You’ll never learn anything new unless you just set your mind to it. The first part of any task is deciding to “get’er done” and not looking back or for excuses.
When I was 19 one of my first “off the diving board” decisions was made completely on a whim…and yes I only considered it because “my girlfriend was doing it.” I can’t say it was peer pressure really, it was more just something I just found myself doing one day wondering how the heck I had gotten there. Katie was having problems at home and her parents had given her an ultimatum, get a job or go back to Texas.
So she did what any young adult would do when faced with limited decisions; she joined the NAVY. Yep the United States Military Naval Services – THAT NAVY.
Hey they didn’t specify what “kind” of job.
When I found out, the first thing out of my mouth was “Are you crazy!?”
The second thing out of my mouth was “Well good luck, you better write to me. I sure hope you know what you’re doing girl ’cause there’s no way I would go and do something as insane as that.”
Eleven days later I was at the MEPS station in Denver swearing on my honor to protect and defend the constitution of the United States of America. I had just signed over the next four years of my life and went from being a daycare aide to a sailor.
Just like that….and I hadn’t even told my folks until the ink was dry on the paper.
Interesting conversation that was. I think it went something like this.
Mom: “Hi there how was your day?”
Me: “Good, busy. We having dinner?”
Mom: “Yeah soon. What did you do today that kept you so busy?”
Me: “Not much really. Got gas in the car, did a little running around…joined the NAVY.”
Needless-to-say dinner was eventful.
I can’t say I’ve done anything as major or as crazy as that since then but I’ll never regret that. It was a great experience and I accumulated vast amounts of knowledge that serve me no use in my quiet little suburban life; except I can still tie a mean boatswains knot when I need to.
To be honest I think some of the best learning experiences happen when we just dive in, feet first and hope for the best.
My first car for example. I had no idea how to drive a stick shift (back in the early 90’s you could still buy one as the standard for cars – automatic was something “special”).
I figured “well if I buy one then I’ll have to learn right?” So that’s what I did. I didn’t even test drive that cute little Plymouth Sundance. I took my friend along with me and HE test drove it because I couldn’t. I didn’t know how. That was WHY I was buying the car in the first place.
I’ll spare you the gory details of how I was completely screwed over by the car salesman; let’s just say big, hulking, scary, musclebound Medicine Man buys all the cars now, because as intimidating as he is….I am just NOT a nice person to car sales people.
The point is I learned and fast.
Going to school when I was 29 again was another dive into the pool. I was pregnant with Wiz Kid and working as a cashier at Home Depot. I knew I did not want to get stuck working crazy, unpredictable shifts with a new baby but other than my retained NAVAL skills, which at this point were of no use (except for that occassional knot) I had no options.
So I went to technical college to become a medical transcriptionist right after Wizzy was born. Somehow I ended up a medical coder and now 11 years later I’m working from home, pulling in a very respectable income as a medical coding analyst for one of the fastest growing medical technology companies in America.
In the more recent past, and along the lines of that first car experience (minus the evil car salesman) I wanted to learn how to shoot with a DSLR camera. My moto “Buy first…learn as you go.”
I have a pretty new Nikon D7000 and am completely and totally clueless how to use it. I realize now I probably did NOT get the best lenses for close up photography. Being they are a 55-200mm and an 85mm I have to stand across my kitchen and zoom in to shoot anything I’m cooking, or I have to stand on a chair.
It’s not a pretty sight in a restaurant trust me. “Excuse me, pardon me. Would you mind if I sat here on your dinner so I could get a picture of mine?”
Not pretty. Things like aperature, shutter speed, ISO, White balance, metering and the most terrifying of them all.. “Manual”… are slowly starting to make sense to me. Right now my photos fall somewhere between mediocre to completely stink like pig gas (was that too much) with an occasional “just got lucky” shot. The multicolored autumn hued walls in this house don’t help. They absorb nearly all natural light.
By nature of necessity I’m learning how to fix them via Gimp, a free photography software. I don’t have Lightroom or Photoshop yet because I’m still trying to pay off the camera.
Then there are the smaller things; things that don’t require an extra $1000 down, hundreds of dollars in users guides and accessories or find you hanging over the side of a ship with a 40 foot drop between you and the steel bottom of the boat.
Sometimes those “be brave” decisions find us in the kitchen staring down an empty mixer and a new recipe; that sort of dish that you always wanted to make but didn’t have the courage to try.
My obstacle: focaccia bread.
I’ve never made it but it’s been on my wish list. See most people I know love to make sweets treats but I love to make bread. Don’t get me wrong I love dessert and love making dessert but if given the choice I would make bread; yeast breads to be exact. Its the measuring and mixing; the kneading and stretching; it’s therapeutic.
So today, well yesterday really since the yeast poole has to sit overnight, I pulled out Cyril H’s recipe, made my normal modifications and voila my first ever focaccia is a wonderfully light and airy success.
Maybe I got lucky but it is so gratifying to set my mind to something and reap the rewards.
If there is something you have been wanting to do, learn, experience or undertake but have always had something hold you back then I challenge you to do it. You might just surprise yourself.
All you have to do is jump.
- 2½ cups Bread flour
- 1½ cups Warm water
- ⅛ teaspoon Instant active yeast
- 4½ cups Bread flour
- ¾ teaspoon Instant active yeast
- 1½ cups Warm water
- 3½ teaspoons Salt
- ⅛ teaspoon Sugar
- In a large mixing bowl add the first three ingredients (flour, water, yeast) and mix well. Cover and let sit for minimum of 1 hour.
- In the same mixing bowl add remaining ingredients.
- Mix on low speed until combined for about 6 minutes. Use rubber spatula to scrape sides periodically.
- After incorporated, increase speed to medium and mix for an additional minute or two. Dough will be sticky.
- Lightly oil a 9x13 pan with olive oil or cooking spray.
- Pour mixture into pan, evenly distribute and cover with a towel or plastic wrap. Let sit for 30 minutes.
- After first 30 minutes, dip hands in a bowl of clean warm water and give the dough a single stretch lengthwise from each and fold the in towards the middle. Stretch and fold from the sides once the same way. (like you were folding a towel but giving it a gentle stretch first).
- Let sit for another 30 minutes.
- Repeat the 30 minute+stretch & fold sequence for 3-4 times finishing with a 30 minute rest period. You'll notice the dough will get stronger and easier to work with each time.
- Lightly coat a 12 x 15 cooking sheet with olive oil and add dough.
- Using your fingers gently stretch the dough to the corners, spreading your fingers as if playing a piano or giving the dough a massage. ☺ .
- Don't worry if the dough does not reach the edges and corners right away, it will slowly begin to relax after each ministration and compression.
- After each compression let the dough sit for 10 minutes and repeat.
- Continue this process every 10 minutes for about 30 minutes or until dough completely covers the pan.
- At the last compression gently poke your fingers into the dough to create that classic focaccia lumpy look.
- Top the whole top with a good coating of olive oil, letting it lightly pool into the holes.
- Add any toppings you like except cheese and let dough sit for 15 minutes. (my basic toppings are garlic powder and Italian seasoning)
- Preheat the over to 425.
- Bake bread on center rack for 25 minutes.
- If adding cheese - sprinkle over the top in the last 10 minutes of cooking.
- Let the bread cool in the pan and gently remove while still slightly warm.
- IMPORTANT: Focaccia is such a water based bread, it goes stale very quickly. Store unused bread in the freezer as soon as possible.
- Will keep in freezer for several weeks.