Sunday, June 26, 2016

Connected. A Story About a Story.

So I went to the waterfront to have a couple beers and take a few photos last night. It was a beautiful night. The day was hot and it had begun to cool off a little. The breeze off the lake was lovely. And it's simply a coincidence that I am writing this post after the previous, but this is something I felt compelled to share. Though I'm jumping ahead, as I sometimes do. Let me begin again. I'll start with the part of the story that is unrelated, or is it?

For the past six months or so, much to my dismay, I've been put on an early morning shift at work. This means my alarm goes off at 4:30am each morning. For me this is early, too early. I am constantly tired and usually run on about five hours sleep; I have not adjusted my sleep time yet. Often—as was the case yesterday—when I get home in the late afternoon or early evening I'll take a nap. This is what I did yesterday. After showering and turning on the fan for both white noise and cooling, I laid on my bed. It was as if someone flipped a switch. I'm pretty sure I was asleep as soon as my head touched the pillow. I slept deep for about an hour; usually I only nap for about 20 rejuvenating minutes.

So what does any of this have to do with anything, you may be asking yourself? A dream I had when I slept is the reason I mention this. The dream is vague to me now but at the time it was one of those dreams that was more real than real. In it I was sitting a large table. And at the table were other people who I do not know now but in the dream they were familiar to me. We were having a conversation and were discussing angels. Someone across from me was telling me—not lecturing, but nonetheless was rather serious—that there are angels and they are in contact with us all the time. The other people looked at him and I as he talked. And I distinctively remember him saying, “You know that we are all connected, to everyone and everything.” We all nodded in agreement.

I awoke with a start. Disorientated and sweating. It was odd for me to wake from such a deep sleep and it be a hot and sunny day out. I felt slightly hungover, though I'd had nothing to drink prior. I sat on the edge of my bed for a few minutes gathering my wits. Processing. Then I sort of disregarded the dream and got up. After dinner I rode to the waterfront just before sun set to capture a few photos.

I often try to arrive just before sunset as it is my favorite time of the day to photograph. And on this evening it was extra special. Buffalo's Main Lighthouse was being lit for the first time in 102 years. Built in 1833 it is our city's oldest standing structure. The lamp was originally fueled by whale fat, but then the lighthouse was decommissioned in 1914 and has sat dark until tonight.

Anyhow, I arrived before sunset. Had a beer and was reading a book by Marcus Borg where he was describing his mystical experiences. I snapped a few pictures; it was still light enough to hand-hold the camera. Then I went and ordered a second beer, before the light changed, and was setting up my tripod. When natural light dips to a certain dimmness a tripod is required for a long enough exposure to manipulate the light. While I was setting up the tripod I did as I often do and set one leg of the tripod between the spindles of the rail so I can get closer to the edge. It was rather crowded because it was such a nice night and there were people on both sides of me at the rail. The light was changing from day to dusk now. And as I started to set the camera on my tripod something caught my eye. The women to my left had dropped something and it bounced and was now on the other side of the rail and beyond her reach; it lay near the ledge of a 10-foot drop into the lake.

I looked at it and couldn't see what it was and then I looked over at her. She was distraught; tears streamed down her face. What is it, I asked her. It's my angel, my sister gave it to me and I've had it since 1974. How will I ever get it, she asked. She wasn't looking at me because she hadn't taken her eyes off her angel.

The rail is probably about 3 feet tall. I could easily stand on a chair and hop the rail to retrieve this, I thought. Then I quickly surveyed the situation. I had already had two pints of beer and was beginning my third, I'm not as young as I once was and hopping back over the rail would be difficult. And as I scanned the edge, which is a sheer drop into the lake, I saw there were no ladders in the wall to climb out should I fall. I actually thought this. In my younger years I wouldn't have hesitated. At any rate, within maybe 4 seconds I realized hopping the rail was not a good choice. So I removed the camera from the tripod, and holding the tripod over the rail, was able to sort of scratch and drag her cherished object back a few inches at a time. It took a couple minutes but the operation was successful. When it was within reach she grabbed it, held it to her heart, kissed it, and then literally jumped with joy. She then showed it to me and gave me a big hug and kiss on the cheek exclaiming how much this meant to her.

