The Lighthouse

the lighthouse

11 April 2016

Funny bone moments

I'm keeping my eyes open for a job opportunity for Number One Nephew.  In the way of the internet - whose highways are circuitous and tricksy - checking out the local libraries somehow landed me on the Stats Can site, where there are applications for census jobs.

In the "Who should apply" section, they ask for people who "are interested in a job that counts"


The government made a funny.

~ * ~

Funny bones at work:

The day of a popular program, a caller asked, "Will there be tickets available when I get there?"
Hmm... using my powerful ability to know everything, I of course know when you are going to arrive.

Patron, "What time does the program begin?"
Me, "The program starts at 10."
Patron, "Oh. What time should I be there?"
Me, "Probably before 10:00."

A young lad of about 10 years old was eager to take part in a stop motion movie workshop but it was very popular and he was on the waiting list. He phoned us himself the day of the program to let us know, "If someone doesn't show up, I can come."
It was very sweet to hear this very young voice in a grown-up situation; I applaud his parents for encouraging him to handle the matter on his own. It tickled my funny bone because of the offer he made: I just wanted to let you know that if someone doesn't show up, I'm available to take their place.

~ * ~

Funny bones with boys

Number Five Nephew calls being barefoot 'in my toes'.  For example, I'll ask him if he wouldn't like to wear his shoes when kicking the ball in the backyard. "No," he'll reply, "I like being in my toes."
Likewise, going shirtless is 'being in my tummy'.
He also has a routine before bed in which he 'jams his toes'.  Toe jam, as you are aware, is the lint and fluffies that collects between your toes. The process of removing it, according to Five, is known as 'jamming' your toes.  "Time to crawl into bed, Five," you'll say. "Ok," he says, "I just have to jam my toes first."

08 April 2016

Challenge your librarian; go ahead, make her day

When people find out I'm a librarian, the response will most often be, "Oh, I'd love to work in a library, with all those books. You must read all day!"

Yes, yes I do read all day. I read lists of items to patrons who wonder what they still have out. I read information to help someone answer a reference query. I read lists of books to people who want to be told what to read next. I read review journals to stay abreast of what other people are reading. I don't actually spend the day with a cup of tea dipping indolently into book after book for my own pleasure.  Well... not while at work, that is, but that is my idea of a perfect rainy day, actually.

Another common response with glazed-over eyes, "Oh.  I'm not much of a reader, actually.  Do people still use libraries?"

They do, in fact.  And no, that question isn't off-putting. (Yes, I do resort to sarcasm when my back is up.) Libraries are busy, vibrant places, with a lot on offer. Come and knock on our door... we've been waiting for you.

Quickly, before I lose your attention, I'd like to say that I firmly believe that nearly every person is a reader. You may not fit the image you have of what a reader is: that of someone who lingers in an armchair for hours, poring over the pages of a tome on the role of Catholic universities in the Middle Ages, or giddily recites passages of Proust, bookmarks falling from pockets all the day long. (A True Reader would never fold down the corners *cough* *Mrs. Tree* *cough* and is always prepared with a bookmark.) Maybe car magazines turn your crank (haha!), or you scan the sports section of your newspaper. You might like to browse recipes, or look for directions on how to build a tree house. You might even be addicted to researching your latest interesting health symptoms.  Every one of these is reading, and you're doing it for your own self, not because a teacher is expecting a report at the end of it.  The trick is to find your thing, and that's where your friendly neighbourhood librarian comes in. We love to connect people with just the right thing to read (truly, it is my favourite thing about the job), so go make her day and challenge her!

06 April 2016

Bread; oh the bread!

Back in the early days of the year - the short, dark, oh-where-is-the-sun days of winter, I decided to tackle my fear of bread.

Please understand: I am not afraid of bread itself. I eat it often and quite happily! But I have been afraid to take on the making of it with mine own hands. Yeast seemed far too delicate a thing for me, for truly, if something is dependent on me to carefully and tenderly nurture it to fullness of life, it will instead find itself withering. Just ask the many...lo these many and more... houseplants that were taken out to the curb in kitchen bin liners. Plus there is the kneading which seemed a complicated process, and also that none of the pizza dough I'd attempted had ever turned out really well.  So, from bread I have remained at a respectful distance.

