Mutterings of a Fool

Man, Dad, Runner, Chief dog walker

Sourdough September – how to make the king of loaves

There is something quite magical about sourdough, this glorious loaf that miraculously rises from some water, flour and salt. When you explain to someone for the first time how it’s made they never quite believe that it’s possible or for that matter just how easy it is. Sure the process to make sourdough takes some time and some patience, but in terms of actually doing something to make it the time taken is less than 20 minutes. Once you have a starter that works and get into the cycle of feeding it and making a loaf you will soon become addicted to baking what is rightly known as the king of loaves.

Being the good social media user that I am I of course post photos of these wonderful loaves when I bake them at the weekend just to make sure folk know exactly how awesome I am. Over the past month or so this has resulted in a few people asking me for the recipe so they can have a go at baking a sourdough loaf themselves. I happily obliged and wrote up my method and recipe to share because what can be better than spreading the sourdough love? Unfortunately they are now doing their best to upstage me and make better sourdough than I do, but I shall try not to hold a grudge.

The recipe is mostly based on one from the Fabulous Baking Brothers (of Hobbs House bakery, makers of truly amazing bread) with a few tweaks I’ve learnt along the way. I thought it would be useful to share the recipe here also rather than sending it out on email each time. There are a few approaches to making sourdough but some seem a lot more complicated than this and this simple, straightforward approach seems to work well so why make things harder?

If you ever wondered about sourdough and the mystery of how to make it please do give it a go, you’ll be surprised at how easy it is to make something so tasty. There is definitely no better time of year to start either, as the days get noticeably shorter and colder a warm slice of sourdough with butter on is just the tonic! If you do decide to have a go please do share the results, I’d love to see them. Always happy to answer any questions you may have too.

Before moving onto the recipe I thought I’d share some photos of the loaves others have made with this recipe, if this doesn’t convince you to have a try I don’t know what will.

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Breakfast with Father Christmas at Wyevale

I can remember the first time we visited Father Christmas with the children, it was Matilda’s 2nd Christmas and we thought it would be one of those perfect parenting moments. She’d be enchanted by all the pretty lights and Christmas activities and then sit with Father Christmas and chat about what she wanted for Christmas. The reality was a child who cried when they saw Father Christmas and refused to go anywhere near him or his grotto so we took our free present and left. Since then things have got a better and I think we’re reaching peak excitement about Father Christmas before she gets a little older and starts to hear rumblings about whether he’s real or not. So when Wyevale invited us to meet Father Christmas over breakfast at our local Wyevale garden centre (he was stopping by to buy some carrot seeds) I jumped at the chance.

As we all know Father Christmas gets around the country and you can meet him in many places these days from the classic school fayre to a restored steam train and who knows what else in between. But I really quite enjoyed meeting him over breakfast; it’s quite a relaxed and civilised environment that doesn’t involve queuing or crowds and with the garden centre not open for business it was lovely and quiet. Plus of course it meant I could eat a cooked breakfast and drink coffee while the children met Father Christmas, perfect!

colouring at wyevale christmas

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Three’s a crowd

I love having a big family, seeing the different personalities of them develop and watching them play and bond as siblings is wonderful. Clearly it’s also noisy, chaotic and exhausting at times (I challenge anyone to spend a day alone with a 2 year old who is constantly moving and shouting and not feel knackered), you are also generally outnumbered. However when it comes to going out (ever seen a family ticket that includes 3 children?) or buying a car having 3 children is quite frustrating. Throw in the need to also have room for a dog when buying a car and the choice starts to become very small when you need to fit 3 car seats across the back row. We went away for 2 nights with the children and the dog recently and could have done with a roof box for luggage, Bracken’s crate takes up half the boot and a pushchair takes up half the remaining space!

full-car-boot

I’m starting a new job in January and will be handing back my company car in a couple of weeks so we’re once again searching for cars even though we pretty much know what the choices are. They really haven’t changed much since we last looked 2 years ago and can be summarised as follows:

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Listography – 5 favourite posts

Back in the day when I was a ‘proper’ blogger actually writing regularly and joining in with the community one of my favourite blogging activities was taking part in the Listography. A simple premise; each week there was a theme or topic and we had to write our own list for that topic. Well the wonderful Kate Takes 5 has been reviving this meme and in particular this week to celebrate her 6th anniversary as a blogger. Clearly there was something in the air 6 years ago as I started my own blog a week before Kate (my first ever post is here if you’re interested) and I know that a couple of my other favourites (like Hello it’s Gemma) also started around the same time, late 2010 was a good vintage! Although I’m nowhere near Kate’s milestone from a stats perspective, for whatever reason I’ve never had masses of page views, but as I’ve always said having engaged readers who comment and interact is definitely more valuable to me than any stat.

