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What I Did During My Summer Un-cation

Woman learning at home

I’ve seen many posts on how bad 2020 is due to the proclamations to stay indoors and limit the number in your circle. However, I’ve chosen to look at what this time has given me. Besides extra time with my family I’ve been working on becoming a renaissance woman. Learning new skills and expanding my mind became the unexpected result of staying home.

I have become rather proficient in making sourdough bread from a starter I made from flour, water, and air! Talk about something that is totally satisfying! I’ve learned that the sourdough starter is considered the mother and traditionally the mother is named. I had been working on a name for days. Should I give her a clever name, or a name that carries personal meaning? I just could not settle on any name. Then my husband came into the kitchen, while I was feeding our ‘as yet unnamed starter‘, and he said, “How’s Matilda today?”. And there you have it. He did save me hours I would have spent coming up with a clever name. He has no idea why he chose this completely random one.

There is a fair amount of trial and error with developing an active starter but once I figured out the technique, the bread has been fabulous! I have tried baking it in a bread pan (which was okay but my least favorite way to bake sourdough); using a baking stone (not bad, but

Lodge Cast Iron Dutch Oven
Lodge Cast Iron Dutch Oven

the shape and color were not quite there); and what I found was the best way to bake sourdough bread - in a Lodge Cast Iron Dutch Oven! Lodge has been manufacturing cast iron cookware since 1877 out of South Pittsburg, Tennessee. I highly recommend visiting their website to read about this American company.

As you can see, bread baked in a Lodge Cast Iron Dutch Oven turns out crusty, brown, and round...oh, and tasty, tasty, tasty! I now have a bread baking day and the house smells

Homemade sourdough bread
My yummy sourdough bread

reminiscent of when I visited my great-grandmother! And I save all the “discard” to be used in pancakes, waffles, doughnuts, monkey bread, and English muffins - to name a few lip smacking yummies! I love repurposing!

We have reintroduced jigsaw puzzles to the family, and have become rather addicted to them. Our family is lucky to have an area that works well for puzzle making and doesn’t conflict with having a place designated for family meals. Nothing like working around a table as a team to build a beautiful picture of some place we couldn’t go see this summer. We seem to have settled on 1000 piece puzzles that are 24 inches by 30 inches. You can find these from many different companies, however, we keep gravitating back to Springbok, an American company out of Kansas City, Missouri. You can order them directly from the company at where they have choices categorized so you can easily find the perfect puzzle.

Springbok puzzle
Wharf Street is 1,000 pieces

Their puzzles are made from recycled materials and have a nice weight to them - they won’t bend easily. Springbok puzzles have some odd shapes - no two pieces are cut identical; however, they are close enough that you keep going back to the same wrong piece...diabolically frustrating fun with that! And how clever of you Springbok to require two or three pieces in a space that looks like a single piece should go into that space! Now I have to find a place to store all these puzzles...

My husband and I have also started hand pouring candles. It is like being back in chemistry class - you have to learn the properties of the different types of waxes, the temperature the melted wax needs to be to add a specific fragrance, choosing the correct size of wick, how you will secure the wick - it really goes on and on.

AE Recycled Granite stone candle holder
AE's stone candle holder

I’m actually utilizing the mathematics I learned in high school to develop the formulas we are using! (Never thought I’d be doing that when I was learning it!) It is a good thing I love candles because I am quickly amassing a life time supply, but it is so addicting I keep making them. So many interesting fragrances are available. May need to start selling them...

AE Recycled Granite and hand poured candles
Our hand poured candles in stone holders

I’ve also had time to start learning a new language, as well. We had planned on going on a cruise out of Copenhagen, Denmark (and we all know how well cruising has gone over this year...) so I thought I would learn some Danish! I’m sure a Danish toddler sounds better than I do speaking it; but I am having such fun finding words with the same root as the English version. Some words do make me go hmmm - why is a cloud “sky” in Danish? Grandmother is a compound that has a literal translation of “best mother”, and being a “bedstemor” I cannot argue with that! I’ve been using the free app Duolingo at and find it introduces the words and phrases systematically and in a fun way. If nothing else, my grandchildren and I are saying “I love you” in Danish - Jeg elsker dig!

Farvel! (Goodbye)

During this time of uncertainty I have discovered one can be frozen in fear or one can move forward and make the best of a situation. I will continue to enjoy life and what it offers because 2020 has been making it abundantly clear that you never know how much time you have for making memories...or sourdough bread, or puzzles, or candles, or...well, you get the picture!

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