Have you noticed how many tutorials there are on YouTube? (I have more to say on these tutorials, gentle reader, but shall refrain for today) And also the books written about bread must rival the stars for their number. Here is what I have learned: there are as many theories, guaranteed methods, and thou-must-nots as there are people sharing their wisdom on the making of bread. Some of them were very mathematical (baker's ratio?) which was daunting and intimidating for my brain. (My brain used to stick its fingers in its ears and sing, "la la la la" during math class in school.) There is such conflicting advice as well: work it vigorously; no, don't touch it at all! Start with the dry ingredients; no, always the wet! Count every grain of yeast; meh... just eyeball it, bread is forgiving. No! Bread is very, very particular!

Then I found a most wonderful bread book, The River Cottage Bread Handbook by Daniel Stevens. It explains the steps very clearly, and also what is happening along the way, which is helpful when you need reassurance that all is well. Stevens begins with the dry yeast process, and then tackles sourdough (made from a starter for which you 'catch' wild yeast. Imagine!) He includes a few non-yeast recipes, ideas for how to use old bread, and even how to build a clay bread oven - a project for the summer, perhaps?

I have found his recipes to be clear and understandable. Not inconsiderably, I also find the book pleasing to use due to its size and shape and the fact that it stays open to the page I want.

I've been measuring what I hear and read from other sources about bread against what I've learned from River Cottage. I've come across books that offer one recipe for a starter/biga/poolish but none of the breads are made using that recipe. Other authors go on about how it's done in their professional bakery - which, frankly, does me no good whatsoever, being as I don't have a massive floor mixer, a wheel-in chiller, or super-high heat steam ovens.

So far, 14 loaves of bread have come to life in my kitchen. The first two were rather dense, loaves 9 and 10 were very nearly perfect, and the last two were honest to goodness sourdough.  I was quite chuffed.

Not only have they been turning out well, my little loaves, but I've gained confidence that I understand what I'm doing. I've also become fully and completely enamored of the process. The first time my dough did truly double in volume and even had gas bubbles forming on the skin, I did that laugh/cry thing that really needs a name of its own. I can feel how alive the dough is, and am fascinated by the transformation it goes through from one stage to the next.

Here's what I have learned:
~ making bread is not difficult, but it takes as long as it takes. Very little happens at your own hands: in between a little stirring, then a little folding, then some shaping, the dough does all the work on its own. Don't rush it.... rather, enjoy it.
~ moisture is a good thing. A dried skin on your dough prevents expansion, so keep it moist.  The best trick I've learned so far (from River Cottage) is to keep the dough in a plastic bag. (Dan says to use a black bin liner, so that's what I've been using, though I think any plastic bag of sufficient size would do.) This provides a humid environment and also keeps the dough out of drafts.
~ weigh ingredients rather than measure as it is more accurate.
~ for all the measuring, a good loaf of bread comes down to becoming familiar with the process and seeing the results. There are so many factors at play from temperature of your kitchen that particular day, to how long its been since it rained, that you will have to adapt the recipe according to your circumstances. The only way to be able to do that is through experience... but just think of all the bread you're going to enjoy along the way!
~ allow the oven to preheat for at least half an hour. (I go for an hour, with the baking tray heating inside as well.) You want it good and hot. Boil a kettle of water, and when you put the bread in to bake, pour boiling water in the oven to provide steam. Steam is what develops a beautifully crispy crust.
~ bread is a wondrous coming together of flour water and salt.  That's all you need. Have you looked at the ingredients list on a bag of store-bought bread? What is all that stuff? (I don't include yeast in the list because it is naturally occurring when you combine flour and water. You tend it for a few days until it becomes strong enough to leaven your dough, then away you go!) (This is what is called 'catching' wild yeast, which I just love the sound of, don't you?)

I'm hooked. I love it, all of it, from start to finish. I'm making more bread than I can eat, and my freezer can only hold so much, so I'm going to have to start giving it away.

Are you a maker of bread?  If you've never tried, I enthusiastically encourage you to give it a go... and do let me know how you get on!