To celebrate this blogging milestone the theme for the Listography is my 5 favourite posts so without further ado here’s my list. Would love to know what you think of my choices and if you’re a blogger why not join in yourself?

  1. Top of the list HAS to be what I view as my blogging peak, an idea that most likely came to me while out running (like most of my good ideas do) and is probably the post that I’m most proud of. I love that it features some awesome dad bloggers, most of whom I still chat to and have even met in person on a number of occasions. It may also be the only Christmas post ever written that features a singing Sooty. The post is of course the 12 dads of ChristmasChristmas tree decoration
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The school travelator

It’s 11 weeks since I published a post here and coincidentally that was only the 11th post I’ve published in the whole year, in writing terms that’s fast approaching a drought, one that surely must leave my 1 reader (hi mum) gasping for more? But it isn’t due to not having any ideas, those whoosh into my head on a regular basis while out running, but rather simply not having enough time or space in my brain to actually sit down and write something. I have 3 priorities in my life; family, work and running (not necessarily in that order) and once you add the need to sleep at least 6 hours a night it doesn’t leave much time or energy for anything else.

But right now, sat in a cottage in the middle of the black mountains in Wales I do have time. It’s ever so peaceful, with just the occasional creak from the wood burner as the metal expands a little due to the roaring fire inside and the sound of Bracken snoring from his position curled up at the bottom of the stairs.. The beauty of being away somewhere is you don’t have chores to do, I’m certainly not going to catch up on work email and with no Netflix there’s nothing to watch on TV either. So I’m grabbing this rare moment where the stars align to empty my brain of at least one of those blog posts that has been whizzing around.

angel-barn-wales

You could sense from the children today that they’re also enjoying this slower paced life without the normal daily routines, after dinner today they put their pyjamas on and just played happily on the rug by the fire while the lady of the manor and I enjoyed a little glass of wine (it is a holiday after all). We all needed this holiday, a break from the routine and intensity which is the subject matter for this post; the school travelator.

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Four go glamping

Like the best Enid Blyton novels I decided to take advantage of the lady manor working nights all last weekend and go on a little adventure with the children. We loaded up the car on Friday afternoon and headed for Wales and the Wye valley for 3 nights of glamping. e love being outdoors and normally I’d have taken them camping if it wasn’t for the minor issue that I can’t put our tent up on my own. Plus the thought of trying to work out the logistics of taking 3 children across a campsite to toilets didn’t really appeal. Glamping seemed the logical conclusion with the added bonus of having a double bed for me to sleep in.

wye glamping bell tent

Camp for the weekend

I think with any adventure you have to not think too much about the reality of what it’ll be like otherwise you’d never go on them. But I’ll be honest as we got close to leaving the thought of managing 3 kids on my own for 3 days plus sleeping in a tent was making me just a little nervous. However just like the stars of Enid Blyton’s books I think the best childhoods feature lots of adventures, particularly ones outdoors and whatever happened it was going to be a lot better than sitting around at home.

The choice of glamping location was relatively easy as while I discovered via Google that there are a lot of glamping sites out there, there appears to be equally lots of people interested in going glamping, so finding one available was the first criteria. Thankfully Wye Glamping ticked all the boxes; not too far away, beautiful location, proper showers on site and a reasonable price. What we didn’t know when booking was that there would also be a couple of other families in the other tents on site with children the same age as mine. Perfect!

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Nest learning thermostat review

Every new product released that is electric seems to also need to be smart and connected to the internet, but while I’m not entirely convinced why that applies to my washing machine or fridge having used the Nest learning thermostat for just over a month now I can see why it is called a smart device.

This small, round, shiny thermostat sits quietly in the corner of our kitchen without really being noticed but all the while it’s learning our routine so that it can most effectively control the heating for our house. Now of course we haven’t had our heating on at all in that period, in fact I’m writing this with the patio doors wide open while listening to the pigeons gently coo outside, so we’ve yet to see the full impact of that learning but I’m impressed nonetheless and here’s why:

  1. The design – simple interface where the outside twists to move around the menu and you push the screen to select items. Simple, intuitive, easy.
  2. Quick installation – sure you are most likely going to need an electrician to do this for you, but it took all of 30 minutes from the moment he arrived and should simply be a case of replacing the existing program box you have for your boiler.
  3. Hot water boost – you can program in a schedule for your hot water with as many on/off’s a day as you want and even a different schedule each day. But you can also get a one time boost with a couple of clicks of the thermostat and can choose how long to run the boost for.

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