Uncategorized

It’s Finally Spring

Spring has definitely arrived here in the Okanagan. Yesterday, there was snow in the forecast for higher elevations and we can still see snow on the hills around us but, here at the valley bottom, the forecasted temperatures call for 17ºC today and up to 25ºC in the next week. Once again, we’ll be going from winter to summer!

We’re throwing doors and windows open when we can to bring in some of that fresh air. Outside, things are growing and will be flowering soon. In the front garden, the lovage is already about 10″ tall, the poppies are even taller and the irises are following right along. The lilacs along the driveway are about to burst into leaf and flower and the garden needs tending. This year, we will be putting in a few things; the garden won’t be as large as it has been in previous years, that’s for sure, but we do want to put in a few things… peas, beans, a few tomatoes, some potatoes… things like that. I’d also like to set up a bit of a “tea garden” with a few plants I can use to make my own tea blends (i.e. chamomile, mint, and whatever else I can think of).

20180421_135050

In the interim, more fermentation has been happening inside. My kombucha and water kefir are both humming along now. I’ve changed my process slightly with the last couple of batches. Instead of a first and second ferment, I’ve added a step; after the first fermentation, I’m adding a flavouring ferment. The first fermentation is put into a mason jar large enough to accommodate the entire batch (a half gallon jar) and flavoured with whatever I want to flavour it with (i.e. blueberries and mango or blueberries and lavender, which I’ve done so far). I cover it and allow it to sit for a day or two before straining out the fruit and bottling the drink for its final fermentation. As much as I like the fruit, I really don’t like having pieces of fruit floating in my drink. I find I get better carbonation and the flavours mellow out better.

DSCN1755

Left: Mellowbuzz, made with bee pollen, chamomile flowers, and lavender flowers; Right: Black Cherry and Lemon Balm

This week, I also started a couple more ferments. I have another jar of sauerkraut fermenting on my sideboard and a jar of Beet, Cabbage, and Onion kvass in the spare room. Both were started yesterday and are already burbling away, doing what they do. On my kitchen counter, the jar of Cranberry Relish is ready to sample; I’ll be picking up some nice crackers and goat cheese to go along with it.

 

My sourdough starter continues to thrive and the bread I’m making is certainly appreciated around here. Yesterday, I made a loaf of Sourdough Raisin and Cinnamon Swirl bread; between the two of us, we’re down to half a loaf already. It has been declared a “Keeper”. It won’t be long before I make another loaf; I’ll have to pick up some Gouda cheese. One of my favourite snacks is raisin toast with Gouda cheese; they go together so well!

20180420_155420_HDR_resized

I’ll probably be making another couple of loaves of Sourdough Sandwich bread this weekend; we both like it for our lunches.

Now, I’m going to get outside and enjoy the sunshine; it feels like it’s been a long time coming.

Categories: Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Things Are Rotting Around Here… In A Good Way

I haven’t been blogging much lately, at least not here. That’s about the only thing, besides knitting, that I haven’t been doing. I’ve been keeping myself very busy; between soap making and things that are fermenting around here, I have little time for much else. This week, however, I’m on vacation. I’m not going anywhere; it’s my ME time, one week off while John is back at work.

Last September, I started a sourdough starter. I managed to keep it going long enough to bake some lovely breads and then I hid it away in my fridge and forgot all about it. Until a few weeks ago. I wanted to see if I could revive it and revive it I did! Over the past couple of weekends, I’ve been making sourdough waffles and bread, marvelous bread!

My favourite sourdough sandwich bread uses both yeast and starter. It’s a recipe I’ve been using for many years, since around 1975, and it has never failed me. This time, I adjusted the added sugar and salt and came up with a nearly perfect batch! According to John, I could increase the salt slightly more than I did and lower the sugar just a touch. However, it was deemed a rousing success. Thankfully, the batch makes two loaves because one loaf has already been consumed.

20180330_183119_resized

Sourdough Sandwich Bread

Then, this past weekend, I made a batch of two loaves of true sourdough, leavened only with the sourdough starter. I only have a 12 ounce starter and the recipe I used, from the King Arthur Flour website, requires 12 ounces of starter. Obviously, I didn’t want to use all my starter so, over the course of a couple of days, I increased my starter until I had more than enough.

