Every Monday, I answer a few of the questions that my readers send me. If you have a question you’d like me to answer in a future Q&A post, just leave me a comment here or email me (thefrugalgirl [at] gmail [dot] com) and put Q&A in the subject line. I look forward to hearing from you!
I’m curious as to why one of the top sides of regular loaves of bread tend to crack and rise higher (during baking) than the other side (like in your cinnamon oatmeal bread photos)?
You know, I’ve never thought about that before! It seems to me that this mostly happens in loaves that have a filling (like the cinnamon swirl bread) or in breads that have hearty grains in them (like oatmeal bread). I’ve also had it happen when I’ve rolled two different doughs together (like whole wheat and white dough, to make a swirl bread). In the case of the different doughs, I think it must be because they rise at different rates. In the case of the oatmeal bread, I’d imagine that the lower gluten level would cause the bread to crack (more gluten means a stretchier dough, so lower gluten would contribute to cracking). I don’t really know why cinnamon bread tends to split, though! Readers, any ideas? I’d say it was from the oatmeal in my oatmeal cinnamon bread recipe, but my regular cinnamon bread sometimes splits too.
I do think the split side rises higher because it’s freed from the rest of the loaf. But I don’t think it splits the loaf because it’s rising higher (if that makes sense!). 😉
I’ve been enjoying your blog and considering getting into the world of blogging myself but not sure where to start. Most of my favorite blogs appear on Blogher but I’ve realized they aren’t where one starts……do you have any advice on where to start a blog?
Yes, I do! 😉 I always, always recommend that you start out with a WordPress blog. I know a lot of people use Blogger and love it, but if you want to be at all serious about blogging, I’d definitely tell you to go with WordPress. Most of the big, popular blogs I read are powered by WordPress, and I keep seeing blogger after blogger moving from the Blogger software to the WordPress software. So, save yourself the trouble and start out on WordPress!
Why do I love WordPress?
I have to say, the main reason I adore WordPress is that they make blogs look sleek and professional, much moreso than Blogger blogs. Some people customize their Blogger blogs and make them look great, but most WordPress blogs look awesome right out of the box (which is good for a coding idiot like myself).
(Of course, Blogger and WordPress aren’t the only two options out there…Typepad blogs look pretty snazzy, in my opinion, but I don’t think that Typepad is as widely-used as WordPress is, which means that it doesn’t have as many themes, plug-ins, and tutorials as WordPress does.)
I also like WordPress’ dashboard better than Blogger’s, and I like the way comments function better on WordPress (you don’t have to open a new window to leave a comment). In addition, WordPress has a really useful built-in stats counter and spam catcher (Oh, Akismet! How I love you!). The spam catcher means that those annoying Captcha codes Blogger offers in the comments are completely unnecessary, and without those codes, your readers are more likely to leave comments on your posts.
Where to start
You can host your blog on WordPress.com, which is what I did at first….my blog address used to be www.thefrugalgirl.wordpress.com. When your blog is hosted on WordPress’ servers, though, you have limited options as far as customization and putting ads and various media on your blog. After a few months at wordpress.com, I bought my own domain and hosting services, so now WordPress is installed and hosted on my own server (and now my blog address has no “wordpress” in it.)
The other sort of big change I made was buying the Thesis theme. Unlike a lot of other WordPress themes, Thesis requires a purchase, but it is SO worth it, in my opinion.
Why is Thesis so fabulous? Well, if you know html and css, you can modify free WordPress themes to your heart’s content. I, however, am almost completely clueless about code, and that’s why Thesis is so stinking awesome for me. I can change a bazillion things about my layout and design all with the touch of a button, and that makes me a happy girl. I uses Thesis for this blog, for my 365 blog, and for my review blog.
You mentioned BlogHer, and I would be remiss if I didn’t acknowledge that they are one awesome blog network. If you have a blog and you’re wanting to earn some money with it, do sign up to get onto BlogHer’s advertising waiting list. My Blogher ads have definitely been the best source of revenue for my blog so far.
So in a nutshell, my recommendations are to 1) blog on WordPress, 2) use the Thesis theme, and 3) sign up with BlogHer.
