>Part of me wants to blather on about how this was such a hard New Year’s, how thinking about my first year without Mom is ___ and ____; I hate how it has attempted to overshadow mine & John’s joyous first complete year with no long distance. But this is a happy blog, not my honest morning pages. So cheers to the regularity of life, which includes awful and traumatic things, too.

For example, the lack of rising in my starter. John gracefully pointed out – the lovely man – that it’s flatter this morning than it was last night. Yeasties grows around 80-90 degrees and die at 120, so clearly the temperature is at fault, which I have already suspected and commented on. How to fix this? I am determined to have fresh sourdough with soup in two days.

Then I get the great idea to turn the oven on, set the jar atop a burner, and turn the oven off. Off, on, all day. I do so, grab my coffee, go upstairs and write my morning pages. When I go back down for a refill, the oven is still on, and there is brown crystallizing on the bottom of the jar. I have cooked the yeasties! The bottom measures 140 – a brutal death. But the mid to top of the goop reports 100, so perhaps they’re still clinging on? Survivors? I’m ready to throw it all away and collapse dramatically on the couch, never to bake again, but John says ‘perhaps you can try again.’ My initial response is ‘I’ve been trying this since last Sunday! I am a failure!’

This might be one of those times Malia says you have to laugh about it, and remember. We have options. Other breads. Other recipes. New starters. New everything.

Yet, a triumph to report from last night – not the lasagna, which was splendid with the semolina noodles. Absolutely delicious. I adore my Kitchenaid and the pasta maker appliance. Hungarian Split Farmhouse Loaf, you are a wonder. 4 cups flour, some salt, sugar (the grocery didn’t have caster sugar – what is WITH this state? – so I used regular), fennel, water & butter. And yeasties – the recipe called for fresh, which of course cannot be found here, but it converst to dry easily enough. Off the top of my head, it’s 2 1/4 tsp per .6 oz (one yeast cake, I believe) of fresh. Then of course I didn’t read the recipe through, so it didn’t autolyze properly (flour and water hang out, bond, create gluten), resulting in a ugly pile of dough that didn’t look anything like the picture in my cookbook.

But then John punched the hell out of the dough – he likes to do that – and it smoothed out some of the rough edges. And the rising! Super speedy, and the fennel created a marvelous aroma.

It looked like a turkey. But oh, the taste! We garlicked up half and ate with the lasagna, and the rest will be for egg paninis this morning.

The key lime pie was a success, too. A simple graham cracker crust, which I could not force myself to purchase since they’re so easy to make. Then I modified the recipe because I wanted to use up some cream cheese – only 1/2 a can of sweetened condensed milk instead of the full, only 2 egg yolks instead of 4, 3/4th a packet of Neufchatel, 3/4 cup of lime juice – I squeezed about a dozen key limes until I got annoyed and poured in regular lime juice (yes, I need a squeezer), and that was that! Only bakes for 15 minutes at 350, and just delicious – not as heavy as a true cheese cake, but far more fulfilling than plain key lime. I stuck the thumb of my oven mitt in it as I was pulling the pie out of the oven, so no picture. Plus, we were on on the end of the champagne bubbly, after already tapping into the wine hours earlier, so I wasn’t thinking about pictures – only sugar, and sleep. We didn’t even finish the movie we ordered because I was so sleepy – so now we’ll watch terminating robots with our breakfast! Perfect.

On the agenda today, a whole lovely day of possibility – I have decided to bake a chocolate stout cake to bring to John’s mom’s house tomorrow; always a hit, and I don’t want to wait until St. Pat’s day to make it again. I already purchased 2 bottles of fancy chocolate stout – one for the cake and one for the cook. Plus, it tastes better when it sits a full day. Next, meatballs! With John’s very amazing marinara, my meatball recipe modified from Mom’s, and my attempt at buchty. Popular in Poland and Germany as breakfast bread, but supposedly tasty with cured meats, which is what drew my eye. Both of my eyes. We’re going to skip the powdered sugar icing and see how they turn out. I’m excited.

What I’m really thinking about this morning is cheese. Smelly, ripe, delicious cheese. Good thing stores are closed or I might take myself somewhere and purchase anything I can find that I haven’t tried before.

And then because Kitty has started napping by the vent, I moved one of his beds there. And look what I just found –

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