Wednesday, May 30, 2012

[long][review] Sourdough E-Course

I feel like a prospector; panning through debris to find the occasional nugget of goodness.
The following is something of a review, something of an explanation as to why I have not included more sourdough starter recipes.  Many of the recipes that I’ve been preparing lately are from a particular website.  To respect their work, I will not freely share their recipes.  And for anyone wondering if I would recommend the site--keep reading:
In my efforts to learn more ways of using my sourdough starter, I repeatedly stumbled upon a particular website that touts its online “e-course” in many things sourdough.  The website first came to my attention when I asked a fellow starter-user for a particular recipe.  She sent me a link to a recipe upon said site.  
I should mention that my friend is religious.  So it came as no surprise to me that the site in question made small reference to a higher power.  I overlooked it for the sake of knowledge.
Eagerly, I started to look around, excited at the prospect of what I could learn!  And then I saw it--a political ad.  No, not a “my search engine thinks this will interest me” political ad.  Rather a jubilant endorsement of a political candidate.  Religion AND politics?  I was immediately turned off.*
Weeks, even months passed and I gave that site nary another thought.  But then I once again turned to the power of the internet to educate myself more on the subject of sourdough and again the site popped up.  So, I peeked around again.  Yep, there appeared to be some good information, but would it be worth sifting through the site to find it?
Had the site offered the information free of charge, I would have eagerly dived in then and there, but no.  It’s a pay site.  So I again clicked off the page and gave it little thought.  Until a third time that it again popped up in my search results.  (When I joked with my husband that SURELY there must be some hippies online willing to share their sourdough knowledge, he replied that they all must be living off the grid.  Apparently!)
After more hemming and hawing, I decided to go ahead and buy a one-month subscription to the site.  I accepted that my paltry fee would likely be spent in support of a candidate that I do not support.  I accepted that I would like have to sift through some dogma and maybe some talk of religion.  But if I could glean from the site some useful information, it would all be worth it.  
So, has it been worth it?  The short answer is, “yes.”  But I cannot give a recommendation to the site without another disclaimer.
In addition to the e-course on sourdough, my monthly subscription gave me access to the site’s other e-courses.  This includes a course on cultured dairy/cheese, and one on lacto-fermentation.  I also gained access to two ambiguous-sounding “fundamentals.”  It’s within these two courses that I’ve found the most disappointing misinformation.
Avoid the “fundamentals” and, for the most part, you’ll be fine.  But do understand that the creators of the site are fans of an eating trend that, while it features some great ideas (encouraging whole-food eating, avoiding processed foods), also features some ideas (more butter and animal fats will cure heart disease, high cholesterol is good for you) that are either anecdotal or based on psuedoscience.  
The website itself focuses little on the science of such of eating, but more on how to prepare foods so that they adhere to the “fundamentals.”  For someone like myself who DOES enjoy eating whole-foods, and who DOES often make foods from scratch, there are some good recipes and food preparation tips.  But please do not delude yourself into thinking that by cooking with lard you’re creating health food.  
As for the sourdough e-course in particular, there are some really great recipes.  I’ve made their tortillas, english muffins, crepes, and some bread.  I’m very much looking forward to making even more!  THIS section has the most useful information and is worth viewing, if you’re willing to overlook a touch of a religious talk.
So, if I DO find the sourdough information to be beneficial, why haven’t I provided a link yet?  Hmm, yes.  Why?  Well, that's worth explaining.  As my “review” isn’t exactly glowing, and as I’ve heard that followers of this food movement can be vigorously defensive, I’m still debating whether or not I should include one.  Yes, I’ve said that I am benefiting from and enjoying much (not all) of the information that is in the sourdough course.  But I certainly do not want a bunch of online bullies to pepper me with insults because I question the validity of some of the ideas presented.
If, though, you’re still interested in learning more--just let me know and I will happily, if privately, send a link.

