Category Archives: Books

Experimentation with Fermentation! Part 1

I’ve recently gotten pretty immersed in the little-talked-about food world of fermentation. Fermented foods have been around for millennia, so why am I now just discovering this?? Anyway, I thought I’d share a bit about my new food hobby!

My interest was first piqued after watching “Cooked” on Netflix – Michael Pollan’s 4-part documentary series. It is really good, if you haven’t seen it yet! I was particularly intrigued by episodes 3 & 4 which went deep into our human history with Bread, and then with fermented foods. Incidentally, bread is historically a fermented food too! It’s only until recently that most breads are made with commercial yeast, rather than cultured sourdough.

I was so fascinated with the show, that I immediately checked out Pollan’s book (also titled Cooked). It’s a great read, I definitely recommend it. Like his other books, Michael Pollan has a great way of introducing not-so-commonly-know information that is both useful and insightful, as well as making the subject matter very relatable through personal anecdotes. Of course, after reading it (and before I even finished the book, really), I decided I wanted to challenge myself with some new cooking skills, and making my own wild sourdough bread and my own home ferments were first on the list. I checked out more books from the library.

Pollan’s book is great because it has a whole bibliography from which I could get more information. Readily available at my library was Sandor Katz’s Wild Fermentation which was a great starting book for someone new to the whole fermentation thing.

So far, I have successfully brought a bowl of flour and water to life! (Ahem, really not that miraculous, apparently) Leaving this bowl of flour goo on the counter for almost 2 weeks, I thought perhaps the wild yeasts and bacteria that I was promised are everywhere didn’t live in my home, or didn’t want me to make my own sourdough bread. But patience paid off, and I now have a happy, bubbly starter, still living on my counter (covered with a cloth most of the time).

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Sourdough Starter (wild fermentation!)

I feed it a bit of flour and water every day. I’ve made 5-6 loaves of bread thus far, two batches of English muffins, and pancakes. Not everything has been a rocking success, but I have made a few things I’m pretty proud of…like this loaf of bread.

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Whole wheat Sourdough Bread

Another fermenting experiment that is underway was one M wanted to do – homemade Mead. Apparently, mead is just about the easiest alcoholic ferment you can do – just mix honey and water and give it a stir every time you think of it.

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Mead fermenting in my blue Le Creuset Pitcher

And if you can use pretty crockery to do your fermenting, all the better! After 10 days of stirring and waiting, we’re finally starting to see some bubbling activity. Soon we’ll transfer to a bottle to finish the process.

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Tiny bubbles of CO2 in our honey water show us that fermentation is afoot!

My next adventure is to make homemade sauerkraut. But that’s a post for another day. Stay tuned for Experimentation with Fermentation Part 2!

 

 

 

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Young House BOOK Love!

On Friday I took half the day off to head down south for the Home & Garden show at the Tacoma Dome. I’ve never been to this event before, and I probably wouldn’t have gone this year either, except John and Sherry Petersik from Young House Love were making a stop to promote their book!

I have been a devoted reader of the YHL blog for, oh, like 4 years now – I first stumbled upon their site in 2009 when I was searching for DIY Backyard Wedding inspiration. Sherry and John have a great recap of their homemade wedding, and it also lead me to their daily blog posts. I’ve been hooked ever since!
Their open, honest approach to blogging about their home improvement journeys, as well as their goofy humor and real-people personalities had me from the get-go.

And guess what? They’re just as fun, adorable, and hilarious in person!

John & Sherry Petersik at the Tacoma Home & Garden Show

John & Sherry Petersik at the Tacoma Home & Garden Show

When I found out they were writing a book, I pre-ordered my copy from Amazon right away. Not only was I confident I’d love it, but I also wanted to show my support for these young’uns who entertain me every single weekday for free through their blog.
And when I found out they’d be making a book-tour stop close enough to attend, I was way too excited (M will vouch for this).

So my mom was a great sport, and she came along with me. It was really nice to spend a good few hours with her, and there were plenty of home & garden inspiration for her new business project (I’ll have to expand on that sometime soon here!).

Sherry and John gave a fun and concise presentation for a good-sized crowd, and then we all waited in line to get our books signed. 🙂

Now, because I am a huge nerd, I wanted to give them some kind of gift, to say “thank you” for sharing themselves the way they do. It’s totally corny, but because of their blog, they feel like friends, even though we’ve never really met. So, I made them a little ceramic plate, very similar to this guy in my Etsy shop. Except the woodgrain plate I made for John & Sherry has a heart in the middle with “yhl” carved out. Somehow I totally forgot to take a picture of it before I gave it to them – of course.

When I got to the front of the line, and presented my little gift, it was a little intimidating (yes, I’m a nerd!) but Sherry was so enthusiastic and so genuine when she saw it!

Sherry's mind - BLOWN

Sherry’s mind – BLOWN

She was like “Oh my god! You made this!? That looks just like our LOGO!”
And I laughed and said, “Yeah, that was the idea!”

Meeting Sherry & John at the Tacoma Dome

Meeting Sherry & John at the Tacoma Dome

My mom was so great and snapped all these photos while I talked to them – Thanks, Mom!
So then Sherry insisted that I sign the back of the plate and she handed me her red sharpie, so heck, I couldn’t refuse! I signed the plate while Sherry signed my book!

everyone sign something!

everyone, sign something!

And then we got a little group photo 🙂

Young House Love book signing - BFFs! lol

Young House Love book signing – BFFs! lol

Anyways! So much fun. I love those guys! In a totally non-creepy kind of way, I swear.

Now my book is signed!

"Thanks for the love"

“Thanks for the love!”

