Home Brew

Now I’m not running a distillery or making up a batch of ‘shine, but somehow or ‘nother I’ve gotten myself into the brewing business. I know, I know, I have a ton of projects, always something new, but I’ve been assured this is easy, and it’s just for me, so it doesn’t really matter if it goes sideways.

So what is it I’m going on about? Kombucha. Say what? A few years ago, I’d never heard of it either. It’s fermented sweet tea. Supposedly, the sugar in the tea feeds the scoby, and you end up with tangy, fermented goodness.

I’ve always been a sucker for tart lemon squares and cold lemonade, but I’m not crazy about the ton of sugar that goes into these. So when I was attending a class on foods that reduce inflammation, I sat by a woman fighting breast cancer who was drinking lemonade kombucha, and she poured me a glass. It was tasty and only had 3 grams of sugar—much less than you’d expect.

Kombucha is fermented and full of good bacteria that’s healthy for your gut biome. People with MS have less diversity in their gut, so a little kombucha could help with that, too. Besides, it’s kind of fizzy, and while I gave up soda years ago, I do like a little fizz.

So after meeting the lady, I started treating myself to some kombucha when I went grocery shopping. It’s pricey, so I’d usually just pick up a bottle or two; and when Baby Girl was home, I’d buy one for her. It’s was kind of our little thing.

Guess who bought me a kombucha kit for Mother’s Day? That’s right, BG for the win. We live hundreds of miles apart, and met in the middle to celebrate with Sweet Miss, The Fella, his mom, and of course the MR.

With shipping, and school, and planning, BG had the kit sent to our house rather than bringing it to Hood River. Later that week, I received a starter kit from Joshua Tree Kombucha. It comes with a big, old jug, a rubber band, a project cover, a lid, instructions, and a scoby.

Let’s take a closer look at that scoby—pretty nasty-looking, huh?

Who ever thought to put that in their tea?

I simply brewed a gallon of Charleston Black Tea (a gift from a friend’s visit to that fair city) and a cup of sugar, let it cool, added the scoby, and then I waited. Waiting is the hard part. Add to my lack of patience a quick trip to Chelan, home for an evening, and then a weekend in Portland for a Hitchin’ the Happy Couple barbeque, moving Sweet Miss into her new apartment, previewing wedding hairstyles, and car shopping, I was on a deadline.

Right on the lake with a beautiful view.

For the first brew, you just cover the kombucha with a cloth, but for the second brewing (where you get the fizz), you put a lid on tight. You have to be careful and burp the bottles daily or you could wind up with a mess. I didn’t want to come home to exploded bottles and kombucha everywhere, so I only allowed it to sit on the counter overnight. Once you put it in the fridge, it gets less volatile. My quick and dirty process yielded a less than fizzy version, but there’s always the next batch.

I’m bottling it up this afternoon. Safeway had berries on sale last week, and the local fields have opened for picking, so I think I’ll try a strawberry-basil bottle for starters.

Cross your fingers and think fizzy thoughts for me. I’ll let you know how it all turns out.

 

 

 

 

 

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Don’t Count Your Chickens…

I was down in the orchard last week, and I know you’re not supposed to count on success before it happens, but we just may have pears.

We’ve been worrying about them; do Comice and Rescue really cross-pollinate? It seems like maybe the do.

Along with pears, we have apples, and plums, and even a few nectarines. I still remember walking into a fruit tent the summer I was pregnant with Sweet Miss and having someone offer me a slice of nectarine. With sweet juice covering my hands and dripping down my face, I left with a bag full of them. That’s the kind of fruit I want to grow.

I wasn’t simply admiring all the fruit we might enjoy if all goes well; I was upgrading the signage. If you’re a long time reader you’ll remember Rocking the Garden. Well my bright, lovely rocks have begun to peel, and letters are disappearing, so I’ve replaced them with copper markers I picked up at Target in late winter.

The little signs have been sitting on the counter for months. I just wasn’t sure how to use them. Was the copper soft enough to etch varietals into them? I decided to go the safe route and use a sharpie. If they start to fade, I can always write over and refresh the words. I have an orchard map in my gardening notebook that doesn’t have to withstand the elements and is tucked away safe and sound as a back up.

I’m thinking some worm castings spread around the trees and some judicious thinning are next in order for the orchard. The MR has already put out fruit tree fertilizer spikes. Then we get to sit back and wait. Harvest is just around the corner.

What’s growing at your house?

Big Changes

The master bathroom has always been a bit of a challenge. Imagine a navy tiled shower of gloom, a double vanity with just one drawer, a Japanese soaking tub next to floor-to-ceiling windows, a shallow cabinet for all the niceties, and weird angles galore.

The same lovely lady—Kristi—we’ve been working with on the laundry room remodel has put together a plan for us. She had a wildly exciting, over-the-top, move walls, and showers, and closets plan that we just couldn’t get on board with.

