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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Wishing for Sun

With sun, rain, snow , and wind in the forecast for the last few days, we haven’t had much use for these beauties.

At least it was sunny on the day they arrived. Eventually, they’ll find their way down to the lower deck along with some comfy cushions.

After removing the hot tub last year, we’ve been planning to turn the lower portion into a sun deck. The outdoor shower will get a facelift and be a dog washing station for Cocoa. With lots of mud and meadows to explore, she definitely needs it.

We’ve been looking for new outdoor dining and seating options. For the upper deck, too.

Along with comfort and style, portability is an important feature. With a huge wraparound deck that soaks up the heat, we’ve found ourselves moving to shade quite often. Our current metal chairs that rock and swivel weigh a ton.

We purchased the lounges from Frontgate—on sale back in February. That’s one nice thing about buying outdoor furniture early in the season, you can usually find a sale, and you get to dream of sun, and barbecues, and playing cards, and good times.

Wishing for sunny skies for me and for you.

My First Stab at Salt Block Cooking

Sometimes you get something for Christmas you’ve never even heard of. Himayalan Salt Block, huh? The Fella must think I’m a fancy chef; Sweet Miss explained how you can cook on it.

You know me; I’ll give anything a try. So last week, my new salt block spent hours in the oven curing. I set the heat at 170-degrees and then bumped it up 50 degrees every half hour until it got to 500-plus. This is not the most exciting part of the experiment, but it supposed to keep the block from breaking apart and gets it ready for cooking.

Since it’s awfully chilly out at the moment (not east coast chilly, but northwest 30-ish chilly), I decided to cook on the stovetop rather than the BBQ. Besides, I wanted the joy of using it for the first time rather than letting the MR steal all the fun.

Supposedly, you don’t even have to season your food on the salt block, that pink salt does it all for you. We had salmon, green beans, brussel sprouts, and yellow peppers.

I did add a little freshly ground pepper, and it was all quite tasty. The salmon stuck a little and was perhaps a bit thick for this cooking method. And the green beans kept rolling off the brick into the bottom of the burner–good thing I have long tongs. I did end up with a bit of a scorch mark on the bottom, but your supposed to dedicate one side for cooking and the other for heating, so maybe it was meant to be.

This might be a fun way to try teppanyaki or bulgogi right at the table. For just me and the MR one brick is perfect. If I want to start adding more people, I may need another brick. I’m going to do some more research and work on my technique.

This is definitely a fun and interesting way to make dinner. Many thanks to the Fella for such a thoughtful gift.

I wished you all a Merry Christmas, but I didn’t share much of ours. So I know you’re wondering about Christmas pjs. This year, I had a bit of a tall order. When I visited the girls in October, Sweet Miss declared that she and the Fella wanted matching pjs with beavers on them.

She’s also the one who stated emphatically years ago that she wants flannel pjs in Christmas-y colors. OK, that means beavers, red and green, in male and female appropriate print…hmmm. I found little woodland creatures gamboling about; no man I know would wear that print.

Then Kaufman Burly Beaver flannel came to the rescue. It’s kind of stretching it colorwise with only a bit of red, but hipster, bearded lumberjack beavers seemed the perfect fit for a pair of Oregon State grads living in Portland.

Baby Girl made it simple with snowflakes in red on a white background. Everyone looked great. So glad to be able to share the holiday with our kids.

 

And did I mention it was a white Christmas? This happens every 10 years or so. It’s so pretty, but I’m glad it only lasted for a few days. With all our hills, snow makes traveling quite tricky.

Today is the first day with Baby Girl back to school.  It makes for a quiet house, just me and Cocoa.

Hope your new year is starting off well. Any salt block cooking tips to share? How about other adventures in cooking I should try?

 

That Golden Glow

With the shorter days of fall, we are all the more appreciative of sunny days. Earlier this week, we were glorying in the sunshine and warmth.

I love how the great room is filled with that golden glow.

With two snowfalls this season, the trees have been dropping their leaves, but they’re still putting on quite a show.  The MR has been busy with the leaf blower on the driveway and the roof.

And now that it’s daylight saving time, Cocoa makes sure I’m up for the sunrise, too. We’ve had some spectacular ones lately.

Hope you’re enjoying a beautiful Fall.

Strange Days Indeed

Wildfires are raging throughout the west, while Houston is recovering from massive flooding left in the aftermath of Hurricane Harvey, and southern Florida is evacuating in anticipation of Hurricane Irma.

Looking at all the struggles others are facing, it seems petty complaing about the smoke that has filled the valley this week. The sun shines redly, and the hills disappear in the white skies.

