Making Soap- First Attempt

This past weekend we attended a soap making class. It was something we had been wanting to try for a while, but I was really afraid of the lye and the possibility for death. A class was a great way to ease into it and learn from a human, instead of just a book and youtube.

The class was put on by the owner of HomeSpun Dazzle, Claire. She did a fantastic job. The class was super informative and we both feel comfortable taking on soap making at home now. Though the lye was scary, I think a certain level of fear when using dangerous stuff will help you be cautious.

So, we each made one batch of soap, and I also won the one that the teacher prepared in a little raffle. We brought them home and had to wait 24 hours to take them out of the molds. The anticipation was hard to bear!

Here are our creations:

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This is Kurt’s. He made an orange poppy seed soap.

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I made lavender. I attempted a swirl.

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This is the batch the teacher made. I’m not sure what essential oil she used, but it smells really good and her swirl turned out a little better than mine.

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Here they all are standing at attention together as they cure in the basement. We have to let them cure for 4-6 weeks to make sure it’s safe. In the meantime the basement is going to smell wonderful!

Fermenting….It’s Not So Scary

Last year we tried fermenting some stuff. We ended up with fruit fly soup. This year things seem to be going a little bit better. I make yogurt and Kurt makes cheese. We make all kinds of preserves, but fermenting vegetables just seems different somehow… a little scary.

We are making dill pickles and beets. The process basically was:

-wash everything involved (crocks, plates to hold vegetables down, vegetables)
-make brine from non iodized salt and filtered water in your non-reactive vessel of choice (this took a while because our brita is slow and we ran out of salt and had to run to get some)
-add spices and oak leaves* to brine (we used garlic, pickling spice and fresh dill)
-put vegetables in
-put a plate on top to smoosh it all down (I also added a jar with water on top to weigh it down)
-cover it all with a clean tea towel
-every day or so scoop out anything gross and wash the plate

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* The oak leaves are supposed to help keep the cucumbers crispy. Kurt had to drive all over town to find what he claims was the only oak tree in town. Apparently grape leaves work too.

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Other than checking on it every day I’ve been giving it it’s space. I’m not positive what it’s supposed to look like or how I will know when it’s done doing its thing. I’m really just sitting here hoping for the best and trying to catch as many fruit flies as I can.

Backyard Update

A third of our backyard is growing and looking beautiful, the middle third looks like a demolition yard and the back third is pretty much all weeds by this point. One out of three ain’t bad.

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We have these beauties popping up everywhere. A bunch of the flowers were destroyed by a sudden rain storm we had a few mornings ago, but by the next morning the plant was covered in flowers again. The honey bees seem to love them too. They leave little pollen foot prints all over the flower. So cute.

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Our kale plants are hilarious. They look like a little forest growing in the garden. I threw the basketball in for perspective. They are huge!

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Our tomato plant is officially as tall as me. The tomatoes are giant too, especially considering we didn’t plant this until July. They aren’t changing colour though. We suspect it might be the lack of sun we’ve been having. Please note Homer in the window.

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The beets are growing weirdly. Some of them have popped out of the ground, but continue to grow. We figure as long as their tails are under ground they should be fine.

And here are some pictures of the wreck (I think it’s to the point now where it can’t be called a pool anymore). I think it speaks for itself.

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I don’t have any pictures of the back yonder, as I call it (starting right now). It’s beyond the thing formerly known as the pool. Right now there are heaps of twigs and things like that as well as weeds. I really just go back there to go through the gate to the river. One day I hope it be a shaded patio area where we can sit and enjoy the breeze and wild flower gardens. Wouldn’t that be lovely?

Loving Fall

Fall is my favourite time of year. Despite the fact that summer ends and school starts back up again. It gets a little cooler so it’s much nicer to be outside. The vegetables that we have spent the summer (not so) carefully tending are finally starting to be actual food. The markets are in full swing so we rarely have to go to an actual grocery store. We seem to eat much more fresh, local, whole foods. There are tons of local community events, such as fall fairs and harvest events. I get to can and preserve our food and feel just a little self sufficient by re-filling our cool room shelves. And of course, my all time favourite, apple picking! I can’t wait!

OMG Chocolate Tart

A few weeks ago was Kurt’s birthday. We always spend the day at his dad’s cottage and his dad makes french onion soup. I asked what kind of cake he wanted. He surprised me by requesting the chocolatiest thing I could make (I was expecting him to request something fruity). I knew just the thing. It was something I had pinned awhile back. They called it a Chocolate Truffle Tart, but I don’t think that does it justice. The recipe seemed easy enough and I only had to buy a couple of things. Of course, it become less easy when I realized I had forgotten many of the things I needed (ie springform pan) and so I had to make a late night run to meet my brother (who was luckily voluteering near the cottage) and have him bring me the forgotten things.

Anyways, I made the cake while Kurt and his dad went fishing for the day. It was quite a relaxing dessert since you make the crust, let it bake (while reading on the deck), then let it cool (while sitting by the water) then make the filling and let it bake (while napping on the couch).

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The OMG part comes in with the richness of it. Definitely don’t cut large pieces (though you may want several small ones). This dessert is delicious and unbelievably chocolatey. If you have a chocolate lover in your life I would recommend this, just make sure you have all the necessary tools and ingredients before you go half an hour out of town!

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Canning Season 2013- Tomatoes

The weather hasn’t cooled and we’re getting a shocking amount of rain, but despite all that, canning season has begun. Last week we did 38 jars of whole tomatoes and this weekend we made tomato paste and pizza sauce frozen pucks as well as tomato sauce. This should get us through the year. It was quite a bit easier this year because Kurt helped and we have a food mill now. It was made slightly more difficult because our kitchen is about a third of the size as our apartment’s kitchen was.

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