Completed August To Dos

Wow. I can't believe it's the last day of August already! This month just flew by for me and I'm left feeling a bit stunned, as there was so much else I wanted to do this month and so much that I had wanted to tell you about. But onwards, right? So, before we head into September "to dos" and other things later in the week, here is the wrap-up on my August "to dos."

I made a Strawberry-Peach freezer jam with the help of THIS article from NPR and the directions on the Ball low/no sugar pectin container-- and it was a ton of fun! I washed my jars and lids (Ball freezer safe 8oz quilted jam jars), let them air dry, and then put them on the warm cycle in the dishwasher while I got my fruit ready and made my jam. Important lessons included noticing that when using Ball recipes, measurements apply to mashed fruit, not whole- which explained why I got one and a half jars of jam instead of two! Also, the jam process is over in a snap so be ready to move quickly from one step to the next. Poured jam into warm jars, cooled until room temperature and then froze. One last note, I added the apple juice the Ball recipe called for as well as 1/4 cup of honey- next time I will probably pick on or the other, as I don't like my jam very sweet. 

My goal of reading more poetry started out strong the first half of the month and died out a little bit the second half, simply because I got a lot busier, but I will say this- I think it's true that reading poetry really enriches your life. It's just something about the words slip and slide, bounce and spin, in your mind; it's a strange and pleasant sense of written sound, not to mention that it's beautiful and rich in subject matter. Definitely worth it. 
I read a lot of different poets, from Tennyson to John Updike, flipping back and forth between my old textbook and some of my old favorites.

Bagels were probably my favorite of my "to dos" and they really did occupy a lot of my time this month! It appears that after last month's focaccia experiment I am back into bread making because I thoroughly enjoyed this process and can't wait to try out other breads and other bagels. In total I made two dozen bagels this month, nearly all of them jalapeno and cheese; where I'm from in California these little babies are delicious and can be found at your average grocery store, but here in the South, not so much! So, my husband and I churned out about as many as we could hold and it was definitely worth it! For some reason I always thought that making bagels would be tricky or challenging, to say the least, and it really wasn't. I used THIS recipe from Emeril Lagasse (in regards to some of the ratings and reviews on the recipe's site- I didn't have any problem with my bagels flattening out- just knead well to develop the structure of the bagel- probably worth pointing out that Lagasse's recipe applies to those of you lucky enough to own a KitchenAid mixer, so, if you're like me and don't have one, you're going to have to knead for longer than five minutes. Probably more like 15 minutes or, until your bread loses the stickiness he talks about the in the recipe. If you don't knead properly, all bread recipes fall flat- over knead and they get tough. Practice helps you to figure this out. Also, I didn't use cornmeal- it's generally used to help prevent things sticking to the pan but my husband and I think cornmeal should only be used in Polenta so instead I just bake my breads on a silpat or on parchment paper, sometimes I sprinkle said parchment paper with a little bit of flour and rub it it. Other than that, my oven is a fiend so I started at 20 minutes and gauged each batch from there- most took a little longer but it's worth it to avoid burned bagels. Finally, I never turned my bagels- I 'm guessing this is for a crispier bottom but I just didn't see the point and went straight into the baking cycle. One final note- the husband and I discovered that you can change about 1/4 of the flour to whole wheat with no averse effects, anything more than that results in a tougher bagel. Whew! Hope all of that helped!).

My final "to do" for the month was chosen to encourage me to keep pursuing my interest in photography and to that end, I read a book on photography. Of course, while choosing which book to read, I decided I should probably read a good variety of photography book and purchased three to start with. The one I've actually, one-hundred percent, completed for this project was Jim Miotke's BETTER PHOTO BASICS. My reasoning with this book is that my camera is kind of a hybrid between a point and shoot and a DSLR and I wanted something that would cover everything. Also, I wanted something that was really basic and wouldn't overwhelm and frustrate me, which this book definitely was. I admit, this probably isn't a book I will turn to again and again, but if you're just starting out and aren't interested in tons of nerdy tech stuff, if you just want somebody to lay out the basics to you of what your camera is capable of, as well as the basics of how to compose a shot, and just something to give you ideas, then this a perfect book. But, because I knew that I wanted to learn more than what this book offered, I also purchased Bryan Peterson's UNDERSTANDING PHOTOGRAPHY FIELD GUIDE and Helene Dujardin's PLATE TO PIXEL. I'm reading Plate to Pixel now and love it- I actually bought this book primarily for the photos (eek!) but it's packed with tons of useful information. I've only skimmed Bryan Peterson's book so far but it seems to be the one step up from the Miotke book that I was really hoping it would be- much more technical but written in a really laid back and easy to understand way.

And there you have it, dear readers, four posts wrapped into one because this little author completely lost track of time this month! None-the-less, I hope you enjoyed and find something in all of these rambles to inspire you in your own projects. Next up, September "to dos!"

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