Thank YOU, Sherry & John. 🙂

Young House Love by Sherry & John Petersik

Young House Love by Sherry & John Petersik

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Currently Reading…

A book that I happened to hear about through Design*Sponge (I’m always looking for good reads, and this one sounded particularly good!) called The Bucolic Plague:How Two Manhattanites Became Gentlemen Farmers: An Unconventional Memoir.

That’s quite a title, right?

The synopsis had me totally intrigued – the idea of two utter urbanites on a whim buying a country mansion and farm and becoming weekend farmers. The book finally came in at the library for me, and I’ve been reading it for the last couple of days – it’s such a fast read I’m already half way through it, and I’m really enjoying it!

Not only did the basic premise of the book have me hooked – I often find myself fantasizing over the idea of just picking up and moving to “the country” and being self-sufficient; having some chickens, a huge vegetable garden, fruit trees (and of course a big ceramic studio!), but these guys actually did it. But it’s not just the story, but the way it is written that is so entertaining. Mr. Kilmer-Purcel has a great way with anecdotes and can really create a visual scene with words. And he’s funny! So many times already I have just bust out laughing. M has to poke his head in to make sure I haven’t lost my marbles, laughing alone in our silent livingroom – nope, just reading! 🙂

So half through the book, I am loving following this couple’s adventures and where it is headed, and I find myself just itching to get to what happens next.
And who knows, maybe someday I’ll find my dream farm too. 🙂

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Too funny for words

Our wedding day is rapidly sneaking up on us, and I feel like we’re trying to get all the last details done before the week-of. Sorry for not posting more here! Ol’ bloggy just takes a back seat sometimes, right?

But despite all the end tasks,  I picked up a novel two days ago, and it’s been just what I needed. I’ve always been an avid consumer of books, and M just finished reading this one, so now it was my turn.

Have you read any of Christopher Moore’s books? I hadn’t heard of him before I met M, but I’ve read several of them now, and he’s just great. His books are funny. And I mean that in the most literal sense – like, literally laugh-out-loud funny. He’s the kind of author you need to read by yourself, or only with people who know and love you anyway, because everyone else will look at you like a crazy person when you bust out laughing for no apparent reason.

I’m not going to go into any reviews or summaries of  his books, other than to say he writes quirky and unique characters really well. And there’s always something crazy and bizarre that goes on in his books, yet you can almost believe they could actually happen.

The first Christopher Moore book I read, and I’d totally recommend it as a first-read, was a novel called Fluke.

Again – hilarious, and actually very thought-provoking, as an afterthought… 🙂

He has written a whole slew of books, and I’ve only really just scratched the surface, but if you’re looking for a fun book this summer, and you like fiction and laughing, and tongue-in-cheek humor, I’d say check this guy out!

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The weekend

I had my last kiln fire before Christmas – so I’ve added several more items to my Jadeflower Shop on Etsy. That always feels good 🙂

I’ve been really enjoying the book My Life in France – by Julia Child. It basically an autobiography of her years living abroad with her husband and developing her passion for French food and cooking.

My Life In France by Julia Child

My Life In France by Julia Child

Prior to this I really knew nothing about Julia Child (and I haven’t seen the Julie & Julia movie yet either) but I think since the movie release there has been a renewed public interest in her, and I heard that My Life in France was a book worth reading. And how true!

Being interested in food and cooking myself, it is fascinating to read about Julia’s own journey into cookery. It is also a very real-life account of the time period. Plus, she is hilarious! Her writing style is very engaging, and the amounts of detail she includes from travel excursions and meals she shared in the 1950s is amazing. It is definitely a recommended read.

Homemade Biscotti

On Saturday I made homemade biscotti (recipe from Smitten Kitten). It’s something I’ve wanted to try my hand at for a few years. Turned out quite yummy! And delicious with a hot cup of tea.

not hot tea, but hot wax!

Sunday’s trip to my favorite craft/flea market did not produce the last (and specific) Christmas present I’ve been searching for. But stopping by a thrift store later rewarded me with two darling porcelain tea cups which I then transformed into candles. (Love this tutorial from Martha Stewart)

teacup candle

teacup candle

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Filed under Books, Crafts, Etsy, Recipes

My newfound love for Carl Sagan

For a couple of weeks now, I’ve been avidly devouring any bit I can get my hands on regarding Carl Sagan. I really had no knowledge of this brilliant mind when I was growing up, which I regard now as a great tragedy. But I’m making up for lost time now – I’ve already plowed through two of his books, and am currently reading a third.

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selections by carl sagan

Half-Price Books is a fantastic resource – I picked up a full-color hard cover copy of Cosmos for $7.50, and a paperback copy of Contact for $2.00. The first book I nabbed was from the library – Billions & Billions – which was SUCH a good book and I recommend everyone read it. You don’t even have to be that interested in science. Sagan is such an effective communicator, he has the ability to make immensely complicated subjects interesting and personal. His logic is so compelling, and his heart is clearly as large as his mind.

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cosmos

Plus, how can you not love pictures like these? Awesome.

It makes me wonder where I would be now if I had pursued Chemistry and Physics in college instead of Art & Design. I guess there’s no way to know. But I am very happy to have been introduced to Carl Sagan’s work, albeit over a decade since his death (the last chapter of Billions & Billions is his account of battling his illness; yep, totally made me cry).

This has been around on the Interwebz for a little while now, but I’d still like to share it. If you have any interest in science and philosophy (and music!), it’s surely worth the watch:

You can see the video creator’s site at The Symphony of Science, where his goal is to deliver scientific and philosophical content via music. Quite inpsiring, in my opinion.

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