Considering the fact that I am not into gifting at all, you may rightfully realize that they must have deserved this somehow. And they do.

After the snow storm yesterday I took my time to enjoy my coffee and go through the emails. I then decided it was the time for the dreaded shoveling of the front door area. My neighbor was out and had already done my door! This is not the firsts time she does that – she says she loves shoveling, which is an extra exercise for her. For a women in her 60s, this is amazing.

I helped her moving the snow at around her vehicle and we chat along the way. The neighbour from across the street also mowed the snow around our houses. We had a little chat and said thanks. The white stuff brings sometime the best out of people.

Snow storms may be a nauseating experience, but the feeling after this out there shoveling, chatting, and having a laughter or two is priceless. I love this feeling of being a part of helpful neighbourhood.

Wishing everyone a great neighbourhood! 🙂

snow storm and neighbours

Snow storm has passed leaving around 2 meters of snow bank in front of my house and making me anxious about whether this snow bank would hurt my house, especially the window facing it…..

It is strange that my neighbors, even the ones across from my house, would shovel their snows towards my house. Where does this come from? Please keep it in your own area. I had to step out a number of times and kindly ask my neighbors to keep the snow on and around their sides… Sigh… One thing that really ticked me off today… Kind of inconsiderate…

I continue to feel agitated mostly because of work-related issues and the snow bank-neighbour issues. Yet, I am supposed to feel good about my life and myself. So how do I find this balance?

I guess it is time that I focus on the big picture, relax, and find the confidence in me that I can handle everything well 🙂

 

 

the sound of shovels

The weather is really acting; we have had snow, frozen rain, and the rain all within hours…

I shoveled the ice pellets from the front of the house and heavily salted it. Many of my neighbors are out and abound too. It is a normal part of our winter lives to hear the shovel hitting the road; one shovel at a time…Slowly without much of a rush…One of my neighbors had told me that his grand dad died suddenly while sitting on his chair after shoveling. “He had a good life and good death”, my neighbour said.

I had read somewhere recently that shoveling or physical activity in cold weather may tax the heart; cold through the open parts such as hands, feet, and face may slow down the blood circulation, which may lead the heart to work harder. It does make sense to me and I wonder whether that is one of the reasons that shoveling is usually done slowly. After reading this, I started to slow my shoveling too (I was usually like a machine focused on finishing the work at hand, a.k.a. shoveling – I consciously am slowing down now).

I hope all of you out there who are shoveling take it easy, and return safely back to home to a hot cup of tea or soup accompanied with fresh home-made biscuits, and your loved ones 🙂

 

 

 

bread for the kind neighbours :)

I mentioned earlier that one of my neighbours has left me 4 pots of yard plants a couple of days ago, after an initial talk with her late May.

I saw her today and told her that I was baking a loaf of bread for her 🙂 I just left the loaf in her mail box. Hope she will enjoy.

This is another trial for a dough which is left at the fridge over night. I wish I could see the inside of the loaf I baked today so that I would know how the crumb was. But my overall impression is that it makes great bread with lots of rise and smell, even though the amount of yeast in the recipe is less than usual 🙂 I think this kind of dough also helps me with my busy schedule. So it is my favorite so far 🙂

*While in the fridge, I stretched and folded it a few times only out of curiosity – I do not  think it is required.

**I think the dough would take another 1/2 cup of flour – well, next time 🙂

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Recipe (1 dessert spoon = 0.8 table spoon)

1. Add 1 cup of warm water and 1 dessert spoon of sugar together, mix well. Add 1/3 dessert spoon of dry yeast. Cover and rest for 15 min.

The yeast was crazy good with a nice foam on top. I think the temperature of the water was just right 🙂

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2. Add  2.5 cups of all purpose flour to yeast and mix well with a spoon. My dough was sticky but not “batter-like” like last time. Cover the container and rest the dough at room temperature for 25 min.

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3. Stretch and fold 6-8 times and place into a clean bowl covered with 1.5 table spoon of vegetable oil. Turn the dough upside down to make sure it gets oil all over.

