Working on Myself

Gentle Exercise

For years I did hardcore workouts. HIIT, kettlebell classes, running, pushing myself to the limits, even if I needed to back off. I’ve been realizing lately that I needed to rethink the exercise narrative. Part of that was the Pandemic and my gym closing for a large chunk of 2020.

While I was fairly diverse in my workouts–running, biking, swimming, weights, hiking, HIIT, etc. Other than swimming it was kind of aggressive stuff. At some point I just realized that sometimes you need to listen to your body. Sometimes it’s ok to take an extra rest day, even if it wasn’t scheduled.

Listening to Body Positive and Anti-Diet Culture podcasts, I’ve been hearing this message like a broken record and it is finally sinking it. With recent flare ups of old back injuries (and postpartum hip issues that never really got better) I had to do different things. In January I started doing more yoga (I do the Down Dog Yoga app).

I’ve written before about my love/hate relationship with yoga. Years ago I forced myself to go once a week at the gym. And I enjoyed the class and often felt much better after but I never LOOKED FORWARD to it. In fact, I often dreaded it. Then when I was pregnant I stopped because I was having to modify too many of the movements and I felt frustrated. I never really picked it back up after having Logan because of time/desire/back issues.

I am glad that I’ve been trying it again. I’ve been doing 15 minutes of yoga almost every day for the last two weeks. I’ve skipped a few days here and there, but I am really enjoying the habit. I do the different “boosts” in the app according to my body pain (hip flexors, low back, hamstrings, etc) and feel better after. I am going to work up to 20 minutes a day and eventually 30….


So yoga is helping me. It’s gentle movement. Hopefully it will improve my flexibility and stability. I am also doing a lot of walking and “hiking” (I say it that way because hiking with a toddler is not intense).

I was listening to the Edit Your Life podcast and one of the hosts said she recently started doing gentle and restorative exercise because she felt like her previously routine wasn’t working anymore. She also said that she was “injuring her body just by living”. I can totally relate to that!

Baking Bread

So happy we have a working oven! I am back to experimenting with sourdough. I have a book that I got when I first started trying sourdough and I’ve been trying different recipes in there, also making my own experiments with the traditional sourdough (trying different flour ratios, trying different amounts of sourdough starter).

It makes me happy. I enjoy it. It’s sometimes very time consuming, but I do have the original sourdough recipe down pretty good and don’t even have to look that the book much to make it.

It’s a fun hobby, you can’t rush it. And it is helping me kind of make peace with some food issues–like CARBS ARE BAD. Doing the keto diet definitely made it harder for me to feel at peace with food. Huge amounts of food were demonized and “Bad” and you know what? I disagree. Food isn’t bad. And freshly baked bread is pretty darn awesome.

Mindfulness

One of the challenges I have always had in my life is not living in the moment. I am a planner. I plan everything out–future vacations, goals, etc. There is a saying:

“If you are depressed you are living in the past.
If you are anxious you are living in the future.
If you are at peace you are living in the present.”

― Lao Tzu

This is beyond true for me. So in therapy, for years, I was told to work on “mindfulness” and “being present.” And I COULD NOT DO IT. At all. It was such a struggle for me. The *only* silver lining for 2020 was that I learned this lesson, finally. Am I an expert at it? No, but I am shocked and impressed with myself that I am doing so well with living in the NOW.

Before, my life was overbooked, over-scheduled, planned to the T. Weekends were crazy busy, booked for months out. I felt a constant level of stress and pressure and never felt like I had any downtime.

2020 completely changed that. There was no more living in the FUTURE. Or making future plans. Or making ANY plans. Shit got shut down. For months we felt like we were living in a limbo. There was a brief reprieve this summer when it felt like the pandemic lessened and things weren’t as bad. Then winter. Another shut down.

During 2020 I realized just how much I did before and that I never wanted to go back to that lifestyle again. I love taking my dog for a walk a few times a day. I like relaxing. I like having downtime and not having every minute booked. I like having OPEN weekends. Sure, I miss friends and family and hope we can all get together soon, but *this* quietness, is nice.

How are you working on yourself this year?

Making Your Own Sourdough

I am in no ways an expert at sourdough! But I have been practicing for about a year now and trying to get better at it and if it’s something you are interested in, you may be interested in this post.

I’ve shared my successes and failures on this blog many times. There have been times when the bread didn’t rise. When it was a weird shape. When it taste great but didn’t look great. When it looked great but didn’t have the right flavor. It was all practice practice practice.

I really like this book and highly recommend it:

How To Make Sourdough: 45 recipes for great-tasting sourdough breads that are good for you, too. by Emmanuel Hadjiandreou

Why I like this book is because it gives step by step instructions WITH PHOTOS. I am a visual person and it helps a lot to see the photos for each step of making the bread–even each step of kneading the bread and rising, etc. Once I started using the sourdough recipe in this book, I got much closer to the right sourdough loaf I was looking for!

The book has a ton of other recipes in there, too. I have tried one of the other recipes in there (the rosemary raisin sourdough) but unfortunately my bread didn’t rise so it didn’t bake properly. It ended up in the trash. Bummer! More practice on that one.

One of the biggest things that helped with making sourdough was weighing the ingredients with a food scale instead of measuring out the ingredients in cup measurements. Weighing the dry ingredients in grams was a game changer.

Also, I suggest using bread flour instead of regular flour. I definitely recommend Bob’s Red Mill! It’s local for us and we have access to their store, which is nice, but you can get it online if you don’t live local. I love their products!

Other than that, the only other thing you need is the proofing basket:

Banneton Proofing Basket – Round

Banneton Proofing Basket – Oval 

A few days before I’m going to make the sourdough, I take some starter out of the fridge and put it on on the counter and “feed” it every day (just a little bit because you don’t need a lot of starter for the recipe).

Then the night before, I make the dough and knead it, then let it rise over night. The next morning, it should double in size. The day I’m going to bake the bread, I knead the loaf again, shape it a bit, and then put it in the floured banneton. This particular time it was slightly deformed on the bottom but no big deal because that will be the bottom of the bread and it will flatten out.

I turn the oven on to 200 degrees then TURN THE OVEN OFF. I cover the banneton/loaf and put it in the oven for 2-6 hours, checking it frequently to see how it’s rising.

Then it’s time to bake! I use a Dutch Oven to bake it. First I put some cornmeal on the bottom of my Dutch Oven. Then I turn the banneton upside down and dump the dough into it. Then I make the slashes on top with a razor blade. I put the the lid on the Dutch Oven and bake it at 425 degrees for about 45 minutes and then check it.

I usually end up baking the bread for a little over 60 minutes.

This particular loaf of sourdough gave me some grief. It didn’t rise as much as it usually does overnight. Not sure why–maybe the dough was too wet? Who even knows. It’s always a mystery as to why sometimes it’s perfect and round and amazing and sometimes it’s a little flatter.

But the bread cooked well and it tasted okay. So that’s always a success.

Dinner was tomato bisque with the sourdough and salad. It was delicious!

QUESTION: Are you a bread baker? Any tips? Favorite bread recipes? Share!