Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Homemade Sourdough Bread

My friend Dawn loves me very much. I say this because she gave me some bread starter. Having never made bread from scratch I was a little apprehensive about taking this yeasty liquid and turning it into deliciousness. But hey, what did I have to lose right?

I found a recipe online that seemed easy and straightforward. And I have plenty of time (being unemployed at the moment) so I started on the bread. Here's my process:

This is the "sponge" portion. You take the starter, add flour and warm water and let that get foamy and yeasty smelling.  This took around 6 hours before I added the sugar, salt butter and flour.
  The good thing about this recipe is that  after I created the sponge, I still have starter left over to create the next loaf. What a wonderful thing that it just perpetuates itself and I can have loaf after loaf.
This is what it looked like after I added  the flour, sugar, salt, butter and water. Then I kneaded it for a bit and left it to rise and do its thing.
Doing its thing on top of the toaster oven. I didn't want to put it in the oven like was suggested because I was afraid I would forget and kill all the bacteria.
I didn't take a photo of it after the rise and then the first pounding. I also forget to put it on the baking pan and let it do the 2nd rise. But this is what it looked like before I baked it.
So here it is after 50 minutes in the oven. (The recipe said it was to bake in 30-45) It started to turn brown but not what I would call a golden brown by any means. I am pretty sure that it is because I didn't let it rise on the sheet and so it was a bit dense.
I let it cool for about an hour, which is as long as I could handle the suspense (and the smell!) Here it is in all its glory.
And here is my first taste tester who came back for seconds. Yum!
I will so bake this again and have the starter already working. It definitely took me 24 hours but so worth it. For the cost of flour, I will indefinitely have fresh, homemade sourdough. Nich is in heaven also and is already talking about the add-ins and wonderfulness to make it even better. Like garlic and rosemary, OMG!

Thanks Dawn for getting me started and thank you John for holding my hand during the process. Here's to homemade bread!

Monday, January 25, 2010

Escondido Falls

Yesterday we went back to Malibu and visited Escondido Falls. We have done this hike before a couple of times, but never with Imogen and not after 4 days of rain. Luckily, it was a beautiful day; sunny yet crisp. Perfect for nature enjoyment! Everyone was out yesterday for some Vitamin D and the parking lot at Winding Way was full and we had to park in the dirt. We loaded up with me carrying Imogen first. (Man, she is growing! She seemed way heavier than last week!) This is a much longer hike than Charmlee and probably a bit more adventurous for us (cross over a creek 4 or 5 times) but I was looking forward to it. We knew it was going to be muddy so Nich wore his cowboy boots and I wore my Chippewas. Great choice for the mud factor, but they gave me blisters and were heavy.

The trail starts off on a paved road through Malibu estates that are huge, gorgeous and have the best views around. Then it drops you into the Canyon and you start off into the green. Definitely muddy! There was a lot more water than the last time we went but nothing crazy. This is a popular trail and we saw a lot more people than in Charmlee. If you are looking for some private time, I wouldn't suggest this hike.

We only made it to the base of the falls because the trail up to the next level is a little more upright than I wanted to do with Imogen and the backpack. Plus, I was good and sweaty and ready for lunch by the time we got to the lower falls. Here's what they look like:

We enjoyed seeing all the dogs come bounding up to the small pool and jumping in. Imogen loved it. Walked around for a little bit then headed back and stopped for lunch at a small meadow. It was a harder hike for us only because of the length and change in elevation. I am glad we went to Charmlee a few times before we came here...I wouldn't have made it! I love this hike because you have woods, meadows, canyons, water and lots of people to say "hi" to.  I want to come back and try to get to the higher falls, next time!

Here some photos I took of Imogen and Nich:

Imogen holding on for dear life and making sure that I am following her

Daddy's got a hold on her while she is trying to get the water. It was cold!

Special moment with daddy and daughter. So precious!

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Work in progress...

We inherited an old sofa from my mom and dad. It was my dad's grandparents and even though it is not the most comfortable thing in the world it has a couple of things going for it:
1. It was free
2. It is very sturdy if not in a state of disrepair
3. It is "greener" to inherit than to purchase new
4. Nich and I like projects.

This is a photo of the sofa when we first got it (It's alright, you can laugh, you are supposed to!)

The photo doesn't show it very well, but the whole bottom front is so bowed that the 2 dowels holding the  center supports are out. Every time you sat on it, it made the worst creaking noise. Also, one of the arms would come off and swivel. The cushions were a little worn down and sagging.
For the obvious, yep, those are bright orange and red totally 70's flowers on the fabric. Wait, here's a closeup:

I could deal with most everything, but being such a fabric whore, I couldn't abide the clash between sofa, curtains, and wall. Since I chose the curtains and the wall, I am guessing the sofa fabric had to go. It is a testament to the durability of the fabric that my mom picked out eons ago that it is still in great shape and colorful but I think some things are allowed to go every 30 years or so.

