I Love This Place: Columbia, Tennessee - For The Art of Simple

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Today on The Art of Simple I’m sharing all the things I love about Columbia, TN, our closest major town just 15 minutes down the road. Well, not all the things - I could have included about 50 more places and businesses I love, but I had to stop somewhere! I’m so thankful to be a part of this growing community full fo so many entrepreneurs, artists, creatives, artisans, and just generally kind people who care.

“I’m writing this from the square in downtown Columbia, Tennessee on a park bench that says above it: “Welcome to our beautiful downtown. Sit down and enjoy yourself.” To me, those two sentences accurately capture the endearing, welcoming, connective nature of this town, one I’ve grown to increasingly love over the last three years we’ve lived nearby.” Keep reading…

Have you been to Columbia? What are some of your favorite places?

Be More Scrappy

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From the Urban Dictionary:

Scrappy:

Someone or something that appears dwarfed by a challenge, but more than compensates for seeming inadequacies through will, persistence and heart.

Have you read Chip Gaines’ book, Capital Gaines: Smart Things I Learned Doing Stupid Stuff? I read it last year and expected a funny, lighthearted read. And it totally was. But it was so much more. What I didn’t expect was for it to completely change my life perspective. I didn’t realize this book would shake me awake out of fear, into freedom and bravery, and…scrappiness.

By “scrappy,” I don’t mean argumentative, or in a constant stage of being ready to punch someone in the face. I mean exactly what the above definition says, because “appearing dwarfed by a challenge” is the story of pretty much my entire life.

Time and again, I’ve shrunken down from challenges, or I’ve walked away from them altogether saying, “It’s just too hard.” I wasn’t good at hitting in softball? I’m done with that. I’m slow at running track? Bye bye. I even quit a job as a hostess at Houston’s Restaurant one summer during college because it was JUST TOO STINKIN’ HARD AND PEOPLE WERE YELLING IN MY FACE ALL NIGHT. After the final straw when a lady chewed me out during the busiest dinner rush one evening, I lied and told them I was going back to college sooner than I thought and then got a job folding clothes at Old Navy instead. True story.

After college I started to hone in on my gifts just a little bit, and I took initiative to go after my goals and dreams of working in the music industry, but I still struggled with being in leadership roles or pushing through hard times. I didn’t know then that God had already begun leading me on a journey to becoming more brave, as He’s called me to be.

I was soon paired with a headstrong, forward-moving, autonomous, inspiring, visionary man for a husband. We couldn’t be more different, and that’s wonderful, because we each have our own unique gifts. We stretch and balance each other in good ways. Steven (enneagram 8w7, “The Maverick”) will always be an entrepreneur at heart who’s extremely driven, fast-paced, optimistic, living life full-tilt. As an enneagram 9w1 (“The Dreamer”), I’ll always be the calmer, slower-paced, more grounded force, considering the details and others’ perspectives.

Steven is honestly my biggest cheerleader, believing in me as a writer and podcaster and farmer and homeschooling mom. And over the last few years particularly (becoming a farmer and turning 40 helped!), I’m learning how to actually be brave and face challenges on my own, not just because someone is prodding me. I’m finding my own voice and learning to be a fighter in the best possible way.

I’m learning to be more scrappy.

Admittedly, will and perseverance just don’t come naturally to me. But i desperately want - and need - more of it in my life. Here are some parts I underlined in Chip’s book…

“Life isn’t safe, remember. But life can be wonderful if you choose adventure rather than fear.”

“When others bail from challenges, we’re just getting warmed up.”

“When something seems insurmountable to most, we shrug, because we eat ‘insurmountable’ for breakfast.”

Hmm, that sounds familiar. Just a few days ago when we were moving our chickens to new pasture and I was worried about ticks in the tall grass, Steven said, “Whatever. I eat ticks for breakfast.” Meanwhile, I was obsessively dousing myself with essential oil spray.

Seriously though? On the farm, without scrappiness, you just don’t survive for very long.

Yes, this whole 17 acres of land might seem too much for two people to handle.

We might sound crazy to sell tickets for 150 people to come eat dinner on our land.