So we went with moving sinks, incorporating better storage, redoing bathtub and shower, adding accent tile, and bringing it all into the 21st century.

That’s enough of my talking about it. You want pictures, right?

For now, all I have is some sketches.

The contractor is booked out till August, and you may remember we have a wedding coming up in less than two months. So we’re still in the picking out stuff phase—tiles, sinks, countertops, tubs, faucets, and lights.

We’re headed toward gray tile, white counters, white cabinets, and a large scale accent wall. Here’s a few ideas Kristi showed us.

And don’t worry about the laundry room; we’re continuing to narrow in on a plan for it as well. Here’s updated elevations of what the old laundry room and attached bath has always dreamt of being when it grew up.

I’m looking forward to hidden storage for the vacuums, brooms, and mops. The bathroom area is being transformed into a butlers pantry with an extra fridge and lots of room for wineglasses, platters, and serve ware. It’s going to be quite lovely.

Any changes at your house?

You can learn more about the laundry room remodel at Dreaming a Little.

Deck Days

Hello, it’s been awhile. Sadly when I disappear from the blog for weeks, it makes it that much harder to come back. You see, life keeps going and all sorts of things happen, so I’m no longer searching for something to say, I’m trying to narrow down the possibilities.

Do you want to see the garden or hummingbird fights? The orchard or views of snow-topped peaks? Weekend trips, faux-stucco repair, or the latest on the remodel? See what I mean?

Let’s forget all that for now and enjoy a little time on the deck. With beautiful views of the valley, it’s where you’ll find us afternoons most clear days. Even in the middle of winter with our heavy coats, hand-knit hats, and the help of the heater, you’ll find us outside.

A few years back, I bought a pair of rattan lounge chairs. We’ve replaced the seat cushions a few times, and they’ve been the perfect place to watch sunsets and enjoy a glass of wine just the two of us.

But what happens when Baby Girl or Sweet Miss are home? Or when friends or family are visiting? Suddenly we’re moving the heavy metal swivel chairs from the deck table that we keep meaning to replace from side to side trying to forge conversation areas in the shade when it’s extra hot moving to the western side as the day cools.

The deck wraps around the whole first floor from our room to the laundry room. So as you can guess, we’ve been looking for chairs, furniture, tables, something to help with the situation. The MR wanted comfort, and I wanted mobility. While the deck is ginormous, it’s only 88 inches deep in most places. Oversized comfy furniture is just too wide to easily navigate around.

The MR found a double set on Overstock a few weeks back, and this may be the answer.

First, as with everything, it came at a price. Two nice fellows came in a very big truck to deliver two pallets of parts.

The MR was out, but we had the perfect spot for them in the garage. It only took him three hours to unwrap all the pieces.

The next day, while I was teaching Sunday school, he put together the first chair.

From there, it just got easier and easier—sort of. It’s teak furniture that requires a sealer after a few days out in the elements. I left for a three-hour shift at the yarn shop, while he was brushing sealer on one chair. He’d just finished its twin and taken a shower when I arrived home nearly four hours later. Sometimes it’s nice to have a job.

So now we have a shady side seating set and a sunny side seating set plus a few rattan chairs to bring into the mix.

Adding a rug helps bring the set together. With brown-on-brown, I think a few accent pillows are necessary. I found some at Target for $15 and some at Molbak’s for $35, but I wasn’t that excited about any of them, so I’m still looking. A few accessories, and our new furniture will be wonderful.

We also need to trim back the Japanese variegated willow that’s encroaching on the deck and sweep up the cottonwood that’s everywhere. Add some live plants, candles, knickknacks, can’t you just imagine?

I’ll let you in on a secret, I filled the hummingbird feeder, and this is the perfect spot to watch hummingbird wars and commune with nature.

Come by some morning, and we can drink some coffee and marvel at the feisty little birds.

How are you preparing for sunny weather? Any great places for outdoor gewgaws, brick-a-brac, knickknacks, you know what I mean?

It’s Not All Fun & Games

I know on Friday, I was all excited about seeing the kids and playing this past weekend.

Just in case you get the wrong idea, me and MR have had plenty to do around here.

You know how we had more rain in April than we did in January. We had more rain in April than we did in February and March combined. All that rain coupled with mild temperatures equals a whole lot of weeds.

The MR would make short work of it with a shovel, but I’m trying the no till method. Something about underground networks bringing minerals and nutrients to my plants but not if I rip them all out. It sounds a bit like hocus-pocus, but I’m giving it a go.

Slowly but surely it’s coming together.

You can see my tomato plant swathed in a wall of water. I’ve added broccoli and marigolds from the high school plant sale. When I pulled up those weeds, I discovered the asparagus had made it after all. It’s year two in this location, so I’m dressing it with worm castings and letting it grow. Next year, we’ll have a harvest.