I went back to setting up my camera. And while I was doing so the woman's husband approached. He, too, thanked me. It was no big deal, I said, but I'm glad I was able to help. He then asked if he could tell me a story. I said yes. He told me how they had met in San Bernardino when they were both just teens. He was in love with her the moment he laid eyes on her, and he still is after all these years. He apologized as he wiped away tears. But then tears welled in my own eyes as he continued. His wife and her sister had exchanged these little angel medallions in the early 70's, and they promised to always keep them with each other. To remind them of each other. Her sister is now deceased and she often holds the angel while she prays. They grew up near the ocean in Mexico and her sister loved the water. So that's what she was doing..holding the angel while praying to her sister. So this, he said, is why this little angel is so important to her. To her it is her sister. And then he parted.

Wow. I was floored. I still am as I type these words. I had my beer perched on the railing while I took photos. I do this often and have never spilled one. But just after this man and woman parted another younger woman approached with a young man. She leans against the railing and knocked my full beer over onto the pavement. She looks at it, then at me, and simply says, that sucks. And she walked away. Under normal circumstances I would have been upset, but I was still on a sort of high from my conversation with the previous man and women (never did get their names). High on humanity. All I could do is laugh.

So, was my dream some sort of prophetic vision? I don't know. I really don't. But I'm not discounting it. Do I believe in angels? Umm...sort of. Yes, I suppose I do. But not necessarily invisible mystical beings (though I don't rule them out either), but more so angels in the flesh. On this evening I was able to do this very small act of kindness for this person and in turn got to listen to this man's truly moving story. Two grown men were both moved to tears amidst a crowd of people on a hot Saturday night on the shore of one of the great lakes. With all this said there is one thing that I am sure of. And it was reminded to me earlier in the day while I slept in the hot afternoon heat. I was reminded that we are all connected in some indescribable way. Sometimes I forget this, and then sometimes I am reminded. And this is a series of events that happened yesterday afternoon and evening. The below photo is one in a series I shot last evening. Click it for a slightly larger view.

Sunday, June 19, 2016

Angels are real!

You may have seen or heard about these angels, but before I discuss them I have to mention a brief conversation I had with someone a few years ago. I was talking to someone I worked with at the time who openly spoke of communicating with her guardian angels. Yes, plural. I mentioned to her that I thought that I may have guardian angel because of certain circumstances I had been through in my life. Without missing so much as a breath she replied, "What, do you think you're special? Of course you do. We all do."

This said, these images are of real angels in my opinion...people donning wings to shield families and mourners of the dead in Orlando so they can grieve in peace. But who are they being shielded from, you may ask? That evil organization that calls themselves a church but goes around the country tormenting people at funerals. Their name shan't be glorified by mentioning it here.

The Angels Action Project began in Laramie Wyoming back in 1999 to protect family and friends at the funeral of Matthew Shephard. Since then they've provided support at multiple services. They even offer a free PDF file on how to build angel wings. At the Orlando services the angels are a result of a collaborative effort from the Orlando Shakespeare Theater and others in the theatrical community.

Sometimes I really do believe that I have a guardian angel. But when I see this I know that the people that perished, and their friends and families do. Angels in the flesh. Humans being kind to other humans. This, to me is beautiful. And I can say without exaggeration it brings tears to my eyes. In all circumstances we have a choice to how we want to feel and think. And there is always the choice between love and hate. I choose love.

"Be the change that you wish to see in the world."
~Mahatma Gandhi

Urban Simplicity.

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Sunday, June 12, 2016

The lake at sunset...five photos, a poem, two quotes, and a few words.

