Sunday, October 18, 2009

What Is Heard Is Not What Is Said **

Although I have not yet finished the Celtic Stole, I have already started the Strawberry Pie Shawl. Two shawls on the needles at the same time – shocking, is it not? But I could not wait.

Oddly enough, this relatively simple pattern gave me all sorts of trouble. I could not make sense of the directions. Clearly the designer and I spoke different dialects of pattern-ese. I attempted to chart the little strawberries, and, after a good bit of symbol shifting, came up with this --

The strawberries are correct and the spacing is correct. Good. Now I could cast on. But I was still convinced that some of the directions were "wrong." Heh.

So I decided it would be fun and educational to translate the chart into my dialect of pattern-ese. Oh, did the light ever dawn!

See that pencilled square? Those ten stitches are the "strawberry." That's the bit that is repeated across. And in that context, every single word of the instructions is completely correct. What was wrong was . . . well, I guess, my brain. I simply wasn't reading the pattern the way it was intended to be read.

Here's the scary part -- if it's possible to so thoroughly misunderstand something as focused and specialized as knitting instructions, what does that say about the possibilities for misunderstanding in the wider world? How often do we think someone is "wrong," when we simply are not listening? (And don't even get me started about the "sound bites" on news shows. Aaaargh!)

**from "Who Ordered This Truckload of Dung?" by Ajahn Brahm

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Adventures in Bread Making

A while back I read a book called "Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day" and was greatly intrigued by the process described. But since the method involved putting aside my beloved bread machine in order to shape the bread by hand and bake it in the oven, the experiment had to await weather cool enough to run the oven without fainting from heat stroke.

The idea is that you skip all the kneading, multiple rises, punching down, etc. Simply slop all the ingredients into a covered container of some sort, let it sit out for a few hours, and then pop it into the fridge. Over the next two weeks you can then pull off a piece of whatever size you want, shape it, and then bake it for about 30 minutes.

Sounds too good to be true, doesn't it?

Well, I mixed up a bucket of dough Friday. That took about 10 minutes. Then this morning I pulled off a small piece, shaped it into this boule, let it sit out for 30 minutes, slashed the top, and baked it for 30 minutes.

My little boule not only looks and tastes great, but it is also LITTLE, a major asset when baking bread for one's own single self. Here's a pic of it sitting next to an ordinary table knife (okay, I had eaten a slice or two).

You can see how small it is. Just enough bread to keep me going for 2-3 days, and then I can bake up another loaf.

According to the authors, this approach works because the dough is extremely wet, so it behaves differently than traditional bread dough. Certainly the recipes are different – about twice as much water as I would typically use. But who can argue with success? It's quick, it's easy, and it produces great bread.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Fun on the Beach

I got a nice surprise when I took a stroll down to the pier today -- a Kite Festival.

Big ones, little ones, all over the beach. How about this dragon?

We had entertainment too. These drummers were awesome. Incredibly coordinated routines.

And as I walked home along the water's edge I encountered another sort of kite -- a windsurfer.

While the river (behind the nearest jetty) and the stretch of beach closest to it are strictly for board surfers, the next strip is reserved for the windsurfers to get in and out. What with the kite, the board, and all the lines, these folks need a lot of space.