Book Review: “Alaska Sourdough, The Real Stuff by a Real Alaskan,” revised edition, by Ruth Allman (forward by Addie Studebaker)

If you have ever thought about making your own sourdough bread, but were intimidated by the online instructions and videos detailing the complicated method involved in creating and keeping a living starter, then this is the book for you. I admit the whole process seemed daunting and mysterious to me. I really didn’t want my life to revolve around feeding a sourdough starter morning and evening for a whole month before even trying to bake bread. If you do some research you will discover that there are dozens of ways to create, and kill, a sourdough starter, and I wasn’t willing to take any chances after that investment of time and effort. This book is perfect for people like me — like you?

Alaska Sourdough, the Real Stuff by a Real Alaskan was first printed in 1976, but has recently been revised for the modern reader. I love the wisdom and charm of Ruth Allman’s notes and advice. She makes everything seem simple, and her common sense style of writing will convince you that yes, even you can bake your own sourdough bread. Throughout this book she intersperses the history of early Alaskan pioneers who depended on their sourdough starter to keep them alive through bone-chilling winters on the frozen tundra. These early pioneers were not expert chefs or bakers. They were in Alaska to homestead, find adventure, and hopefully strike it rich. They did not have the luxury of allowing their sourdough efforts to fail. Their very lives depended on the success of their sourdough, and the author is generous in sharing their many no-nonsense tips and tricks for success.

So, encouraged by their efforts, I dove in and made the starter using her potato water recipe. I expected to wait and feed the starter daily for at least one week before baking. Well, by the second day my starter had nearly doubled in size, and by the third day I had to bake, or it would have overflowed the quart jar where it was bubbling and brewing like a witch’s cauldron. The two loaves of bread I made on the third day came out great! I continued to feed the starter following the author’s simple instructions, and two days later used some to make delicious sourdough hotcakes for three hungry adults. All this in less than one week! I have plans for more bread and sourdough pretzels in the near future. If I can do this, you can, too. I highly recommend Alaska Sourdough, the Real Stuff by a Real Alaskan, by Ruth Allman, and wish you much success on your bread baking adventure!

My sourdough starter on day 2. (The rubberband marks the starting point on day 1). On day 3 it was definitely time to bake!

The Gym is Closed… Now What?

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We are living in strange and challenging times. Our normal routine has been disrupted by a little known virus, and it’s keeping most of the population isolated. The gym may be closed, fitness classes may be cancelled, but this is no reason to stop exercising. There is one simple exercise that requires no special equipment or training. In fact, it’s free and you’ve been doing it most of your life!

Walking is the most basic of exercises and is beneficial in so many ways:

— Walking helps to lower stress and blood pressure. The heart is the most important muscle in your body and it must be exercised to stay strong and healthy.  You are in charge. You can walk at your own pace and gradually work up to longer walks at a faster pace as your endurance increases.

— Walking helps to strengthen lower body muscles and improve balance and coordination. This is a big concern as people get older and falling risk increases.

— Walking improves bone density (walking is considered a weight-bearing exercise because you are carrying your own body weight). One study of post menopausal women found that walking 30 minutes per day reduced their risk of hip fracture by 40%!

— Walking burns calories, helps lower BMI, and as a result helps manage type 2 diabetes.

— Walking helps you to manage joint pain and stiffness. If you have arthritis, avoiding physical activity is not the way to improve your pain. Walking pumps fluid into and out of the joints and cartilage, washing them with nutrients and slowing degradation there. For more information: http://www.creakyjoints.com

— Walking improves mental well-being and will help you sleep better at night. Walking releases endorphins similar to a runner’s high. You will rest soundly with a feeling of satisfaction after a brisk walk.

– Walking slows mental decline. It has been shown that senior men who walk more than a quarter mile each day had half the incidence of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease than non-walkers.

Even if you are told to self-isolate because of the corona virus, you can still walk for exercise. If possible, walk in the woods or a park and enjoy the beauty of nature. Isn’t exercising in the fresh air more appealing than working out in a stuffy gym? Allow the sun to shine on your face and arms for additional Vitamin D absorption. Listen to the music of birds singing, leaves rustling in the breeze, water rippling in a stream. Use this time to enjoy the simple pleasures of nature, to pray or meditate. Walking can be a satisfying solitary activity, good for the body, mind and spirit. Or, take your dog along, and make time for a game of fetch or frisbee, and you’ll both return feeling refreshed.

