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I love Mail a Tale + a $50 book box giveaway!

We read books everyday, Elliot and I. We curl up in his bed at bedtime, or in the morning when one of us has gotten a bit wound up. When we’re waiting at the doctor’s office, or at a restaurant. The iPad is great, but nothing holds his attention like a book being read to him.

His favourites these days are Julia Donaldson books like The Gruffalo, Jack and the Flum Flum tree, and Monkey Puzzle. A Visitor for Bear has made a great impression, and the gentle Let It Fall captures the feeling of my favourite season so perfectly it gives me goosebumps when I read it. Emily Gravett’s Again was such a surprise for both of us the first time, it made Elliot’s eyes wide as saucers.

The thing that threads all these books together is they made their way to our house in a Mail a Tale box.

I first read about Mail a Tale in a tiny sidebar box in Today’s Parent magazine. Being in love with anything that arrives in the post, I was on their website in moments, signing us up. We’ve loved every box we’ve received since.

Mail a Tale pick their books with recommendations from parents, educators and guest authors each month, going through both new books and old ones. You get an email notifying you your book selections are ready, and you can check to make sure you’re not getting a duplicate of a book you already own.

One of the things I especially love about their service is I know I’m getting a steady supply of great kids’ books without having to do a load of research. As they have Elliot’s information on file, they adjust the book selections as he grows up. I think this is one to file under great gifts for kids too – you can buy subscriptions for one, three or six months, or even a whole year of books.

Now, my wonderful readers, Mail a Tale is offering the chance to win a book box filled with holiday books worth $50. That is pretty amazing.

Go forth and enter!
a Rafflecopter giveaway


Please note, if you win, you have 24 hours to respond with your address or I move on to another winner. Open to Canadian residents only.


Artisan Bread Workshop

I tempted fate by posting the bread recipe I use, two days before attending an Artisan Bread Baking workshop.

Tucked into the back room of the Homesteaders Emporium, eight of us learned the basics of making a good artisan loaf at home. Our teacher, Florin Moldovan, was unfussy and straight forward. We talked about the theory of baking bread for a good hour, learning about what baker’s percentages mean (the amount of flours, water, yeast and salt in any given bread recipe) and the twelve steps of making bread.

I learned to knead in a bowl, which was much easier and less messy than what I’ve been doing on a counter. My Kitchenaid kneads well of course, but as I’m feeling my way with my local flour, I want to feel my dough change under my hands. I was proud that my dough received praise and a good pinch from our instructor!

Half of the benefit of these classes, I feel, is having an experienced baker trapped in a room with you, and willing to answer all your questions. We went over whether it’s worthwhile to try and steam a home oven before baking (no, not in his opinion), when and how to put your bread baking on hold by putting dough in the fridge, the benefit of pre-fermentation. I’ve read several great books on baking bread (namely Dan Lepard and Rose Levy Beranbaum) and I felt as though all those bits of knowledge finally made some sense.

Florin voiced his frustration with peoples’ obsession with bread still warm from the oven. It needs to cool down and finish baking – just like a roast, it needs time to rest after it comes out of the oven. “Any idiot can make good warm bread,” he said, explaining the real test comes when the loaf is cool.

From what I learned in this workshop, I’m thinking I’m going to have to experiment with using half of either kind of my Urban Grains flour with all-purpose white. I want a good loaf, but with some loft. I’m not fond of ultra-worthy brown bricks that make me feel like I should be picking the chaff from between my teeth afterwards.

I trudged home from the workshop in the pouring rain with a bowl of dough, fermenting away, enough for two loaves. From the Homesteaders Emporium, I bought two bannetons, or proofing baskets, which I’ve wanted for awhile. It’s a great resource for home baking equipment, as well as candle making, meat grinding, sausage making, urban gardening, bee-keeping and pretty much anything else in that vein.

You can take Florin’s beginner Artisan Bread workshop at the UBC Farm, there are classes once a month until February listed on their site. If you’re thinking about baking your own bread, or like me, want to consolidate bits of knowledge you’ve pulled from everywhere, I highly recommend this workshop.