Further reading:
*Now, would I have felt this way had the candidate been one that I like and/or support?  Hmm, tricky.  Maybe not, but I do believe that it is bad business to carry large political ads on your non-political commerce website.  When my small business was still active, I would’ve NEVER carried a political ad.  If anything out of fear of alienating potential clients!

Adventures in ASL

When Declan was a few weeks old, Brian and I attended a free Intro to Sign Language for Babies class offered by our midwifery.  I was interested in teaching our baby sign language after I'd seen just how beneficial it was in allowing my special-needs nephew communicate.  My nephew has Downs Syndrome, but excelled at learning many ASL signs to indicate his wants and needs as a pre-verbal little one.

At the class, Brian and I learned a few colors, some baby basics, and even a couple of songs.  I left the class committed to the idea of signing to Declan, but sad that we could not justify the expense to enroll in a full session of classes.

My sister-in-law had used videos to teach my nephew, so I started checking out video options.  Within a few days of my search, I received a coupon for 50% a set of signing videos--it seemed like kismet!  I greedily ordered the set and upon arrival I opened it up, sat down with the baby, and we began to watch.

My smile soon faded.

The first few signs on the video were fine, but then we encountered one that I'd learned in the basics class differently.  I was puzzled.  So I looked up the ASL sign for the word.  Sure enough, the sign that I had learned in class was correct, so the one in the video had to be incorrect.  Oh, dear.

Now, I realize that when using signs and symbols to replace words, as long as there is consistency it does not really matter if the signs and symbols are derived from actual language.  As long as Declan and I both knew that a particular sign stood for a particular concept, we'd be able to communicate.  However, I LIKED the idea of potentially learning another language (ASL) and it appeared that the signing videos we purchased were not using only ASL signs, but also some arbitrary ones.  I was very disappointed.  (Related: anyone want a gently used, extremely cheap set of non-ASL baby signs DVDs?)

He's trying to sign "more," even though his hand is full
Researching videos again, I learned that the highly-rated Signing Time videos use actual ASL signs. But then I was faced with deciding whether to get their Baby Signing Time videos or their Signing Time videos.  Thanks to their instant-gratification ordering ability, I downloaded a Baby Signing Time video.  Declan LOVED it.

In fact, he still loves it.  And we've since purchased three more.  He watches them everyday and dances around to his favorite songs (Pets I Love, Here We Go are particular favorites).

Declan's current repertoire of ASL is still the same.  He signs for more food, he signs "hat," "dog," "bird."  He has tried to sign "plane," and "water," with some success.  But we're keeping at it and hoping to continue even after he begins talking.  Perhaps ASL can help him, and us, to learn even more languages.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Recipe: Sourdough Pancakes

The sourdough bug has taken hold.  I'd had starter a few times in the past, be it sourdough or "friendship" bread, but inevitably life would take over and the starter would find itself in the compost heap once I'd managed to starve it to death.

Several weeks ago, I was able to enjoy some homemade pita bread at a fellow LLL mom's house.  When I asked for the recipe, she informed me that she'd used her starter for it and gave me some to take home (along with the recipe).

Since then, I've been playing with a few different recipes.  I've found that the most useful so far is the following recipe for pancakes that I adapted from this site.  Why so useful?  Well, if you're keeping your starter out on your countertop, it's important to feed it twice a day.  In so doing, you can quickly end up with a LOT of starter.  Many recipes only use a half cup to a cup of starter.  This one uses TWO cups.  It's a great way to use up starter and it makes the easiest, tastiest pancakes.

Sourdough Pancakes
  • 2 cups sourdough starter at room temperature
  • 2 tablespoons agave nectar or brown rice syrup
  • 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1 egg or banana (or egg substitute)
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • Warm water (just a splash for dissolving the baking soda)

In a large bowl, add the first four ingredients and mix.  I use my trusty stand mixer.

In a glass, add the baking soda and just a splash of warm water.  Stir until the soda is fully dissolved.  Add the soda solution to the batter and gently fold in.  It'll foam a tad and rise.

