Yes I did: welcome to the family, Bert

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This is Bert. Bert is a mother, like me. Gets food when he can, lives in a state of semi-neglect, and lives to feed people

Bert the sourdough starter, or “mother”, came to our family in the usual way – through a generous adoption from our local Buy Nothing group which has been a savior for my “but this is still useful” near-hoarding ways.  He (preferred pronoun) lives in a purple mason jar, because of course he does.  And he is helping me through my midlife crisis, because while I would rather have a puppy, Bert at least helps to feed the family and serve as last minute host gifts for any number of occasions, therefore he pulls his weight around here.  He’s only been here for about 2 weeks but he has already provided 3 loaves of bread, 2 batches of crackers, a breakfast of pancakes, and a pile of crepes.

I feel like a sourdough starter is a rite of passage for so many things.  It’s definitely a rite of passage for my neighborhood of Boston, which can be described using words like hippy-dippy, progressive, quirky, and dangerously rapidly gentrifying, all of which can be the subject of a different post.  I tried to find a Weck jar to give Bert a more wide-mouthed and less…purple…home, and I went to the local small kitchenwares store to see if they had one.  Bantering with the cashier about “my first sourdough starter” was met with a very serious “the air here is so perfect for cultivating the wild yeast!”  so I slunk out of the store careful not to make more inadvertent hippy jokes.  I’m surprised that my starter has not come with papers and a full adoption story, although I’m sure if i reached out to its previous owner, I might get one.  (Kombucha SCOBYs offered on the Buy Nothing group are often accompanied by “only fed organic sugar and love” type caveats.)

I also briefly remember my mother being gifted a sourdough starter in my youth — if I remember it, then she must have been about my age when she acquired this starter.  I vaguely remember eating bread made from it.  I vaguely remember my mom lamenting about keeping the starter fed and having to make all that bread all the time.  I’m pretty sure it did NOT have a name.  And then I have no recollection about how the starter met its end or when or why the bread fount stopped.  So between my sister cultivating her own sourdough starter from scratch recently (no thank you, it’s not LOCAL wild yeast, haha) and the offer on the Buy Nothing group, and these memories, I figured it was time for me to adopt my own.

Welcome, Bert!

For the first week, Bert lived on our counter, and I started tracking his feedings.  Since I can’t be trusted to keep my own bullet journal going for a whole week, the feeding tracking lasted about 2 feedings.

I tried following feeding schedules. That lasted for about 2 days.  Now I am working on a schedule of taking Bert out of the fridge on Wednesday, and feeding him Wednesday night, Thursday night, Friday morning and late Friday night in order to bake a loaf for Saturday evening that can be a gift or eaten, and maybe another on Sunday evening to last the week, before putting Bert back in the fridge until the next week.

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Bert posing for pictures with BertBread1 on its first rise

Despite the wealth of online advice and timetables, somehow, I can’t figure out how to reverse timeline a loaf of bread through 2 feedings and 3 rises.  And I tried logging the cycle for a loaf of bread, but the logs on the BertBread 1, 2, and 3 are fraught with inaccuracies on timing.  I can’t even be trusted to write down the time that I did something, never mind proofing bread for a specific amount of time.  I still have a learning curve for being able to visually evaluate both starter and dough, learning how to shape bread dough, and determining which factors will lead to a better crumb.  (The crust and flavor of all 3 BertBreads have been pretty great.  It’s that wild LOCAL yeast, man.)

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(L to R) BertBread 1, 2, and 3. MOAR CRUMB PLZ! And better folding.

I’m also feeling the typical guilt about discarding starter and have looked up recipes for sourdough pancakes/waffles and crackers and crepes and banana breads (which I haven’t made yet, but there are 4 bananas tempting me from the kitchen counter right now.)

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Top: BertCrepes – pretty tasty, if a little stiff. Probably needs to be watered down more. Bottom: BertCrackers 2 – the Bertening.

I guess all I need now is time and practice, and assurance that a sourdough starter can in fact survive in a house of growth by hands-off parenting.  Maybe a good fridge proofing technique.  Oh, and more hours in the day to get to the gym to burn off all this bread that I am happily eating with my cultured butter.  Next step, churning and making my own butter.  Yes, I can do that.