It might be insane to get up every Saturday morning at 5:30am and sweat down to our underwear by 7:30am, planting 100 feet of lettuce while most people are still sleeping.

The blisters, aching muscles, the multitude of bug bites and mounds of not just dirty, but muddy laundry - all of it sounds TOO HARD, right?

But we’ve made a simple choice to do it together and to rise to the challenges. We’re not going to let them dwarf us. I’m not going to let them dwarf me.

And at the end of the day, I’m rewarded with pockets full of tomatoes, armfuls of zinnias, children catching fireflies and harvesting bouquets barefoot. There’s no lovely without the contrast of the hard. There just isn’t.

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This morning was a true test. I found myself in the position of having to lift an enormous, bulky 50 lb bag of pelleted chicken fertilizer, which, I promise, you don’t want spilling on your clothes. Steven had left for work to cook for one of his clients, and no one else was around except for my 8-year-old and 5-year-old daughters, and we know they weren’t going to be much help when it comes to heavy lifting. This was a crucial step in laying a new lettuce row, so I had to get it done.

So you know what I did? I dug deep, I channeled “scrappy,” grunting louder than was probably necessary, and I lifted that sucker.

I propped the unopened end of the colossal bag on a bucket which helped brace it while I used every muscle in my arms and abs to slowly position the opening to pour the fertilizer into another bucket.

My arms were trembling when it was done, but it worked! And I actually yelled, “HECK YEAH! GIRL POWER!” really loudly in the middle of our produce field, although no one heard it but me.

And that action that I overcame will make all the difference in the way the lettuce grows.

Will. Persistence. Heart.

Three things I really want more of in my life. What about you?

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P.S. Here’s Chip’s book on Amazon - this is an affiliate link, so if you purchase it, I get a small commission. :)

Simple With Tsh Oxenreider Podcast Episode 198: Body Image & Sabbaticals

In this episode, I get to share my heart on body image issues and some practical ways that we can foster a healthy body image. I really hope this speaks to you!

In Tsh’s segment, she shares her heart on why she’s taking a sabbatical this July, and I think it’s brave and genius. Major goals to be able to do this with Steven in the next five years. Listen in on iTunes or at The Art of Simple, and let us know your thoughts!

You can also read my post, The Liberation of Lake Life (A Body Image Manifesto), which inspired this episode.

The Liberation of Lake Life (A Body Image Manifesto) - For The Art of Simple

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“So, as I put on my swimsuit in front of the full-length mirror in our room on the houseboat, I decided to choose life and freedom, not just as an example for my daughters, but for myself. I decided that to really soak up the moments and gift of this trip, I was going to have to leave behind the self-absorption and appreciate my body for the strength and beauty that it is.

I was indeed going to walk around for four days in nothing but a swimsuit and believe that it’s okay not to look like someone else; it’s okay to look like me.” Continue reading….

In my latest post for The Art of Simple, I’m sharing something deeply personal: my struggles with body image. This was a tough one for me to share, but I know I’m not alone! As summer approaches, let’s encourage one another as we live in freedom and embrace our bodies as they are, with all their beauty and scars.

Have you ever struggled with this? I’d love to hear your thoughts!

11 Things I Learned This Spring

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Have you tried to actually sit down and reflect on what you’ve been learning? It’s not that easy. We go through life so much on autopilot without taking time to reflect. So I’m loving this new practice, joining in with author Emily P. Freeman to look back on each season and notice and name some of the things I’ve learned. Join me - I’d love to know what you’ve been learning too…

1) How to slow down time.

Oh, don’t we all wish we actually could? But I’ve learned a little secret while writing this post for Art of Simple that’s become my new daily motto: Today, I will log more moments in the present so time feels longer. The more moments we log in the present, time actually does feel slower - and more full of the good stuff. I still look at my two growing daughters (5 and almost 9) and see that “the little years” are mostly behind us (lump in throat), but I honestly don’t feel time slipping out of my hands. While we’re entering a new stage, I know I squeezed every drop of life I could out of the previous one.

2) “God will not let you miss your own future.”