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4. After 60 min, there was a noticeable rise in the dough and there were bubbles 🙂 Stretch and fold a couple of times. The dough is elastic, and not stiff and not like batter, either. That is pretty good 🙂

after 60 min, this is how it looked like. rested 🙂
stretched and folded a couple of times – time to rest in the fridge now 🙂

5. After another hour of resting in the fridge, the dough has kept its shape, is strong and very elastic, not batter-like at all, and there are some bubbles in it.

Stretching and folding was easy – basically held a corner of the dough and let it hang for a second or two, and repeated this 5-6 corners each side of the dough.

Dough is 100% coherent (i.e. did not break or left pieces around the container).

Because of the oil, it is shinny and I kind of believe that oil helps keep inside humid but may also make it have some kind of stiffness/strength, which is not necessarily bad. I also think that oil helps with the crust somehow.. Gut feeling:)

after stretching and folding – back to fridge now 🙂

6.  after the 4th hour at the fridge, dough did rise just a little bit but feels soft and fluffy 🙂 It was exciting 🙂 Stretch and fold was very easy and this time the dough stretched quite a bit. There is a noticeable softness in the dough and 4-5 large bubbles were visible. Happy 🙂 I did not necessarily formed a nice looking ball this time; hope that will be okay 🙂

after 4 hours at the fridge, this is how the dough looked.
after stretch and fold

 

7. After 18 hours of fridge rest (in the morning), dough has risen and looks fluffy. No stretch and fold this time – I gotta catch the bus 🙂

8.  After 21 hours of fridge rest, it looks good.. I added 1 1/3 dessert spoon of salt, stretched and folded and also worked with my hands to have salt integrated. Left at room temperature for 2 hours covered.

 

prior to handling it 🙂

 

after I worked on it a little bit 🙂 the bubbles are gone and it looks good and shinny 🙂

9. At the end of the room temperature rest, dough looked fluffy and gas bubbles were detectable. It was a little bit sticky, but on a floured surface I did 4-5 stretch and fold and tried to form surface tension. The surface of the loaf does not look uniform but that should be okay. Bench rest for 10 min covered with a cling film.

10. I am finally at the proofing stage. I placed the loaf in an oven dish covered in a little amount of vegetable oil, covered with a pot lid, placed in a large shopping bag, and proved for 1 hour at an oven warmed to 100 F. I also left the oven lights on – it increases the temperature to around 123 F. that seems to work for me.

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beginning of the proofing stage

11. At the end of proofing, dough looks good and risen. Looks a little bit too juicy :))) Next time I can increase the amount of flour.

I applied whole egg wash carefully and sprinkled the top with sesame seeds and scored. Baking at oven at 375 F (turned on the oven and put the dough in immediately – not pre-heated oven) with 2 cups of hot water in the lower shelf. At 45 min, I sprinkled the surface of the bread with a generous amount of water. Total time in the oven: 1 hour 30 min

at the end of the proofing stage 🙂
I was not sure whether it was over or under proved. So I tried the “poke” test. I am still not sure what the answer is – help! 🙂

12. After I took it out, I applied solid butter on the crust, let rest for 10 min, and then took it out to my neighbours!:) (she was not there, but at least I tried 🙂 – hope she will remember our conversation earlier this noon and will not be surprised to find the bread in her mail box 🙂

the crust formed really well. I would love to see the crumb, but I could not cut the loaf. I guess my neighbour will have a better idea about it.

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kind neighbours

A couple of weeks ago I was working in the yard and I said hello to my neighbour from the other side. This was the first time we ever talked. She is a lovely elderly lady who was nice and kind. She said “it looks like you like plants. We are in the process of dividing some yard plants. if you wish, I can give some of them to you – I could hang the pots on the fence“.

I said sure – I would love this and was happy with the kindness of the lady. I must admit I not necessarily expected that she would give me any plants, but that was okay.

