Wednesday, 29 June 2011

It only takes a week to make one loaf....

Well I've done it. I've entered into the world of making bread. And not just any bread, sourdough bread. When you buy it at the shops, it's a quick warm-up in the oven and tastes great. What you don't know is it takes about a week just to get the starter to the point of making a loaf.
This all started because the Daily Mail (a national newspaper) printed an article about how sourdough bread is the best bread you can get because it doesn't have all the preservitves as the store bought bread. It's made only with water and organic white flour and lots of natural yeast from the air. My father-in-law started buying it at the store, but the cost as adding up a we were eating a loaf every other night. The article had said that it was really easy to make, so we looked it up and I found this recipe.

Of course what I didn't realize when I started this project that it was under the catagory of "challenging" and I've never really baked in my life (successfully anyways).

It starts with measuring out flour and water into a large bowl and covering it with a wet tea towel and letting it pretty much rot. However if it smells funny or gets moldy, no good. With little experience with baking, of course I measured everything wrong and wondered why my starter was really watery. Once it gets bubbly, like the picture , you can "feed it", as the recipe tells you. Then another day and finally you can make the dough, but after you make the dough you have to let it rise twice so that's almost another 24 hours.  I did figure out I had measured the ounces wrong I created a second starter which has worked much better.

This is actually a picture of my secod starter, but this is what the recipe means when they say bubbly
The dough is pretty easy to make. Getting it to look like the store bought loaves is a completely different matter. My first loaf with my first started tasted ok, but my dough was a little too stick and some flour didn't get mixed so there was cooked flour in the middle of the loaf. I have just finished making a second loaf with my second (much better) starter and as you can see by the picture it came out much better. Whether it tastes better is another matter. I'm waiting for my FIL to get home so we can all try it together. I'll let you know soon how it comes out.

This is the first loaf with the first starter. I burnt the edges making it really hard and you can see the uncooked flour on top

The second loaf with the second starter. I started this last tuesday, so I'm hoping this time it's worth the wait. But it does look much better than the last one.
 If you have any questions let me know. It sounds like a lot of steps and alot of time. But over all it really only takes a few minutes here and there and then it sits on the counter top. The hardest part is timing the second raise of the dough so that I'm not doing it in the middle of the night. I haven't quite figured out how to get it completely double in size, but I'll get there. The second loaf rose alot more so it does come alot down to the starter. Also you will go through tons of flour, so prepared. I'm also working on getting the oven just right so I don't burn the edges but cook the inside. It's going to take some fine tuning, but I'll get there.

oíche mhaith

Saturday, 25 June 2011

Let them eat cake

Another quiet week here in NI. However I did turn into a baking goddess for a few days. It was my husband's 31st birthday and since I'm too poor to buy him anything for his birthday I decided to make him a cake. He made me a fantastic cake last year for my birthday, so I thought I would try and out-do him this year. Having never baked a cake from scratch I was very wary and even tried to talk my way out of it twice. However, I found an easy cake recipe in one of my MIL's books and went for it. I made a Victorian Sponge Cake. I've got to say, it was really fun and really easy. I even made home-made butter cream frosting, which was delicious. It was very nerve racking though because I'd never had this type of cake before and had no idea what it was supposed to taste like. Based on everyone's reactions, it came out amazing and R has been eating it all week, and he doesn't normally like sweets.

Here's the cake at it's basic. It's got strawberry jam and butter cream frosting in the middle.
After the cake was done, I decided to try my hand at Regal Icing. You can make this from scratch too, but I chose to buy a pre-made cube and roll it out. It wouldn't be my favorite, way too sweet. But it makes the cake top really smooth and easy to decorate. Since my husband is a HUGE Ford Mustang lover, I wanted to do something with the pony. I free drew the emblem and traced the pony. I think it came out pretty good seeing how I can't draw at all.

Also this week I started working on my starter for Sourdough bread. Once you get it going, it can take up 4 days to get it all bubbly, then another 3 days before you can even start making the bread. The first started I messed up because I measured it wrong, so I started another. We'll see how everything goes. I'll let you know and if it works out, I'll share the recipe.

We were supposed to have the TT's up this weekend from Dublin, but that will be next weekend. So today we went to Maghera Fun Day at the movie theatre. It was a free day with 3 movies to choose from for the kiddies and then activities after. O did really well. We showed up late on purpose so that if she didn't want to sit through a movie we could still enjoy the rest of it. Well we were able to get into RIO and she sat for 45 minutes no problem, in fact it made her very sleepy, so when the movie was over, we came straight home. The activities were a little bit too old her, but it was nice to see how she reacted to the movie. I'm hoping that tomorrow is nice so we can go to the country fair at Shane's Castle.