HUGE exhale. This line is from Emily P. Freeman’s The Next Right Thing podcast (episode 76), and it’s one of the best things I heard this spring. It really is such a relief to know I’m not responsible for it all. I say I believe that, but to live like it’s true is another thing entirely. I’m working on doing more of that.

3) I prolly shoulda started farming at age 25 instead of 39. #ohmyachingbones

But seriously, I’ve learned this spring that it’s just gonna hurt and be uncomfortable, and the more I have that expectation, it’s a wee bit less hard. My husband Steven always says, “High expectations lead to much frustration.” So I’m setting the expectation: there’s gonna be mud caked under my nails. I’m going to feel gross and need to take like 10 showers a week. And to save myself some frustration later, listen to my gut next time and always add at least 2 irrigation drip lines to a new row, no matter what anyone says. There were some definite choice words involved in pulling up those rows and re-doing them. Oy.

4) It’s important to keep a childlike wonder, no matter my age.

Every single time a new seed sprouts, I have the same feeling of awe: it actually worked!

And a new discovery: apparently birds really like to nest in ferns. This may be old news to many of you, but this was my first time seeing it when I took down my hanging fern to water it, and I literally gasped.

The other evening, I was walking back to the produce washing station after feeding the chickens, and this sight of our barn with the almost-full moon stopped me in my tracks (look closely for my oldest daughter in the rye grass). The best part is that I texted it to my husband, and he said he didn’t even know where that was at first - sometimes we see our own surroundings with fresh eyes.

5) It’s good to accept others’ help.

A few weeks ago, on an ordinary weekday, my girls ended up staying the night at my close friend’s house. It was totally impromptu, and Steven and I found ourselves kid-free for the night at our own house, which we’ve actually never done. He finished his chef work in the barn kitchen, and at 8:30pm, we went on a random but much-needed date to one of our favorite local restaurants, Vanh Dy’s, in our little nearby downtown of Columbia, TN. It’s shocking how hard it was at first to accept that help, that another mom was willingly watching my kids all night while we got to have a date, but I realized how freeing it is to accept people’s help when they offer. It actually blesses others to let them help you - it’s done the same for me when I’ve been on the other end.

6) Sometimes God removes the storm, and sometimes He’s with us in the midst of it.

Photo by KT Sura

Photo by KT Sura

On the day of our spring Kindred Dinner for 150 people, it was predicting storms all evening. This was our 5th farm dinner, and we’ve never had to go with our rain plan. I was so worried, y’all. These people bought tickets and were expecting an amazing, memorable experience. In my shallow vision, I thought our best-case scenario was that it wouldn’t rain, but instead God wanted to show me - and so many others - how beautiful and intimate and nourishing breaking bread together can be in the very midst of a storm. I’ll hold this experience close for a long time.

More thoughts and photos on our Kindred Farm Instagram. My favorite part of this photo is all the umbrellas leaned against the side of the greenhouse!

7) Intermittent fasting is how I should eat most of the time.

I started the practice of intermittent fasting in January, thinking it would be temporary. It feels so good and freeing that I think this is a new longterm pattern in my life. I wrote all about it here.

8) But feasting is just as important.

I’ve learned that feasting is so much more meaningful when you’re not doing it all the time. We were made for both feasting and fasting - there’s a time to reign things in and go without, and there’s a time to let go and enjoy. One of the best things about a collaborative feast is that each person gets to bring something - so be sure and let others help even if you’re hosting. Here are some amazing feasts we’ve had this spring:

Easter Sunday with dear friends and alllll the colorful spring goodness...

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Then, a heavenly little outdoor charcuterie board feast with friends on a Saturday evening, where we just cut up a bunch of pretty things and put them on cutting boards (no cooking!). Add some wine and sparkling water, and you have what feels like a very fancy dinner with no cooking. Bonus for fun patterned tablecloths I got over a decade ago in India, twinkle lights overhead and fireflies all around.