Well, it turned out I was wrong; today I found 4 small pots on the edge of my yard, close to her side. Is that not awesome! 🙂 She did not forget and took the time and energy to place/throw ( 🙂 ) the pots in my yard :). I happily found a suitable place and planted them. I made a mental note and when I am back from my vacation, I would love to give them a loaf of home-made bread 🙂

Now the waiting games starts to see what kind of plants they will turn in to 🙂

plain bread – a success story

My next door neighbours are great people. She brought me some hand-made clothes; she said she loves knitting them and they are very useful. I was touched and decided to take advantage of being home early and bake a loaf of bread or two for them.

I am still not confident about baking bread. But it is a lot of fun! So, I decided to experiment to bake a loaf that can taste and look good. I prepared one dough and prepared 2 small loafs; one round, one baton (aka “francala”) shaped. The baton bread went to my neighbour and I kept the round one.

The crust of the round loaf was amazing (and crunch), so was the taste! I did not have large holes in the round bread but I hope there were some in the baton  – it rose better than the round loaf:)

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“baton bread” that I gave to my neighbour. This little beast looked amazing and I hope it tasted so, too 🙂
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this loaf is mine – I loved it 🙂

Recipe (1 dessert spoon = 0.8 table spoon)

1. Warm up 200 ml of water and add 1 dessert spoon of sugar – mix well until all sugar dissolves. Add 1 dessert spoon of dry yeast. Do NOT mix yeast. Cover with a kitchen towel and let rest for 10 min.

2. Add the yeast mixture to 3 cups of all purpose flour. Add 2/3 cups (150 ml) of water and mix with spoon or with your hands until it forms a somewhat sticky but coherent dough.

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right before the autolyse step – smelling nice and yeasty 🙂

3. Cover the top of the container (I used a pot and its lid for this purpose), wrap with a kitchen towel and rest for 20 min to autolyse at room temperature.

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right after the 20 min autolyse step. The dough is a little bit sticky (just like I wanted it), looks plumpy and risen a little bit. Looks pretty rested to me 🙂

4. Add 1 table spoon of salt and lightly knead the dough while still in the container (no flour is needed at this step as I aim it to be a soft and not a hearty bread). I noticed that dough become “fragmented” as soon as salt is added – but do not worry; it fixes itself during the process. Work on the dough and give it a round shape.

5. Add 1 table spoon of vegetable oil to a clean pot, spread it around, and put the dough in; then flip the dough over to make sure it gets oil on both sides  (top and bottom). Close the lid and put in an oven warmed up to 100 F (I covered the pot with also a kitchen towel).

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ready to rest and rise 🙂 I noticed that as soon as salt is added, the dough lost its structure and get “fragmented”. I am hoping this will fix during the rise

6. Let rise for 30 min and then stretch and fold 4-5 times and then turn the dough upside down and repeat stretching and folding. Let it rise in the warm oven for another 30 min and stretch and fold again. Put the dough back in the oven and let rise for an additional 30 min.

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at the end of 1st 30 min of rise – the dough has risen and conserved its plumpy and sticky nature. I could see the bubbles when I took it out of the warm oven, which is pleasing. The oil seems to help dough keep its moisture – but I wonder whether I applied too much oil. Something to think about. As long as it does not affect the taste, I am okay with this – in my experience the dough with a little bit oil in or around it rises pretty quickly.
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after stretch and fold at the end of the 30 min rise. Dough has lost some of its plumpiness but I am certain it will continue to rise 🙂
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after the 2nd 30 min rise – dough looks good and moist (because of the vegetable oil I used to cover the container). Folding and stretching was not particularly easy as if pulled a lot, the dough breaks. Not sure whether this is a good or bad thing. the final product will tell 🙂
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right after the 2nd stretch and fold. let it rest and rise for one last time 🙂
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at the end of the 3rd 30 min rise – looking good 🙂

 

7. Cut the dough into two (only because I wanted to have two small loafs) on a flour-sprinkled surface. Try not to add more flour and gently shape. Gently press down the bubbles (I had some). Shape, cover with a bowl or kitchen towel and let rest for 10 min.

 

 

8. Gently shape again and put in floured dishes for proofing upside-down. Sprinkle some flour on top, wrap loosely with cling film, and cover with a thick blanket on stove (I slightly warmed up the stove to help provide some warmth to dough). Let proof for 45 min

 

9. Apply egg wash – that is, whisk one egg and brush over the loafs. On one of them I also added sesame seeds. Score carefully using a sharp knife. Place in oven dishes sprinkled with corn meal.