Hope you all have a good week. Missing my friends at CampMeeting this year. If the visa hadn't gotten in the way, I would have been in Maine right now. I'm definitely going to be in Maine next July no matter what it takes.

oíche mhaith

Sunday, 19 June 2011

A Good Old Fashion Tractor Rally (With some cars of course)

On Saturday we didn't have any plans and we ended up at an advertised "Vintage Rally" in the old Maghera High School field. Seeing how I'm not from around these parts I really had no idea what we were getting ourselves into. The MIL thought it would probably be all tractors, but I was sure there had to be some cars there as well. What made us head that way in the first place was walking past our neighbors house and the wee girl bragging about how she was going to the rally to play on the bouncy castle and we thought that would be fun for O.

What it turned out to be was like any truck/car show you would see at the local Legion parking lot. Except a lot more tractors. There was a wee petting area, 3 food stalls, some really sketchy yard sale areas and lots of tractors and old cars. The cars were great! Triumphs, MG, old Model A's (that's a guess), original Minis and even a 1955 Austin-Healey (If you don't know me, I like cars). The local fire and rescue did a demonstration on what they do with a car wreck and ended up taking the whole top of the car off to get a woman out. They even made a boy pretend he was dead and took him out in a body bag. It was graphic, but drove the home across about drinking/texting and driving. We then walked around, took pictures and ordered a chip to share. The ironic part is that we ended up not letting O on the bouncy castle cause it cost even more money after we already paid to get in and she didn't seem fussed going on it.  There was also a Bonny Baby competition and we entered O in, but she didn't win, even though I thought she was the cutest.

It was a fun day, even though we took O home screaming cause we missed a nap and she tossed her dummy(pacifier) to the wind. It was really interesting to see what I would call Irish "rednecks" act exactly the same way as some Downeast potato farmer or lobsterman. Maybe that would be a good anthropological study: Rednecks Across Continents.
Here's some pics of the day.

The start of the Fire and Rescue demonstration

What the car looked at the end

I would just love one of those.

A Lotus Elise

A 1955 Austin-Healey. Beautiful car.

The tractors. There were loads more behind the shot.

1960's Morris Minor. This car was so cute.

Waiting to be judged in the Bonny Baby competition.

oíche mhaith

Wednesday, 15 June 2011

Back in the swing of things.

Sorry it's been a while since you've all heard from me. We're starting to get back into our old routine and I'm losing track of the days. I won't bore you with all the mundane stuff, but it's nice to be back on a schedule, at least for now and at least for the baby. I have started looking for jobs and working on my resume (or CV as they call it over here) so non-Americans will understand some of the places I have worked at. I have also been getting more accepted by the moms at the toddler group so that's been really nice. However the programs end next week so I'm not sure what we're going to do during the summer for entertainment.

Some things have happened in the last week. We had two "potty incidences." Again I won't go into them since many of you don't have kids and would prefer for me not to talk about this, so if you want to know, email me. O is also talking a lot more. And when I say a lot, I mean 3 word sentences and new words everyday. Oh, and non-stop. For example, we're now getting, "Daddy up please" which is nice. She also knows what to say if she has a dirty/smelly nappie. I have now become one of those parents that gets excited when people start talking about potty training. I tried telling a cousin how proud we were of the incident, but it only made me sound crazy.

We also were able to go to Dorman's Saturday as well. If you remember Dorman's is in Magherafelt and is a club with a young crowd. It has it's redeeming qualities though. There is a lot more space than most bars and plenty of seating if you get there soon enough. We went with a cousin, G and his girlfriend and ended up meeting some other people there we knew. We all had a good time. In fact I had such a good time I said, "I'm NEVER doing that again" the next morning. At least the last time that happened was two years ago.

Other than that, it's been very quiet here. I wish I could say that the weather has been great, but not really. The last few days were ok (no rain) but not the Maine warmth and definitely not as much sun. I hope it gets better soon or I"m going to go crazy.  I don't have new pictures of Miss O, but we went for a walk today and I took some close ups of some of the wild flower around here as well as some of the flowers on the lane up to the Greats. I'm hoping to get a better camera soon, so that my pictures come out a little bit better. But it was my first try at flower photography. Hope you all enjoy them.

The pigtails are new. We're growing her hair out and if it's not up, it's in her face. That is also her saying "Cheese"

oíche mhaith

Monday, 6 June 2011

Singing at the parish and listening to some Trad.

I had what I would call the most (stereotypical) Irish weekend possible. I sang in a parish concert Saturday and then a traditional Irish music concert on Sunday night. It was one of those experiences that makes me say, "I wish my friends were here, they would loving this!"