The air quality is so bad, children aren’t allowed outside for recess. An hour run is like smoking a pack of cigarettes.

Praying for those in storm-ravaged places, praying for people impacted by the wildfires, praying for rain and wind to clean our air again.

Hoping this finds you safe in your little part of the world.

 

February Flew By

Last month started with the MR’s birthday, and a visit from our sweet girls and ended with a quick trip to Oregon to see them in turn. Two visits with our kids in a month is rather delightful.

Sandwiched between those was a lot of rain, a lot of snow, and a lot of crazy. In Winter Wonderland I shared the joys of snow outside and a cozy fire inside which led to questions and a whole blog on the History of Our Fireplace. It’s gone through a lot of changes over the past five years. Remember the conversation pit and the green carpet?

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When a Tree Falls in the Woods, I asked that it stay off our driveway. Me and the MR worked up a sweat clearing branches, small trees, limbs, and debris from our only way out.

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Of course that wasn’t the end of travel woes. All the snow and rain—it’s been the wettest February on record in Seattle since 1961—caused part of the road up our hill to collapse into a steep ravine. (Check out Winter Storms & Prepping for Spring.) They are working on it, but for now we have another one lane road to navigate on the way home.

With the power out, no TV, trapped at home, that gave me lots of time to knit, right? What should have been a good thing turned into trouble when hand-dyed shade variations showed up in a big way on my fingering-weight cardigan edged in lace. I’m still mourning the loss or maybe pouting is a better word for it. This is one time when Following the Rules would have paid off in a big way.

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On the positive side, How’s That for Color? featured our picks for new carpet in three of the bedrooms. Baby Girl has a ton of stuff, so her bedroom will have to wait until she totally moves out. One of our color choices is in production and should be available in mid-March, so we’ve had the rooms measured, made a down payment, and are just waiting a few weeks to schedule installation.

For me, The Best Part of Winter is getting up before the sun. I could probably do it during the summer, but 4 am comes awfully early. I love watching the everchanging sky in the mornings.

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With more snow this week, enough to delay schools but not enough to keep us trapped at home, I did notice how pretty the front doors are with their mountains backlit with real snow.

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Cocoa agrees with me, of course.

For March, I’m hoping for fewer storms and a better attitude. While there’s nothing I can do about the first, I’m working on the second.

How was your February?

 

The Flurries of January 2017

When I started this blog five years ago, I had two girls in high school busy with sports, friends, and activities. Sweet Miss was getting ready to graduate. Now the girls are in gone to school and jobs in Oregon, and the MR has started a consulting business where he can pick and choose his hours.

Suddenly, our ties to home are much fewer, and we’ve been totally taking advantage of it. Just look back at the month: On the Road AgainFirst Stop MiamiRelaxing on Turks and Caicos, and The Beauty of Zihuatanejo. The first three posts share highlights of our recent trip, and the the last shares our trip to Mexico with the girls just before Christmas.

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Each of these places had their own beauty and charm. I promised to share a photo of the stingrays we swam with. These were fun to watch from afar after I got over my initial fear.stingray

All this traveling means, I have to plan ahead to get the blog out, so I’ve been using the “Wordless Wednesday” model here and there. I shared Our Citrus Grove and Winter Blooms recently. The tiny calamondin lime, which isn’t even a lime, but a hybrid of a mandarin orange and the kumquat, and the lemon tree make up our stunted, indoor grove. I cut up one of the limes to add to a salad—it was way too tart. The three lemons on our “tree” are ripening and will soon be part of a lemon pie. It’s our little eating hyper-local experiment.

We’ve added another bloom to the winter beauty from a plant the MR’s grandmother grew. Does anyone know what this is? The branches hang down, and the clusters of white, star-shaped flowers face down as well.

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The blooms are even prettier when viewed from below. Maybe I showed move the plant to a bookcase, so we can see these sweet flowers at their best.

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When I am home, I have time to get involved in some local groups. The Knitters and Crocheters of Duvall meet Tuesdays at Quintessential Knits, and they’ve joined up with the Duvall Bag Ladies to make sleeping mats for the homeless. I hope they add some comfort to these people’s lives.

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And finally, I took time to Learn Something New. Brioche is a challenging knitting technique with very cool results. I hope Baby Girl is enjoying her cozy cowl. I hear snow and ice is headed towards Oregon again this week and alpaca is soft and warm.

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I have a few sewing projects, and we’re talking carpet again, so I may have some home-centered posts for February. We’ll just have to wait and see.

What’s been going on in your neck of the woods?