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La Leña

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It’s odd, I think, how autumn has sneaked up on me. It seems like it was just hot and humid and sunny (like it was for the better part of this past summer), and now today I received my annual delivery of firewood (not to mention that it is cool and damp outside). Four cords, that’s how much I get every year. I know to some (who heat with wood) this doesn’t seem like a lot, but it is to me. It’s enough to carry me through the fall, winter, and spring months, and still have a little left over. I just have a small wood stove that is an auxiliary heat source, not my main heat source. But when to weather is cool or slightly cold–not frigged–it is enough to heat most of the house, as it is tonight. The wood stove is strategically placed next to my office space in the front of the house and is currently blazing away. It’s bitter-sweet in a way. While I love the change of seasons I lament the loss of summer (and another season gone by…the passing of time). The picture above shows the wood after it was just dumped off the truck…in the very spot where I grow my front yard garden. Normally I have my teen-aged son help me haul it down our narrow alleyway to the backyard and and stack it, but today he had school (I usually have it delivered on a weekend)…lucky him. When he was leaving for school I asked him if he was glad that he didn’t have to haul and stack this year; his answer…”um, yes.”

Urban Simplicity.

la nuit

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Urban Simplicity.

Five Photos of Flowers

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Just Four Ingredients (OK, Five)

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“Simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.”

That beautiful loaf of bread pictured above was made with the four basic bread ingredients: flour, water, yeast, and salt. The best part is that it was made with 100% whole wheat flour. That’s the reason I added a tablespoon of vital wheat gluten to the recipe (the fifth ingredient). Whole wheat flour has less gluten…the bread dough’s muscle, if you will. Anyhow, this is easy to make, really delicious, and super healthy. I hope you try it, even if it’s hot out. For more detail directions, with many more photos of the bread being made, click here.

100% Whole Wheat Bread

Makes 2 loaves

2 cups whole wheat flour
1 cup water
2 teaspoons instant yeast
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4 cups whole wheat flour

2 tablespoons vital wheat gluten
2 cups water
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3 teaspoons instant yeast
3 teaspoons kosher salt

In one bowl make a preferment by combining 2 cups of whole wheat flour with 1 cup water and 2 teaspoons of instant yeast. Begin the autolyse in another bowl by combining 4 cups of whole wheat flour, the wheat gluten, and 2 cups water. Stir each bowl just enough to combine the ingredients, taking care not to get yeast into the bowl with the autolyse. Cover both bowls and allow to rest and ferment for 30-90 minutes, during which time the preferment will begin it’s job multiplying yeast and fermenting flour, and the autolyse will soak the grain, swelling the gluten.

After an hour or so, combine the ingredients from both bowls into the bowl of an upright mixer fitted with a dough hook. Add the salt and remaining 3 teaspoons of yeast (add the yeast and salt on opposite sides of the bowl). Knead the dough on medium speed for about 8 minutes. Place the dough in a lightly oiled container, cover it loosely, and allow to ferment for 1-2 hours, or until doubled in bulk. Deflate the dough and allow it to ferment an additional 30 minutes.

Turn the dough out onto a floured work surface and cut it into 2 or 3 pieces. Shape into loaves and place into lightly oiled pans (or shape them fre-form and place them on baking sheets). Loosely cover the loaves with plastic wrap and allow to ferment for 30-60 minutes, or until double in size and when gently touched with a fingertip an indentation remains.

Bake the breads for about 30-40 minutes, adding steam to the oven a few times (either with ice cubes or a spray bottle) and rotating the breads every ten minutes. The breads are done when they are dark brown and sound hollow when tapped upon. Remove the breads from their pans and allow them to cook on a wire rack for at least 10 minutes before slicing. 

Just a quick note…

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Just a quick note to say a couple things. The first is that I will be away from my computer for the next week or so, thus postings will be sporadic if any at all. But also, I just wanted to say thanks for visiting and subscribing to my meager little blog (s). Over the past year readership has doubled and for that I am very grateful…it makes me know that I am not typing away into an empty void. Anyhow…be back soon, please stay tuned.
Until then…peace.
Joe

Pictures of Water and a Few Other Things

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Today it was hot, humid, and overcast. To get a breath of fresh air this evening I rode the short distance to Erie Basin Marina and drank a couple beers while I listened to free live music and snapped a few pictures. The marina is a crossroads (or more specifically, a cross-waters) of the Buffalo River, the Erie Canal, and Lake Erie. Click any image for a larger view.

Urban Simplicity.