 On Saturday night I sang in a parish concert. I didn't volunteer as much as got tricked into singing with two of R's cousins and my MIL. A parish concert is a fundraiser for the church with talent from their members. It was held in the Keenaght GAC Hall (very similar to our Grange halls). I thought that there wouldn't be alot of people at this since it was a Saturday night and a church thing. How wrong I was. I think the whole parish was there. There were about 14 acts, each doing 2 songs/acts. We were the last act before the intermission. Cousin E sang a solo and then we joined her and sang "The Rose" by Bette Midler. We had practiced during the week, but not very much. I think we did okay, or so everyone tells us. The backing track was too loud so the melody got drowned out. I was singing the harmony and that was on the track so I don't think anyone heard me or they thought I was the one singing too loud. I had to leave at intermission cause our friends were still at the house. I would have loved to have stayed for the whole thing because each act was so "country" Irish. I saw a young lad do traditional Irish dancing, a harp player/singer, the priest and some men sing traditional songs, and even 3 young girls doing their best GLEE act.
The funniest part of the whole night was the looks I was getting from all the women at the hall. They were almost looks of disgust. In fact I had to ask my MIL a few times if I looked okay based on how they were staring at me. Almost like, "Oh my gosh, how could she leave the house wearing something like that." However both cousin E and my MIL both said that it was because everyone knew who everyone else was except for me. They've never seen me before and didn't know who I was. After knowing that, it made me feel a little more special. Almost looking forward to the next one. I was even told by the choir director that I didn't have to be Catholic to be in the choir. I might just join to get back into music and to meet more people.

This is from the back of the parish hall. By the time we sang each table was full, as was each chair. There is also a bar in the corner. That was full as well. It seemed like a place to meet a good single, Irishman.

This is us on the stage. It was very scary.

Sunday night we went to Hayden's in Pomeroy. You can't find the bar on the map and when you're on your way to the bar you think you've gotten lost about 3 times. I've told you all about this bar before. This time we went and saw Beoga as promised. It was much nicer to be able to hear them than last week, even though the only people we knew there were ourselves and the band. There were a fair bit of people there, but not as crowded as last time either. Some of the songs I've heard before on their previous albums and I really like their new stuff. In fact, based on what I heard last night their newest album would be my favorite. They've really matured as a band and their songwriting is amazing.  Again sandwiches were passed around during intermission and at the end of the night, they had one of the brothers that runs the bar come and play as well as a friend of their.

The band introducing their next song.

At the end with the two guest joining in for a few sets.

I had a video to share, but it didn't upload correctly. But if you want to hear some of their new album you can go to

This weekend was great. We had good weather most of the week up until Sunday. R even got burnt and I got a slight tan. We also had friends from Belfast come visit us and we had the house to ourselves as the in-laws were away celebrating their wedding anniversary. I hope the week is as good as the weekend.

oíche mhaith

Thursday, 2 June 2011

Beoga at the Red Room

I'm going to start this blog off by saying this probably isn't my best piece of work. My brain is all over the place today. I think it has something to do with too much sun. I apologize now for using the same descriptive word a few times. I promise I'll be better next time : )
Sunday after the wedding was a great day. We got to sleep in, laze about the house and then in the evening, my husband and I went to see Beoga.

Photo taken from their official website.
 I've told you about this band before. Uncle L is in the band and a lot of the cousins and family came out to see him. They are a traditional Irish band, but with a twist. They're so much fun to listen to and their concerts are even better. If you want to know more about them or order their new CD, "How to tune a fish" go to

The venue was The Red Room at Bryson's in Magherafelt. I expected the place to be good size for a concert, but the room was just a bar with a small dance area on the third floor. It would have been good for a one man band playing in the background, but not for a 5 piece band. It was also very crowded since a few of the members of Beoga are from this area.  Because it was so crowed we had a hard time hearing what they were saying and even some of their new songs. I wish I could give you a critic's view on their music, but I'm just being introduced to this genre of music. I can tell you though, that their music is lively, hence the name of the band, and Niamh Dunne's voice is so beautiful. The dueling accordions makes for some upbeat tempos. Hopefully, R and I will make another concert Sunday at Hayden's to see them. Hayden's is small, but not as much as a hang out location but as a musical venue. I'll be able to give a better description of their new album next time.

We did have a great time. I met a few more distance relatives of my husband that were really nice. It was also great to see his cousins again.  After the concert we headed back to L's house with a few of the cousins and ended up watching music video's until 4:30 in the morning. It was so much fun being around people my age again. Even though it's only been about 2 weeks since we left Maine I am missing my friends. The older cousins used to all hang out together when they were younger, but everyone has moved around and my husband has been away for almost 10 years. Hopefully we'll be able to hang out with them more.

I took pictures of the concert with my phone and they didn't come out very good. Hopefully I'll get better pictures this weekend. Hope you all had a safe holiday weekend. We've been enjoying lovely weather here and it should be nice for the next few days. My in-laws are also gone for the weekend to celebrate their wedding anniversary so we have the whole house to ourselves which is even better. We're expecting some friends to come over on Friday/Saturday.

The sparkly wallpaper on the way to the bathroom

The band in the front of the room.

The front of the room was made up of all glass and next to Niamh was the staircase up to the room as well.

A picture of just how crowded the room was. I still had lots of people behind me.
oíche mhaith