Anyone local want a sourdough starter?

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Holi-DIYs

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Around the holidays, I have the intention of DIYing all of the things, because 1) I love DIY gifts, 2) I love making DIY gifts, and 3) I want my gifts to express the thought and care that I feel about my friends who receive them.  Last year, I knitted for all the kiddos in my life, and although they have long outgrown the gifts, it was really cathartic for me to make some kid-sized gifts and craft productively in a period of underemployment.

Clockwise from top left:  Aviator sweater/hat set for Olivia, Dino-rawr sweater for Landon, Monster mittens for Kai, Zebra suit for Alden

Clockwise from top left: Aviator sweater/hat set for Olivia, Dino-rawr sweater for Landon, Zebra suit for Alden, Monster mittens for Kai.  Not pictured:  Killer Bunny Rabbit mitts for Julia.

But as the age of Pinterest grows, I become less interested in DIYing for the holidays, partially because I have a fear that everyone is reading the same Buzzfeed or Brit + Co. or MAKE magazine, and that the ultimate “I made you the same gift!” faux-pas is just on the horizon.

I haven’t even been able to get started this year.  I think about DIY, and then my creative paralysis sets in, and I end up doing nothing but surfing more Buzzfeed or Brit + Co. and feeling more bad about the DIY that I am not doing. The vicious circle of DIY shame.

This is not how DIY is supposed to feel, people. I am overwhelmed by DIY, and I’m not even doing anything! All these cute “edibles in jars”.  Too cute.  Jars.  Too much.  They give me DIY anxiety.

Buzzfeed: http://www.buzzfeed.com/christinebyrne/spicy-pepper-vodka-and-sriracha-salt

http://www.buzzfeed.com/christinebyrne/spicy-pepper-vodka-and-sriracha-salt.  Hey, your label spells sriracha incorrectly.  Maybe sricacha is more appropriate for pepper-infused cachaça.

http://www.buzzfeed.com/emofly/diy-food-gifts-in-jar

http://www.buzzfeed.com/emofly/diy-food-gifts-in-jar.  In case you didn’t have enough to do this holiday season, look at these DIY gifts with envy and regret and self-doubt.  YOU DIDN’T PICK OUT ALL THE MARSHMALLOWS IN THE LUCKY CHARMS?  How can you call yourself a true friend??

I made resin jewelry, but they came out badly…and then I gifted them anyways…and I felt bad about it, so I will have to re-do them and regift them. Embarrassing. (There aren’t even pictures, it was that bad.  Maybe when I re-do them I will take pics.)

Yesterday, to cope with the DIY drought, I made 3 flavors of nutella macarons (cinnamon, mint, and lemon) in cute boxes.  They don’t have the hefty pieds that make macarons awesome because I had too many mimosas while making them, and didn’t figure out why they were slightly defective.  Still delicious.  I may get around to giving them out to people I had intended to give them out to.  Or maybe I will just invite them over to eat them and have more mimosas.

Mimosa...I mean, macaron ingredients up top; cookies right out of the oven; and filling the mim—macarons and boxing them.

Mimosa…I mean, macaron ingredients up top; cookies right out of the oven; and filling the mim—macarons and boxing them.

My knitting needles have been sitting untouched.  My sewing machine and sewing bin have been in my car for 2 weeks.  My craft room is peppered with the remnants of badly poured resin jewelry. We haven’t even sent our DIY Christmas Cards out yet, and they are just sitting in a pile on the floor of my living room, screaming to be stamped and addressed.

Somehow, my DIY failures are making me feel like I am lacking in holiday spirit this year.  How very Grinchy of me.

I hope to rekindle my holiday spirit and my DIY spirit in the next couple of weeks, before the end of 2013.  I am looking forward to settling down with a nice book, some tea, and a great mindless knitting pattern.  And just maybe, I’ll gift it to someone.  For their birthday.  Or for no reason at all.

Happy holi-DIYs, everyone.