Cofrin Park

Cofrin Park
Cofrin Nature Park

Thursday, January 21, 2016

OPERATION KENYA: "DAYS FOR GIRLS" Betters the World, One Girl at a Time

Girls in Kenya receiving their feminine hygiene kits. Photo courtesy of

The wild and wonderful Maria Rattray asked me to help her with her Kenya, Africa project. Maria, acting as an ambassador for the Days For Girls organization, recently spent a few weeks in a small Kenyan village teaching and working with the village girls. The trip objective: to promote healthy living and education in a place where girls continue to have a high incidence of dying during childbirth—mere children themselves.

Keeping the village girls in school elevates the whole community, and that is a paramount goal of the Days For Girls organization. The main way to maintain school attendance for the girls is to deal with an issue that forces girls to quit school: the beginning of their menses. In an effort to continue going to school, the girls try using leaves or corn-husks to absorb the blood. Some girls even utilize rocks in an attempt to block the blood flow.(Can you imagine your 8th grade daughter jamming rocks up her vagina?) The girls' futile methods result in their leaving school by age 13 or 14 to sit at home on a piece of cardboard until the messy business of being an adolescent girl subsides. Or worse, they end up pregnant and leave school to tend to their baby.

Maria, who manages a Friday afternoon enrichment program for disenfranchised kids, in addition to her day job as ruler of aquatic therapy at the gym, requested we send a message of love and hope to the girls in Kenya. She asked us to share snippets of what life is like in America; include a bio with photos and relate a personal triumph over an obstacle.  She recruited her “Friday Kids” to write messages as well. I told her that my life was hardly a good example, but she wanted my input, so I obliged. How often does one get asked to help change the world, anyway?

I gave a brief bio, and included photos of me growing up American girl style: Midwest spoiled; yet lacking the self-esteem gene—a personal obstacle I used as an example for Maria’s project.

What message of hope did I send to those girls in Kenya who rank below the chicken in their society? I wanted to tell them what to do; but that would be condescending, perhaps misunderstood and no doubt unappreciated. I know little about the people of Kenya, other than a few Public television shows and the occasional news report. I just want us to adopt them all and move them to the United States.

Instead, I offered a message of Silent Hope:
Dear girls of Kenya, consider quietly practicing self-respect; because I think whatever one does in life, especially girls and women, evolves from self-respect and self-love. It’s still a man’s world. Boys are granted self-respect; and men naturally embrace it. Girls seem to have to chase it down—and it always seems to outrun us just when we need it most. Even as women, we battle for that badge of self-respect and the right to realize it.

How can a girl in a Kenyan village, practice self-respect?  Learn to love your body and your mind. Treat these gifts with kindness, reverence and gratitude. Understand that while your body houses your spirit, it comes with a solid mind intact. Use it well. Consider that you originated from the spiritual plane, and you will return to that realm when you have lived your life according to your destiny. Meanwhile, you have a spiritual responsibility to care for your spirit’s temple—you.

But you don’t have to utter a word about your practice. Outwardly you may look the same, and do the same chores. However, inwardly you are becoming confident in who you are and how you want to be in this world.

Follow the example set by the author of Man's Search for Meaning. Victor Frankl.  Frankl endured his internment in Nazi concentration camps by giving his external suffering, as a prisoner, an empowering meaning for his future and the future of his progeny. Frankl used the power of his mind to live through horrible conditions—engulfed in death and destruction. He silently practiced self-respect and self-love. Use his story to fashion your own fresh narrative.

Young girls of Kenya
your everyday life is a journey in spirit
Your daily actions
provoke meaning and power
Your power is choice

The meaning you choose to give
to what happens in your life
determines your character
and guides how you will feel

You have special gifts to share with the world
Even if that world is less than a square mile
The whole world anticipates you
We need your uniqueness
You are the world’s special gift

We honor you 
We champion your endeavors 
of education
and bettering your life
in any way you can
Because in bettering your life
you better the universe
Thank you!

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Simple Sourdough Bread Using Water Kefir Grains!

WOW! I created a new recipe for quicker sourdough bread that takes only 3 days (one day for starter) and not the traditional 5 days for the starter(and an additional 2 weeks to mature the starter) that is usually required for a sourdough starter to grow using only flour and water. Traditional sourdough starter recipes necessitate feeding the starter at least once a day while discarding half of it. I didn’t like the waste and waiting, so decided to experiment with another way to make a bread starter, using NO commercial yeast. Previously I used a tiny amount of commercial yeast for my sourdough starter; but using commercial yeast is not considered a “true” sourdough by purists. Thus the sourdough dilemma for those who do not bake every few days and do not wish to feed, clothe and shelter a sourdough starter for years. (That's what kids and baby goats are for.)