Three Photos and a Few Words

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I took the above photo just a few minutes prior to typing these words. It is about 9:00pm and without question a truly idyllic spring evening here in Western New York. It is so beautiful I felt the need to share it the best I can via this electronic media. There is not a cloud or wind in the sky and the temperatures is around 64F/18C…just lovely. And the day was just as beautiful. I spent most of the day inside working but did get a chance to be out for a while. The picture immediately below is of the garden that is just outside the rear door of my place of employment. And the last photo below is really the most interesting, I think…albeit a bit gruesome. It’s something I witnessed yesterday in my backyard. At first I thought an injured spider was slowly trying to make its way across a railing. But upon closer inspection I could see that three ants were not only attempting to carry the spider’s carcass, but actually pull it through a hole (which is visible under the spider). After several unsuccessful attempts they began to dismantle the spider and take it down a piece at a time. I couldn’t watch after a while, and when I looked this morning it was gone. Anyhow, the image’s juxtaposition is what I thought was really interesting…the incredible natural beauty of nature and at the same time the sometimes gruesome task of survival.

Urban Simplicity.

Anticipation

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Yup…it’s that time of year again. Time to start thinking about the victory garden. That’s a savoy cabbage plant pictured above. Future food for my son and I. In a few months I plan on eating it. No, let me rephrase that. In a few month months, after I harvest the cabbage and some cayenne peppers from my front yard garden, I’ll make kim chi–or rather, combine the ingredients and it will make itself–and then I will eat it. 

Five Quotes from Mary Oliver

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Photo credit: Josh Reynolds
I have to admit that I was not familiar with the poems of Mary Oliver before this morning. I am currently reading the book, Falling-Upward: Spirituality for the Two Halves of Life, by Richard Rohr, when I came across this quote that he had sited: Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life? The quote is actually the last line in her poem, The Summer Day. Anyhow, it moved me when I first read it as it does still, so I thought I’d share it with a few of her quotes.



“I have a notion that if you are going to be spiritually curious, you better not get cluttered up with too many material things.”


“Poetry isn’t a profession, it’s a way of life. It’s an empty basket; you put your life into it and make something out of that.”


“So this is how you swim inward. So this is how you flow outwards. So this is how you pray.”


“To live in this world, you must be able to do three things: to love what is mortal; to hold it against your bones knowing your own life depends on it; and, when the time comes to let it go, to let it go.”

“When it’s over, I want to say: all my life I was a bride married to amazement. I was the bridegroom, taking the world into my arms.”

 


The Summer Day
Who made the world?
Who made the swan, and the black bear?
Who made the grasshopper?
This grasshopper, I mean-
the one who has flung herself out of the grass,
the one who is eating sugar out of my hand,
who is moving her jaws back and forth instead of up and down-
who is gazing around with her enormous and complicated eyes.
Now she lifts her pale forearms and thoroughly washes her face.
Now she snaps her wings open, and floats away.
I don’t know exactly what a prayer is.
I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down
into the grass, how to kneel down in the grass,
how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields,
which is what I have been doing all day.
Tell me, what else should I have done?
Doesn’t everything die at last, and too soon?
Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?

To read more in the five quote series, click here.

Earth Day

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It’s up to us. Every little bit helps, I believe.

Five Random Photos

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Urban Simplicity.

Five Photos of Flowers…and a few words

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I took these photos mostly in a neighbors front yard when I arrived home from work late this afternoon. The sun shone just right that they almost seemed illuminated. Interestingly, of the three cameras that I own, the smallest of them–a teeny Sony Cyber-Shot that I purchased for $99 two years ago–takes the best close up images with bright colors, such as these. And that’s what I used to take these photos. Click any for a larger view.

Urban Simplicity.

Five Quotes from Frederick Buechner

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“What we hunger for perhaps more than anything else is to be known in our full humanness, and yet that is often just what we also fear more than anything else. It is important to tell at least from time to time the secret of who we truly and fully are . . . because otherwise we run the risk of losing track of who we truly and fully are and little by little come to accept instead the highly edited version which we put forth in hope that the world will find it more acceptable than the real thing.”

“Here is the world. Beautiful and terrible things will happen. Don’t be afraid.”

“Listen to your life. See it for the fathomless mystery it is. In the boredom and pain of it, no less than in the excitement and gladness: touch, taste, smell your way to the holy and hidden heart of it, because in the last analysis all moments are key moments, and life itself is grace.” 

“The original, shimmering self gets buried so deep that most of us end up hardly living out of it at all. Instead we live out all the other selves, which we are constantly putting on and taking off like coats and hats against the world’s weather”

“To be wise is to be eternally curious.” 

Okay, here’s one more…

“Much as we wish, not one of us can bring back yesterday or shape tomorrow. Only today is ours, and it will not be ours for long, and once it is gone it will never in all time be ours again.” 

Urban Simplicity.

