Saturday, April 17, 2010


Waiting to rise:

Usually I divide the dough in half to make two loaves of bread. This time I made four mini-loaves.

Ready to eat!

Baking Bread

I had a little free time today, so I decided to give my kneading muscles a workout by mixing up a batch of challah.

My challah days began in college. I think I made bread every Saturday of my senior year for our pasta & parsha Bible studies. It took a bit of adjusting various recipes before I finally settled on my own version. I personally think it's the best bread ever!
I should warn you, it takes a considerable amount of time to make - mix, wait to rise, knead, braid, wait to rise, then finally bake - but it is definitely worth it.

Tracy's Challah
2 1/2 cups warm water (110 F)
1 Tbsp. yeast
1/2 cup honey
4 Tbsp. oil
2 eggs
1 Tbsp. salt
5 cups unbleached flour
3 cups whole wheat flour
extra flour for kneading

In a mixing bowl, sprinkle yeast over warm water. Add salt, oil, honey, and eggs. Add whole wheat flour, then unbleached flour one cup at a time, mixing well after each cup. (After about cup 6 you might need to mix by hand.)
Cover with a wet dishtowel and let rise in a warm place for 1 1/2 hours. Pull out half of the dough onto a floured surface. Knead for about 3 minutes. Divide into thirds and braid. Repeat for second half. Let rise, covered, on baking sheets for 1 1/2 hours. Bake 15-20 minutes at 350 until light brown. Serve with honey.

I'll add pictures of the steps along the way. :)

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Hunger Games

Hi. My name is Tracy and I'm addicted to reading.

I know you don't believe it. But it's true...ask any of my friends. When I encounter a new book I literally devour it. I have no concept of time. Sleeping and eating become meaningless. I can seriously become so absorbed that I will spend an entire day reading the book. When I discover a new author, I become obsessed with the thrill of tracking down everything that person has ever written. (Do they have programs for people like me??)

Anyway, my current passion (aka obsession) is the Hunger Games series by Suzanne Collins.
My dear friend and librarian, Jenny, mentioned it to me while I was visiting her mid-February. I just happened to drop by a bookstore to purchase it later that week. I read the first chapter one night, a few chapters the following night, and then finally stayed up unreasonably late to finish it.
Immediately remorse set in....why had I not purchase the second book in the series when I bought the first one?!?!? Luck would have it that I needed to make a quick stop by Walmart and they just happened to have a copy of Catching Fire on the shelf.

I often tell my friends about the latest book I read and how much I loved it, but rarely do I strongly persuade others to read it. In the last month and a half, I have successfully turned 5 of my friends into avid fans.

What, you ask, makes this book so great? heart-wrenching and fast-paced. The premise is despicable, but the characters are charming. You ache for a happy ending, while realizing that it isn't possible. Just when things can't get any more painful, another unexpected twist changes the entire direction of the book. It shows injustice at its worst, addresses the superificiality of our culture, questions the nature of government, but still manages to encompass love, hope, and all that is good in our world.

Please read it. And to save yourself the pain - buy both books at the same time. Oh...and the second one will leave you hanging, but feel free to join me while I wait in line to buy the third one on August 24th. :)

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Commitment Phobia

I'm a nomad. Since graduating high school I have resided in 8 different places. Yes...eight places in 9 years. (With a few additional in and out of storage moves in between.)

I like for my residence to feel "homey," however deep down inside I realize that I'm in yet another apartment and it's hard to settle in. I unpack all of the boxes and hang curtains and do a bare minimum of decorating.

Enter the phobia - I don't like the commitment of hanging things on the walls. It feels too permanent. It leaves behind the holes that I'll have to patch up the next time I move. It also takes a lot of effort to pick out the pictures and to dig out the frames and to find the right place and to get it level. So I usually just look at bare walls.

Last March, I decided that I would be proactive about hanging things up. I even spent an entire afternoon finding the perfect pictures to put in my hallway. I added a few other things in the living room and then I stopped.

After my trip to Peru last summer, I thought it would be nice to make a little "Peru corner" in my dining area. I ordered the pictures, bought the frames and shelves, and got everything ready. Then I left it sitting on the floor waiting to go on the wall. The layer of dust I wiped off the pictures last weekend suggests that they spent approximately 4 months just waiting to go on the wall.

At last. . . here's how it turned out:

Now to tackle the bare walls in my bedroom . . .