“Sometimes I arrive just when God's ready to have someone click the shutter.”
~ Ansel Adams

I went to the lake last night, as I often do. I feel blessed in that this is a mere 10 minute bike ride from my front door. This is the place where--bordered by the US on one side and Canada on the other--Lake Erie and the Buffalo River converge and then empty into the Niagara River only to tumble over the Falls 20 miles down route. The sunset was--as you can see by these photos--breathtaking. It's interesting, I think, in that as I was sitting having a beer at an outdoor cafe, and while this sunset was happening and was so incredibly tranquil, there was commotion happening all around me.

But as the sun began to touch the horizon and the sky virtually exploded with color, people simply stopped to look at it in awe. One had to. And I did too. I never tire of it, and every time I go there the sunset is different. As the sun set and the light changed so did the sky. Seemingly every few minutes was a completely different view from the same location.

The last photo on the bottom is of the lighthouse that stands opposite where I sat. It was built in 1833 and is said to be the oldest standing architecture of our city (which was burned to the ground during the war of 1812). The above quote is one I've used before and is my favorite regarding photography. And the quote below really represents how I felt when I looked at these photos this morning. The poem below is one I was inspired to write last spring while visiting the same location. Click any photo for a larger view.

“Every sunset is different, because every day sun is different, clouds are different, space is different, reflections are different, mountains are different, fogs are different, and above all, we are different!”
~ Mehmet Murat ildan

The Lake at Sunset
I stood on the shore of the lake at sunset.
And beheld its beauty.
The sun set and the moon rose.
A cycle that the lake has known from the very beginning.
It was cold while the wind swept over me.
I had come to find solace; a reprieve from my daily life.
And I did.
I was on the farthest end of the lake in Buffalo.
Was this the same wind that also blew through Toledo, Cleveland, and Erie?
Seagulls seemingly hung in the air as they glided into it.
I tried to imagine this place before European explorers.
Proud Iroquoians plying the water in canoes.
Living near the lake's shore.
And what must the first Europeans have thought?
Surely they were in awe.
Just as I am still.
As the original natives were.
But did they feel this wind.
This same wind.
As it washed over me like a baptism.
Washing away my worries.

Urban Simplicity.

Thursday, June 9, 2016

Falafel with Jalapeno!

So I've posted recipes for falafel on many occasions, and this is another variation. I used the traditional recipe and added extra cilantro and parsley and also a couple jalapeno peppers. The outcome--if I do say so myself--is delicious. I ate it over a salad with a cooling yogurt dressing. Anyhow, if you have a food processor making these tasty, crunchy, and healthy little nuggets are about as simple as it gets.  I have a small and really inefficient food processor which was given to me ore than 20 years ago and I am still able to make these simply  in my teeny home kitchen. Like most the recipes I post, this one is not carved in stone; it's more of a guide rather than a blueprint. Other than the chickpeas you really can add or delete whatever ingredients suit you. A printable recipe is listed below, but the method goes like this:

1. Soak chickpeas overnight.
2 Mix them with other ingredients.
3. Grind them in a food processor.
4. Pan-fry them.

Yup, it's that simple. And I bet you can't eat just one (or 4 or 5).

Falafel with Jalapeno

Makes about 2 dozen small patties

1 cup dried chickpeas
3 cups water
½ small onion, diced
1 bunch Italian parsley, washed and chopped
1 bunch cilantro, washed and chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 jalapeno, seeded and minced
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 teaspoon turmeric
1 teaspoon baking powder
4 tablespoons whole wheat flour
    vegetable oil for pan-frying

Combine the chickpeas and water together in a bowl overnight and leave them at room-temperature to reconstitute.

Drain the chickpeas and discard the water. Combine all of the ingredients in a bowl (except the oil, which is for cooking) and mix. Transfer to a food processor (in batches if necessary) and process until a mealy consistency. Cover and let rest for about 30 minutes.

