Wednesday, October 20 2021

instagram bread, un-boxing day, and the paint mill

page banner

Dear Journal,

Good morning, friends. Happy Wednesday. It's an honor to slide into the halfway point of the week with you. Let me set the scene here on the homestead. Marissa power naps on the couch with the dogs. Minnie sleeps so deeply that I can hear her sleep-yipping in the living room. From the kitchen, the oven quietly bellows while it gets up to temperature.

I'm making some bread this morning, but I unexpectedly ran out of parchment paper. Without parchment paper, I can't use my usual loaf pan. So in order to bake this perfectly usable mass of dough, I've resorted to using some tools I haven't seen in a while - my banneton, my scoring razor, and my special bag of rice flour on the top kitchen shelf. I acquired all this fancy bread stuff when I was trying to learn how to make sourdough boules. That's the kind of fancy bread you see in bakery windows with the perfect bubbly crust, dramatic spring, and elaborate designs. I've started referring to this style of bread as Instagram bread.

The last time I tried making bread this way, I pulled a sturdy, uninspiring hockey puck out of my oven. My boules would never hold their shape. My scoring cuts weren't clean. I joked with Marissa that chasing Instagram bread is great if you enjoy starting each day off with a tiny failure.

But now that a lack of supplies have forced me back into Instagram bread, I'm curious to see what will come out of the oven forty-five minutes from now. Have I unconsciously fixed all my bad habits, or will we be cutting into yet another bread hockey puck for lunch today. We'll have to wait until the end of this entry to know for sure.

To hell with fancy Instagram bread. All I need in the morning is writing and coffee.

Sip. It's good to be here today. Let me open today's entry with a life hack. But this life hack is so specific, I doubt it will help anyone other than us. Our bedroom door doesn't close snuggly. There's about a quarter inch of wiggle room between the wood door and the door jam, and when you push on the door it knocks the wood together. As it happens, just after emerging from our rolled up blankets, Minnie likes to greet the day with a grand morning stretch. She stands on her hind legs with her front paws on the door, knocking the door against the door jam. Each morning, she wakes Marissa up with this stretch a whole fifteen minutes before her alarm.

"Oh, I didn't know that was waking you up," I said empathetically. "I'll try to beat her to the door tomorrow."

This morning, I hurriedly stumbled through the darkness to hold the door in place, but I couldn't outrun Minnie. She beat me to the door, stood on her back legs, and stretched. But instead of knocking into the door jam, something cushioned the sound. Marissa had strategically left a t shirt balled up on the floor, keeping our door from fully closing. Minnie stretched and pushed the door in, but the t shirt dampened the sound. Marissa added fifteen well-earned minutes of precious sleep to her night.

I'm feeling a bit tired today, but not because I stayed up late playing video games. Before turning in for the night, I helped Marissa put some finishing touches on the Gecko enclosure. Worried that the heat lamp wouldn't provide enough warmth in our drafty bedroom, we borrowed the heat map from the cockroach colony. But it didn't seem to make a difference through the thick layer of glass and dirt, so we returned the heat source to the chilly roach colony and decided to check it in the morning.

Marissa tucked moss into the dirt and misted the humid corner with water. We filled the water bowl. Suddenly it felt real. Ducky is en route, and barring any kind of unlikely transportation disaster, we'll be un-boxing a new leopard gecko later today.

Marissa was stressing about the temperature this morning. I'm trying to keep her from sweating the small stuff, but the anticipation leading up to un-boxing a new animal is real and it can make you crazy. The moment you take a new animal into your care is equally exciting and scary. From this day forward, Marissa is the expert. She keeps this animal alive. She's responsible for its happiness, and that's an incredibly fulfilling responsibility as long as you can be forgiving with yourself while you learn. Weather it's kids, spiders, roaches, fish, worms, or lizards, our approach is the same - be observant, be consistent, and be patient.

In other news, we had a visit yesterday from our favorite electricians Mark and John, whom we affectionately refer to as the electric apostles. They helped us fix our power box that had fallen off the side of the house, and they also helped Marissa wire up her new paint dye mill.

The paint mill was intimidating. It arrived on our doorstep in a wooden crate. We had a small brush with death lugging the machine down our basement stairs. It came with a special plug, similar to the outlet for our drier, only slightly different.

"Should I get an adapter for it?" asked Marissa. John kindly shook his head.

"No, because those change the voltage," he explained. "You could actually do some damage to the machine."

John is a master at telling you that you're wrong without making you feel dumb, and I think this is mostly due to his impressive collection of electrical horror stories. He always follows up his advice with a story about someone who had a much worse idea. "At least you aren't one of those people who try to bend the plug until it fits," he laughed. "I knew a family who hired a handy man to hook up their drier, and the guy just bent back one of the prongs and shoved it into the wall. I was horrified."

John hooked up a new outlet for the machine in Marissa's studio. As an extra safeguard, he put it on a special breaker so we could turn off the whole outlet at the breaker box. "I was thinking of Rodney," he said. "I didn't want him pushing a big green button and getting hurt. That won't happen, as long as you don't let him mess with the breaker box."

Well we're at the end of the entry. I had better hold up my promise. Let's see how the bread turned out, shall we? It's still got twenty-five minutes to go, but that's enough time to know if we're dealing with a hockey puck.


Hey, look at that. We've ascended from the hockey puck failure stage into the more respectable flying saucer failure stage. If I was still into Instagram bread, I could probably use a shrewd camera angle to fool everyone into thinking it turned out perfectly. But that's the last picture I'm taking of this bread. It's good enough for lunch, and that's fine by me.

Thanks for stopping by today. Have a great day, everyone.