The last time that I was in Reno visiting my sister and family, we went into my favorite fabric store, HomeFabrics and Rugs. If you haven't heard of this place, you need to check them out. Love it, love it, love it. The rugs are great and who wouldn't love a warehouse full of upholstery fabrics at super cheap prices! It is definitely my go-to place for fabrics. In Reno, I found a fabric that was no longer available at my local location and that coordinates with our curtains perfectly. It was on clearance and they were offering 20% off of clearance. So I found this perfect fabric for $2.80 a yard! Ridiculous!

I really wanted to test my upholstery chops on this sofa and cover the cushions myself but I was hesitant since it is our main source of seating and there are buttons and piping. Perhaps a litttle out of my league. So, I called around for a local upholster and found one close that would cover them for $95 each. Sounds like a great deal to me. Said it would be about a week so we dropped them off and started work on the frame.

Our friend Neal is the best! He not only has a garage full of important things like nuts, bolts and screws, he has a plethora of braces and the knowledge to use them. He came over and Nich and he blocked our poor sofa. Filled the dowels with wood glue and clamped everything down until it was back to being a square frame. Here's some photos of that process:

The sofa had to sit in this state for a couple of hours. In the time we didn't have cushions, we talked about stain. It is a beautiful maple frame but a little light for our tastes.  We wanted to bring out a little more of the orange/red that would work in contrast to the fabric and tie into the curtains a bit. We picked out a sedona red and then didn't use it. Life happened and we just never got a chance to work on the stain. Nich tells me later, that he was waiting for the cushions to make sure the stain was right. Of course he was!

For a week, we sat on the floor and tried to keep Imogen from playing on the springs. Finally, got the cushions back (a couple of days later than expected but that is normal.) At least they were done well and I love them! Here is a picture of the sofa the day we brought the cushions home:

Guess Nich likes it too! Now all we have to do is work on the stain and make some throw pillows. Like I said, a work in progress. I'll keep you posted

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Happy Birthday to me!

Two years ago, I got the best present ever...Imogen was born a week before my birthday.  Poor girl, it is so close to Christmas and the New Year and my birthday, I am thinking we are going to have to do the 1/2 birthday celebation during July or something. (Poor girl, I should say poor daddy and mommy!)

Anyway, we had a great celebration for Imogen at our friends Neal and Dawn's house (a house with yard is a wonderful thing for an "intimate" party of 30 people. There is no way to express my thanks to them for allowing us to use their home for the festivities!) Imogen definitely got the concept of opening presents, not so much the concept of finishing the tearing of paper. I would love to share some of the more memorable moments (like the fishing game we created, her blowing out the candles on her cake, the overwhelming mound of presents she received, her totally asleep in her princess tiara and the duck, duck, goose game) but alas, I erased all the pictures from our camera! Can you believe that? What a horrible mom I am. So, that is all that you will hear about her birthday. She had a great time!

For my birthday weekend, we started with a wonderful dinner at Neal and Dawn's. Good times, good food and good beverages. Wonderful night. And Dawn rocks for making my fav, lemon bars for dessert. And for the whip cream that we all ended up spraying on everyone. You would think I was turning 2!

On actual birthday, the fam went back to Charmlee Wilderness Park for another go at the trails. Nich is doing a product shot for a LaNatura beauty products and we thought it would be a great idea to test some shots while hiking. Nich carried all his camera gear and I got the backpack with Imogen.(About equal in weight!)  It was another perfect day for some hikes. We took a different path and found some amazing locations for Nich. Unfortunately, he didn't bring a memory card for his camera (that should tell you how much sleep he got!) So, the photo shoot didn't happen but we did find a perfect place to renew our vows. Not that we are really into renewing our vows or anything, but Nich and I really want to make our wedding rings and this would be a perfect place to exchange them. So, here are a couple of shots taken with my little camera phone to show you more of the beauty of Charmlee.

Ridiculous tree and rocks on a bluff overlooking the pacific ocean.

Totally a scene out of Lord of the Rings or somewhere magical. Ring of stones surrounded by a ring of trees once again, overlooking the ocean. Breathtaking.

Not sure what the flowers are but they were beautiful. I can't wait to see this place during the spring with all the flowers going off.

Great day and a wonderful way to celebrate life. Thanks for all the birthday wishes and here's to an amazing year!

Sunday, January 3, 2010


I haven't blogged for awhile and one of my New years resolutions is to get back into it. Who knows, maybe it is a resolution I might keep longer than a week!

Nich had 3 days off for the new years so we spent a good part of it recovering from the VonFlue's party and when I was sick of being in the house and needed to enjoy the sunshine and warmth we decided to go for a hike. It has been a long time since we went hiking, mostly because of scheduling but everytime we get out there, we ask ourselves why we don't do it more often.

We sought out a new hike. Both of us love hiking near the ocean so Malibu is a sure bet for us. Found a place called Charmlee Wilderness Park that sounded pretty rad...overlooking the ocean, great flora and fauna and easy hikes for the little one. (Or her parents who have been out of practice for awhile!)

It took us a few wrong turns and a good hour of backtracking through Malibu but we found it and had the best afternoon.  Imogen loves her backpack and it amazes me how much she has grown since we used it last. I wish I had gotten a photo of her legs hanging down, so freakin cute.

Enjoyed a little lunch, a little flower smelling, a little hiking and a little rock collecting before heading home. Here are some pics:

Nich and Imogen at the start of the hike. Happy hikers!

Imogen with her sandwich and stick. She had so much fun with that stick. Also, I came home with a pocketful of rocks she picked up.

The view from where we ate lunch to the Pacific Ocean. Amazingly beautiful and clear day.

Imogen loved this log. She sat down and was posing on it for awhile. Then she leaned back and was looking at the grass behind her. What goes on in her head?

Imogen running off the cookie from lunch.

Nich and Imogen walking back from the edge after the aforementioned cookie

Really beautiful paths throughout the whole park. We didn't even touch half of them and will have to go back!

Hope to have more memories for you this year. Enjoy!

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Oh Christmas Tree, oh Christmas tree

This is a picture of our tree, with Imogen in front of it.

Of course, Nich wasn't really taking a picture of the tree. I made him take a picture of Imogen because she if finally wearing the red tutu that I HAD to get to go with the cutest hat. Yes, I had one of those moments when shopping the outlets with my mom. We've all had them (I hope!) when we want our kids to wear something and they totally have no desire to. Well, I have tried to get her to wear this thing for a couple of months to no avail. This night, we were going  out with Noni and Opa for Nich's birthday and I really wanted her to wear it. So I forced it on her, put it on even with the kicking and screaming. She had some tears and she went to her happy place and then she was over it! Yeah, I had one of those moments and I wanted documentation

See, she is even smiling! Can you see the sparkly silver shoes that match the shirt. Too darn cute.

So that is our Christmas tree. Even though it has been a week and we haven't finished decorating it. In this week I have been following Imogen around while she takes all the ornaments off the lower level and stashes them around the house. If I took a picture of the tree now it would look very top heavy!

This is a closeup of Imogen in the aformentioned hat. Cute isn't it?

Imogen was showing off her tongue. Tess taught her! (Can you tell that daddy was recording? I edited out the guitar and headphones but couldn't get rid of the snowball.

Friday, December 4, 2009

So my mom rocks!

Merry early Christmas, birthday, anniversary, etc. to me!

I have been looking at sewing machines for a couple of months. I inherited a Kenmore 1300 series from my mom. It was a workhorse and has treated me great through the years...I have sewn a million baby blankets on it and it never gave me grief. But, it only sews straight lines or at most, zig zags.  It's biggest shortfall was it doesn't have a "walking foot" attachment which is key to holding a slippery moving quilt in place. So, I have a line of projects that have been started but not finished because of these limitations.

I checked out a couple of different brands on-line and then went to a couple of stores and tried a few. I'll not bore you with the details, and just summarize that I fell in love with Pfaff. Other than the requisite jokes between Nich and I about the name and a similarly named bank that has gone out of business, it is a dream machine! Sleek, computerized but not overly so, tons of different stitches AND a built in walking foot! Yeah! Totally way more expensive than I could ever think of spending on a machine. In fact, all the machines were way more than I expected. I mean, I could go to Costco and pick up a sewing machine for $200 bucks, but EVERY review of them said it was a piece of junk and every quilt shop I went into said they can't be worked on. So, it would be like throwing away money. I was scheming in my head how I could get the money (why can't I be a boy and sell my sperm? Oh, I could sell my eggs but I think I am too old for that now!)

So, over the Thanksgiving weekend, I went to AAA Sewing and Vacumn in Torrance. They had a special price with trade-in on Pfaff. The same entry level machine I was looking at was $300 dollars cheaper than the other dealer I went to and they would take mine as a trade-in! This is where my mom comes into play. She rocks, have  I mentioned? She knows that I will spend a ton of hours in front of the machine and make tons of money or at least save a ton of money by sewing my own things. So, she offered to buy it! I can't tell you how excited I am.

This is me sewing my first project on it! A baby playmat that I have been putting off because of the minky (super soft slippery material) that is the backing. This machine had no problem sewing on it!

Thank you mom for pushing me forward and believing in me. Don't be suprised if you get something handmade for a few presents! Love you xoxooxoxo

I forgot the best part of the machine, at least for Imogen:

She totally played in the lid for hours. What is that about buying you kids all sorts of toys and all they want are the boxes? So true!