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And here’s something different…we put a little propane tabletop grill in the middle of our dining room table and had some friends over for a Korean ssam (lettuce wraps) feast where everyone got to grill their own meat and assemble unique, colorful lettuce wraps to their heart’s desire. All the lettuce, cabbage, Asian greens, and radishes were harvested from our farm a few minutes before. And I’m pretty sure we used every plate, bowl, and pair of chopsticks in the house.

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9. I still know every word to all the classic NKOTB songs.

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My 11-year-old self would have completely passed out to be this close to Joe McIntyre and New Kids on the Block, but 30 years later it was just a lighthearted blast of a night with my best college gals (and New Kids on the Block, Debbie Gibson, Tiffany, Salt N Pepa and Naughty By Nature!). We sang every word to all the classic NKOTB songs like “Please Don’t Go, Girl” (this was played at every middle school sleepover), “Tonight”, and of course, “Hangin’ Tough.” I reminisced about recording mixtapes from the radio, Aqua Net hairspray, claw bangs, BOP Magazine, posters in my locker and plastered on my bedroom wall, and Electric Youth Perfume.


10. It’s best to relax a little and give my girls space to learn some things on their own - this works better than pushing.

After playing Monopoly on and off for several days, my oldest daughter is a master at mental math and being the banker, and my 5-year-old just learned how to ride on two wheels on her own at my friend’s house in her gravel driveway. I so often try to control and feel like everything is my responsibility. Letting go - and seeing that everything is okay - helps me grow so much in this area. I’m also learning to let them help more, even if it’s not how I would have done that particular thing. Plus, I don’t want to miss out on hilarious sights like these:

Well, that’s ONE way to seed a new row of beets…

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11. My husband is an incredible podcast host.

I knew he would be. This man is one of the most compelling communicators I know, with an ability to cast a vision and share stories like none other. Check out Steven’s brand new The Korean Farmer podcast here or on iTunes, where he shares meaningful conversations about life, business, food, and everything in between. We record right here on Kindred Farm in our barn studio…and maybe we’ll be doing an episode together in the near future! :)

Photo: KT Sura

Photo: KT Sura

YOUR TURN! What are some things you learned this spring? I’d love to hear!

Who Are You Free to Be?

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Freedom. It’s a core value, one that dictates so much of our lives here on the farm and why we chose this simpler life in the first place. So when my spring issue of Magnolia Journal (the Freedom issue) arrived, I drew in my breath, dropped everything, and opened it right away. This photo might look idyllic, but it was actually taken during a short, desperate need for a break from the mayhem of preparing for our spring farm dinner. I probably hadn’t showered in days, there was definitely dirt caked in my neck, and my nerves were a wreck as we were realizing a big storm was most likely coming at the exact day and time of the outdoor dinner we were planning for 150 people. Oh, I needed this small moment to put up my feet, take in the view from the front porch, and be reminded of the power and authority I have to choose to be free everyday.

I don’t know about you, but as an enneagram 9, I struggle with taking authority over my own life. One of the biggest truths I’m learning over the last year is that I am the boss of me. I’ve been on a journey of learning agency, using my God-given knowledge and intelligence and gifts, and knowing it’s okay to have a voice.

Another tool that’s helped are the EnneaThought For the Day emails which arrive in my inbox. I subscribed here, and they give little tips that I can put into practice to be healthier within my type. Today’s said: “The antidote to your tendency to be complacent is to be fully engaged with life and growth itself. “

All of this prompted me to make a list. Because I love lists. Maybe mine will prompt one of your own. Here you go…

I AM FREE TO…

  • Be a farmer, writer, and homeschool mom, even though I got a degree in Music Business. I’m free to evolve and change.

  • Take an active interest in my own life, without it being selfishness.

  • Love myself and my body as it is today, with all its beautiful stretch marks, wrinkles and scars that show traces of the abundant life lived.

  • Open the sunroof and reach my arms through it and sing loudly to Switchfoot or Colony House or the Mary Poppins Returns Soundtrack, even though other drivers are staring at me strangely. I used to be them; I understand.

  • Be engaged in problems or moments of conflict without taking them on as emotionally defining my self-worth.

  • Dance - even though I’m not good at it.

