October Favorites

October 31, 2013

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1. Last month's favorites list included this inspirational interview on Copyblogger by Hugh Howey. This month, I'd like to add his Silo Saga to the list. I've read through Wool, Shift, and Dust on my kindle, and they were really well done. And as popular as this series is, I had no idea what to expect while reading it because I'd never heard of it, so I was engaged throughout the entire story.

2. It's difficult to find a decent paleo dessert that hits the spot, but this recipe for paleo chocolate chunk cookies is so good. When these are fresh out of the oven, they're no different than an ooey-gooey chocolate chip cookie made with all the normal ingredients. And then later, once they've cooled and hardened, you can crumble them on top of your breakfast for a granola-esque texture and flavor.

3. These 6 Sweet Survival Tips for Super Sensitive Souls. I want to print these out and pin them on my wall.

4. This post on The History of Pumpkin Carving from Alabama Chanin is perfect for today's Halloween festivities.

6. Gravity, the movie. I don't go to the theater often because it's so expensive, but this one was worth it. If you see it in 3D, it feels like you're really up there in space.

7. This 10-Second How-To from Design Sponge on cleaning a cast iron skillet.

 Have a happy Halloween/last day of October, everyone! Don't forget to enter the giveaway here for a 5-pack of handmade coasters.

Garden Notes

October 30, 2013

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Last year, when I was making plans for our first vegetable garden, I had no idea we'd be getting chickens. It was something we always talked about, but we didn't know we'd be acting on those plans so soon, so I didn't bother to factor them, much less the coop, into my garden scheme. Of course, now that I've had a chance to see the girls in action, I know I'm going to need to restructure next year's vegetable patch if I want any hope of growing vegetables mature enough to harvest in my backyard.

So, over the weekend, I leveled our existing raised beds, and plotted out the areas around the perimeter of the yard and the chicken coop where I'll most likely plant in the spring. I covered those areas with old hay from the coop, hoping to inhibit weed growth, and spread some sand and new hay in the coop for the girls. Before I plant seeds next year, I'll probably install a short fence around the yard to keep the girls out of my garden beds. It'll be short enough to hop over, but hopefully it will deter the girls enough that they won't do any serious damage. That's the plan for now, anyway, but I'm open to suggestions.

Speaking of the girls, we are now down to just one egg layer. Miss Seven-of-Nine (my black australorp) has decided she wants to be a mother. It started late last week when we noticed a large pile of black feathers in the nest box. The next day, I went out to the coop wondering why Miss Seven wasn't making her usual ruckus. She's our loudest, most obnoxious chicken, after all, so it's really strange when a whole day goes by without hearing so much as a peep from her.

When I peeked inside the hen house, there she was, sitting her broody self on a pile of eggs. I pulled her out and placed her with the other girls, gathered the eggs, and closed the door so she couldn't re-enter until it was time for bed. The next day she was back in the nest box, sitting on Amy's egg, so we did the same song and dance. Finally, on the third day, she seemed to snap out of it, and she hasn't been back in since. I still haven't seen an egg from her, either, so we'll see what happens.

Handmade Coasters and a Giveaway!

October 28, 2013

Calla Coasters

If you follow me on Instagram, you'll already know that I finished sewing my last handmade Calla Coaster (Ravelry link) a couple weeks ago. Still, I wanted to share about them with you here because they were so much fun to make, and with the holidays coming up, these would make a great handmade gift idea for anyone looking for inspiration. Plus, the pattern is free from Purl Soho, and I always appreciate a good free pattern. Especially when money is tight at the end of the year.

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First, let me say it was never my intention to make quite so many coasters. I originally wanted just a few for home, but when it came to choosing my yarn, I couldn't settle on just one color. Instead, I came home with five different balls of yarn, and was able to yield somewhere between 6-8 coasters per ball, which equals 35-ish total coasters.

Calla Coasters

Obviously I don't need all 35 coasters, so I'll probably give some away as gifts for the holidays this year. But, I also thought it might be fun to throw a giveaway for one 5-pack of handmade coasters to one of my readers. So, if you'd like to win a pack, just enter via the rafflecopter below, and I'll send the package out next Monday to the winner!