To say the bread turned out would be a definite understatement. It was, and still is, amazing. The bread has a nice tang to it, which is one of the things I love about sourdough bread, the crumb is moist and the crust is crisp. The only downside, if you can call it that, is that I should have slashed the loaves before putting them in the oven. They came out a bit misshapen but that’s minor.

20180401_143613_HDR

I now have one loaf from each batch in the freezer with plans to make more in the coming weeks. I think I can honestly say that these loaves equal what we can get at the grocery store and knowing that I made them feels really good!

In addition to the sourdough, I’ve also revived my water kefir and kombucha. The water kefir grains had been stored in the fridge since the beginning of winter; cold days are not the time for drinking cold, fizzy drinks. I wasn’t sure if they would come back because, honestly, I ignored them completely for nearly two months. However, a bit of sugar water and some warmth and water kefir production is back! I’ve even managed to get John to drink it on a somewhat regular basis. His favourite so far has been the cranberry kefir. Even 9-year old Ethan asks for it whenever he’s here.

I’ve just revived my kombucha and the first batch is nearly ready to bottle. I just haven’t decided how to flavour this first batch. All my frozen fruit, it seems, has been consumed by someone who likes it with his ice cream. No names will be mentioned.

20180401_104827_HDR_resized

In addition to the fermented drinks, I’m also fermenting a small jar of carrot sticks. I tried a batch a couple of weeks ago but it grew mold after opening the jar. I think it was because I used dried dill and it all floated to the top; from what I could see, it was the dill that was moldy, not the carrots. I wasn’t going to take a chance, though, and tossed the whole jar. This time, I’m using fresh dill and it’s at the bottom of the jar, where the carrots are keeping it down. In another day or two, I’ll try one of the sticks to see how they’re progressing.

20180330_150321_HDR_resized

I also fermented a jar of sauerkraut a few weeks ago and, this time, it turned out really well. I’m really happy with it and Trinity, our sour lover, has given her stamp of approval to the batch. Now, I need to find ways of getting John to eat it.

Today, just because I can, I’m starting a small batch of something called “Sima”, a Finnish fermented beverage made with lemons, sugar, and a pinch of yeast. It just sounded really tasty and I have all the ingredients at hand so…. why not? One recipe called it a type of mead and used honey in the recipe; the recipe I’m following uses white and brown sugar instead of honey. I thought about trying my hand at mead but the fermentation and aging times kind of put me off; it can take up to a year, according to some of the recipes I read. Around here? Not a chance! The Sima, on the other hand, could be ready within a week or two, depending on how long I allow it to age.

20180403_141659_HDR_resized

I have to say, I’m really enjoying my experiments in fermentation. The fact that it produces a product rich in healthy probiotics is a bonus. Really, they just taste good!

Categories: Uncategorized | Leave a comment

A Breaky Kind of Day

It’s snowing out. We’re under a storm watch. Christmas is just days away and I’ve taken a few days off this week so I can catch up on some things. And to relax, to be honest.

One of the first things I did this morning, after driving Ethan to school was to do the dishes. John’s away for a couple of hours and I can take my time. I can be careful and do it right.

I dropped a mug. My favourite mug. The mug I was given for Mother’s Day. From my daughter and grandchildren.

DSCN1400

The one that says “Inspire”. They gave it to me because they consider me an inspiration. It didn’t fall far; I was washing it and it slipped. The handle hit another mug in the sink and fell off. I’m sad.

Then, while I was finishing up with the pots and pans, the cabinet to my left opened and a couple of Pyrex dishes slid out, onto our tile floor, startling me!

DSCN1399

Someone… not saying who… just does not know how to properly stack bowls and Pyrex, apparently. And, oh my, the noise when those dishes hit the ceramic floor! Yikes!

I think it’s time to sit down with a relaxing cup of tea and some knitting. Hopefully, nothing else will break.

