Grappling with baking bread

My first gluten free sourdough loaf. Looks pretty simple, can’t be too difficult…hmm if only! This may sound crazy but I actually began the process of making this loaf over 2 weeks ago! I have never embarked on the world of sourdough baking before, even though I was aware of it. Before I could do anything I needed to make my own gluten free sourdough starter, which in simple terms is a fermented dough like mixture that adds lightness to the bread dough (which is lost in gluten free baking). It is supposed to take 5 days to create the sourdough starter, but mine ended up taking 2 weeks due to lack of knowledge and experience…and a chilly house.

The next hurdle…finding all of the ingredients, taking a number of visits to various health food shops. Finally, with everything in place after lots of mixing and rising the easy bit was putting it in the oven to bake and voila! Here it is!

Just waiting for it to cool down so I can see what it tastes like…I’m hoping for great things!

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Like bulbs nestled snugly beneath the soil, we’ve been in a kind of hibernation since the new year. All warm and cosy inside, piled high with assignments and lots of wet, rainy days have added to the motivation to stay indoors. But just like the spring flowers, as the sun has arrived so has the desire to emerge and explore again.

One of the days in half term was the most perfect spring day and, with some reluctance from little legs, we ventured to the great outdoors perched on our doorstep. Joined by many other ramblers I think everyone was glad to get out and feel some warmth on pale winter cheeks.

Snowdrops adorned the verges and birdsong filled the air (only occasionally punctured with arguing and crying – an essential element of every outing!). I could feel energy being replenished and a renewal for pursuing goals and dreams for the coming year.

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Technology and kids

Do you remember those heady days before mobile phones, tablet and games consoles? When the world was paved with gold and the sky full of rainbows? Ok, maybe the rose tinted glasses need toning down a little! There are so many advantages to all of the advances in technology and it’s often a life saver having so much power in the palm of our hands. I have an old diary entry about trying to meet up with a friend when I was a teenager, I was going to be late and there was no way of contacting her to say so. We found each other eventually, but there were at least a couple of hours lost through no available method of communication. Even so, sometimes I miss those days of no social media, limited modes of communication and a clear cut off between different social circles and situations. A never ending stream of information can feel overwhelming sometimes. If I feel this way then there’s every possibility that my children could feel the same. With so much potential power within smart phones and the like, both for good and plenty of not so good, it leads to a lot of considered thought into how to manage it effectively.

It’s something that’s on my mind as my children are getting closer to the age of having their own mobile phone. I’ve often wondered if the associated symptoms of addictive behaviour linked to technology are grounded in absolute fact or are, as yet, just theories. Listening to this feature helped bring a little light to the subject, with discussion about addictive behaviours and technology in childhood. In summary, the rewards gained from engaging in games, social media etc are the addictive element rather than the devices themselves. Due to the relatively recent advent of modern technology, our children are venturing into the unknown, with potential negative side effects that may be experienced from overuse of phones and tablets etc still a bit of a mystery.

I feel ok about erring on the side of caution and sticking with limited time on iPads, whilst still thinking how I’m going to negotiate the coming years and the challenges they will inevitably bring.

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December Highlights

January just snuck up and appeared right out of the blue! So here’s the best bits of December, that was full of wonderful memories, happy experiences and of course the occasional meltdown…as is typical of every Christmas period.

  • D had the lead role in the school nativity and she was amazing (of course I am completely bias). She was so confident and capable…I am envious that I wasn’t blessed with such confidence when I was that age!
  • Watching D and E perform their ballet from the previous term was a real treat. It was E’s last lesson as she’s moving onto climbing this year, which she has definitely shown an aptitude for when out and about.
  • Christmas traditions of choosing a tree, decorating the house, making gingerbread houses, listening to Christmas music and generally eating way too many treats have all been enjoyed copiously (the big jumpers are out for me to hide my indulgences!?).
  • We had fun at our village ‘carols around the Christmas tree’, with the added bonus of a visit from Father Christmas!
  • We got snow twice!!! Once before and once after Christmas, that almost never happens and really added to that Christmas feeling. The girls made a little tiny snowman (which became predominantly ice and accidentally rolled in a cow pat…resulting in a distinct lack of interest in ever touching it again!).
  • Going to the pantomime was so much fun! It was the most hilarious show I have ever seen, we were all rolling about with laughter. The girls got a double whammy that day, as they had a School trip to see a pantomime during the day too!
  • School holidays arrived very early this year! This seemed to add to the frenzy of excitement leading up to the big day! So it was a big relief to get to Christmas Day! We filled in the time with some baking, making and essential preparations.
  • We made it to Christmas Day, with an earlier than anticipated start (why do I forget this every year?!). The following week became considerably calmer…phew!
  • A visit to Scotland topped off a busy and exciting month to see family, with beautiful views into the bargain.