Heat a skillet, pan, or griddle to medium high heat.  (I use a crepe pan.)  Add oil or fat as desired.  Pour 1/4 cup of batter into the hot pan and cook until bubbly and the edges are set.  Flip and cook for another thirty seconds to one minute or so.

Typically this recipes yields about ten pancakes for me.  Yours may vary.

If you try this recipe, feel free to let me know how it works out of you.  We've had a lot of success with it and it's already a family favorite.  

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Sign Explosion

We were told it was coming. When first examining the benefits of using sign language with Declan, we heard that it would be months, most likely, from when we started signing before he would sign back. But we were told that after a sign or two appeared, there would follow a "sign explosion" and Declan would suddenly start signing multiple signs.

Declan has recognized certain signs for several weeks now, and has signed "more" and "food" often. In the last week he has begun signing "dog," "hat," and now "bird." I cannot wait to see what else he will sign soon.

Monday, May 14, 2012

Tarted Up: Darcy & Shawn's Wedding

My handsome fellas
After hustling to finish the border-print cherry dress last week so as to be able to wear it to a wedding, I almost didn't wear it.  Typical.  I started to have second thoughts about whether or not a cotton frock would be appropriate to wear to a late afternoon wedding.  Yes, I am ever critical of dressing appropriately.  But I do know that I have, and do, miss the mark from time to time.  I wanted to make sure that I didn't on Saturday.

A quick review of clothing etiquette suggested that I allow the wedding invitation to be my guide.  Sometimes the invite will specify the level of dress, of course.  This one did not, but it was certainly non-traditional, so I ultimately decided to wear the dress, but to dress it up a bit.

In his suit
To emphasize the Dior-esque New Look silhouette, I wore my Morticia corset underneath.  It whittled away my waist to a gorgeous hourglass while slimming the curve of my hip.  I added seamed stockings, a touch of jewelry and wore my beloved Remix shoes in green.

I pin curled my hair in a wet-set Saturday morning and it turned out lovely.  Very 1950's Elizabeth Taylor, I thought.  Make-up was also retro, but I was most disappointed by how much my liner transferred to my upper lid.  Both the church and the reception hall were on the warmer side and I must've looked like I was melting by the halfway point of the evening.  As such, not many photos of me were taken.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

ALL DONE: Cherry, border-print dress

Well, as of last night my new cotton dress is finished!

Yesterday, I added the fuller skirt (definitely the way to go), put in a lapped zipper, hand sewed on buttons, hemmed the skirt, and made a matching cummerbund.

This morning, I decided to give it a wash (I did chose cotton partly for easy care, after all).  In the wash, the cummerbund lost a bit of gathering stitches (easily mended), and the dress bodice lost some stitches tacking down the facings (another easy fix).


  • I MUCH prefer using my toile/muslin as my pattern (versus using the tissue paper).  Using the waxy paper, I transferred the pattern information from the tissues to the muslin, which I later used as not only my pattern, but my underlining.
  • I'm in love with underlining.  It's given the bodice great body, and since I've used cotton I've not compromised the dress' comfort.  I did not underline the skirt, which is fine, but I think that next time I will.
  • Horsehair hem tape is divine, but I think that I'll try to find the better (thicker than a half-inch) tape for a full skirt.
  • Fitting by my lonesome is a less-than-ideal, but necessary evil at this point.  While I have a helpful husband and daughter, I am awful at getting the information for fitting from my head to my mouth thus negating their usefulness in such an endeavor.  My dress form is a close, but not an exact match thus leading to a few inconsistencies.
  • It's a mixed blessing when a dress started a week ago ends up being a touch too big by the time I'm finished thanks to more weight loss.  Yay for being closer to my pre-pregnancy size, boo for now having a slightly large dress.
  • Printed border cotton will lead to some frustration when the weave shifts a touch to reveal whiter areas of the thread.  Alas, it's only a cute cotton frock.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Step Four: Scratch Head and Mumble


I attached the skirt and I'm now debating whether or not I should redo it.  It's okay, but not nearly as full as I'd like.  My reasons for not immediately ripping it off and adding more (I have plenty of fabric left) is that I hate, HATE, HAAATE gathering fabric.  Just gathering the fabric to attach it to the skirt, I broke the thread once and nearly dissolved into all manner of cursing.