Categories: Uncategorized | 2 Comments

Shopping

I will admit it: I really don’t like clothes shopping. Sometimes, though, a girl needs to replenish her wardrobe. For instance, I usually wear jeans to work; it’s the kind of job I can get away with wearing casual clothes. I bought some skinny jeans at Old Navy last year and I’ve been wearing them a lot. However, they’re starting to wear and before they reach the embarrassing stage, I decided it was time to get myself at least one more pair.

I went back to Old Navy last week. Yeah… for about five minutes. There were way too many people and no empty change rooms. I left. Empty handed.

This weekend, I decided to try my luck at Mark’s Work Wearhouse. I found a pair of pea green jeans that fit beautifully. They’re a little on the long side but I can fix that. I also found a great pair of blue jeans in the same size. I didn’t bother to try on the blue jeans as I had tried on the green jeans. They’re the same size; one’s a straight leg, the other is a skinny leg.

Once I got them home, I thought I’d model the jeans, and the blouse I also bought, for John. The green jeans and the blouse… he liked them. Then I tried on the blue jeans. My foot went through the knees. What the??? Both knees have holes!! That’s not what I wanted! Heck, I’m buying new jeans to replace the jeans that ALMOST have holes!

When they say “Buyer Beware”, I guess they were talking to me. They’re going back tomorrow!

Categories: Blogging, Shopping, Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Busy, Busy, Busy

Busy in the kitchen, that is. I’ve been told before that I need to relax on the weekends. I do. Honestly. My happy place is my kitchen. And I can tell you that hot summers are not conducive to cooking and baking. Now that the weather has cooled, I have my happy place back and this weekend has been no exception.

Yesterday, I started a batch of sourdough bread, the kind that uses no added yeast…. REAL sourdough bread. Right now, it’s in its final rise. It’s been a process, let me tell you. It’s taken about three weeks to get my starter to the point where I could use it to bake the bread. Once I had the first stage of the dough mixed last night, I finished the dough this morning and it’s been slowly rising all day today. At the moment, the dough is rising in the bannettons I purchased and primed yesterday.

DSCN1286

Bannettons – bread proofing baskets made of willow cane

From the first time I saw these, I’ve wanted one or two (or maybe three or four) of them. They’re made of willow cane and they’re meant for proofing the bread dough. Once the dough is ready for baking, its tipped out of the basket and onto the parchment and into the oven.

DSCN1292

Right now, though, there’s a Dutch Apple Pie in the oven and another one is waiting in the fridge. I hadn’t intended on baking two apple pies but, once I had the apples I thought I’d need peeled, there were three left over. I asked John what he thought I should do and his answer made sense….. make two pies!….. so I peeled the remaining apples, and instead of one two crust pie, made two Dutch Apple Pies. Problem solved.

DSCN1290

I’ve used three kinds of apples for the pies – Gala, Fuji, and Honey Crisp. And just because I could, I decided to try a little experiment. All of the trimmings – peels, cores, seeds, and stems – were put into a jar with some sugar water. Hopefully, it will all become apple cider vinegar in a couple of months. Why not, right? It seems to be a fairly simple fermentation process and I’m into fermentation experimentation. The only thing I’ll be out if it doesn’t work is about 1/4 cup of sugar and time.

DSCN1287

And then there are the peanut butter cookies. I made those yesterday. About a year ago, or so, I bought a recipe magazine (when did they get so expensive, anyway???) from America’s Test Kitchen. In it was a recipe for Peanut Butter Cookies that sounded amazing. You know what? They’re pretty darned good. Crisp, flaky, peanutty and yummy. I still had a little bit of Skippy crunchy peanut butter left, just enough to make a batch of cookies, and I figured I’d best use it up before it went rancid.

Does commercial peanut butter go rancid??

Anyway, I know John loves peanut butter cookies (or any cookies for that matter) and he was thrilled when the cookies started coming out of the oven. Our only point of disagreement regarding cookies is that he likes them “well done” (aka burnt) while I like them on the blonde side so I made sure some of them were “well done”, just for him.

I love my husband.

Categories: Uncategorized | Leave a comment

2017 – Keep It Simple

Happy 2017, my friends. Yesterday was a day of relaxation, getting outdoors, and reflecting. The last day of the year was a thoroughly enjoyable day. I did some prep for today’s eating but I also took time to get outside with my daughter and two of my grandchildren. I’m feeling it today, believe me!

I did get on the ice, too. Yeah, I fell and, yeah, I’m feeling it today. Trust me, I will not be putting the skates back on today.

As I said, it was also a day of reflection. One of the things I dislike about our suite is the clutter, especially in the spare/craft room. I look around some times and am completely overwhelmed as to where to start. I know it’s something that I just need to do and it’s me that needs to do it but I’m just not even sure where to start. Well, this is the year for simplifying my life, getting rid of the clutter.

This is the time of year for resolutions but I don’t see this as being a resolution. It’s a goal, something I’ve been wanting for a long time.

I know what needs to be done; I just have to start doing it. What about you? Do you have any goals, resolutions, desires for 2017? What about suggestions? Do you have any suggestions that might help me out?

Categories: Uncategorized | 3 Comments

Happy Thanksgiving!

Even though today is our Canadian Thanksgiving, we decided it would be nice to have a do-nothing kind of day before going back to work and school tomorrow so we had our dinner yesterday.

Normally, I wouldn’t post about what we ate for dinner but I’m really proud of the meal we had. I mean, the dinner itself wasn’t anything out of the ordinary. We had a roasted chicken, slathered with Dijon mustard, liberally sprinkled with my seasoned salt for chicken, and stuffed with a blend of sweet onion, rosemary, sage, and thyme. We had a cheesy cauliflower casserole, boiled carrots, brussels sprouts, and mashed potatoes with gravy. I didn’t buy enough brussels sprouts, apparently. We all love them and I think, had there been more, Ethan would happily have had a meal of nothing but chicken and brussels sprouts. For the kids, I picked up a bottle of Martinelli’s sparkly crisp apple juice (served in wine glasses). Everything was perfectly done. That, in itself, made me happy.

The best part of the meal, though, the part everyone was eagerly anticipating was dessert. You saw the Lemon Meringue Pie I posted yesterday. Well, after posting, I thought about the other half of the pie dough in the fridge and decided to run out to pick up a few things. Like Jonagold apples. And whipping cream. And brown sugar.

The first thing I made was a Salted Caramel sauce. Oh my, so good I could eat it by the spoonful. I didn’t. But I could.

Then, I made a gluten free Dutch Apple Pie.

gf-apple-pie

There are one or two things I would do differently next time but they’re minor. For instance, next time I would make more of the topping and use more butter in it. I’d sprinkle a bit of lemon juice over the apples just to brighten the flavour a little more. As I said, minor things.

I did do something a little different with this pie, other than making it gluten free. Instead of using cinnamon and nutmeg, I used Speculaas seasoning, a wonderful warm and aromatic blend of spices.

gf-desserts

It came out beautifully! The only critique I had was that the bottom crust didn’t bake properly (I should have baked it in the lower third of the oven, not the middle). No one else cared. We served it with freshly whipped sweetened cream, drizzled with salted caramel sauce.

I think Trinity had at least two pieces of the Lemon Meringue Pie (lemon is her favourite flavour!) and we all left the table feeling rather stuffed.

dessert

We had a wonderful dinner and we all shared some of the things we were thankful for… family, friends, a bountiful supply of food, a safe place to live…. from the big things to the little things.

I hope that you all have a very happy Thanksgiving. Remember, there’s always something to be happy for. We are, truly, blessed.

Categories: Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

It’s Been HOW Long?

Yeah, you probably think I’ve fallen off the face of the earth or are out and about doing something so exciting and time-consuming that I have no time for anything, let alone blogging. Well, you’d be wrong on both counts although it has been busy, just not with anything terribly exciting. I guess it’s called life.

Truth be told, I’ve simply been too tired and uninspired. Every time the thought of blogging has entered my mind, so have thoughts of other things that really should be done first. Or, something’s come along to take up my time or distract me from the thought of writing anything.