For my first sourdough starter experiment I found an online recipe using the kefir water after the second fermentation. The online method looked good; but my attempt failed--boozy liquid, stinky and no rising starter. I threw it out, lamenting the loss of expensive flour and precious time.

Water Kefir Grains

For my second experiment, I figured: Why not use some of those proliferating water kefir grains, instead of the kefir water, to get the starter fermenting? Why not try using it as a commercial yeast replacement for the dough? (Yes, I add a bit more leavening agent to the final dough, because I want extra insurance that it will rise. When I get adventurous, I may omit adding any leavening to the final dough and rely solely on the ambitious sourdough starter as it was meant to be; and leaven.)
It worked! The starter was ready the next day, without using commercial yeast. The final bread rose better than expected. Crispy crust. Soft interior crumb. Tangy buttery flavor and indescribably delicious! Besides that, I found another use for water kefir grains that I would have otherwise discarded. I am such a genius!
Look at how the plastic wrap "inflated" from the fermenting Levain!
My grandmother got me started on my quest for better bread. She would be so proud.

Me and my grandmother, Marie, baking bread together.

(IMPORTANT: Use all non-reactive tools and bowls, like glass or plastic—no metal.)

("Levain" is the French term for sourdough starter)
3/4 Cup Organic Spelt flour
1/2 Cup Spring Water
2 Tablespoons Water Kefir grains

(For the feeding on day Twoheaping 1/4 cup spelt flour and 1/4 cup spring water.)

All of the starter/levain
1 Tablespoon Kefir grains
About 3-4 cups all-purpose, organic EINKORN flour
1and1/2 teaspoons “Real” salt or sea salt
3/4 cup spring water

Afternoon or Evening of DAY 1 –
MIX together the Spring Water and Kefir grains in a bowl. 
ADD Spelt flour and stir about 100 strokes.
The consistency should resemble a thick pancake batter.
Cover with plastic wrap and let rise at room temperature.

Morning of DAY 2 –
Bubbling starter
“FEED” the starter a few hours before making the final dough: STIR the starter and add 1/4 cup Organic Spelt flour and, 1/4 cup spring water.  Let rise until bubbles form: about 4 – 8 hours. (Consistency should still resemble thick pancake batter.)

When starter is ready:
Starter stirred and ready to go
STIR starter (with rubber spatula) 
MIX Kefir grains into 3/4 cup Spring Water. (This is the "insurance" step that may not be necessary.)
ADD kefir mixture to starter and stir until combined. 
TRANSFER starter to a large bowl.

ADD 1 cup All-Purpose Organic Einkorn flour and stir to combine. 
STIR in 1½ teaspoons salt. 
ADD Einkorn flour, one cup at a time and stir to combine as dough begins to form.
KNEAD dough until smooth and elastic. (I first used the rubber spatula and finished kneading by hand.) 
(Pinch a small amount of dough--it will spring back when ready.) 
TRANSFER dough to greased bowl.
COVER bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.

DAY 3 –
REMOVE dough from refrigerator and bring to room temperature (I place bowl in oven with a bowl of boiling water for about 1 hour.) 
PUNCH dough down and knead briefly on lightly floured counter top. 
FORM dough into 2 loaves.
PLACE loaves on greased and floured baking sheet.
SPRINKLE loaves with flour to prevent sticking. 
COVER loaves with parchment paper and then a clean towel or cloth napkin, ONLY while the loaves rise. Let rise until almost double in bulk, about 20 to 40 minutes.
PREHEAT oven to 450 Degrees Fahrenheit, while waiting for the loaves to rise.
About 1 minute before baking, pour about 1/2 cup hot or boiling water in the bottom of the oven to create steam. Even better: spritz the sides of the oven with a spray bottle filled with water. You do not want a pool of water sitting in the bottom of the oven.
CUT 1/4 inch slices into the tops of the loaves with a sharp knife, just before they go into the preheated and steamed oven.
Place loaves in oven.
BAKE loaves for about 10 minutes until they take on color and begin to puff up.
REDUCE oven temperature to 425 degrees Fahrenheit.
BAKE until done (about another 20 to 30 minutes.) 
ROTATE the loaf pan(s) halfway through baking time, to ensure even baking.
COOL loaves on wire rack.
STORE in sealed plastic bag when completely cool. Refrigerate after a couple of days.