Whalechaser's Musings

No Matter Where You Go...
There You Are
Make the Best of It

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Italian Braided Bread

This one was pretty simple. On day one make a Biga by putting 1 cup of water, 2 cups of flour (8.5oz) and 1/4 teaspoon yeast in a bowl, mix it up and cover. Leave it alone for 12 to 14 hours.

Then add 1/2 cup water, and mix until smooth; then add 2 to 2 1/2 cups flour (8.5 to 10.5 oz) 2 teaspoons of yeast and 1.5 teaspoons of salt; mix it altogether until it forms a mass.

Knead on a floured board for about 5 minutes. Place it in an oiled bowl and cover. Leave at room temperature for about 1.5 hours. Every half hour, turn it gently and tuck under in a kind of gentle knead.

Divide the dough into three equal pieces and roll into 18 inch ropes. Braid the ropes and set the braid on a parchment lined baking sheet. Cover it and let it rise for about 1.5 hours. Brush it lightly with egg white wash and sprinkle with sesame seeds.

Place in a preheated 425 degree oven and bake for 25 to 35 minutes.

When golden brown, remove, let cool on a rack and enjoy.

The crust of this bread was very good and the texture sturdy. it is great with butter or toasted or dipping into gravy. Good all purpose bread.

Here are the shots I took while putting it together:

Friday, October 30, 2009

Well...it Was Just Unexpected!

Around the time I turned fifty, I got an invitation in the mail from AARP. I didn't mind it too much, since I knew along with age came those all important "SENIOR DISCOUNTS". I actually liked it.

Time passed and it wasn't long before I was collecting Social Security...this too I looked at as a blessing and sort of a reward for 'getting to where I am today'.


Well this is just too much! How did they find my address????? And what do they mean by a personal mobility assessment????? HAH!!

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Daydreaming With Ordinary Things

When I sit alone at the table, I sometimes find I drift off into a kind of reverie. It lasts only for a moment or two and when I return, I find I invariably blink once or twice and wonder what just happened. Maybe it was something like this:

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Lake Fayetteville continuing construction update

Here is the best shot of abundant color that I got from my walk through the trail today, pretty nice with that blue background

Only a few days have gone by since my last post on this, but I thought I'd update the progress being made on the trail extension. The section around the Copperhead Bridge is starting to take form as you can see from the following photos

Here I was walking in a clockwise direction and am approaching the Copperhead Bridge. They have moved the truck to this side of the bridge and added lots of gravel and stone. I think they are preparing for a new bridge that will parallel the old wooden one.

Here is the Copperhead bridge. I was standing exactly in front of the truck shown in the earlier picture

This is taken just after crossing the bridge..you will note that the truck (which was here just days ago) has been replaced by a bunch of new equipment. Also, in the background where the trees with color are is where you can make a little left turn and pick up the original single-track bike trail again.
This is looking back over the bridge to where they have moved the truck.

Here is the original mountain bike single track trail.

Just before I got to the parking lot, I discovered a bunch of grown men playing with these cute remote controlled rock-climbing cars. Well, I guess playing is not the right phrase! It looked like there was a course all laid out and a REAL competition was being held. There was NO levity while I was watching.
If you double click you will see the car trying to climb the huge rock in front of the center man. I don't think he was successful. The green and orange bumps outline the course. Amazing!

Saturday, October 24, 2009

It's a Sunny Rainy Day Here


I admit it...I stole this from some other blog...no I won't tell you where. The sun is shining very brightly and my heart sees rain. I will take it out and shove a little sun in its' face until it feels better.

It will work. You can only feel bad for so long..then you get snippets of feeling better.

That's how it works.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Goodbye Dear Friend

Today was no different than any other day. I got up the usual time and had my coffee. I worked on the Suduko puzzle a little and read the paper, showered and had breakfast. It is such a gloomy morning I guess you are taking advantage and sleeping a little later than usual. Its ok.

I checked out Facebook and my blog friends and saw that it was really late. C'mon wake up little guy it's time for breakfast and some lovin'.

But we will never do that again. You were indeed the light of my life for these last eight years, filling my days with song and cheer. Yes, you could get crabby once in while, but it never lasted more than a minute or so. So now you will live on in my heart with your burst of song and noggin nudges and sweet little birdie kisses. All gone. Not forgotten. Still loved.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Speaking of Trails

It used to be lights out on a local trail at 11 p.m., but now the city of Fayetteville is going to keep the lights on the Scull Creek trail burning all night long.

Representatives from the city said people haven’t been getting off the trail after the sun goes down. They said over a two-month period more than 1,500 people stayed on the trail after 11 p.m.