So, now that I have time and I’ve actually sat down and started typing, where to I start? It’s been a fairly busy summer, one that has flown by. My mother and one of my grandsons came for a (short, very short) visit. It was good to see them both. John and I did manage to get away for a week, just after my birthday. We traveled around southern British Columbia, through the Kootenays. It was a much needed getaway from our daily routines and, even though it was a lot of driving, it was relaxing, a time of simply enjoying the scenery and each other’s company. Even our old car (1993 Mazda 626) behaved and gave us no real concern. Now, the days are beginning to shorten and cool; the kids are back in school and life is settling down into something resembling normalcy.

If you follow me on Facebook, you’ll know that I’m still cooking, still knitting, still making the occasional batch of soap, and I’ve started making more fermented foods and beverages. If you follow me on Ravelry, you’ll know that I’ve started a small knitting project that I won’t be blogging about until it’s finished and in the hands of its recipient. (Ha! how’s that for a teaser, huh?)

So, now we’re at the end of summer. Life is settling back into a regular routine. Now that we’re “back to normal”, I’m hoping to spend more time doing the things I enjoy, which includes blogging… well… writing. It’s been too long a break.

For now, I’ll leave you with a few photos taken this summer…

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Categories: Uncategorized | Leave a comment

The Sun Still Rises

I’ve been spending some time working on John’s cardigan this week. I think I’m making pretty good progress.

HL3

I still need to work about two inches until the shoulder shaping. I’ve also been making more soap. This week’s batch is another batch of the BNA Blackstrap Ale soap. I’m really pleased with how my soaps are turning out. They look good (in my very humble opinion); they are not strongly scented (I don’t like overwhelmingly scented soaps); they lather (that’s the important part!).

BNA Batch2

The colourant in this one is, once again, cocoa for the bottom part and titanium dioxide to make the foam, along with a hanger swirl to make the “foam” swirl.

You’re probably wondering about the title of this post. What does it have to do with knitting and soap? Nothing, really. It is, however, relevant to my family’s experiences this past week. It’s a reminder not to focus on the difficult times, a reminder that there is another day coming, a day that will bring new beginnings, new experiences, even, perhaps, joy. Right now, joy is difficult to imagine.

My family is hurting this week with a pain that will never fully go away. On Tuesday afternoon, my eldest grandson, Zachary, was found dead in his apartment. I will not go into details other than to say he and his roommate were both found deceased. Until the cause of his death is known, we’ll have to wait for a funeral. Please, if you pray, keep us in your prayers. Both his parents are, justifiably, devastated. We all have a hole in our hearts that will never completely heal but we do know that sun will rise tomorrow and our lives will go on.

Zach

Categories: Blogging, John's Sweater, Knitting, Making Soap, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , , , , | 5 Comments

So… Colour Me an Idiot

John’s cardigan is coming along. I worked on it for a bit last night and came to a realization.

Let me back up a bit. Before I cast on any project, I choose the size I’ll knit and circle or highlight the numbers for that size I’m knitting, usually as I go along. I did the same with this cardigan. Except….. sigh…

HL2

I’m up to the arm scye shaping and my stitch count was out. Apparently, after 17.5″, I cast on for the wrong size, one size larger than the size I had intended to knit. It’s only a few stitches difference and I don’t think it will really matter a lot but, really??

I’ve been knitting how long?? (Since I was seven, thank you very much.)

Did I mention I’d already knit seventeen and one half inches? I am NOT frogging it. John may have room to grow but from what I’ve already checked, it will fit him just fine.

What was I thinking?? Or maybe I did intend to cast on for that size and I circled the wrong numbers.

I think I’ll go make some soap.

Categories: Blogging, Cardigan, John's Sweater, Knitting, Soap, Uncategorized | Tags: , , , , | 5 Comments

Stuff Dutch People Like

Your satirical guide to Dutch culture and the Netherlands!

: silviasblog.com :

sketches, paintings, photos, random things that inspire me and other kind of art related stuff

Hiking Photography

Beautiful photos of hiking and other outdoor adventures.

domestic diva, M.D.

my mother raised the perfect housewife...then I went to med school

soknitsome

so knitsome ... so knit some

Bite Size Canada

Canadian trivia and history in bite size chunks!