If I had some cording, I could do the zig-zag trick, but I'm wishing instead for enough money to buy a ruffler foot.

Edited to add: I've ripped the skirt off. Now just trying to determine the best amount of fabric to give the gathered skirt a nice, full silhouette.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

Step Three: Construct bodice

Pre-adjusted side-seams
My dress bodice is almost complete!

After transferring my pattern to my toile, I basted it together and attempted to fit it to myself. This is always a challenge as I loathe bugging anyone for help. Typically I a test-fit by trying the item on, observing problem areas, then putting the garment onto my dress form to make corrections.

This time the fit was largely okay--would've worked for off the rack--but was a touch large in the bust. Fit fine around the waist, though, so I just lengthened a couple of darts and made note that I still might need to take in the side seams a touch.

Checking the side-seams
Once my toile was altered, it was time to hand baste it to the fashion fabric--a process that went quicker than I figured and was more enjoyable than assumed.

Tuesday I was able to assemble the bodice. Another test-fit revealed that I would need to adjust the side seams, but it was easy work.

Post-adjustment--looks MUCH better!
The most challenging step so far was in trying to turn the bias casing that was supposed to be the button loops. I tried with my bodkin. I tried with needle and thread as suggested in the pattern directions. Heck, even Brian gave it a go. We just could get the blasted tape to turn, so I grabbed some bias tape from my sewing kit and improvised.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Letting go of glamour

I have absolutely no right to be out of house looking like I do right now.

My hair needs washing. My face needs a touch of color. My clothes are not at all flattering. In short--I'm a wreck. But such is my lot these days.

My daughter had an appointment to make. Our pantry needs restocking. These errands won't just do themselves, so I had to make the best of it. I at least managed to put on some eyebrows.

The obvious question is--why didn't I just shower and freshen up prior to leaving? To anyone wondering exactly that, I'd like to introduce my son, Declan. He is a high-needs child who demands constant care. Thankfully, he is also a cheerful, loving young boy. But wildly independent he is not. Nor does he often allow me time without him either in my arms, or at my feet.

This morning he was particularly needy. He barely let me make his breakfast. There was no chance of some mommy-time, alas.

Currently I am hiding in my car while my daughter is at her appointment. I am juggling the baby, his snack, his water bottle, and my sanity as I type this on my phone. **sigh**

And to think there was a time in my life when I wouldn't be caught dead like this... Well, frankly, I still may not want to be caught like this, but needs must, alas.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Step Two: Prepare Pattern--check!

I bought several yards of muslin a while back.  While I didn't think that I had used it all, I must have.  I have searched high and low and it's not turned up.  Today I decided that enough was enough--if I was going to get sewing, I'd damn well better do so.

And, ta-da--PROGRESS has been made!

I decided that I wanted to employ more couture techniques in my garment construction.  Even though I am working up some very easy patterns, why not add some luxurious touches, right?  I decided that I am going to underline my border dress.  I found some lovely white cotton to use as both my toile and my eventual underlining.  I pressed the fabric and readied my supplies for cutting.

Because I am adding a couture touch to this dress, I took time to mark the sewing line on all my pattern pieces.  Additionally, I used the recently acquired waxy tracing paper to transfer my pattern information from the pieces to the underlining cotton.  The large paper is a DREAM to work with!  Yes, I did have to be careful about accidentally transferring some of the wax, but it wasn't nearly as bad as I thought it could be.  I envisioned red fingers and smears of red on my work surface, but nope.  Only got a touch of red onto my fabric where the weight of my magnetic pin cushion touched my fabric to the paper.  Not bad at all!

Had I started earlier, I probably could have made good progress on stitching my thread tracing, but I'll leave that for tomorrow.  (Or maybe tonight after my jog/walk.)


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...