No Net, No Brakes and No Worries

For several weeks now I have been getting around without my bilateral BAHA (Bone Anchored Hearing Aids).

They broke. The sound quality is amazing, but like seemingly everything nowadays they are built with all of the care and quality of a cheap watch.

As an artist, what do you do when the tools not required for the job, but the very tools you depend on, fail you? What do you do when the music you have been drunk on for weeks is taken away abruptly leaving you in hateful near silence all over again? What do you do when it seems there is nothing you can do?

Every individual has different answers to that question. My answer was to keep on creating.

I am not saying this because I think it is a big deal. Other than mentioning the hearing aid problem in the descriptions, I did not want to make a big deal about it. I have always played this way. It sucks, but we all have our crosses to bear.

I am only mentioning the situation because folks are still complimenting my hearing aids, even when I am not wearing them.

I can sing and play the banjo because I work on it every day. I have no talent. I practice when I am hopeful and I practice when I feel hopeless. I do not practice to improve or reach a goal, but because I love the craft even with the limited tools I bring to the table.

You just make the most of whatever you have, and somehow it is always enough.

One Foot Forward…

I broke my foot tripping on the stairs. It’s a terrible injury, but with diabetes and neuropathy, surgery would be a mess. Instead of cutting me the doctor wants me to wear this horrific boot contraption on my foot for the next six weeks.

It sucks, but at least I am not getting surgery.

I am getting around good on one foot. I just finished making the dough for two loaves of shokupan (also known as Japanese milk bread) and I am trying to decide if I have time and ingredients for my maple corn muffins. I need flour, but I’m not walking to the store on my broken foot today. Maybe tomorrow.

I have a bunch of lessons today, and I have to start scheduling lessons for March. I also have to get back to the new book sometimes today!

Right now I have to thump my broken paw outside to feed the birds. An alley cat has been coming around – a calico tabby – and I have slowly been bonding with her. Our daffodils are blooming, but a deer has taken to sleeping in our garden and the flowers were crushed. My mother and I can’t think of a better use for daffodils!

It’s funny… Music, cooking and caring for my students, neighbors and backyard critters. After the nightmare of the last few years, I am finding my rhythm again.

I guess this is how an artist heals.

This Morning

Honey whole wheat bread and cinnamon-tangelo rolls fresh out of the oven.

I also may have broken my foot. Heading to the ER after some coffee and cinnamon-tangelo rolls.

I smell like fresh bread, cinnamon, citrus, Fiori di Sicilia and medical marijuana. God only knows what the ER doc is going to think I am up to!


Well my foot is broken. Badly. We have to call an orthopedic surgeon tomorrow.

Patricks CinnamonTangelo Rolls:

The dough:

  • 1 cup milk (see directions!)
  • 1 TBS Honey
  • 6 TBS butter
  • 1 TBS flour
  • 4 cups flour
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup warm water.
  • 1 package of Active dry yeast
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp diastatic malt powder (optional, but nice)
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/2 tsp Fiori di Sicilia (optional but AWESOME)
  • zest of 1/2 tangelo
  • zest of half of a lemon
  • tiny pinch (just a kiss!) of ground cloves
  • tiny pinch (just a kiss!) of dry ginger
  • tiny pinch (just a kiss!) of nutmeg
  • dash of rum extract

Cinnamon Sugar Filling:

  • 1 cup brown sugar packed
  • 2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 6 TBS butter softened
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1/2 tsp Fiori di Sicilia (optional but AWESOME)
  • zest and juice of 1/2 tangelo
  • zest of 1/2 lemon
  • tiny pinch (just a kiss!) of ground cloves
  • tiny pinch (just a kiss!) of dry ginger
  • tiny pinch (just a kiss!) of nutmeg
  • dash of rum extract

In a saucepan, gently warm 1 cup of milk, one tablespoon of honey and six tablespoons of butter. The goal is just to get the milk warm enough to melt the butter. Whisk it gently to incorporate everything.

Whisk in 1 tablespoon of flour.

Continue to whisk over heat until the mixture thickens into a roux with a gravy-like texture called a tangzhong. If it gets too thick add a dash of fresh cold milk and mix again over heat until you get the desired consistency. Set aside to cool.

Mix 4 cups flour, 1/2 cup of sugar, 1 teaspoon salt, malt powder, cinnamon, and other zests and spices.

Add 1 package of dry yeast to 1/4 warm water. Blend until smooth. Add two beaten eggs to the water and yeast mixture.

Add yeast and milk mixtures to dry ingredients.

Put a pinch of flour on the counter.

Use a rubber spatula or dough scraper to gently incorporate the ingredients. Once a shaggy dough has formed, work the dough with your hands.

You are going to get sticky. It’s part of the fun. Use the pinch of flour on the counter to occasionally dust the dough if it feels super wet.

Once the dough is roughly formed, move it to the counter and begin to knead by hand.

The goal is to knead the dough until the gluten begins to build up. When your arms are sore and you wonder why on earth you tried following a recipe created by a banjo player you are about halfway there.

Once the dough feels stretchy and silky (trust me, the dough will tell you when it is ready) form it into a ball and place it into an oiled bowl to rise.

Let the dough rise in a warm damp place. I like to place a bowl of hot water next to the bowl of rising dough, and then place a tea towel over both containers so that the dough gets a little bit of steam.

It will take 1 to 3 hours for the dough to rise. Go take a nap.

When the dough has risen, mix the sugar filling with a careful eye on consistency. Don’t let the butter go liquid. You want a spreadable paste.

Roll the dough into an oblong. The thickness is up to you. Be bold!

Spread the cinnamon-tangelo filling on the flattened dough.

Roll up the dough and cut into slices. There will be some sugar mixture spilled when you do this. Scrape up with a spatula and set aside.

Arrange the cut rolls into a pan – the size and layout are up to you. I get good results in big brownie pans or three at a time in small loaf pans. Be creative!

Spread the excess sugar filling on top of the rolls.

Let rise for at least an hour. Preheat oven to 350° halfway through the rise.

Bake until done. Time varies. I check it after 20 minutes and then keep on checking until the dough is cooked through.

Share with people you love.

The Fiori di Sicilia and malt powders are entirely optional. Fiori di Sicilia is a vanilla-orange blossom-lavender-and more mix from Italy that smells wonderful and amps up the already powerful citrus of the recipe. The malt powder helps foster a strong rise. It makes a tiny difference, so don’t sweat it.