Good Friday Moon

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The moon is amazing tonight. I was out on my bike and couldn’t take my eyes off it as I pedaled and coasted. The above image I took from my backyard (not bad for a point-and-shoot camera), and the below image is the Liberty Building with a low lying moon to its right. And if you’ve ever wondered about why the date of Easter changes each year it is because of the moon cycle. Easter takes place on the first Sunday after the first full moon after the spring equinox (sounds sort of Pagan to me). If you want to learn more follow some of these links. And it’s interesting–I think–that in the Christian calendar, tonight being a night of darkness it is also a night of such immense light; literally and metaphorically. It’s as if there is a large nightlight showing outside illuminating the earth. While I consider myself a practicing Christian, I also believe that all major religions walk a similar path. That being said, I also consider nearly everything in the Bible a metaphor–to help each of us to discover our own inner truth–and right now I cannot think of a more direct physical metaphor than that incredible moon shining in the darkness like a beacon of hope and newness.

Urban Simplicity.

A View from my Handlebars

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This was a view from my handlebars on my way to work this morning; I was at a traffic signal at this corner. There’s a lot going on in this picture. There were a group of guys doing something where they had to take up the sidewalk (pavements to my friends in the EU). I’m not sure what they are doing but whatever it is they were doing it to the opposite corner yesterday. You can see the guy in the lower left…he’s the one creating all the smoke with a concrete saw; it was loud. The group on the right were discussing loudly–arguing–over how to do something. And there’s the guy in the center who just finished fueling his car at the petrol station behind them. I’m not sure if he is looking at me–sitting on a bike taking his/their picture, or if he is looking at all the activity as I am. Incidentally, the gas at this satation was $4.13 US/gl this morning…I know that’s not a lot to other parts of the world, but it sure has people squawking around here. But what you, the reader of this blog, cannot see, is the car to my direct left and adjacent to me. A man in a suit in the driver’s seat who appeared to be about my age and looking bored (I of course, have no idea what this man was thinking or feeling, obviously I’m projecting). And when I looked over and saw him it made me remember. It made me remember how grateful I was to be on a bike–out in the elements with the sites, smells, and feeling of wind on my face. This morning I was heading into another stressfull day at work and already a few minutes late, but this respite–however brief–really made for a nice beginning to my day. And this is what I was thinking as I sat on my bike on a chilly Spring morning looking over my handlebars.

Urban Simplicity.

Red Red

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It’s been raining, sleeting, and hailing for most of the day today. Maybe that’s why these flowers caught my eye…their bright colors in the midst of a drab and grey day. Beautiful aren’t they. I took a couple of these this morning as I left my house for work, and a few more on my way home during a minor hail storm. The one above I find especially incredible…so red and juicy it almost looks like raw meat. As usual, click any for a larger view.

Urban Simplicity.

A Few Things I saw Today (natural and human-made)

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We had a crazy wind storm yesterday and everything was blown about. And today I found the juxtaposition of things human-made and those natural to be an interesting combination. Here’s a few things I saw. From top-to-bottom:

A rotten apple in the middle of the street.
A small fabric ball on a rock.
A sock in a bush.
A thistle that survived yesterday’s wind and was still swaying in today’s. 

Click any photo for a larger view.

Urban Simplicity.

A Few Things I Saw Today

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From Top to Bottom:

A waxing crescent moon with a star in view.
A side view of Temple Beth Zion
Twigs in melting snow.
Dusk over Buffalo’s West Side.

Urban Simplicity.

Five Quotes That Inspire Me

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“Strive not to be a success, but rather to be of value.” 
“A life is either all spiritual or not spiritual at all. No man can serve two masters. Your life is shaped by the end you live for. You are made in the image of what you desire.”
“Non-violence begins with me.”
“Be the change you want to see in the world.” 
There is a criterion by which you can judge whether the thoughts you are thinking and the things you are doing are right for you. The criterion is: Have they brought you inner peace?”
To read more in the Five Quotes series, click here.

Things That Can be Carried on a Bike (#399)…and a quick comment

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Things on the bike…a gym bag containing two swim suits, two towels, and two pair of swim goggles; and a canvas bag containing a book, magazine, and camera.

A quick comment…That’s my bike parked about 10ft from the door to the health club of which I’m a member. Being Monday I almost drove…my street has alternate parking and I have to move the truck and find a spot where I won’t get ticketed; it can be a real hassle. But I chose to ride and I’m glad I did. It’s difficult to see by the picture but the parking lot–in the background–at that time of the day (early evening) is mayhem…parents picking up their children from the after school program and health club members–like me–who just got out of work and are arriving at the facility. There are cars circling the parking lot being driven by annoyed and anxious-looking people seeking a spot to park…some are simply waiting at a stand-still while others double park with flashers on…and wait. I, on the other hand, was able to coast up to the front door.

I know riding a bike is not accessible to everyone–and not many are as crazy as me and the other few souls I see in the snow–but there are alternatives, such as walking and riding occasionally (or even car-pooling and sharing). Anyhow, I’ve always thought it was a bit silly when I see people drive cars  to a health club only to ride a stationary bike for a few miles (and then comment how far they “rode”), but another incentive–at least at this club–is that bikes always get the best parking spaces. I’m just saying.

I’ll get off my little soapbox now.

Urban Simplicity.

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