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Making it Within 200 Feet of the Door

I’m still a little shaken. Nauseated, and so grateful. I drove my 2002 Chevy Astro Van AWD up to Crested Butte Mountain Resort this morning to assist in giving visitors an amazing experience on Ibis Cycles bikes. Toward the end of the 40 mile drive, I noticed the handling of my vehicle was a little off and there was sort of a grinding noise I hadn’t noticed before. I had gotten a flat tire about a week ago and wondered if the repair hadn’t held. I parked my car at the Outerbike venue, took a look at the newly repaired tire, and saw that it looked just fine. I was just barely on time for the event, so I shrugged and walked away for the day.

Friends and hugs and bikes and laughter and 10 hours later, I got back in the van with significantly less energy than I had upon arrival. I heard the noise getting louder and felt the handling get worse along the journey home. I was tired. I just wanted to get home. I knew the tire was holding air, and I figured I had tweaked the axel or something while driving off road a few days ago (dang, I love my truck-van!). Everything got progressively worse along the drive home. I didn’t want to stop. I wanted to get home, take a shower, make dinner, relax, and hang out with Jefe. I made it to town. Through the first stop light, then the second, and the third. I turned right onto Highway 50, and then I made the left turn into the south side of Gunnison. Another right turn, then another into the alley where I live. KLUNK! THUD! and there is the front driver’s side wheel of my vehicle rolling away. ROLLING. AWAY!!! I got out of the van and chased the wheel. Rolled it back toward the van, and then realized what had happened. At any moment during the last 45 minutes, this could have happened. It could have happened while I was going 70 miles per hour. It could have happened while I was rounding the corner just south of Almont, driving just a few feet away from northbound traffic. It could have happened while I was winding through the bluffs above the East River. If it had happened at almost any other point during the nearly two hours I spent driving today, the consequences would have been far greater then the groove I carved in the asphalt 200 feet from my front door. I’ll need a new wheel and new lug nuts, as all five of mine are somewhere between Mt. Crested Butte and the entrance to my alley. But my recovery has been a bath and a pizza when I could be on life support. The casualties are only a few minutes of a neighbor’s time as he helped me loosen a lug nut from each of my other wheels to put the fallen wheel back on so that I could slowly roll the 200 feet to my driveway.

Someone out there wanted to remind me today of the preciousness of life. It’s been a challenging summer. There have been days when I wondered about the point of it all. There have been moments when life felt so hard, like such a struggle, that I felt like I didn’t want to do it anymore. The suffering felt too great, the pain too real. Right now all I feel is gratitude. I am so thankful to be alive! So unbelievably lucky to feel whatever feelings are coming forward as I reflect on what could have been!! I am recommitting to find the lessons in every struggle and the blessings in every moment. And to checking my lug nuts!

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Sharing is Caring

Gluten ranks among my most favorite things. The protein that makes naan chewy, baguettes lacy, and croissants flakey (OK, butter also plays a crucial role in those layers, and coincidently also ranks among my most favorite things…have you seen my new tattoo!?) is pure magic. So falling in love with someone who’s digestive system adamantly disagrees with me on this has been a challenge! Fresh sourdough bread and warm cookies are how I say “I love you” so I needed a way to express my love without the gluten!

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Spent Grain Sourdough – with all the gluten!

Thanks to Alton Brown, chocolate chip cookies are covered! I’ve developed an excellent cake recipe too! But bread!??! Store-bought gluten free bread has no soul. Sure, fry it up and smear enough condiments on it – don’t forget the homemade sauerkraut! – and you have something that will pass for a sandwich, but it leaves a lot to be desired.

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gluten free sandwich loaf…and Jefe excited to cut a slice!

Ferment all the things!  At any given moment, there are at least a half a dozen jars gurgling and burping on the counter and in the cupboard.  Sauerkraut, kombucha, tepache, pickles, and sourdough…lots of sourdough! I bake wheat-based sourdough every few days for my friends and neighbors, and it was really starting to break my heart not to share bread with Jefe. I read a few blogs and recipes and got to experimenting.  My first (thousand) attempts produced bricks and boat anchors; nothing remotely edible.  I think I remember trying to feed some to my dogs and they literally spit it out!  Recipes either called for more eggs than an omelette or super obscure ingredients.  Wheat-based sourdough is so simple!  Just flour, water, and salt.  I wanted something like that!

