I baked

What I did: made a batch of seeded wheat bread, modified from the Tartine Book No. 3 because I have no access to the “high-extraction wheat flour” they suggest.
What I did beforehand: riding lesson, grocery store run
What I wore: riding attire, pajamas, exercise clothes, concerned scowl
Who went with me: 19 came to the store with me. He encouraged me to buy a pomegranate and maple kefir.
How I got this book: the friend who gave me the first Tartine book also gave me this one. Owning these two books has transformed my bread-baking skills, and revived my love of cookbooks. The first Tartine book has enough detail to take you from knowing nothing about baking sourdough bread to being something of an expert. Both books are beautiful.
Why I baked this bread: I have made country sourdough loaves, traditional French bread, semolina bread, rye bread, sprouted spelt, oat porridge bread to which I added golden flaxseed, faro porridge with hazelnut bread, and smoked sprouted rye. This is the one people ask for. One batch makes two loaves and I take one to the barn where I ride. The seeded wheat bread stays fresh for days, makes yummy toast, and is delicious all by itself. Of course, it’s usually gone within a day or two, and everyone is very appreciative of it.
Do I knead it: no. I make bread using the no-knead technique detailed in the original Tartine book. It takes longer. Sometimes, to get the leaven where I want it, it can take three days. It’s worth it.
Things that were sad: once, I tried to make a joke about how the only reason people like me at the barn is because I bring them homemade bread. Someone at the table responded that that was a terrible thing to say.
Things that were not funny: the recipe calls for caraway seeds and my local store never has them so I skip them most of the time. They need to be toasted, as do the sesame seeds. I use a 350F oven and try not to burn them and often burn them anyway. 
Things that were funny: I am regularly asked if I could make this bread and sell it. This is a nice compliment. I do not tell people that baking bread once a week is a pleasure, but baking hundreds of loaves every day sounds like a terrible nightmare. I also do not discuss the profit margins on fresh baked goods, or the cost of the ingredients, but out of curiosity I prepared a spreadsheet to figure it out. I did not include the cost of the homemade leaven (which is flour and water and whatever wild yeast I caught when I lived in Pine Box), my electricity, the cost of special clay baking pans, water, or my labor.
Cost per loaf is $5.62
Something I ate: while I did the turns, I paid bills, and met the surveyors who were staking our property line.  I can’t seem to eat anything normal these days and while I had a salad a couple of nights ago, I’ve been doing things like eating a baked potato and a half a package of cookies and calling it dinner. That was yesterday. I am sick with worry about the future of this country now that it’s going to be in the hands of someone who didn’t know what a big job being president is and hasn’t read a book since high school.
What it is: the way I make it, this bread has 11 ingredients, including water, salt and sourdough starter. I start with water, add the sourdough when it’s ready (it floats), and mix in the flour by hand. I leave this covered in the bowl to rest 30 minutes, then add the salt. At this point, I toast the sesame seeds and stir about 150 ml of hot water to the flax seeds. After another 30 minutes I add all the seeds except the fennel. Sometimes it seems like all the seeds won’t incorporate. They will. 
30 minutes later, I do the first turn, where you run your hand under the dough and turn it over, in three directions. Turns continue until I run out of time or the dough feels springy and stretchy, not just sticky.  I turn it out on the counter, dust with rice flour, cut it in two, and shape these into round balls. 30 minutes later I flip them over, fold the dough lengthwise for the pullman pan or on all four sides for the round pan. I use the fennel seeds on the bottoms to help them not stick. You can add other seeds to the outside of the dough, but I find that they get everywhere and don’t add that much since there are so many inside the bread. 
I put my dough in the fridge overnight, which is supposed to encourage the sour flavor. My bread isn’t especially sour, overall. I do this mostly for convenience.
I preheat the ovens and the ceramic bakers at 500F. I slash the tops of the dough and bake them, covered, for five minutes at 500F; lowering the temperature to 475F, I bake them another 15 minutes. Then I take the lids off. This is my favorite step. 
I finish the loaves at 475F for 25 minutes, and cool them on a rack. 
Who should bake bread: I started baking my own bread when we were renting a house in the country and the small town grocery didn’t have a good supply of decent bread. I successfully started my own sourdough starter, catching wild yeast from the air. In retrospect, this is surprising, since I can’t keep plants alive. Over the years my starter has changed in ways I’m not sure I have words for. The most specific thing I can say is it’s become more predictable.
What I see when I deliver it: the barn where I ride is filled with hard-working people who wave and cheer when they see me walk in with a basket and a loaf of freshly-baked bread in a bright pink kitchen towel. It is my pleasure to make it.

I saw “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Gynecologic Oncology Unit at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center of New York City”

What I saw: “A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Gynecologic Oncology Unit at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center of New York City,” a play, at MCC Theater at The Lucille Lortel Theatre, 121 Christopher Street, in the West Village of NYC.

