♦ For Now

Dear Shaina,
Vacation has taken over my life!

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A month in Portland and now Destin…the city, the mountains, the beach…different scenery, different rain clouds, different mattresses! We walked a lot. We ate a lot. We used public transportation…a lot. We shared our dollars and our candy with the homeless.

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We heard music, went to bars (even saw a comedy show in one) and meandered through vintage stores. We were entertained everywhere we went.

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Dad getting ready for Halloween…or whatever.

Tossing aside your everyday routine allows you a sneak peek into your core nature.

  • I can be pretty lazy…and enjoy it…up to a point.

Late night TV, Solitaire on my iPad, hours of sitting and knitting hats I don’t need (I couldn’t resist all the unique yarn shops in Portland including the one at the Alpaca Farm near Mt Hood), sleeping in later than you think possible, having no daily obligations or agenda. It’s both luxurious and unsettling.

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  • I function best with some structure, however minimal it may be.

Dad and I signed up for weekly Pilates, drank coffee every morning, ate steel cut oatmeal and apples and cottage cheese for breakfast on most days, went to Powell Books to hear authors, planned our days around restaurants, music and local events, walked for miles and miles everywhere, and did laundry on Sundays.

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  • Grocery stores and markets are my art galleries.

I went to a grocery store (there was one two short blocks from our apartment) or market almost every day to buy the best honeycrisp apples we ever tasted or more bulk oatmeal or just to see the stunning fresh produce displays. The farmers market offered up 20 varieties of small batch freshly smoked salmon and sable and raw locally harvested honey and gluten free baked goods in addition to rows and rows of locally grown apples and raspberries and lettuces…and wine, coffee and bread, of course.

Edible Art Everywhere

Edible Art Everywhere

  • There are only so many fabulous restaurant meals I can have before my kitchen starts calling me.

We explored the happy hour scene and ate artfully crafted small plates and drinks unique to the ambiance of the restaurant.

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We ate at rooftop bars overlooking the city, downtown establishments sporting their original 50’s decor, food trucks offering vegetarian thai cuisine in our neighborhood and highly polished converted warehouses that had been invaded by nouveau chefs and patrons, young and old, sipping on fancy drinks and Pinot Noir.

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Still, my kitchen was calling. I was inspired by some friends we visited for a weekend on the river near Mt Hood to bake my first baguette from scratch. Despite the fact that I bought the wrong yeast and didn’t have the right size bowl for the rising process, I loved messing around in my little rented kitchen. I even prepared fresh cod for dinner to accompany the freshly baked bread.

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Fresh Cod

  • Cooking is my craft, my therapy, my antidote to laziness…it feeds my soul and my need to accomplish something.
  • I love living in a neighborhood where I can walk a few blocks and get everything I need.
  • I love being in a climate where the air smells green and everyone is required to compost as much of their garbage as possible.

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  • I love living in a town where women wear their gray hair proudly and you can go into the most exclusive restaurant in hiking boots and shorts.
  • I love accessible city parks, patient bus drivers and all kinds of service employees who love their jobs and are genuinely helpful.

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  • I am a rooted creature.

I miss the predictability of routine, the comfort of community, the embrace of my home and the familiarity of the life I have known for over thirty years.

  • For now, home is still home.

Vacation is a lovely respite from the everyday routine, but for now, your childhood bedroom is still where it always was.

See you soon!

Love, Mom

Easy French Baguette

Baked by our friends...my inspiration.

How it should look…baked by our friends…my inspiration.

  • Rapid Rise yeast (use amount according to package instructions)
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 1/2 cups warm tap water
  • 3 1/2 -4 cups all purpose unbleached flour
  • 1 tablespoon sea salt
  • Vegetable oil for greasing bowl
  • 1/2 cup ice cubes

Optional

  • cornmeal for lining bottom of baking sheet
  • sesame seeds, salt, poppy seeds or herbs for topping if desired

Dissolve rapid rise yeast in 1 1/2 cups warm water in a large bowl; let sit until yeast is foamy, about 5 minutes.

Add 3 1/2 cups flour, and stir with a spatula until a soft dough forms and all flour is absorbed; adding a little flour as needed if dough is sticky. Let sit for about 10 minutes.

Transfer dough to a lightly floured work surface and sprinkle evenly with salt. Knead until the salt is incorporated and the dough is smooth and elastic, about 10 minutes. Add a small amount of flour as needed to prevent dough from sticking to hands. The dough should feel slightly sticky, but elastic. Knead into a ball.

Transfer dough ball to a lightly greased bowl; cover bowl with plastic wrap, and place bowl in a cold oven or warm room. Let dough rest until doubled in size, about 45-60 minutes. Gently press two fingers into dough. If an indentation remains, the dough has risen enough.

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My first attempt.

Punch dough down; cover and let rest 5 minutes. Divide in half. Working with 1 portion at a time (cover remaining dough to prevent drying), roll each portion on a floured surface into a 12-inch rope, slightly tapered at ends. Place ropes on large baking sheet (covered in parchment paper to make clean up easier) sprinkled with flour or cornmeal.

Cover lightly with a dish towel and let rise again for 30-40 minutes or until doubled in size.

Heat oven to 450°. Place an iron skillet on a lower rack or the floor of the oven.

Uncover the dough. Using a sharp knife, slash the top of each baguette at a 30–degree angle across the loaf about 3” apart. Dust top lightly with flour. Sprinkle with optional seeds or toppings if desired .

Place ice cubes in skillet (this produces steam that lets the loaves rise fully before a crust forms) right before putting the loaves into the oven.

I'll keep trying!

I’ll keep trying!

Bake at 450° for 20-30 minutes or until browned on bottom and sounds hollow when tapped.
Allow breads to rest for thirty minutes after they are removed from the oven before serving.

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