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sourdough baguettes – attempt 1 of many

This recipe may have more that three ingredients, but it is completely doable and the results are heavenly!  First you’ll want to make a gluten free starter.  Take a look at the links above for guidance, or follow my simple directions below.  Caring for a starter is a labor of love.  Jefe jokes that “it’s time to feed the babies” only he’s absolutely not joking. Once you work feeding into your routine it’s really no big deal, but it is a step.

You’ll need a quart mason jar, a rubber band, and a coffee filter as her home.  (I definitely recommend naming your sourdough starters! My white wheat is named Wanda, whole wheat is Josephine, and gf is Fifi.) For at least a week, probably closer to 10 days, you’ll feed your starter 50 grams of warm water and 50 grams brown rice flour once or twice daily for the first several days, then once every day or even every other day once she is active. Each time you feed, stir vigorously until everything is incorporated. As your quart jar begins to fill up, toss out about half of the volume before each feeding. I know it feels wasteful, but it’s kind of just the name of the game in establishing your starter. Once she’s alive and well you can keep the discard for other baking projects, or just use it to bake your bread!  I bake often enough to keep my starter on the counter and feed daily, but you can keep it in the fridge and feed less frequently once she’s active and established.  Just remember to take her out of the fridge and let come to room temperature before feeding, then leave at room temp for a few hours to allow the bacteria to wake up and eat!

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active brown rice starter AKA Fifi

Once your starter is active, it will smell, well, fermented!  Slightly sour, even a little milky. If it smells super vinegary or like acetone, discard most of it and feed daily for several days to reestablish the good bacteria. Then make some bread!  Here is the recipe and method that I have had the most success with.  As I mentioned above, I had many MANY failures before this success!  If this doesn’t work for you, I honestly am not sure of all the factors at play, but there are many!  Keep persisting! There is nothing quite like succeeding and being able to share the love.  Enjoy!

150g unfed gluten free sourdough starter (see above)
-feed 50g warm water and 50 g brown rice flour, cover and set aside 8 hours

1 cup water + 1/2 cup water
1/3 cup vegetable oil (I used grape seed, canola or sunflower would work well also)
2 eggs, beaten

300g brown rice flour
100g white rice flour
75g tapioca starch
75g potato starch
50g sorghum flour
25g arrowroot starch
10g salt
10g guar gum
10g rice bran

OR

650g Pamela’s All Purpose Gluten-Free Artisan Blend

Blend wet ingredients together and stir into starter
Stir wet starter mixture into dry ingredients to form a stiff dough
Cover and allow to rest overnight, up to 18 hours
The next morning, put your dough in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment.  Beat on low as you add 1/3 – 1/2 cup additional water.  You want a sticky paste, but not a loose batter.  Turn your mixer up to high speed and beat for a few minutes.  Turn the mixer off, scrape the bowl and whisk, and give it another 2-3 minutes on high.

Shape your loaves
This dough is sticky!  It is a challenge to form traditional baguettes and batards, but it can be done!  Use wet hands to shape, or simply turn the dough into a loaf pan and smooth the top with a wet spatula.  Cover the shaped dough with plastic, whether shaped on a sheet pan or in a loaf pan, and allow to prove about 2 hours.  It will rise a little, but will not double like traditional wheat-based bread.  About an hour – 75 minutes into your proofing time, start pre-heating the oven to 500 degrees F.  When your dough is ready to bake, turn the oven down to 400 and set the timer for 20 minutes.  After the first 20 minutes, rotate the pans and bake for an additional 20-30 minutes until the bread sounds hollow when you tap on it firmly.  Allow the loaves to cool completely before slicing.

Please let me know how your loaves turn out!  I’d love to hear from you with questions about the recipe, anything that isn’t clear, and any suggestions you may have from your own experimental journey!  Thank you for following, and HAPPY BAKING!

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another gluten free sandwich loaf

 

Rollercoasters…

I’ve really never been one for rollercoasters, but honestly that has nothing to do with this what I want to say, so let me get to the point.