Shape into patties, preheat about a half-inch of oil in a skillet, and pan-fry (in batches) on both sides until golden and cooked through. Transfer to absorbent paper and serve with taratoor or tzatziki sauce.

And one final note. People often ask me if these cannot be baked rather than fried. And I always answer yes they can, but they would not be the same. They wouldn't be as crunchy crispy. There is, in fact, a chain of restaurants in NYC that specializes in falafel that is baked. They are tasty but not crispy. To prove a point I did a little experiment when I cooked [a half-batch] of these, and I've done this in the past. I measured the oil before and after frying and the amount missing (presumably absorbed into the food) was so negligible it is nearly un-measurable. I of course am not suggesting one to eat fried food everyday, but now and again I think is ok. If the oil is at temperature and clean not that much absorbs into the food. Anyhow, I am not in the medical field so I really do not speak on authority, these are just my observations and this is all that I will say on the subject.

Five or fourteen quotes about bread...

So first a couple things. One is that I was likely prompted to post these quotes because (a) I love bread--eating it and making it--and (b) I just came across the photo below which was taken in '08 or thereabouts. That was my first official cargo bike, when I graduated from carrying all sorts of things rather precariously on a "regular bike." I still had a car at the time but didn't use it very often and was testing the waters to see what it would be like to live without one (it's great, by the way). And also, why this photo is relevant to this post, is that it was just a year or so prior that I started this blog. And in the early stages of my blogging I was uncertain as what to name it. One of the names in the ring at the time was "The Biking Baker," because I baked a lot of bread and was gravitating towards going car-free. Ultimately I found the title too limiting, and later settled on the current name of Urban Simplicity. Because of a job change last year I don't have the opportunity to bake bread as often as I once did or as often as I'd like. But as I sit here in a coffee shop typing these words on a beautiful spring morning there is a wonderful and fragrant loaf fermenting and rising on my kitchen counter. That's likely the real reason I was prompted to post these quotes. With this said, if you'd like recipes for all sorts of bread (but mostly made with 100% whole wheat flour), click here. For more in the Five Quotes series, click here.

“No yoga exercise, no meditation in a chapel filled with music will rid you of your blues better than the humble task of making your own bread.”
~MFK Fisher

“Bread is an object of unparalleled worship and decorum. It embodies the full cycle of life and seasons, from the death of the wheat kernel in the earth to the resurrection as a stalk, from its ordeal in the mill to its journey through the oven and its offering at the table. Bread is a part of all major events in many lives, from birth, to betrothal and marriage, to death and resurrection.”
~Bernard Dupaigne

"God made yeast, as well as dough, and he loves fermentation just as dearly as he loves vegetation."
~Ralph Waldo Emerson

"I don't preach a social gospel; I preach the Gospel, period. The gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ is concerned for the whole person. When people were hungry, Jesus didn't say, "Now is that political or social?" He said, "I feed you." Because the good news to a hungry person is bread."
~Bishop Desmond Tutu

"Love doesn’t just sit there, like a stone; it has to be made, like bread, remade all the time, made new."
~Ursula K. LeGuin

"A crust eaten in peace is better than a banquet partaken in anxiety."

"There are people in the world so hungry that God cannot appear to them except in the form of bread."
~Mahatma Gandhi

"We have learned to see in bread an instrument of community between men—the flavour of bread shared has no equal."
~Antoine de Saint-Exupery

"There is a communion of more than our bodies when bread is broken and wine is drunk."
~M.F.K. Fisher

"If thou tastest a crust of bread, thou tastest all the stars and all the heavens."
~Robert Browning

"Bread deals with living things, with giving life, with growth, with the seed, the grain that nurtures. It's not coincidence that we say bread is the staff of life."
~Lionel Poilâne

"Bread and water—these are the things nature requires. For such things no man is too poor, and whosoever can limit his desire to them alone can rival Jupiter for happiness."