Cyclists Juan Camacho and April Martin were on the trail after the sun went down, and they're already big fans of the new lighting.“To be able to ride when it's pitch black at night is amazing,” Camacho said.They said they aren't alone in being appreciative.

Camacho said, “Every 20 feet or so, I someone running or riding a bike or walking a dog.”The city of Fayetteville uses two infrared counters on the trail to monitor the number of people passing by.Trails coordinator Matt Mihalevich said, “A lot of people are using it to come home from work or late night jobs all hours of the day.”Mihalevich said that seems to be a growing trend. He said it does cost slightly more to keep those lights on all night long. But that's a small price to pay to keep citizens safe after dark.“Especially when we are looking at the winter months, getting dark at 5 o' clock, the lights really help out, provide a safe way home,” he said.

Currently only three out of the 16 total miles of trail in the city are lit, but Mihalevich tells us the city eventually plans to have every mile lit, every hour of the day.The city is also experimenting with LED lights on the trail in order to cut costs. Officials said the lights use about a quarter of the power the regular lights on the trail use.Representatives from the city said about 30,000 people used the trail over a two-month period during all hours of the day.

Commentary: Well, we may not have a lot of trails in Arkansas but we sure use them like crazy!

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Lake Fayetteville...Construction Update

Today was the first beautiful day that we've had in a long time. It was a bit too windy for me to try cycling on the street, so I opted to walk around Lake Fayetteville. I was a bit dismayed at first, after parking in the lot by the ball-field and walking across the dam and through the park to discover this sign.

I was hopeful that the trail was still walkable and whatever branch-problems there might have been had already been cleaned up. Indeed the trail was fine, what wasn't fine was my weather analysis before I started walking. At home, it was windy and just about 60 degrees; cool enough for a couple of layers. So I went with tee shirt, long sleeved sweatshirt and a fleece. I was into the trail about 1,500 feet and I was wishing I had worn a tee shirt and shorts! How can the weather be so different just a few miles away? Anyway I started removing layers and tying them around my waist and continued into the trail.

I got to the Botanical garden and noticed that the trail now goes a bit deeper into the woods and not along their boundary perimeter like it did the last I was here. Okay, that must mean they are making some progress on the extension of the walking trail...

Indeed they are, just where the new trail comes out to visually see Old Missouri road, they have laid a concrete sidewalk to Old Missouri, they are blacktopping the rest of the trail to connect up to what was previously started...about a mile or so of additional improved trail.

I should say they are not quite finished yet but they are making great progress; as you can see from the pictures below

I came out from behind the Botanical Garden on the trail where the white sign is with the arrow. The concrete section will take you out to Old Missouri and presumably the gardens...the blacktop will take to around on the lake loop.
I wasn't walking the trail very far before I came upon this fellow rolling more black top
These guys were taking a short break in laying down the blacktop...I actually got to one section that was so hot, I had to walk in the grass
Here is the build up trail of crushed red rock...it stops just feet from the copperhead bridge
Just a little water to cross before getting on the bridge...there is still about 50 feet or so left to work on to connect to the other side of the bridge-work.

Actually, the only part that is left with nothing done to it is the short section where the Copperhead bridge is...about 150 feet of really wet section, the rest is all gravelled or in some state of being paved. This makes it much better to walk when the weather is soggy. Of course you can still find the old path and use it if you prefer.

I found the 5 plus mile walk a bit much today, maybe it was the heat; maybe it was because I have not been quite as active lately as I was a couple of months ago. This time is was a challenge for me.

Oh,I saw this little guy on the last leg of the trail before coming into the Frisbee section of the park. He obviously is enjoying the weather too!

I got REALLY CLOSE, he is only about 5 inches long!

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Hair Facts

I was flipping through Total Nutrition by Victor Herbert and discovered these...thought you might enjoy the following tidbits...

Hair grows at the rate of about half an inch a month. (I think everybody knows this)

Hair falls out at the rate of 50 to 150 strands a day...humm

Thinning is not noticeable until about 40 percent of the hairs have been lost.

Scalp hairs grow for two to five years, then rest for two to three months. At the end of the resting period, the hair is shed. Between 10 and 15 percent of the hairs are in the resting phase at any given time.

The shape of the hair follicle determines the type of hair. Round follicles grow straight hair; oval follicles grow wavy hair; flat follicles grow curly hair. (Now you know)

A healthy head of hair has between 80,000 and 150,000 hairs. (This might be on Jeopardy some day)

Blonds have more hair -- 140,000 hairs compared with 115,000 for brunettes and 80,000 for redheads.

