Category Archives: Miscellaneous

2013~ A Year in Review

2013 was a busy year. I didn’t blog much, but I did get a lot done.

I have a daughter that is now a senior in high school and a son that left elementary to move up to the big leagues of middle school. Hubby got (and rejected) two job offers. One was definitely not a better job. The other would have been a pay raise but would have caused a ridiculous amount of stress for Mr. Hippie. Mr. Hippie’s ulcerative colitis doesn’t do well with stress, so although I still pine for the extra income that would make our fiscal lives easier, I am grateful for his time with our family and for his health.

Will 2014 be The Year of My Blog? I don’t know the future, but I hear that the road to Hell is paved with good intentions. Regardless of what 2014 brings, I’m leaving 2013 with a bang!

The top posts always surprise me a little, but it helps me understand what people actually want to read! Apparently the movement toward healthier, greener cleaning hasn’t lost steam and people still love animals!

Coming in at number one:

Vinegar and oil(s)Homemade Fabric Softener

housing for two rabbits

Home to our breeding pair.

Building a Rabbit Hutch

Finished loaf cooled, sliced and ready to eat.

Freshly baked bread in five minutes?

Crusty Round Loaves of Homemade Bread

Homemade Laundry Detergent

Homemade Laundry Detergent

Soap after the mold has been removed.

How I Made Homemade Soap (and Didn’t Screw it up)

Some of the finished treats.

Homemade Dog Biscuits

Supplies needed to make your own.

Homemade Dishwasher Detergent

Sink Scrub

Homemade Scouring Powder

Chicken Tractor

Chicken Run

Pinot Jelly

Pinot Noir Jam

Thanks for sticking around to hear what I had to say even when I didn’t have much to talk about!

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#98 ~ Donate my Hair (or, Locks of Love)

One of the scariest goals I set for myself on my 101 in 1001 was #98, Donate my hair. If you have noticed, I have had really long hair.  I’ve nearly always had long hair. Once, when I was in middle school, I decided that I should get a “cute”, short haircut. It wasn’t cute. I have really thick, coarse and slightly wavy hair. The girl who cut my hair didn’t bother to tell me that the cute haircut I picked out wouldn’t work with my hair. I suffered through that haircut until it grew out and, scarred by the experience, didn’t cut my hair much after that.

My hair became part of my identity. I was my hair. It even seemed to be part of my derby persona. It’s kind of silly if you think about it, identifying with your hair. My hair has nothing to do with who I am or what I do. Still, parting with all of it was a scary prospect. What if I got another horrible, short haircut? What if I looked stupid? What if? What if? What if? What if I were a six-year-old girl who lost all her hair to cancer or leukemia?? My hair is just hair. Like solar energy and lumber, my hair is a renewable resource, and parting with eleven inches of it won’t kill me even if it makes me look stupid for a year while it grows out.

Resolved to cut my hair and donate it, I started talking with my friend JoKnee Busta about it. She had really long hair and wanted to do it too! The more we discussed it, the more derby girls we got involved. Carrie “T-Bone” Hart is a stylist at Regis Salon in the Grand Traverse Mall. She got permission for us to hold the event at her salon and got her friend, Kari to help give haircuts. JuJu Kitty and Alanis-More-A-Threat decided to donate their hair as well. All together, we donated over 40 inches of hair to Locks of Love.

Joanie, me, Jewell and LisaCutting off my hair was scary, but it feels really good to check another thing off my list, help kids who have been dealt an unfortunate hand, and have a really cute (and much cooler) haircut. Who knows, maybe St. Baldrick’s is in my future.

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Rhubarb Two Ways or Canning, Continued.

There are few things that I can’t live without. My KitchenAid Mixer probably tops the list. Coming a close second would have to be my freezers. Yes, I said freezer(s), plural. Of course I have the small freezer that is part of my refrigerator, but I also have a small chest freezer. And a larger, stand-up freezer. Both are mostly full most of the time. Of course, the contents vary from day-to-day and season to season, but I keep them pretty loaded. When things come into season, I try to can as much as possible. Sometimes, I don’t have time to can everything I want before it will spoil, so I freeze the excess until I have time to deal with it. I do that with tomatoes. A lot.

Last year I had an abundance of rhubarb.  I made some delicious Rhubeenas and still had a bunch left over so I chopped it up and threw it into the freezer. With summer’s bounty (and strawberry season) nearly upon us, it’s time to clear some space in the freezers.