 

11. boil 1.5 cups of water and place in the lower shelf of the oven in an oven-safe dish (to provide humidity during the bake)

10. bake at a pre-heated oven (400 F) for 45 min. At 30 min I took them out and sprinkled a generous amount of water on top. The round one needed to bake an additional 5 min (its bottom did not get brownish at 45 min)

11. Apply butter on the surface when taken out of the oven and enjoy!

Bon appetite! 🙂

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I cannot see much of a hole in the bread. I guess I needed to rise it a little bit longer. But the recipe is okay and I am excited that I made this beauty! 🙂

 

 

joy journal – May 25, 2016

1. I am grateful for waking up feeling alright 🙂 This is a rare occasion and I fully appreciated it. I am so very grateful for this feeling 🙂

2. I am grateful for taking the bus this morning. Weather was awesome and i went to work by wearing a jacket rather than winter coats! 🙂 is that not great?

3. I am grateful for working well. I was distracted by a couple of meetings here and there, but all worked out well. One of my team members and I are working on a challenging project. he moved it quite a bit but then like any other things that are done for the first time, we needed to in detail check our approach, methods, and the assumptions/limitations. It is no fun and both my team member and I were quite annoyed but also somehow excited. Once this “confidence building” phase is over, then we will be able to move really fast. I must explain this to my team member better as he is frustrated that we are still not clear about our approach. Fortunately (!), this is a necessary part of the process and we will be done with this phase soon. It is good to have experiences! 🙂

4. I am grateful for my coffee – what a blessing to be able to have an office that allows me to brew coffee whenever I wish 🙂

5. I am grateful for walking back to home early afternoon and continuing to work at home.

6. I am grateful for seeing the nice flower that bloomed in my yard today 🙂

7. I am grateful for chatting with one of my neighbours while I spent time in my yard.

8. I am grateful for my back feeling better and being pain free.

9. I am grateful for not eating too much today 🙂

10. I am grateful for spending the evening and the night relaxing and also reading and writing about my work plans – things are getting clear as I continue to reflect on them. And as they get clear, I also realize how much we have progressed in our projects – that is a great feeling, very satisfying and encouraging. I also realize that I am in a better shape than I thought I was 🙂 talking about self-confidence!

11. I am grateful for being excited about a report at my hand, which I plan to finish in the coming two weeks or so. I really would like to end it before I leave for my vacation so that once I am back, I can focus on new stuff. Finishing things and having its satisfaction are awesome, so are starting new things and experiencing their excitement 🙂

12. I am grateful for it raining today – I did not have to water my seeds 🙂

13. I am grateful for tomorrow being one more day close to the weekend, when I am planning to shop for my yard 🙂

14. I am grateful for the water that quenches my thirst, the food that I can afford and nourishes my body, and my home that provides me a safe shelter.

15. I am grateful for being grateful and finding the opportunity and time to write my joy journal today 🙂

random thoughts

File:Forget me not.jpg

photo credit: Rude (https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Forget_me_not.jpg)

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Today is off, but I went to the office nevertheless. It was magical – it reminded me how well I can do without distractions of emails, phones, meetings, and just people around. In 4 hours I have done days of work… I am very grateful.

The day is warm and shinny with a blue sky. I could see all my neighbours out working in their yards, chatting with other neighbours, and having barbecue parties 🙂 It is as if not only the nature has awaken by Spring, but people too.

Honestly we deserved that after our long winter. This winter was not harsh as it was the last two years. But nonetheless, I am sure all residents are cherishing its end 🙂

I am spending the afternoon at home with listening to calming music and reflecting on  the productive work today and the beauty of Spring. My lilacs are blooming and so are the forget-me-nots. Forget-me-not flower has rapidly become my favorite a couple of years ago when I purchased my home. These little blue  flowers are so elegant, so cheerful, and so beautiful. I feel lucky to have them right in my yard.

Wishing everyone a great Spring day 🙂

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