Good luck. :)

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Signs of Fall

October 24, 2013

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I was going through my photostream, and noticed things are looking very seasonal around here. Have I mentioned I love this time of year? We've been having sunny, 70°F days, and crisp, cold nights for the past week. Perfect.

Homemade Kombucha

October 22, 2013

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Back in July, I decided to grow my own kombucha SCOBY (symbiotic colony of bacteria and yeast) from a bottle of raw, organic kombucha (method here), and the experiment turned out well. After just one month, I had a scoby that was mature enough to brew a whole gallon-sized batch of kombucha, which was ready to drink after only two weeks in the pantry.

But there was a problem.

My home-brewed kombucha was, for lack of a better word, puckery. It wasn’t terrible, but it wasn’t something I’d want to drink every day, either, so I went through my process to see if there was anything I could change.

What I found was that most of the recipes I’ve encountered on the internet for homemade kombucha advise that you brew your tea for at least an hour, but for me, an hour is much too long. It brings out unpleasant flavors in the tea that linger long after the scoby has had time to work its magic. So, to see if I could improve the outcome, I decided to brew my tea bags for only 15-20 minutes instead. And voila, my next batch of kombucha was perfect.

I’m still new to the business of brewing my own kombucha, but I thought it’d be fun to share what’s working for me so far in my process, and to open the discussion for those of you who are interested. Now that I’ve got my basic recipe down, I think it’d be fun to add some extra flavor to the mix. Some ginger, perhaps, or pure fruit juices.

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Basic Process for Making 1 Gallon-Sized Jar of Kombucha

1. Bring 3 ¾ quarts of water to a boil. Remove from heat, and add 1 cup sugar. Stir to dissolve.

2. Add 5 standard sized bags of black tea (caffeinated), and brew for 15-20 minutes. Remove tea bags, and allow the liquid to cool to room temperature. Pour in a gallon sized GLASS jar with a wide mouth.

3. Add SCOBY and ½ cup reserve kombucha liquid. Cover with cloth and secure with rubber band. Let sit in a cool, dark place for 1-3 weeks, checking the flavor every couple of days after the first week has passed.

4. Once you’re satisfied with the flavor, strain the kombucha liquid minus 1/2 cup into a bottle and store in the refrigerator for drinking. Repeat the process for more kombucha.

Also, since you now have two SCOBYs, you can either give your extra scoby away, or you can start up another jar for double the amount.

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A few important notes about making your own kombucha:
-Don’t let metal come in contact with your SCOBY. It will degrade the culture.
-Use white sugar or raw cane sugar only to ensure proper pH.
-If your SCOBY shows any signs of mold, discard and start over.
-You can substitute black tea for any other tea that contains caffeine, such as green tea or oolong tea.
-Once you’ve strained your kombucha into a bottle for refrigeration, you can add ginger, fruit, or fruit juices to flavor the beverage.

Garden Notes

October 17, 2013

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1. Yellow acorns and a tiny yellow pumpkin.
2. Potato Harvest.
3. A double yolker.
4. Olive Snook

The original plan was to have a fall/winter garden this year, but time has slipped out from under me, so I'll be harvesting the last of our squash and potatoes before retiring the garden beds this week. The chickens are a big help in that department, avid diggers and scratchers that they are.

Several of you have asked me about little Olive since writing about her situation awhile back. She still limps, but just barely. From what I can see, the problem is in her joint, not her foot, and my guess is that she exacerbates the issue by jumping from the highest perch in the coop. We may need to remove it for the time being until she has a chance to heal completely. Otherwise, she's doing really well! She's still has yet to lay an egg, but I'm fond of her, so meh.

Project List

October 15, 2013

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Another Rikke hat, but brown this time.
These handmade coasters in mass quantities.
This pullover. Finally. It's been in my Ravelry queue forever.

Although I was never without a project on my knitting needles over the summer, the colder weather has motivated me to organize my Ravelry queue for some serious knitting action this fall and winter. First, let me say how glad I am that I was able to crank out a few pairs of socks this summer. They have been such a lifesaver, keeping me warm in spite of our cold wood floors. If you're on the fence about knitting your first pair of wool socks, just do it. Trust me.

Second, this Rikke hat is by far my favorite hat. I like it because it's slouchy and lightweight, as opposed to some of my chunkier beanies, which means it does less damage to my hair (as in 'hat hair'). Also, I can hear people talk when I wear it over my ears. You wouldn't think that'd be a consideration, but it is.

