Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Sourdough Saga

I was given a jar of sourdough starter from a farmgirl friend.  We learned about starter and how to use it at last month's Farmgirl meeting.  One of the ladies has been using the starter for years and makes bread for her family a few times a week; I, on the other hand, would be so happy just to make one good loaf.  But alas, it seems I am lacking whatever it takes to make it work.  The starter (I learned that my starter is a daughter and that the original starter it came from is a mother - and I will refrain from making any smart-alec comments here) sat on my counter and bubbled away happily.  I fed it every morning and kept it covered with a damp towel all the time.  I scraped the "black stuff" from around the edge and threw it out (I learned that "black stuff" is normal....if however you notice any pink or red stuff, your starter has become deadly and must be thrown out completely, leading me to wonder "just what kind of stuff am I making here?").  The night before making bread, I added the appropriate flour and water and let it "sponge".  And then I began making the bread.....and nothing happened.  No bubbles.  No rising.  No action whatsoever, even after 30 minutes of kneading (mostly by hand, because my Kitchen Aid mixer, although it does fine with all other breads, for some reason doesn't like sourdough and refuses to knead it).  Two times I tried, and two times I made nice bricks of sourdough.  The first time, I threw it away.  The second time, I thought the chickens might enjoy pecking away at the brick, and put it in the coop.  It stayed there, untouched, for about four days, until I broke it in half.  With a shovel (I couldn't break it by hand or even stomp it with my boot).  The chickens were a little bit interested.  Finally, hours later, I noticed Max-the-Dog working at a half-loaf like it was a piece of jerkey (he must have reached his head through the tiny coop door to get that thing out).  So while I have greatly failed at making sourdough bread, it seems I succeeded at making the world's most expensive and long-lasting dog biscuit.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Why I Love My Job, Part 2

I've learned to upload videos!  So here are a couple from this year at Cal Poly and SLO Cru. Back in November, we had the opportunity to organize an event that included the entire campus and quite a bit of the county, as we packaged meals for Feed My Starving Children. Our wonderful friends Tim and Melissa Niegocki (we all went to college together, back in the 'olden days', as our kids tell us) came up because Tim does videotaping projects for Cru in our region, the Pacific-Southwest (or "PSW", as we call it.  We just can't get enough of the initials).  He put together this video that shows what we did over the two days.  It made me so proud of all of our students to see them work so hard at this, and to see the whole community coming together. Over 200,000 meals were packaged in two days - enough to feed 500 kids for a year. 
There's another proud mom in California, and that's the mom of the three Holliday boys, who created the second video for an annual contest/social that we have called "Night At The Oscars" (and yes, that would be "NATO", of course). I believe we had about 900 students there that night, most dressed up just like they would for the real red carpet.  One awesome boy even wore a kilt with all the trimmings.  As I was passing by, heading to my seat, I grabbed his arm and said, "I LOVE it that you wore the kilt!"  He looked a little alarmed; I'm not sure he knew exactly who I was.  Anyway, the videos were mostly amazing, and all completely done by students.  I believe they will all eventually show up on YouTube (search SLO Crusade Night at the Oscars 2012).  The Holliday boys won the evening's grand prize (voted on by the audience).  All three brothers go to Poly - two twins and one younger brother.  For years I've thought of them as just quiet, blonde surfers.  Who knew?  Although this video is simply entertaining and fun, our students have quite gotten into the idea of 'giving back', so money raised from ticket sales at this event went to Lifewater International, an organization based in SLO that digs clean water wells for communities that have none.