  • Embrace all the quirky and diverse parts of me. I’m simultaneously a girl who doesn’t mind throwing her clothes on her bedroom floor and I’m obsessive about having my kitchen cleaned perfectly before going to bed each night. I love being in my dirty farm boots as much as I love putting on big, funky earrings and curling my hair and going out for a nice dinner with my husband. All of these things are true.

  • Choose and decide what sunglasses or shirt or whatever I want without asking another’s opinion.

  • Not be at peace all the time (so hard for “The Peacemaker”!). Sometimes it’s necessary to stir things up for the sake of justice, to defend what’s right, and to lay healthy boundaries.

  • Call the shots. Use my voice and know that my opinions and desires matter just as much as everyone else’s.

  • Be truly spontaneous - leaving the comfort of my routine for a bit won’t make everything fall apart! And if it does, go with it - sometimes that leads down a better path.

  • Be a leader and a significant contributor to the world. Let my past of shying away from leadership positions be in the past - there’s a new freedom and joy in it now as I embrace leadership on my own terms.

  • Prioritize what actually needs to be done today, and only do those things. Let the other things wait for tomorrow, without worry.

  • Be fully alive, present, alert, and awake. I don’t need to hit the snooze button on life in order to cope with difficulties. I can wholeheartedly participate in my life and family today.

  • Move forward even if I’m afraid. I love this quote from Morgan Harper Nichols on Instagram: “Do not think less of yourself if you do not feel fearless. Doing it afraid is just as brave.”

  • LET IT GO. I don’t have to absorb challenges into my very being, even allowing physical symptoms to appear in my body. I can freely release things out of my control by literally exhaling or stretching or raising my arms to the big, blue sky. I was never fully in control anyway.

Now, your turn. Does any of this resonate? What are you free to be or do? I’d love to hear. Post a comment below or email me to share your thoughts, and let’s pursue greater freedom, together.

P.S. The farm dinner ended up being more amazing that we ever could have imagined, in our greenhouse, which was a reluctant plan B. I learned so much from this experience - more to share on that soon…

Simple With Tsh Oxenreider Podcast Episode 192: Fasting, Feasting & Intuitive Eating

In this episode of Simple, I’m sharing about what it means to feast and how moments of fasting can make the feasting more meaningful. I also share 3 of my favorite feasts and some ideas for you to recreate them!

Tsh shares some really great ideas on intuitive eating, which I think goes so well with intermittent fasting. It’s all about balance and a healthy view of food and our bodies. I loved this conversation! Listen in and let me know your thoughts!

You can also read my post on Intermittent Fasting, Feasting, and The Perfect Pesto, which inspired this podcast episode.

Intermittent Fasting, Feasting, and The Perfect Pesto - For The Art of Simple

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Today on the Art of Simple, I’m sharing my thoughts about intermittent fasting, the beauty of feasting, and a spring pesto recipe! Writing this piece helped me appreciate all over again how much this practice has been healthy for me in so many ways. Have you ever tried intermittent fasting? I’d love to know your thoughts!

“As we sat down to eat and I held the hands of my family as we blessed this very-special-for-no-particular-reason meal, I realized something important: feasting is so much more meaningful when you’re not doing it all the time…” Continue reading

Perfect Pesto Recipe

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My amazing chef husband gave me permission to share this recipe in celebration of spring - yay! Now, you can wow your guests with this gorgeous sauce. Oh man, I can’t wait for all of my basil plants to grow so we can make loads of pesto this summer. Fresh basil = absolutely one of the best smells ever.

Perfect Pesto

courtesy of The Korean Farmer

2 cups fresh basil, packed

4 cloves garlic, minced

1/2 cup shredded Parmigiano Reggiano (this is authentic parmesan cheese made in Italy, found at all normal grocery stores)

1/4 cup neutral-tasting oil, such as grapeseed oil

1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil

1/2 cup blanched almonds, toasted (in a pinch, you can use regular almonds, but blanched is best)

Add all ingredients except olive oil to a food processor and process. Add a little water if you need to make it smoother. Remove from food processor and stir in olive oil.

To toss with pasta (even better, with fresh pasta!), add pesto an empty bowl, then the pasta. Add a couple ounces of leftover pasta cooking water. Toss until glossy.