"Good bread is the most fundamentally satisfying of all foods; and good bread with fresh butter, the greatest of feasts."
~James Beard

"Without bread all is misery."
~William Cobbett

Tuesday, June 7, 2016

Three People; Three Stories; Three Lives.

If you've been to this blog on more than one occasion then you probably know a few things about me, and one of them is that I have a soft spot in my heart for the homeless. I don't always give people money (indeed I don't always have it to give) and I don't always stop to talk to them. But sometimes I do give them money and sometimes I do stop to talk.  And in the same way it bothers me when I hear a racist or homophobic remark--painting an entire group of people with a wide and fearful brush--it also disturbs me when I hear a disparaging remark against the homeless. I certainly cannot judge another person because of the predicament they find themselves in. And in fact if I were to suddenly lose a way to make an income it would only be a month or so before I was unable to pay my most basic bills. Anyhow, as I write this I am on a very brief vacation in NYC and here are stories about three people whose lives intersected with mine in the past day.

Last evening, after arriving and checking into my room, I walked to my favorite Thai restaurant on the corner of 15th and 1st. It was hot and the floor-to-ceiling windows were open, so essentially it was as if my table were on the edge of the sidewalk. And as I sat there enjoying a beer and a plate  of spicy noodles I watched a guy across the street. He was interacting with passersby and had two plastic drinking straws still in their wrappers sticking out of his ears. It made me chuckle, but knew it was only a matter of time before he would make it across the street. And when he did he approached and asked for a dollar so he could get a cup of coffee. He had the look of someone who spends time on the street, and he still had the straws sticking out of his ears. My first response was that I didn't have a dollar. And as the waitress brought my second beer he looked at me and said, aww com' on man. I'm getting better at asking people if I can take their photos, so I told him I will give him a dollar but I'd like to take his photo. And as I pulled the camera out he turned and began to walk away. Forget it man, I don't want my picture taken, he muttered. Why would I want to do that anyway, he asked. I like to take pictures, I told him, and the straws in his ears made me laugh (he still had them there).  Alright here's a dollar, I won't take your photo. Thanks for making me laugh, I added. He turned around and I handed him two dollars. He looks at it, and says, I only asked for a dollar, here's some change, and he puts two quarters on the table. I told him to keep it but he wouldn't. He walked back across the street to where I initially saw him, and when he did he handed one of the dollars to another guy who was sitting there in a wheelchair.

Then this morning I was on the subway when a guy comes on the train carrying what was probably everything he owned. The train wasn't crowded but it was full. He stood near the door and asked people if they could spare some money, that he had none and really needed some. His voice was soft and he never looked anyone in the eye. From a distance I could tell from his pungent odor that he hadn't showered in a while. No one looked at him and no one gave him money. He sank down to a seat and put his head in his hands. I might have given him some change had he made his way through the car down to where I was seated but he didn't. He just hung his head and looked ashamed. As is often the case on a NYC subway, when the doors open it is a mad and discombobulated dash of people coming and going every which way. And as fate would have it my path crossed this man's path and as I saw him coming I reached in my pocket and found some change. He wasn't looking at me so I said, here you go man, and held out my hand with the change in it. Looking surprised, he held out his hand and accepted it. And when he did there were tears in his eyes. Thank you was all he said.

And then, lastly, this is a story from this afternoon. I had gone to the 911 memorial site and then stopped at a Starbucks for a reprieve from the afternoon heat. And after sitting I came out of the door and Nicole was standing next to the door. I know her name because I stopped to talk to her and ask her name. When I saw her and her sign I couldn't not stop. Hi I said. Hi she said back. I don't mean to be so forward, but do you mind me asking how you find yourself standing out here on this hot day. I don't mind, she said. And then she told me her story, while she cried. Her mom passed away last year and her dad was abusive so she left. She stayed in a shelter for a while, but it was there that she was raped and that is why she is pregnant. She does get some help but it's not enough, that's why she's asking for some. She wouldn't say where she was staying other that someone form a church was helping her. She was now afraid of shelters for obvious reasons. She was trying to get a job, but it's difficult to do that when you're homeless and impossible when you are pregnant also. I asked her if I could take her photo, and would it be ok if I told her story on my blog. She agreed on both accounts. And after wiping her tears for the photo she thanked me for telling her story.