I’ve noticed in the last few weeks that I feel exhausted.  This exhaustion feels different, though.  I know what it’s like to feel completely worked after a long ride.  This isn’t like that.  I know what it’s like to have full, productive days and collapse at the end of them.  Nope, not like that either.  I am emotionally drained.

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I have been allowing my happiness to ebb and flow with the tides of a project I’ve been working on.  The Kitchen Project, LLC will be a cooperative commercial kitchen space available to small food businesses and start-ups.  I have spent hours upon hours dreaming and scheming the possibilities for retail, cold storage, classes and workshops, greenhouses and pickle barrels, love and community!  And then there’s bureaucracy, economics, grapevines, loopholes, chains of command, and reality.

I believe that I have a good thing going here.  With that confidence, I follow every lead with open arms and an even open-er heart. They don’t always play out, (OK, so far none of them have…at least not to completion) so I’m left feeling completely defeated, demoralized, like a failure.  I consider giving up.  It seems to affect my whole being.

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After the most recent wave of possibility crashed, I took to the dirt roads and the sage hills and pedaled my bike towards clarity.  What became clear is that yes, the process of making my dreams come true is going to be a rollercoaster, but I don’t have to ride it. I am grounded in my wonderful family, my beautiful community of friends, my beloved baked goods, and where would we all be without bikes?!  I am safe, I am whole, and I am me regardless of when or where or how The Kitchen Project plays out.

 

AND…if you are interested in hearing more about The Kitchen Project, please email me at pedalsandpastries@gmail.com -with Love ❤

Now what?

I am a firm believer that there is a lesson in everything.  In fact, I’ve made it a sort of game with myself to search for the lesson instead of just throwing my hands (one finger in particular) in the air and reaching for a beer.  Ok, sometimes in addition to the latter two.

I haven’t been riding mountain bikes all that long, but 5ish years with little more then cuts and bruises is a pretty good run!  I don’t like to think that I had it coming, but I guess each time we swing a leg over that top tube the risk is out there.  Last Wednesday, June 6, I finally crashed hard enough to break a bone.  Bones, actually.  I broke the 5th metacarpal in my left hand as well as the coronoid process in my left elbow.  As far as fractures go, I feel like I hit the jackpot.  No surgery, not even a hard cast.  The pain is minimal, at least physically.

June 6th.  The high country trails in Crested Butte are just melting out and getting dry enough to ride.  While it’s 110 degrees in my hometown, summer is just barely getting started here in Gunny!  There is a strange urgency to summer in the mountains.  I experienced it last summer too.  It feels like as soon as the aspens have all their leaves, I wake up the next morning and they are turning gold and the snow is about to fall.  Growing up in the Sonoran Desert of Arizona I never felt  rushed to enjoy the warmth.  This race to feel the sun on my skin while I can is a new one for me.

Summer in the mountains means riding and playing outside, and this year for me it also meant a new beginning.  I had given notice at the insurance company, secured a dream job coaching school-aged girls on mountain bikes with Crested Butte Development, and had set aside just enough time each week to continue developing my pastry business, and live happily ever after.  As I toppled from the off-camber rock move on Josho’s trail at Hartman Rocks and onto my outstretched arm, the following occurred, in this order: I heard a crack, I screamed, and I thought about whether or not I’d still be able to coach.  In the waiting room of the ER, I played out all the worst case scenarios I could think of, most of which revolved around not coaching, not riding, and not being able to pay the medical bills I was about to incur.  The human mind is a twisted author of horror stories.

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That cast plus AZT socks and fresh tan lines from last weekend’s bike packing trip make for the perfect summer look

While I won’t be coaching this summer, my bones will heal.  I am still able to bake, my second love (ok, third, no sixth after Jefe, bikes and each of the pups) and develop Pedals and Pastries.  Within hours of the injury, several friends had reached out to offer their love, support, and bone broth.  Even these last two splinted weekends have taken me places on foot I may never have ventured had the ordinary two-wheeled source of diversion been an option.