 In the first Can Jam, I used asparagus as the May ingredient, but Rhubarb was also an option. Among the rhubarb recipes was a recipe for Rhubarb and Cinnamon Jam from Seasonal Menus. I love cinnamon and have a jar of extra-long cinnamon sticks, so I thought I’d give it a go:

Rhubarb the First Way

  • 2lbs. sliced rhubarb
  • 2 lbs. sugar
  • 3 extra-long cinnamon sticks, broken in half
  • 2 T. lemon juice

Combine rhubarb and sugar in a nonmetallic bowl.
Let macerate overnight in the refrigerator.
Set up canner and boiling water bath; wash and sterilize jars and lids.
Transfer rhubarb mixture to a saucepan.
Add cinnamon and lemon juice.
Heat over medium heat, stirring often until sugar is completely dissolved.
Bring to a boil.
Boil until jam sets.
Remove cinnamon stick pieces, add one to each jar and ladle jam into hot jars.
Process in water bath for 15 minutes.

The cinnamon flavor wasn’t very intense, but I know from experience with my Chai-Spiced Apple Rings that the cinnamon flavor blooms as the jars age. I expect that even the color will turn warmer with time. This recipe made almost exactly five 1/2 pint jars.

For a printable version, click here: Rhubarb Cinnamon Jam Printable Recipe

Rhubarb the Second Way doesn’t help fulfill my Can Jam goals, but it does help me complete my goal to can enough jams/jellies to get us through the year, and it helps me meet my food storage goal. I snagged this recipe from Tigress but made some modifications. First, she used lavender sprigs; I opted for dried blossoms. They looked quite lovely after their overnight in the fridge, but I know from my soap-making experience that the magenta-purple cooks away. She also includes an extra step: “pass (rhubarb) mixture through a strainer and pour collected juice into a non-reactive pan. add honey and bring to a boil. skim any foam that collects on top and continue cooking until 221 F on a candy thermometer.” Afterwards she returns the solids to the boiled juices and re-boils the whole mess. I’m not sure of the point, but her jam was lovely. I myself hate the mess straining creates and don’t do it unless absolutely necessary. Mine tastes delish and has about the same look as hers, so I don’t think it is an essential step.

Rhubarb The Second Way (Honey Lavender Rhubarb Jam)

2 pounds sliced rhubarb
2 1/2 cups granulated sugar
3 ounces light honey
3 T. lemon juice
3 tsp. dried lavender blossoms

1. Combine rhubarb, sugar, lemon juice and lavender blossoms in a nonmetallic bowl. Stir this mixture gently, cover with a plate and macerate in fridge overnight.

2. In the morning, prepare the canner and boiling water bath; wash and sterilize jars and lids. Turn heat down and leave jars in canner until ready to fill.

3. Pour rhubarb mixture into a non-reactive pan. Add honey and bring to a boil.  Continue cooking until the jam is sufficiently set. Process in a hot water bath for 5 minutes.

yields approximately five 1/2 pint or two pint jars.

Again, if you prefer a printable version, click here: Honey Lavender Rhubarb Jam Printable Recipe

Not only did I clear up some space in the freezer, but I’m a quart-and-a-half closer to my jam and food storage goals!

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Foraging

Due to the bizarro weather we’ve had around here lately, Mother Nature is all out of whack. Estimates on crop losses from the orchards around here are around 90%. Other edibles that aren’t as sensitive to frosts are ahead of schedule. Take morels for example.

My usual “window” for foraging morels runs somewhere from the 21st of April to Memorial Day. This year, hubby and I started finding those elusive fungi the last week in March. These photos are actually from the first three weeks of April. We did pretty well for a while, and I did dry some to use throughout the winter, but the season that started three weeks early seems to have dried up three weeks early as well. When I went searching on Mother’s Day 2012, I found only one, and that was an accident. It had been kicked over by someone or something and dried out long before I stumbled upon it.

Despite the fact that I didn’t find any morels on this year’s hike, I didn’t come home empty-handed. Dylan and I ran into my friend Stephanie and her kids. They were looking for ramps, so we joined them. Dylan and I came home with a mesh produce bag filled with ramps (or wild leeks). I’ve used some of them in cooking since then, but my real goal was to can them. More precisely, to pickle them.

If you can find them, pickled ramps can be quite pricey. I’ve made them before and everyone that’s ever tried them loves them. However, I’ve become quite a hoarder. I dole them out sparingly to friends and family members that will appreciate them as much as I do. When we open a jar, it is hard not to eat the entire thing. Once all the delicious ramps have been devoured from the pickling brine, I add it to BBQ sauces, marinades and dressings; the flavor is exquisite.

From the bag Dylan and I brought home, I managed to can five half-pint jars. This isn’t enough for me to check #58 off of my 101 in 1001, but it is a good start. It also gets me 1.25 quarts closer to my pickle goal for #53!

For the recipe, check out my Jerked Onion recipe from the Can Jam and substitute whole ramps for the cut onions, or click here for a printable version: Jerk Pickled Ramps Printable Recipe

 

 

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#53 (How Much Should You Can?)

