Suburban Homesteading

Although I’ve grown fond of my current home, I don’t quite belong in the suburban area of Olympia. I am naturally drawn to the extremes of a big city or small town.  Lately, it’s definitely been on the smaller side of things. This is best demonstrated when I use my spare time to do a little homesteading. This can be anywhere from using local flora for decor, or making preserves from local bounties.

After a trip to my Gram’s orchard, I found myself with two large crates of our family pears amongst apples and Italian prunes.  In hopes of avoiding waste (and fruit flies), I took to the kitchen with mason jars and some patience. Pears were 1st.

The method is so simple:

Wash & Rinse

Cut pears in half

Remove the core

Peel and chunk

Add a squeeze of local honey and lemon juice in the bottom of each jar

Add the pears with some hot water

And finish in a water bath to seal

No unnatural additives, just pure, sweet home pears.

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Up-Cycled Centerpiece

We’ve completed a lot of projects around our house over the years, and it always seems to be that we have an abundance of useful supplies.  We’ve been consolidating wood supplies from an old deck that we rebuilt and have been enjoying for a couple years. So much used/worn lumber stacked in the shed.  The Handsome is always building something new and exciting, but was at a loss as to what to do with some short 4×4 boards that were previously stained.

After a quick trip to the hardware store and an unanticipated popcorn purchase from those ridiculously cute Boys Scouts that stake out in front of the store and see me coming from a mile away, I was ready to dive right in to my quick little project.

What to do with such a short board? Make a multi use centerpiece!

I made two sets- one with more stain showing and a clear coat added, the other I sanded almost all the stain off- the untreated set is my new favorite addition to our table.

If you’re interested in making your own you’ll need:

Chop saw

Drill with a 1 1/2 paddle bit

Sander

4×4 post (at least 18 inches long)

About an hour

Instructions:

1. Without cutting your fingers off, make a cuts for the three columns: I chose 8 inches, 6 inches, 4 inches

2. Find center of each column, drill continuously to desired depth (I chose a shallow depth to match a tea light candle)

3. Sand it and make smooth- the softer the corners, the better in my opinion.

4. Stain or use clear coating to protect from dust

5. Insert candles, plants, or whatever your little heart desires.

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Friends, Pottery, Wine- Painted Plate

I have a lovely group of gals in my circle. When I first moved to Olympia to take job and cohabitate with The Handsome, it took time to connect with other women who shared my love for the simple life. Enter these fabulous women; strong, witty, and compassionate. Love them! We try to get together for a drink every now and then just to catch up.  This time I thought we could throw a little art in the mix. The Painted Plate in Olympia was our choice, and boy did it deliver with three hours of wine, food, laughter (…dancing too), and painting.

The Painted Plate offers great little appetizer plates, a minimal but satisfying wine list, and all the white porcelain canvases you could ask for!  Projects range from $6-$60 although all of us found something great in the $20 range.  In the mix was a magnet, a few travel mugs, a soap dish, and a popcorn bowl. The food offering is simple and tasty. We were under the care of Molly, who was more than welcoming including great project suggestions, quick service, and even a change from the less than desirable pop/country Pandora station to something a little more our style.

Our projects were all finished in the evening and were kindly gathered for glaze and firing.  The turnaround for a finished project is about 5 days. I can’t wait to see the finished projects- of course, this was our first time, so there will be more gatherings like this in the future.

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Homemade Weekend

I have been feeling extra inspired in the kitchen. With help encouragement from my long-distance kitchen companion, The Natural Ginger,  I gathered needed supplies and made the following according to some of my favorite blogger recipes:

Fresh mozzarella Cheese- Ree Drummond- The Pioneer Woman Cooks

Strawberry Chipotle Jam- Mavis Butterfield of One Hundred Dollars A Month

Finn Bread- My family recipe featured here

I had an excess of strawberries after an over zealous trip to the produce stand. This posed a dilemma, I decided to freeze them. Then decided to make a new jam. Not being a spicy girl, this was a stretch, but I made 4 jars, two have already been doled out to my favorite people.

Jam

The bread is a given with cheese, so it was a quick throw together.

The fresh mozzarella cheese was a personal challenge. I’ve wanted to try my hand at cheese making for some time, but needed the encouragement. After a phone conference with The Natural Ginger, it was TIME to give it a shot. I spotted some fresh (as in milked yesterday fresh) milk at the Olympia Farmer’s Market and figured it was fate. A trip to the local co-op, and I had all the ingredients necessary to attempt cheese.

Here is what is needed:

1 1/2 teaspoons of citric acid powder

1/4 teaspoon liquid vegetable rennet

1 gallon of whole (raw) milk

2 teaspoons salt

Cheese

In a large stock pot, dissolve citric acid with 1/4 cup water.

Pour milk in pot and stir.

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Put pot on Med/Low heat until it reaches 90 degrees.

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Take pot away from heat, add rennet mixed with 1 cup of water. Mix slowly from bottom to top of liquid.

Let sit for 5 minutes.

In 5 amazing minutes the texture is soft but solid.. remember GAK? That is what this feels like. It is weird.

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Cut into 1 inch cubes in the pot with a long knife or spatula.

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Heat on Medium until it reaches 105 degrees. Remove from heat and use a drainer spoon to separate the curd substance into a collider.  The less whey the better.

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Drain in collider, until the least amount of liquid whey is present.

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Take in your hands and gently squeeze remaining liquid out.

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Put in microwave-safe bowl on high for 1 minute. Take out and squeeeeeeze.

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Back in the microwave for 35 seconds, remove and squeeeeze.

One more time for 35 seconds and squeeze/stretch until smooth.  Knead in salt to taste.

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Roll the cheese into itself to make a perfect little ball.

Drop into a bowl of ice water once totally cool, it is ready to eat.

This was delicious and has totally created a monster, I can’t wait to try again next weekend including adding my own special ingredients.

A sweet little project

I know this sweet little boy who loves trains, but loves to be in the kitchen with his Mom just a little bit more. She has started a small specialty catering business and has been “pintesting” a whole bunch of recipes lately.  This Mom called me and comissioned me to make a special Chef’s apron just for her little guy.  I found the perfect print and the perfect time to finish it this weekend. I can’t wait to see him working hard in the kitchen wearing his new made “JUST for him” apron… and a another little suprise I can’t quite tell… (the package is in the mail). Bon Appétit Jake!

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