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So what the hell is the lesson in all of this?  Slow down?  Friends are the ones who come out of the woodwork in times of struggle? When one door closes another one opens? Sure.  Maybe. I’m still looking for the deeper lessons in this one.  For now, I’m making the best of each moment, even the fleeting warm ones, resisting the urge to wish I was somewhere else, and battling a heinous case of FOMO (fear of missing out).  I have the opportunity to hold myself while I heal. Whether I feel broken, incomplete, not enough, or whatever the daily dose of inadequacy has to offer, I remember that I am healing, growing, learning, and always doing my best.

a perfect weekend.

Just after the nooner bell on Friday, Jefe and I hopped on loaded bikes and headed south.  The Ibis Cycles Tranny fitted with a Lauf fork and Jefe-made frame, seat, and handlebar bags is a weekend adventure machine!  Gold Basin Road took us to the Bambi’s trail head where we pedaled and pushed through Hartman Rocks and over the west side of the Aberdeen single track.  Several miles of contouring and rolling dirt roads later, we arrived to nowhere in particular.  And it was perfect.

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After a feast of rice noodles, veggies, and canned sardines, we spent the night under the stars, between aspens and Doug fir.  I couldn’t believe that just over 20 miles of pedaling – from the front door – had brought us to such a beautiful and secluded spot.

We slept soundly and woke up with crystal blue skies overhead.  We packed up camp, thanked our special little spot for the views, the laughs, and the comfort, and headed further down the road.  We contoured a few more drainages gazing at the perfect contrast between the vibrant green of the newly-leafed aspens and the hearty dark green of the pines.  Each time we crested a hill a lost my breath at the sight of the valleys below.  We really could do this forever – in and out of drainages, over hills and through valleys; the country is just endless.

Jefe is still gentle with me in terms of the adventures he chooses for us, which is why we got away with only a few miles of hike-a-bike through willows and brambles.  But I always trust him when he says it’ll be worth it, because it always is.  We arrived just before noon to our next camp spot and enjoyed the day in the warm sun, taking frequent walks down to the creek, napping, eating gummy bears, and just enjoying life.  The life around us, the life we are living, and the life we are sharing.  This weekend was nothing if not full of love and gratitude.

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Adventure by IBIS!

Coasting home down Gold Basin Road, flanked by fields of lupine, paintbrush, dandelions, and irises, still-snow-capped mountains on the distant horizon, neither of us were in too much of a hurry for this adventure to come to an end.  “How about we just stop at Love’s and turn around?” I suggested.  “Or we can do some reality for a week and plan the next one.”  Good idea.

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Playing By the Rules

There is a common thread to about 90% of the times that I feel pissed off, frustrated, or disappointed.  That thread in the tapestry of grumbles and tantrums is people not playing by the rules.  The rub there is that the rules I expect people to follow are my own.  I invented them.  They aren’t published anywhere, no one knows them but me, and still I expect everyone in the world to follow them.

My rule book states that my dad should call me once every-other-week or so.  Four months notice should be enough for my last day at my desk job without being asked to stay on for another two weeks.  People should always speak clearly and directly to ensure thorough understanding.  My friends shouldn’t get sick.  Working hard should afford me a comfortable lifestyle and affordable healthcare.  Loaves of banana bread should always rise evenly and never sink in the middle, even at 7,700 feet elevation.

With these rules comes the expectation that the universe follow them.  But what a silly thought, right?  That I expect the universe to follow my rules?  Ludicrous. Is it also ludicrous, then, to expect people to follow my imaginary rules?  It’s arguable that some of these “rules” should be common sense…but that in and of itself is sort of a rule, isn’t it?  Yielding to uphill traffic is an unspoken rule of the trail, but getting bent out of shape when someone doesn’t follow that rule does no one any good.  Same goes with all the other rules that I have invented.

The bottom line for me here is expectations.  If I expect the universe to follow my rules, then I’m inevitable disappointed or frustrated when the rules are broken.  I can follow my own rules because they work for me.  They are in line with the way that I want to show up in the world, for my friends, and for myself.  My life has been full of enough humbling experiences that I can no longer pretend to think that I know the best way for anyone else to show up.  Well, maybe that isn’t so true after all; I’ll know I’ve learned when I no longer feel pissed off, frustrated, and disappointed.