Now it’s back to school, work and essay writing! Plus healthy eating and exercise to add into the mix!

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A New Year

I’m not much of a party animal on New Year’s Eve, in fact this year I was fast asleep by 10 o’clock…which was bliss. But it’s always nice to feel like there’s a fresh new start to reinvigorate commitments previously set and somehow lost between the folds of life.

Looking back over the past year I think I actually did ok. It was full of new challenges, some chosen but many not, and everything was pretty much ok. Life doesn’t always work out quite so neatly, but we had a couple of pieces of unexpected good news before Christmas which really brightened up the season. Finally somethings are beginning to unfold and life can move on rather than standing still. After waiting for so long it actually feels incredibly strange for things to change overnight, but I’m happy to take it.

I chose a word for last year…’brave’. It was certainly relevant and significant and utilised frequently. I learnt that bravery isn’t the opposite of being afraid, fear is a necessary part of bravery…how can you be brave if you were never afraid in the first place? Fear is embedded within the heart of bravery, not as a negative element, but as a protagonist to push towards the realms of bravery and self-belief. Maybe the key is not to be afraid of feeling fear and instead see it as a natural collaborator with its close associate, bravery.

I don’t really feel the necessity of creating some new year goals this year, as I already have some in place…but I did enjoy having a word for the year, kind of like a little mantra. So I’m going to continue with that but moving onto ‘acceptance’…of myself, other people and life. Rather than fighting against the things I cannot change or control, I’m going to aim for feelings of acceptance…I already feel this is going to make life happier (with lots of practice!).

Have you got any New Years goals for the year ahead?

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Hooray! I’m so pleased I managed to keep up with posting a photo of the kiddos each week…first time ever! And probably the only resolution I kept going all year, I’ll take that as a win!

This is the day we got a total surprise of snow, it was truly magical and we had the best time admiring it in all its glory! What a fantastic end to the year.

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I absolutely love our Christmas tradition of making a gingerbread house each year, although it can be challenging and a little stressful…I think this year’s was the most successful yet! I made 3 small ones last year so they could have one each, but I learnt that wasn’t a great idea for stress levels so we went back to one big one…much easier!

We even had spare dough to make ginger biscuits (getting a ruler out to measure the depth of dough was definitely worth the effort!). I’m a bit gutted I can’t try any of it, but it smelt delicious!

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Christmas Traditions

When I was little I had The Snowman on tape, one of my favourite Christmas presents from my nan and grandad. I used to listen to it over and over again on my Walkman. Now I’ve upgraded to a cd, but I still love listening to the story and music, it really makes it feel like Christmas. It’s a story, that as a child, I half wished were true and encapsulates the magic of Christmas (although my children don’t agree!?). So this morning I took some time to enjoy listening to it again, before cracking on with making mince pies and gingerbread…for a gingerbread house to bake and construct later.

The Elf is also in full swing at the moment, although he has been a bit sporadic this year!? We seem to only remember him just before or once we get into bed. We need to up his game and think of some more naughty things for him to do…we’ve had complaints he’s too tame this year.

Settling down to some lovely Christmas films and listening to Christmas music by the fire have been a staple in our house since the beginning of December (if not slightly before), with plenty more to squeeze in over the next few days.

Then some carol singing and eating ourselves silly and the Christmas season will be complete!

Do you have fun Christmas traditions you do every year?

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Trying to, rather unsuccessfully, squeeze in a selfie with the rather tiny snowman we made! A pretty good effort seeing as we had just a dusting of snow…there may also be a bit of cow pat stuck to some of the body – the perils of making a snowman where the cows have been!!

It really made it feel even more Christmassy! Can we have some more next week please?

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On our annual outing to choose a Christmas tree, so much fun!! This year is the first year we have actually chosen a tree that fits the space we have (it will probably never happen again!?). Usually we go way too big!!

The additional fun is in the wrapping and carrying to the car, when the girls are eager to help. Luckily the staff are more than happy with their assistance!

I loved how E just held onto the tree and got dragged along for the ride on her heelies!

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