So are these stories true? Yes, the ones I just told are. Are the stories I've heard from street people true (the ones I've just told and others at home, too)? Probably, but maybe not always. I can be gullible sometimes. Sometimes--when I'm in Buffalo--if people ask me for money to get something to eat I'll offer to buy them food. Sometimes they refuse, which is a sign I am being scammed. So I don't always know if these stories are true or not. But I do know this. When I spoke to Nicole today in the hot sun while she had a baby in her belly. She looked me in the eyes when we spoke. And when she did there were tears streaming from hers, which in turn made them well in mine. And that to me is truth enough. I gave her my card with this blog's address on it so she could see where I would post this story. She told me she had Internet access at the library. So Nicole, if you are reading this I do hope you and your unborn child find the help you need. I pray you are healthy and safe. And thank you for helping me remember what is real and true. Peace.

Sunday, June 5, 2016

A poem by Jane Kenyon and a few photos...

The above photo was taken from my front porch last evening as the sun set. The photos below were taken as I rode my bike to and from work this morning on a quiet Sunday morning and evening. When I came across this poem I thought it fit these photos nicely. So here it is.

Let Evening Come

By Jane Kenyon

Let the light of late afternoon
shine through chinks in the barn, moving  
up the bales as the sun moves down.

Let the cricket take up chafing  
as a woman takes up her needles  
and her yarn. Let evening come.

Let dew collect on the hoe abandoned  
in long grass. Let the stars appear
and the moon disclose her silver horn.

Let the fox go back to its sandy den.  
Let the wind die down. Let the shed  
go black inside. Let evening come.

To the bottle in the ditch, to the scoop  
in the oats, to air in the lung  
let evening come.

Let it come, as it will, and don’t  
be afraid. God does not leave us  
comfortless, so let evening come.

Urban Simplicity.

Friday, June 3, 2016

Five or Eleven Quotes from Allen Ginsberg...

Irwin Allen Ginsberg
Born on this day in 1926

The beat writers had a profound effect on my life as a young man, especially Ginsberg and Kerouac. A friend gave me a tattered copy of On The Road while I was in college and my life was forever changed. And their writings, especially Allen Ginsberg's, seem just as relevant today as when they were written. For more in the Five Quotes series, click here.

“I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by madness, starving hysterical naked, dragging themselves through the negro streets at dawn looking for an angry fix angelheaded hipsters burning for the ancient heavenly connection to the starry dynamo in the machinery of the night."

“Concentrate on what you want to say to yourself and your friends. Follow your inner moonlight; don't hide the madness. You say what you want to say when you don't care who's listening.”

“We're all golden sunflowers inside.”

“Poetry is not an expression of the party line. It's that time of night, lying in bed, thinking what you really think, making the private world public, that's what the poet does.”

“Whoever controls the media, the images, controls the culture.”

“Our heads are round so thought can change direction”

“I know too much and not enough”

“Poetry is the one place where people can speak their original human mind. It is the outlet for people to say in public what is known in private."

“Everything is holy! everybody's holy! everywhere is holy! everyday is in eternity! Everyman's an angel!"

“America I've given you all and now I'm nothing.”

“To gain your own voice, forget about having it heard. Become a saint of your own province and your own consciousness.”

Sunday, May 29, 2016

And then this happened...a few photos from the waterfront.

Buffalo, NY--my hometown--is often equated with snow. And while it is true that we get our fair share of the white stuff, the other seasons can be truly remarkable.  Here's a couple examples. I shot these over the course of two evenings while sipping beer at an outdoor bar on our beautiful waterfront. And as I type these words it is 87f/31c so I may have to go back for some additional "research."