As part of my 101 in 1001, I committed to completing a food storage plan. I actually sat down this winter and completed it! However, I did it the old fashioned way: with a pencil and a printed out copy. So, with canning season upon us, I decided to update the plan and bring it into the 21st century. After starting my canning for the season, I decided that it was time for a spreadsheet.

Drumroll please . . .

canning grid

Ok, so that is just a pdf version of the guide I printed from the internet. It’s a good thing though, because the link I had used to find the form before is no good anymore. If you want to print it out and do it the old-fashioned way, you can.

Here is a spreadsheet template for you to use to plan your own canning. I hope you find it useful.

My completed canning plan is a little adventurous. I think I’m going to be very busy this year. The Farmers’ Market is going strong, and I’ve already started my foraging and canning for the year, so I think I can do it, but it will be a lot of work. I’ll keep you posted.

 

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#94 Have a Date Night With my Hubby Every Month

Mr. Hippie doesn’t like to run. Or hike. Or read. Or, do a lot of the things that I enjoy. He doesn’t hang out with me at derby. Mr. Hippie does like to watch TV. And play video games. And play solitaire on the computer. He likes to watch sports and drink beer and be a regular guy.

When I added this goal to my 101, I anticipated that Mr. Hippie and I would be having a “formal” date night every month. I tried at first to make that happen. We went to the Winter Microbrew and Music Festival. We saw Lewis Black at the City Opera House (on the same stage we got married on in 1998.) We went bowling and even went out to dinner a couple of times but what I realized, is that despite our different interests, we do a lot together.

We have a fairly regular shopping “date”. We get groceries, chicken food, run errands, whatever. We talk. We hold hands. We enjoy each other’s company.  A couple weeks ago we ran out to the feed store to order two new chickens. On the way home we stopped at Traverse City’s newest brew pub, The Filling Station and had a beer together.

Most Friday nights we make pizza. He rolls the dough, I make the sauce. He cuts up ingredients, I dress pizzas. Sometimes while we eat pizza we watch a movie. Other nights, we play Scrabble.

Although hubby doesn’t like to hike for the sake of hiking, he likes to hunt morels. In the spring we go out two or three times a week in search of the elusive fungi.

Recently Mr. Hippie has taken up frisbee golfing. I’m not good at it, but sometimes we do that. I’m more in it for the hike and the alone time with Mr. Hippie, but throwing the frisbee is fun too.

Last week was spring break. Our Traverse City State Theatre shows FREE movies all week. The kids and I went to several matinees, but Mr. Hippie and I saw three movies last week on the big screen. We ate popcorn, drank soda and enjoyed our dates.

My point is, I’m crossing this goal off the list. It might be different if my kids were younger and we had to arrange childcare in order to leave the house alone, but after seventeen years, we are still best friends. Sure, we irritate each other sometimes, but mostly, it’s all good. We have a date night almost every week, and we don’t have to work at it; it’s natural.

 

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Etsy

One of the goals I had from my 101 in 1001 was to set up an Etsy account and actually sell something. Today, that happened.

I set the account up months ago, but never listed anything. Today I added a banner and listed my first three items: cute little bags for storing your skate wheels.  They’re designed primarily for derby girls, but anyone that skates on quad skates could use them, or skateboarders could use them to store two sets of wheels.

To my surprise, I sold a bag today! I was so excited that I had to run right out and ship it. My friend, Rochelle ordered it. While you’re on Etsy checking out my shop, not just Derby Bella, you should go see hers too: Sink or Swim Treasures.

Hopefully the shop will help me reach my Spending Diet goals but right now I am at the break-even point. For now I am happy just to have crossed another thing off the list.

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In Search of the Perfect Brioche

When I was working for 9 Bean Rows in trade for my CSA share, I became acquainted with brioche. If you’re not familiar, it is a flaky, buttery egg bread. When toasted and slathered with raspberry jelly it easily passes for a jelly donut and is probably just as bad for your diet.

Tired of spending $5 a loaf for the stuff, I decided to make it myself. I bake. It can’t be too difficult, right? Wrong. I tried to make a loaf and it turned out horribly. Dry. Almost crumbly. It was so bad that I didn’t even note which recipe I used. It was then that my quest for a decent recipe began.

I’m still working my way through recipes, but I thought I should keep you posted in case you, like me, are on a quest for The Perfect Brioche. This recipe wasn’t bad. I would actually consider trying it again on a day when I had more time because I rushed it a little and that could have affected the final product. The texture was right, but it was dry. How can ANYTHING with almost a pound of butter in it be dry??  As a dinner roll, the bread was okay. It fared much better as toast, but its real redeeming quality was that it made the best french toast ever. Another plus? This recipe doesn’t require the shaping of loaves, you just dump the dough into a pan or muffin tins and let it rise.

This recipe is from Emeril Lagasse’s Lousiana Real and Rustic.