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The Coronavirus: Fear vs. Wisdom

 

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If you follow the news, then you hear hourly updates on the coronavirus as  reporters spread doom, gloom and fear about worldwide sickness and even death from the  coronavirus. You may be asking: When will it strike here? What should I do if I get sick? Am I safe? How can I protect my children from something I can’t see? Obsessing on this one topic is creating panic when commonsense wisdom would be more helpful.

Please, keep in mind that fewer people have died from the coronavirus this year than from the flu last year, and those who have died had compromised immune systems before they contracted the virus. It is believed that thousands of people have recovered from the coronavirus thinking it was just the common cold, because their symptoms were so mild. So it seems obvious that the way to deal with this new health threat is to strengthen your immune system and use the necessary precautions to avoid getting sick in the first place. Here are some reminders:

— Wash your hands often, at least 20 seconds each time with soap and running water.

— Use antibacterial wipes at the grocery store (many stores provide them at the entrance) to wipe down shopping cart handles before use.

— Carry antibacterial wipes with you, and remember to use them.

— Sneeze and cough into the crook of your arm instead of your hands.

— Keep your hands away from your face.

— Carry your own supply of tissues with you. Communal tissue boxes are loaded with germs.

— Think of others. If you feel sick, STAY HOME. No matter how badly you “need to be there,” no one there wants to catch what you have.

— At home, sanitize often: door knobs, light switches, buttons on the microwave, toaster, stove, coffeepot, tea kettle, toilet seat/handles, faucets, etc.. Bleach infused wipes or even a paper towel saturated with rubbing alcohol will do the job quickly and easily.

— Avoid sugar. Sugar depresses your immune system for the next four hours after consuming it.

— Eat plenty of whole foods: vegetables, fruit, and minimally processed grains, legumes, nuts and seeds.

— Stay hydrated and make pure water your beverage of choice. Nix the sugary drinks.

— Increase your intake of Vitamin C and Zinc. Taken together these help to lessen the severity of a cold, but you can also take them before any symptoms arise as a preventive measure.

— Elderberry syrup taken daily is a great immune booster (also comes in lozenges in case you’re traveling).

— If you live in the northern hemisphere and don’t get much sun for part of the year, you may need to increase your vitamin D intake. Vitamin D3+K2 is most easily absorbed. Ask your doctor to monitor your blood levels to get the correct dosage.

— Finally, reduce the stress in your life. Prayer and meditation, daily exercise, even a walk are all great stress relievers. Read a good book. Enjoy a hobby you’ve neglected for a long time, or try something new. Spend time with your pet. Turn off the news and just relax.

— Refuse to worry. Worry leads to anxiety, which stops you from living your best life. As long as you use wisdom, you have nothing to fear.

God has not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.         II Timothy 1:7 NKJV

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It’s Never Too Late

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Total health starts with your spiritual life.  Prayer, reading the Bible and meditating on God’s word will reduce stress and give you answers to life’s questions. If you want to be healthy body, mind and spirit, then start here.

Jesus never refuses an invitation to be with you. He’s never too busy. He never has something more important to do. You are the most important thing to Jesus, and he loves spending time with you, It’s never too late. He’s just waiting to be asked.

Luke 24: 28-29 — As they approached the village to which they were going, Jesus continued on as if he were going farther. But they urged him strongly, “Stay with us, for it is nearly evening; the day is almost over.” So he went in to stay with them.

What You Eat Really Does Make a Difference

Remember that children’s song, “Oh be careful little mouth what you say?” Maybe we need to learn a new verse — “Oh, be careful little mouth what you eat!”

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Proverbs 21:23- He who guards his mouth and his tongue keeps himself from calamity.

If you are eager to improve your health, then God may be speaking to you about the food you eat. Sometimes saying yes to God means saying no to yourself. The Holy Spirit will begin to change your appetite if you don’t ignore his voice. If you are asking God to help you lose weight, the answer to your prayers may be on your plate.

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