I’ve also written a few (ok, two!) other posts about blogging, so you might want to check those out as well.
So I’m curious. I read your post from last year about fixing your van’s door handle, but what does your family do about routine vehicle maintenance?
Well, that depends on how routine the maintenance is. When it comes to stuff like oil changes, air filter changes, and the like, my husband is totally capable of doing the work himself. When we need to do more involved stuff (especially stuff that’s way easier to do in a real garage with a lift), we have our trusted mechanic do the work.
We never, ever go to the dealer to have work done, though, as they charge an arm and a leg and the work they do is not as good as the work our mechanic does (plus, I kind of prefer to give my money to someone who owns a small, local business).
And though we try to fix problems ourselves when they arise, sometimes we pay our mechanic to take care of those. For instance, we fixed our door handle, and my husband and my dad put in a new air/fuel sensor when ours went bad, but we recently paid our mechanic to fix our blower. Fixing that involved removing the entire front dashboard, so to us it was more than worth the $100 to have our mechanic do the work (it turns out a small animal had made a nest inside our blower!).
Do you ever try to prepare other ethnic meals for your family? For example, pad thai, Vietnamese Pho soup, or Chinese and Indian foods? If not, do you expose your kids to these different kinds of foods, and do they enjoy them?
I do make some Asian foods, like stir-fries (though not as often as I should, probably!), and our kids love takeout Chinese food (won-ton soup especially), but we don’t eat much in the way of Indian and Thai food. In fact, I don’t think that I’ve ever had Pad Thai!
Sometimes, I’m discouraged from trying ethnic recipes because of the long lists of unusual, hard-to-find ingredients. However, I’ve seen a few recipes from Cook’s that offer simple substitutions, so I hope to try a few of those (I know at least one of those was a Thai soup).
Our kids eat exactly what my husband and I eat (I make one meal and they can choose to eat it or choose to not eat it, but I don’t make separate meals), so their diet is just like ours (I wasn’t sure if you were wondering about that or not!). I am always trying new recipes and new types of foods, so as our diet expands, so does our children’s.
Readers, as always, do feel free to share your input in the comments. 🙂
Thursday 29th of April 2010
It's called oven spring and I have the same problem. Apparently it is caused by multiple factors. Oven position, amount of flour, amount of liquid. I gave up and learned to live with it. I have 8 children and a loaf of bread lasts about 30 seconds, oven spring or not.
Monday 26th of April 2010
I couldn't live without the occasional Indian or Thai indulgence. Also, I heart beans!
Monday 26th of April 2010
About those "exotic" dishes and the special ingredients: 1. Cooks Illustrated can't do Chinese or Thai worth a damn. I don't know what it is about them, but their dishes aren't close to the original Chinese or Thai dishes their recipe is based on. Some of the dishes are tasty but they're no more Asian than chop suey, so don't use them as a basis to determine if you like those cuisines. I say this as someone who's studied China/Chinese all my life, and lived there, and traveled extensively in China and three times in Thailand.
2. Stir fry is a FANTASTIC way to use up random veggies and bits of meat. It's one of my three go-tos, along with soup and omlets. I can email you a few simple recipes that use nothing more exotic than peanut oil, soy sauce or cornstarch. PS: Stir-fries create fewer dishes to wash than most other meals.
3. The ingredients are unusual only if you don't make that cuisine much.
Monday 26th of April 2010
I felt like I was channeling you the other day. Not only was I making my own bread crumbs, but I've been using empty cereal bags to keep my bread in (in the freezer) while I gather enough to make the breadcrumbs! http://librarianhousewife.blogspot.com/2010/04/homemade-breadcrumbs.html Do you do this?
Also, filling or no, my loaves almost ALWAYS crack like that. I wonder if I'm letting them rise too long, or if the loaf pan I use is too small? Anyway, the bread still tastes good, and I like that it looks homemade!
Monday 26th of April 2010
Most farmers markets offer a wide range of ethnic ingredients at reasonable prices. You can find hispanic, Korean, Vietnamese, Thai, Indian, and many others. They also have fresh seafood and meats! I recommend trying Vietnamese banh mi sandwiches, they are delicious and cheap!