Brioche

Starter
3 envelopes (6 3/4 tsp.) yeast
1/2 C. warm milk (about 110°)
1 C. flour

Combine the yeast and milk.
Stir to dissolve the yeast.
Add flour; mix well.
Let sit in a warm, draft-free place 2 hours.

Dough

4 C. flour
6 eggs
1/2 C. warm water (about 110°)
3 T. sugar
2 t. salt
3 sticks butter at room temperature plus extra for greasing pans
1 egg yolk, beaten

  1. Put 2 cups of flour into a large mixing bowl. Add 4 eggs, one at a time beating thorougly with a wooden spoon after each.
  2. Add water, sugar and salt. Mix well.
  3. Add three sticks of butter and mix in with your hands until it is well blended.
  4. Add remaining two eggs and mix well.
  5. Add remaining flour. Mix well and break up any clumps of flour.
  6. Knead the starter into the dough with your hands. Continue kneading until well mixed; about 5 minutes. The dough will be sticky and moist.
  7. Cover with a clean damp cloth and let rise in a warm, draft-free place 2 hours.
  8. Butter two 9″ x 5″ x 3″ loaf pans or two standard 12-muffin pans.
  9. Punch dough down lightly and divide into baking pans.
  10. Brush tops with egg yolk.
  11. Cover and let rise until double, about an hour.
  12. Preheat oven to 400°F.
  13. Bake loaves 25-30 minutes or muffins 20 minutes until tops are golden.

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#61 (25 Pounds in 101 Days: The Final Chapter)

Cover of "8 Minutes in the Morning: A Sim...

Cover via Amazon

I started this post last year shortly after I started  my 101 in 1001.  Recently I wrote about how my 101 was going.  I briefly discussed my weight loss, but here are the deets:In December 2010 I wrote a post about the start of this weight-loss journey.  This post is the record of my progress and my diet/exercise plan for anybody that cares.  It’s not my usual fodder so I’ll keep it brief.  My diet plan is based on Jorge Cruise’s 8 Minutes in the Morning.  I don’t follow his plan exactly but I recommend the book if you need some help getting motivated on your own weight-loss journey.  It’s been my go-to diet for years.  It helps me stay on track and provides self-control which I have little of on my own.   Remember Richard Simmons’ Deal a Meal?  It’s similar.  Basically I print up little slips of paper with boxes on them.  When the boxes are full, I’m done eating.  I started using my boxes religously on December 28th, 2010, the same morning I weighed in and saw this:

Starting weight

The camera weighs .2 lbs. but this is where I'm starting.

I’m sure a points system or something similar would work just as well but I really think Jorge’s plan makes me eat better.  The hardest part of being on a diet is not gorging myself on things like homemade pasta or the baked good of the week.  Jorge’s eating plan helps me remember that moderation is the key to weight loss.  He allocates space for a treat every day and even though pasta isn’t on the “preferred” grains box, I can make it fit into my box system.  Even if I eat sugar cookies for breakfast (and I did, more than once), I still have to eat six servings of vegetables.

Aside from changing my atrocious eating habits, I started exercising consistently.  I ran or skated at least three times a week every week.   I also started doing push-ups and sit-ups regularly.  Drinking lots of water helps too, but I’ve never been a big water drinker.  In the summer, I drink lots but now, when it is cold out I really don’t like drinking it so I drank a lot of coffee (with milk, which I count) or unsweetened hot tea.  If I drink them with my food I feel full longer and sipping hot beverages all day gives me something to do besides eat.  I know caffeinated beverages are usually frowned upon for dieters, but it works for me.

Now that I have reached my more-or-less goal weight and am skating “competetively”, I have modified my boxes but I sttill use them most of the time. After a lot of online research I discovered that even though protein is necessary for muscle growth, Jorge’s plan includes more than I need even though I am very active so I include more fruit than Jorge does, less protein, and more fat.

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#18 Finish the Apron I Bought Fabric for (last) August

When I wrote my Progress Report post, I was surprised at how much progress I had actually made toward my 101 in 1001 goals. Some things I can actually update with evidence.  That will help a lot with my goal of #9: Digitally document 101 in 1001 on a regular basis.

Gwen modeling the apron.

drumroll please . . .

One of the things I wanted to complete was an apron that I had purchased and stashed fabric for in August of 2010. It took me over a year, but I finally managed to complete it. I liked it so much that I made another one for my daughter, Gwen for Christmas.

Gwen's Christmas apron.

She picked out the main fabric and I helped her coordinate the accent pieces. They’re so cute that I decided when I actually finish setting up my etsy account, I should sell aprons.  I actually contemplated selling the apple/pear apron, but One of the straps isn’t set in exactly the righ spot so I don’t feel right selling it.  If however, you are a TCRD derby girl and are attending our white elephant gift exchange/Christmas party tomorrow night, you may be the lucky recipient of this now famous apron.

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