Urban Simplicity.

Thursday, May 19, 2016

Water (two photos and a quote).

“Water does not resist. Water flows. When you plunge your hand into it, all you feel is a caress. Water is not a solid wall, it will not stop you. But water always goes where it wants to go, and nothing in the end can stand against it. Water is patient. Dripping water wears away a stone. Remember that, my child. Remember you are half water. If you can't go through an obstacle, go around it. Water does.”
~Margaret Atwood 

The [unfiltered] view from my handlebars...

The [unfiltered] view from my handlebars...
Allen Street
Bflo. NY

This was the view that quite literally stopped me in my tracks as I rounded the corner of my street a couple mornings ago on my way to work. I really do not like getting up early for work, but I love the ride in.

“Sometimes I arrive just when God's ready to have someone click the shutter.”
~Ansel Adams

Things that can be carried on a bike (#695)...

$88 in groceries.

Wednesday, May 18, 2016

Bite This...100% Whole Wheat Bread with White Beans and Flax

I haven't been baking bread as often as I used to for a variety of reasons, but I did the other day and remembered how much I enjoy it. Baking bread, to me, nourishes far more than the body. And it is really easy to do once you master the basics. Thus said, because bread is a big portion of my diet I am always attempting to find a healthier one. Whole wheat flour is a given, but I often add beans to bread doughs as well. A good example of this is my version of Ezekiel bread, which is still the most visited recipe on this blog. In this recipe I used white beans and flax seed. For simplicity I used canned beans. Interestingly, once the dough is kneaded the beans emulsify into the dough and you won't even notice them. But they do offer added richness to the dough, not to mention nutrients. Anyhow, the recipe is below.

Whole Wheat Bread with White Beans and Flax 

Makes 2 or 3 loaves
1 (15oz) can white beans, rinsed and drained 
1 cup water
2 cups whole wheat flour
2 teaspoons instant yeast

4 cups whole wheat flour
3 tablespoons vital wheat gluten 
½ cup ground flax seed 
2 cups water 

¼ cup olive oil
3 teaspoons kosher
1 tablespoon instant yeast

Place two bowls side-by-side; one will hold the pre-ferment, the other autolyse. In one bowl combine the rinsed and drained beans with 1 cup water, 2 cups whole wheat flour, and 2 teaspoons instant yeast. Stir it just until combined then cover it with plastic wrap. In the other bowl combine 4 cups whole wheat flour, 3 tablespoons vital wheat gluten, ½ cup flax, and 2 cups water; stir it just until combined then cover it with plastic wrap (take care not to get yeast into this bowl). Allow the bowls to rest at room temperature for about an hour, during which time the preferment will begin it's job multiplying yeast and fermenting flour, and the autolyse will soak liquid, 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 olive oil, salt, and tablespoon of yeast (add the yeast and salt on opposite sides of the bowl). Knead the dough on medium speed for about 10 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. 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.

 Urban Simplicity.

Friday, May 13, 2016

A small herd of deer, lots of geese, some angels, and a few other things I saw at the cemetery today...

I rode my bike to the incredibly beautiful and inspiring Forest Lawn Cemetery today. I go there a couple or three times a year for a respite from daily life. It is so peaceful and tranquil. Just lovely. I sometimes go in the wintertime as well, when everything seems muffled. As I pedaled and coasted through the curvy roads today I could hear the gravel under my tires. And as I looked around I felt as if I were in a sacred place, surrounded by so many souls. When the random car would pass if it seems vulgar or intrusive to me. It was such a juxtaposition to see a family of deer gracefully walking among the graves. I didn't stay too long today. Just a short trip through and snapped a few photos. As you can gather from the photos it is also an unintentional animal sanctuary as well. And this is in the heart of a bustling but small city. I feel lucky to have it available and for free. Anyhow, to see previous photos, click here.

Urban Simplicity.