And third, I'm hoping to make my first wearable pullover and cardigan this month. Some of you may remember my lace striped sweater, which is technically my first pullover, but that was made with super itchy wool, and I'll probably never wear it. I have a bad habit of testing projects out on yarn I don't like just in case they don't turn out. Problem is, most things usually turn out better than I think they will, so the project ends up being a colossal waste of time and materials.

Anyway, I'm usually more of a cardigan person than a pullover person, but Jane Richmond's Oatmeal Pullover has been in my queue for ages (and ages and ages), so it's first on my list of big projects. I'm hoping its simplicity will give me the confidence boost I need to start in on the cardigan. If not, I'll just go back to knitting more socks. One can never have too many pairs of wool socks.

Homemade Sunflower Seed Butter

October 9, 2013

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As far as nut and seed butters go, sunflower seed butter is one of my favorites. The flavor is rich and versatile, which means you can play with the recipe by adding things like cocoa powder, cinnamon, scraped vanilla bean, dates, and more. And because I'm trying to stick to a paleo diet right now, I like to use melted coconut oil or ghee to make the butter even more rich and creamy. It's so good that I almost don't miss my beloved peanut butter. Almost.

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Sunflower Seed Butter
Makes around 1 pint.

2 cups raw sunflower seeds
2-3 tablespoons coconut oil, melted
1-2 tablespoons maple syrup, or to taste
Salt, to taste

Preheat oven to 350F. Place the raw sunflower seeds on a rimmed cookie sheet in a single layer, and bake on the center rack for 15 minutes, or until the edges of the seeds turn golden brown. Remove from oven and cool.

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Place roasted sunflower seeds in the bowl of a food processor and process for one minute, or until the seeds have turned into a fine, sticky powder. Add the coconut oil, maple syrup, and salt. Continue to process for another two minutes, scraping down the sides every thirty seconds, until the mixture has turned into a creamy paste. Check flavor one last time for saltiness and sweetness, and add more salt or maple syrup as necessary.

Place your sunflower seed butter in an airtight container and store in the refrigerator for up to 2-3 weeks.

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Optional Add-Ins:
1 tablespoon cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
Scraped Vanilla Bean
Ghee instead of coconut oil
Dates

Enjoy!

September Favorites

October 1, 2013

Well, happy first day of October to you. Once again, I find myself taken by surprise by how quickly the months are passing by, and wonder where all the time has gone. To remind myself, I've decided to share some of my favorite things from September. Things like posts, pictures, products, newly discovered blogs, books... anything I've encountered that had an impact. Things like:

This Here's How Hugh Howey (Bestselling Author of Wool) Writes interview over on Copyblogger. I haven't read through Hugh Howey's work yet, but I've heard very good things, and found his commentary on the writing process, and self-publishing in particular, educational and inspiring.



A new favorite mug for the collection, thrifted.

This SheaMoisture Organic Coconut and Hibiscus Curl Enhancing Smoothie. If you have curly hair, this is a product worth looking into. I found it for $12 at my local target, which is a little pricier than I'm accustomed to spending for a tub of hair cream, but I've had it for a couple weeks now, and even though I use it every day, I've barely scratched the surface. A little goes a long way, and it smells really nice.

Call the Midwife. This is an incredible show. I'm so glad there's going to be a third season. I watched the first two seasons on Netflix streaming, and as of now, it's still available.

These books:  

Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can't Stop Talking. I've already discussed why I like this book in a previous post, but I thought I'd mention it again.

Free-Range Chicken Gardens: How to Create a Beautiful, Chicken-Friendly Yard. I was in line at the feed store when I saw this book on the shelf near the cash registers. I picked it up, and started thumbing through the photos, and fell in love. I had to buy it. The images are beautiful, really, and so inspiring. There's a lot of practical information within about setting up your garden in a chicken-friendly way. I can't wait to start applying some of it to my own backyard next spring.

Divergent. Basically, if you were a fan of The Hunger Games trilogy by Suzanne Collins, you'll like this too. It's a fun, quick read.

roasted tomato soup

And, finally, this recipe for roasted tomato soup. Seriously, y'all. It's so good. Please try it if you find yourself with an abundance of fresh tomatoes.