What I wore: limited edition Puma X Swash States, white jeans, eShakti tunic top, tiny fancy dark mauve handbag with an extra-long strap.


What I did beforehand: braved a traffic jam without honking, rode the E train, tried unsuccessfully to get a smile out of a pair of bored and surly NYPDs, succeeded with a haughty hipster barista when I got my coffee and cookie at Joe on Waverly Place.

Who went with me: lots of strangers, including some women from Florida celebrating , a couple whose daughter was a gynecological oncologist in Madison, Wisconsin, grumpy old folks next to me who were quietly uncomfortable with my cackling.

How I got tickets: online, because I thought the name was stupid and therefore great.

Why I saw this show: having seen two hospital-room black comedies, I now hope to see them all.

Where I sat: row G, seat 107, behind a guy with a huge neck and head, and between some old people and some even older people.


Things that were sad: this is a play about people whose moms are fighting cancer. This is not a play about brave survivors, or courageous 5K fundraising participants. It is about people who are fundamentally broken.

Things that were funny: vibrator jokes, a long condom story, and that long name, which isn’t even accurate, since the funny things happen at the Gynecologic Oncology Unit at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center of New York City, not on the way to the Gynecologic Oncology Unit at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center of New York City.

Things that were not funny: someone to my left fell asleep despite my loud laughing, and when he woke up he wanted his wife to tell him what happened.

What it is: a play, set in a hospital room at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center of New York City, featuring four skillful actors and lasting about 90 minutes. 

Who should see it: anyone seeking something better than the absurdly simplistic and unrealistic portrayal of people with cancer being “brave warriors,” audiences prepared for simulated oral sex onstage, fans of Law & Order.

What I saw on the way home: a warning light on the dashboard of my car alerted me that the front seat passenger was not wearing a seatbelt. My front seat passenger was my purse, made somewhat heavier than normal with the addition of my laptop. Nothing like the engineering choices of some German car-feature designers to remind me that I, being a hand-bag-carrying woman, may not always be thought of as a car-owner or otherwise relevant person. 

I went to a birthday party

What I saw: R’s birthday party, at her mom’s boyfriend’s apartment on the upper west side, in Manhattan.

What I wore: Eileen Fisher black pull-on stretch pants that are neither too long (because I buy them in “petit” so they’re above-ankle length), too tight, or too loose, so they’re basically pajamas, but better because you can wear them outside and people don’t ask you if you’re sick; that weird new green blouse-top with a grey floral pattern; black Fluevog heels (which were appreciated by three people at the party); new tiny fancy turquoise cross-body Furla handbag that the Bacon Provider got me for my recent birthday; mascara, and, for part of the night, a party hat.

Always wear a seatbelt, even if you’re a bouquet.

What I did beforehand: took off my party shoes and put on boots and leather gloves to go cut flowers for the hostess.

Who went with me: I went alone, but when The Graduate arrived at the party after I did, it seemed he hadn’t realized I’d be there.

Elevator Selfie

How I got invited: via email, from R’s mom; it was supposed to be a surprise. It was not.

Why I went: when we first moved to NYC, in July of 2011, R (a college friend of The Graduate) went out of her way to introduce us to her family, take us to the opera, invite us to the Adirondacks, and make us feel like we actually knew people. 

Where I sat: between R’s mom’s boyfriend and her old roommate (who may have been accidentally responsible for the lack of surprise).

The hats lit up. I have food in my mouth.

Things that were sad: I have fresh home-brewed IPA to share and forgot that I meant to bring some until I was half-way there. Also, I was in the bathroom when they sang “Happy Birthday,” and there were five opera singers in attendance. Lastly, I forgot my goody-bag, and it had a Toblerone in it.

Things that were funny: party poppers, party hats, Charades (I successfully delivered “The Geography of Sub Saharan Africa” and “Inception”).

One of the primary gestures of Charades

Things that were not funny: the dog hid the whole night; the cars I had to avoid, weaving on the Saw Mill Parkway on the way home; waking up the next morning for an 8:30 lesson.

He kind of always looks like this
What it is: in the United States, people often celebrate the anniversary of their birth with a party. Traditions include, but are not limited to, a birthday cake with candles, the singing of a traditional birthday song, games, a piñata, the giving of gifts to the person having the birthday, and party favors for guests. When my children were young, we had many birthday parties at home, including one with a magician, another with the Reptile Man, and, a particular favorite, a spaceship party where the kids decorated a refrigerator box in the back yard and we had a countdown and blastoff.

Who should go: my brother once told me that you should invite everyone to parties. This is a completely unrealistic rule that I try to follow as much as possible. 

The Graduate had fun

What I saw on the way home: as I waved goodbye to R’s mother, I accidentally hailed a cab.