Did you notice the vine on the tennis court? That’s last years manly kiwi. While it’s consorts died, the new replacements are budding out. The MR says the pears are setting fruit for the first time. This garden/orchard thing might actually work.

While I was at knit group chatting with the ladies, he painted the stairs to the deck and mowed the lawn.

I think I got the better deal. We have lots of gardening and maintenance stuff going on, but that’ll wait for another day.

How’s your garden coming along?

Together Time

It’s one of those days when you wake up and know it’s going to be good.

Me and the MR are spending the weekend with Baby Girl, Sweet Miss, and the Fella. We have wedding stuff, wine tasting, Mother’s Day, and together time on the schedule. Like I said, you just know it’s going to be good.

Baby Girl was home in March, but we haven’t seen Sweet Miss since February. So I’m a little excited.

When I talked to SM last week, she mentioned she’d been dreaming about my beef jerky. I made it regularly back when the girls were playing volleyball, but it’s been years. Well, if my girl wants beef jerky, this mom’s going to make beef jerky.

I bought a roast and started looking through my recipes. Aunt Linda’s marinate was nowhere to be found. Lucky me, I’d posted it on the blog once upon a time.

So I printed off a copy and pulled out the slicer. Let’s hope it’s just like she remembered it.

If your hungry for jerky, you can check out It’s Jerky Time.

Hope you have a wonderful weekend. With these sweet darlings, I know we will.

It’s Just What You Do

The other day, I was chit-chatting with Sweet Miss. She’d been at a baby shower and was surprised that the only handmade present was the blanket I’d made for her friends. Then we went on to discuss whether it simply that fewer people are making things these days, or whether her expectations are skewed by having me as her mother.

When I hear someone is expecting, I start planning a blanket, or a sweater, or maybe a special hat for the baby. You present this precious new life a gift made with love–it’s just what you do.

In the last year, our friends have had a lot of good news in the baby department. I’ve made a hat, sweater and blanket for a new mom on her own, a hat and sweater for friends who adopted, a balnket for Sweet Miss’ friends, a hat and sweater for a sweet baby I get to hold at MOPS, and I’ve just finished a blanket for the MR’s cousin’s daughter’s baby boy who’s expected soon. All these babies have been keeping me busy, but this last project has been something special.

When me and the MR were first married, we celebrated his grandparents’ 60th wedding anniversary with all his family down in California. His cousin’s daughter was seven and immediately adopted us. At the party, she told everyone we were her parents.So of course I knew I had to make something special for her when we found out she was expecting.

Her nickname is Desert Barbie, and her family likes playing at their property in the desert, so when I saw the Sleep Tight Teddy Bear Blanket on Ravelry, I knew I had a winner. This baby will be camping and enjoying the outdoors while still in diapers. The blanket features a row of teddy bears sleeping in faux sleeping bags; it looked simple enough.

The first hiccup was the stitch pattern that delineates each bear’s sleeping bag. It requires you to flip the blanket back-and-forth, back-and-forth over and over again. Don’t get me wrong, the pattern is simple, beautiful, and quite effective, but flipping a big blanket multiple times in a row gets tiresome.

Then came the color change from blue to white. I’d had a ton of Twize yarn from South West Trading Company, a variegated bamboo, on hand and thought it would make the perfect blanket for a baby boy. I wasn’t that worried about finding some 100% bamboo for the top and teddies; I guess I just didn’t think it through. I went shopping with Baby Girl, and we bought some acrylic at the craft store when bamboo was nowhere in sight–it would be fine. I was so wrong. I was going from drapey, marled bamboo to stark white, stiff acrylic. It looked awful.

With three-quarters of a blanket done–remember all that flipping?–I knew I needed some bamboo yarn. The due date is just around the corner. Well, while the Twize yarn is discontinued, I was able to find it for sale in a number of other people’s stashes on Ravelry. I really wanted a white as a backdrop for the sleeping bears, but Twize was all a brightly twisted jumble, maybe a solid would like strange? The pale gray had a pink tinge to it on the screen. So I went with the yellow/blue twist. It was a little bright, but it’d do.

The yarn arrived, and I forged on with the teddy bears. I made heads, and muzzles, and ears, and paws.  I took a look, and just said, huh? This doesn’t look anything like a teddy bear. It looked more like a sock monkey to me.

In for a penny, in for a pound. I just had to trust the process and keep going. I’m so glad I did.

 

I just needed to add a little embroidery and put all the pieces together.

And look what I ended up with? Sweet little teddy bears with lots of personality to match the rest of the family.

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It’s bright, it’s crazy, it’s fun. Perfect for them.

Here are a few of my other gifts and recipients just to bump the cuteness factor.

Do you have a go to gift you like to present to new babies? Any handmade specialties?