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And that photo above that I took a few years ago on our back patio in Dallas? It stirs something deep in me. Maybe it's the beauty of simple food - Texas-grown produce made into salad in the Polish pottery bowl given to me by Steven’s Gran on our first North Carolina road trip. Or the fresh green of that pungent pesto that I can smell through the photo. Or that it was all eaten outside that spring evening with friends and wine atop the tablecloth I scored at an outdoor market in India 15 years ago.  So many favorite things, all in one little square.  

Easiest Homemade Bread Recipe Ever

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I know, I know…I was skeptical too. Making homemade bread always seemed so complicated and unattainable, but once I finally mustered up the courage to try it, I realized how simple it is (not to mention inexpensive!). They say no-knead bread is “so easy, a 4-year-old could make it” - again, I was skeptical, but it really is. Now it’s become one of our go-to recipes for a normal cozy weeknight dinner or for when guests are coming over.  You can do it too - I promise! All you need is a dutch oven or other tightly lidded pot. I use an inexpensive Lodge cast-iron dutch oven for mine, and I love it.

I used a recipe from Girl Vs. Dough and then added a few tweaks.

Easiest Dutch-Oven Bread Ever

Ingredients:

3 cups organic all-purpose flour (my favorite is King Arthur)

1 tsp Red Star Active Dry Yeast (in the packets, not from the jar, which has an extra additive)

2 tsp sea salt or kosher salt

1 1/2 cups warm water (not hot, or it can kill the yeast)

(optional) 2 Tbs chopped fresh herbs, like rosemary and thyme - but it’s also perfect without them! (in these photos below, I used herbs in my dough)

Instructions:

1) Measure each cup of flour by filling it to overflowing, then tap the flour mound with the blade of a butter knife to make sure it fills the cup. Use the butter knife to scrape all excess flour off the top of the cup in a straight line. Add all the flour, sea salt, and yeast to a bowl.

2) Add the warm water to the dry mixture, and mix it all with a wooden spoon, scraping the sides of the bowl. (The mixture will be sticky and shaggy - that’s how it’s supposed to look!)

3) Cover the bowl tightly with plastic wrap and let it rise for 6-8 hours. (I’ll often make this dough right before bed and let it rise overnight, then bake it first thing in the morning. Or, I’ve made the dough in the morning and let it rise all day so I can bake it before dinner.) After the first rise, your dough should have doubled in size and should have lots of bubbles. Like this:

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4) Preheat your oven to 450 degrees. Place your dutch oven or lidded pot in the oven to get nice and hot.

5) Meanwhile, do the second rise. Take a handful of flour, and sprinkle it on a cutting board so your dough doesn’t stick. Scrape all the dough from the bowl onto the board (keep the bowl - you’ll need it again!). The dough will be sticky. Sprinkle flour on top, take a flap of dough, and fold it over itself, almost like you’re closing an envelope. Keep rotating it and folding it over itself, adding more sprinkles of flour as needed.

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Your dough should feel soft and puffy and no longer sticky. Turn the dough over and you’ll have a lovely ball with all folds hidden underneath.

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6) Take a piece of parchment paper and put it inside the bowl you were previously using. Set your dough ball on the parchment paper in the bowl. Cover the bowl lightly with a clean dish towel, not touching the dough.

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7) Wait about 30 minutes, and you’re ready to bake it! Open the oven and carefully remove the suuuuper hot lid of your dutch oven. Pick up the parchment paper with the dough ball in it and place the entire thing in the dutch oven. This way, you won’t mess up that perfectly round ball!

8) Place the lid back on the pot. It’s OK if some of the parchment paper sticks out. Bake for 30 minutes at 450. Remove the lid and bake for 15 more minutes until there’s a gorgeous dark brown crust. Remove it from the oven and let cool slightly before cutting. Give yourself a huge pat on the back for MAKING HOMEMADE BREAD ALL BY YOURSELF!

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If you come to my house for dinner, it’s pretty likely I’ll be serving you this bread. Try it, and let me know what you think!