Friday, October 9, 2009


Zeppole is the name Italians use for a pinched piece of deep-fried dough showered in confectioner's sugar. I became addicted to these yummy delights back in the New York area during the many Italian street fairs that were held during the year. I don't know why I can enjoy a food like this so much and yet years will pass before I get the idea that...maybe...just maybe...I could make it myself!

Way too many years have passed since my last Italian street fair, but today is the day the I tried making them for myself. First I discovered that there are probably as many recipes for this dish as there are Italians. That did not dissuade me. I read and read and zeroed in on one that 'sounded' right and went at it with wild abandon.

Here are the results:

Here is the recipe:

(I have cut the original in half..this will probably serve 4 people easily)

1/2 a stick of sweet butter
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup of water
1/2 cup flour
2 eggs

oil for frying
in a medium sauce pan combine the butter, salt, sugar and water over a medium heat. Bring to a boil. Take the pan off the heat and stir in the flour. Return the pan to the heat and stir continuously until mixture forms a ball, about 3 to 5 minutes. Transfer the flour mixture to a medium bowl. Using an electric hand mixer on LOW speed add the eggs, 1 at a time incorporating each egg completely before adding the next. Beat until smooth. The dough will change dramatically when you add the second egg. At this point, if you are not frying it, you may cover tightly and refrigerate it.
If you are frying it...then pour enough oil into a large frying pan to reach a depth of 2 inches. Heat the oil over a medium heat until a deep-fry thermometer registers 375 degrees F. I used a teaspoon about 1/2 filled with dough and pushed it into the oil with another spoon; you may use a small ice cream scoop but the amount of dough should not exceed the end of your thumbnail. They will float almost immediately, they are done when they are golden brown. Drain on paper towels and attack them with confectioner's sugar. Indulge!

The finished product was incredibly light and crunchy. They could also be filled with a pastry cream and drizzled with chocolate or raspberry sauce...but THAT is for another time.

Oh, if you are a coffee drinker...NOW is the time!

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

The Great Flydini

OK, it's rainy here and a little dismal. I think we need a little fun.

Here...watch this and feel better

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Fig Crop

See, given the title you are probably thinking...figs and lots of them; but alas, no. It really is a fig (singular) crop. BUT, one that I am proud of and happy to say was delicious!

This is the second year for these trees and they are abundant with figs...sadly they will need about another three weeks before they could all ripen and the season is DONE now.

Here is the ONLY ripe fig that I have gotten so far this year. I know it doesn't look like much, but it sure was good! What is nice about figs is that when they are ripe they begin to droop and hang down. I makes it easy to tell if they are ready to eat or not.

See, first you make a little slice almost fully across the top and then peel down, continue around the entire fig until all the skin is gone and only white and the insides are visible. check the inside for insects before eating...ants love these things!

This was incredibly sweet and juicy!

Country Bread

Well, that's the title the new cookbook "Bread...A Baker's Book of Techniques and Recipes" by Jeffrey Hamelman, called it. It is a book I picked up while I was visiting the King Arthur Bakers Shop wile in Norwich, Vermont last month. It is the kind of book that you open and peruse; then your imagination seems to get the better of you and you just have to grab some flour, yeast and have a go at putting together some really great bread.
I have to admit that over the years I have made probably some twenty or so loaves. They were all edible but none were really what I had imagined them to be. These are better versions but still not quiet what I had in mind. It was the first time I worked with a pre-ferment (this is a small batch of flour water and yeast mixture) prepared the day before and then worked into the actual recipe the next day (or even later in some cases).

Anyway, I didn't get all the steps in quite the right order and yet the finished product is quite tasty. The texture is very substantial (you can't tear it very easily) and when it is toasted with butter and jelly...well now you're talking about some pretty good tasting bread!

This is the pre-ferment. When I first made it it was a pretty hard and dry looking lump, but after siting in the oven with the light on overnight...it relaxed and grew into this.
The next step was to mix the pre-ferment with the remaining ingredients of the bread recipe, this sure beats doing it by hand...and yet I missed working the dough with my hands prior to letting it rise.

Here is the batch all mixed by machine. now just a few folds and several rises and folds....

And here is a picture of the final product. I was hoping for a dome shaped rounded loaf, but my version of the dough was way to loose for anything like that so I divided it up into two loaf pans and went on from there.

This is probably the best tasting bread for toast that I have ever had!

I ended up with two loaves, so it will be a while before I try it again but as the following pictures indicate, it was a fun process: