28 April 2011

Homemade Firestarters

This post is not about royal weddings or tornadoes. However, it is about wood stoves, the Portland weather, camping, and how to make your own firestarters.

One would hope, that since May is just around the corner, the need to use our wood stove or heat would stop, or at least slow down. Yet, last night we had a fire and today at noon, our heat kicked on. We tend to keep our heat between 59 or 60 and use the wood stove on nights when we want a little extra warmth while cuddling with the dogs and watching Heroes. So, if it kicks on during the day, it means it's pretty cold for a spring afternoon.

So, because the rain continues to fall and clouds continue to cover the sky, I can't wait for summer to come around and backpacking adventures to begin. But, because this is the Pacific Northwest, finding dry enough kindling to start a fire isn't always easy, especially early and late in the seasons.

So today, to prepare for our next backpacking adventure and to help out with starting fires in the wood stove, I made some firestarters. These are super lightweight and easy to make and you probably have the materials needed in your home.

Homemade Firestarters

What you'll need:
-Dryer Lint (tip: keep a brown bag next to the dryer to put all our lint into.  When it's full, just throw the whole bag in the compost - if I don't have any more bags, just re-use the same one).  You can also use old Christmas tree/pine needles, newspaper, or a mixture of all three.
-Pressed Paper Egg Carton (tip: these cartons are also compostable.  I try to buy eggs in bulk and re-use cartons).
-Wax or crayons (tip:  keep a jar around to put in old candles or crayons).

How to:
1. Stuff the dryer lint in the egg cartons:
Put in as little or as much as you want.
2. Melt the wax or crayons with a double boiler.  Use a container that you don't mind permanently being covered in wax, for example I used a mason jar.  You can also use a tin can.  Place the wax in the container and then place that into a pot with some simmering (not boiling) water.
Meanwhile, your dog will think you are cooking up something delicious and patiently wait.

3. Place the egg carton on some parchment paper to catch any spilled wax.  Some wax may also seep through the carton, which is o.k.  The wax should peel right off the paper so you can re-use it.

4. Pour or spoon the melted wax into the egg cartons.
My jar wasn't too hot, but just in case, use an oven mitt.

5. Cut them up and store them for later use!
I put mine in a ceramic container near the wood stove.
6. Compost any leftover dryer lint or egg carton (like the lids).  The worms and your garden will love it!  Save the wax for next time!

How to Use:
Just light a piece of the egg carton and build your fire on top!

Currently listening to:
Ida - Willow Tree

Ida: Willow Tree from Foglight Films on Vimeo.

27 April 2011

Butternut Squash Lasagna

We've had a ton of butternut squash in our freezer for awhile now.  I got a bulk bag of frozen squash from work, and we've been slowly chopping away at it with soups and tacos.  I Stumbled Upon a recipe for butternut squash lasagna on Sassy Radish and decided to try it out.

I halved the recipe and between Willis and I, we still have enough leftover for lunch tomorrow.  

Butternut Squash Lasagna

Preheat oven to 425°F.

Squash Filling:
1 onion, chopped
1.5 tbsp salted butter
1 lb butternut frozen squash
1 tsp minced garlic
1/8 teaspoon black pepper
1/8 cup vegetable broth
2 tbsp sage
1/2 cup pistachios chopped

1 tsp minced garlic
1.5 tbsp salted butter
2.5 tbsp all-purpose flour
2.5 cups milk
1 bay leaf
1/8 tsp black pepper

For Assembling Lasagna:
1 cup grated mozzarella
1/2 cup grated parmesan
6 sheets no-boil lasagna


Squash Filling:
Cook the onions in butter for about 10 minutes. Add squash, garlic, pepper, and broth and cook, covered, stirring occasionally, until squash is just tender, about 15 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in sage and nuts. Bring filling to room temperature.

Cook garlic in butter over moderately low heat, stirring, for 1 minute. Whisk in flour and cook, whisking, 3 minutes – this will make your roux. Add milk in a thin constant stream, whisking all the while. Add bay leaf and bring to a boil, whisking constantly, then reduce heat and simmer, whisking occasionally, 10 minutes.  Discard bay leaf, and remove from heat, and stir in salt.

Assemble lasagna:
Combine Cheeses. Butter glass baking dish.  Spread 1/4 cup sauce in baking dish.  Cover with 2 pasta sheets, leaving spaces between sheets (because of the size of my dish, I had to break some sheets).
Spread with 1/4 cup sauce and one third of filling, then sprinkle with a heaping 1/4 cup cheese.
Sepeat layering 2 more times, beginning with pasta sheets and ending with cheese. Top with remaining pasta sheets, remaining sauce, and remaining cheese.
Tightly cover baking dish with buttered foil and bake lasagna in middle of oven 30 minutes. Remove foil and bake until golden and bubbling, 10-15 minutes more.  Let lasagna stand 15-20 minutes before serving.

Currently listening to:

26 April 2011

99 Skills Challenge: #32 Make your own laundry soap

#32 Make your own laundry soap

We used up the last of our store-bought laundry detergent, so it's time to experiment with #32 on my 99 Skills Challenge list.  To read more about the challenge, click here.

The ingredients to the laundry detergent are very similar to the ones I used for my dishwasher powder.  The two additions are baking soda (which I had in the house) and Fels-Naptha bar soap, which I bought at the local grocery store, in the same isle as detergents and cleaners.  I used a recipe from Sew Much Ado.  There is also a liquid recipe that I will try in the future.  But for now, it's just the powder stuff.  I've done one load so far.  I normally use liquid detergents, but I threw the powder in with some water before the clothes, to make sure it was dissolved.  I also threw in half a cup of vinegar to the load for good measure.  So far, no complaints.

Homemade Laundry Detergent

1 bar Fels-Naptha Soap
1 cup Borax
1 cup Washing Soda
1/4 cup Baking Soda

1. Finely Grate Soap.  I used the grate attachment on my food processor.  Then I attached the regular blade and pulsed until it was finely grated.

2. Add Borax, Washing Soda, and Baking Soda.

3. Stir.  You want it to look like a well-blended powder.  I just added everything to the mason jar and shook it.  It took longer than expected.  In the future, I'll add everything back to the food processor and pulse.

Currently listening to:

25 April 2011

Day trip: Seattle

Willis and I have been saying that we will visit his sister and some of our friends in Seattle for well over a year now.  Only a 3 hour drive north, yet somehow we never get around to it.  Until now. 

Yesterday, we took a day trip and spent our Easter Sunday in Seattle.  My sister, Aisling, was kind enough to drop off and pick up our dogs from daycare, so we could get out of town early.

The drive up was, not surprisingly, rainy.  A drastic contrast to the sunny spring day we had on Saturday.  But, thankfully the rain held out for our brief visit.

We met up with an old friend and Willis' sister in Fremont, ate brunch, browsed junk and antiques at the market, enjoyed a beer, ate some ice-cream, and strolled along the waterfront to Gas Works Park.

We left Seattle around 5 o'clock to get back to the dogs. 

Of course, it rained the whole drive home. 

Currently listening to:
Dark Dark Dark - Daydreaming

19 April 2011

Homemade Hummingbird Nectar

Since it's safe to say (or at least I hope it is) that winter is on her way out and therefore the hummingbird nectar won't freeze outside, I'm brewing up some nectar to feed the birds.  When we moved in a year ago, we noticed an Anna's Hummingbird frequently visiting our yard, so we wanted to make her (or him) feel more welcome.  I looked all over for a simple attachment to turn a mason jar into a hummingbird feeder but I couldn't find anything anywhere!  I didn't even have much luck finding a decent/satisfying way to fashion one myself.  So, I sucked it up and purchased a fairly standard feeder from the Backyard Bird Shop

Today, as I was making some more nectar (recipe to follow) to fill up my feeder, I thought I'd look again to see if my dream has appeared on the internet.  And guess what! It has!  BlueGrass Quality Products makes exactly what I was looking for.  It's a simple design that screws on to a mason jar, either pint or quart size.  One if these is definitely going on my "want" list.

Duncraft also sells a variety of Hummingbird Feeders.

Homemade Hummingbird Nectar

1 cup water
1/4 cup sugar

(basically 4 parts water to 1 part sugar)

Bring the water to a boil then add the sugar and dissolve.
Let cool completely.
Fill your feeder and put any excess in the fridge.

I like to make mine in small batches, that way it doesn't spoil (it will keep in the fridge up to a week).  

Update: Last night while reading more about hummingbirds, I discovered that it is possible to freeze the homemade nectar for later use.  I love freezing things.  More on this later tonight!

Currently listening to:

18 April 2011

this week's menu: #7

This is only a partial menu.  I worked a lot near the end of the week, so didn't have time to cook.
Pepper Jack & Kale Pizza - I was going to make mini pizzas and freeze them, but was so hungry, so I just made a full pizza.  Homemade dough, homemade sauce from preserved garden tomatoes, pepper jack cheese, & garden kale.

Tomato Soup & Buttermilk Biscuits - I used the rest of the pizza sauce and some more preserved garden tomatoes to make an easy creamy tomato soup.  I love making soups.  I cooked some onions and garlic then added in the tomatoes and seasonings.  I added a little stock to thin it out and let it all simmer.  Then I added in the cream.  I made these buttermilk biscuits with the buttermilk I made earlier.

Nachos- Again a super easy meal.  I had some tortilla chips that I purchased to get me through an overnight and wanted to get rid of the leftovers.   I basically just spiced up a can of kidney beans with some garlic, onions, paprika, and dried chili flakes.

Blossoming Lotus - Willis didn't have to work on Thursday, so we took the opportunity to catch up with some friends, so we met them (kind of) half way between our two houses at the Blossoming Lotus.  They focus on vegan, raw, and local foods.  This was the first time we've been since they moved to the east side.  The food is still good but it's a lot more fancy.  Willis and I split the  pesto white bean dip and the bbq tempeh with chili and cornbread.  I really liked the chili but I'm glad we split.  The portion was big enough for the both of us.

13 April 2011

99 Skills Challenge: #33 Make your own dishwasher detergent

#33 Make your own dishwasher detergent

When we ran out of dishwasher detergent the other night, Willis wrote on the shopping list, "Dishwashing Liquid."  Little did he know that making your own detergent was #33 on the skills list and most of the homemade recipes I found (if not all) were for powders, not liquids.

Normally, I'd buy liquid because I've convinced myself that powders get clumpy and don't work.  I also kind of really enjoy the smooth feel and ease when the liquid pours into the dispenser.  Crazy, I know.  But for the sake of this challenge, I'm gonna get over it.  In the past, I would purchase Seventh Generation liquid dishwasher detergent because, in the grand scheme of things, they are pretty "eco-friendly."  If I remembered my own container (something, I'm really really trying to be better at), I'd buy it in bulk.

But it's time to kick things up a notch.  Yes, the stuff I buy uses "natural" products and yes, the plastic containers are made of recycled materials, and yes I might recycle or re-use them, but then what?  Does the plastic just vanish? Is recycling really all that sustainable?  Is my detergent really being made in Vermont? Is there not something better?

I'm not really sure.  I'm not even fully convinced that using the dishwasher is even better (in terms of energy, soap, and water usage) than washing by hand.  All of the articles I've read on dishwashers vs. hand leave production and materials out of the equation, I'm sure that has a lot to do with it.  And where do all these dishwashers end up when they retire?  My guess is a landfill, the side of a road, or a hoarders front lawn.  But, we have a dishwasher. And I'm lazy.  Maybe my next challenge will be to go a certain amount of time without using it...

Making your own detergent is definitely cheaper.  See a cost break down here.  In my research, I came across many different variations on a theme for a homemade dish detergent.  I didn't use citric acid because I forgot to purchase it while I was at the store.  So, it's basically just washing soda or soda ash and borax.  Although I'm sure neither company is reliable in terms of "eco-friendliness," both products come in cardboard boxes that we can compost in our backyard.  These products are also useful in other places throughout the home (clearing drains, cleaning tubs and toilets, deodorizing furniture, etc.) In the future, if not too expensive, I might look into other brands or alternatives.

I gave the powder a test run and so far, so good!

Dishwasher Detergent

1 cup Washing Soda
1 cup Borax
Vinegar (to be used as rinsing aid)

Other things you can add: 1/2 cup salt, 1/2 cup citric acid, lemon essential oil

1. Mix the washing soda & borax (add additional other ingredients if desired)

2. Place in sealed container

Use 1 Tbsp. per cycle (distributed between pre-rinse and main wash).
Fill rinse aid dispenser/indicator with vinegar.

Currently listening to:

12 April 2011

Adventures in owning a Jack Russell Terrier

Well, it was bound to happen.  There's been a squirrel, a couple of birds, and he's almost got a snake.

But tonight el Bandito, our not-so-little Jack Russell Terrier, got an opossum.

Willis had let the dogs out, like he normally does when he gets home from work.  As I was sitting inside, I thought I heard a cat yelp and Willis faintly yell something.  I assumed Banjo was chasing a cat down into the front yard (this happens a decent amount).  I opened the front door - looked right - looked left.  I saw nothing.  I heard nothing.  So, I decided to go back to what I was doing.

To make sure it was really nothing, I went out back.

And there he was.  His long-line tangled in the raised beds and cloches.  With an opossum dangling from his mouth.

I ran in to get some hot dogs, raw dog food, and the chuck-it to distract Bandit from the kill, but no luck.  It was dark, so I couldn't really tell where the head of the opossum was, or if it was really dead.  Willis ran in to get a flash light and his leash so that if he did dropped it, he could be quickly swept away.

Eventually...he dropped it.  Not for the food.  Not for the chuck-it.  But for a second, he let the opossum lie.  Willis walked him inside and we got to work on disposing of the dead body.

I'm not really sure of the best way to get rid of a dead opossum, but we wanted it out of our yard.  The lady at Dove Lewis said to double bag it and throw it in the trash.  Which sounded simple enough.  But if you're like us, you're convinced that even though the lungs are coming out of it's mouth and there is blood everywhere, that the opossum is full of rabies and is just "playing."  So when either of us went near it, we freaked out.

So here's what we did:  we placed one bag in a bucket, Willis shoveled the opossum into the bag, we both gagged and almost threw up multiple times (I swear that opossum released any and every possible anal gland it could), and then put that bag in another bag.

Currently Listening To:
Bandit - still whining to be let outside (it's been over an hour).

Adventures in Butter Making

Willis and I rarely have dairy butter in the house.  We normally use Earth Balance, and a lot of it.  But we ran out, so I made butter.  Since I didn't make the cheese or the kefir, I figured it was the least I could do.  I did, however, use "local" cream.

Last time we were visiting my parents in Germany, Jamie Oliver was on the television, making butter with a food processor.  Willis and I both looked at each other and agreed that we had to try to make butter.  So yesterday, I did.  Since I had made yogurt before, I wanted to do something else with dairy, and butter seemed liked a good idea.

Homemade butter is definitely not cost effective.  I mean, look how tiny that thing is!  That's from 16 oz. of cream.  But if you like making things, with modern day miracles, like food processors, it's definitely a lot easier than it was when I was a kid and we just shook jars of milk forever.  And the buttermilk is a nice bonus.


1. Pour cream into food processor or electric mixer.
2. Start to mix the cream and you can watch it go through different stages.  From cream, to whipped cream, to butter.  It will eventually "break" and become a butter yellow color.  The buttermilk will start to seperate out.
 3.  Strain out the buttermilk (I put mine in a mason jar to be used for biscuits, muffins, and pancakes).
Buttermilk Biscuit Ingredients:  WOW! That's a lot of white.

4.  Knead the butter in your hands to squeeze out all the buttermilk.  It helps to "wash" the butter as well.  Rinse the ball in cold water and squeeze again until most if not all the buttermilk is out.  You can also add some salt at this time, if you wish.
5. Pack tightly in a mason jar and pour some water on top (this helps it from spoiling too quickly or gathering odors from your fridge).  When you want to use the butter, simply pour of the water and add more when re-storing.  You can also make compound butters and freeze them for later use!

Currently Listening to:
Alela Diane - White as Diamonds

11 April 2011

99 Skills Challenge: #4 Make cheese, yogurt, and kefir from local milk

#4 Make cheese, yogurt, and kefir from local milk

This is kind of a trick item, because, honestly, it's more like 3 skills instead of one.  I've never made cheese by myself, but some of my past housemates have.  I plan on trying it out in the next few weeks, but we have so much cheese in our fridge right now, that it doesn't seem worth it.  Maybe a mozzarella to put on a pizza?
We're not huge kefir drinkers.  So, I might not try this.  Unless anyone wants some homemade kefir?

I have however, made yogurt.  I started making yogurt at some point within the past year, after I picked up a copy of Edible Portland, a free local publication, focusing on things that you eat.  There was an article about yogurt and a super simple recipe.  I cut the recipe out so as of now, I am unsure of who the author is.  

I don't even really like yogurt.  I do, however, love the "cream on top" yogurt by Brown Cow, because it tastes like ice-cream.  And guess what, so does homemade yogurt!  It's so creamy and you can add your own sweeteners or flavors.

And yes, I used "local" milk.


3 1/2 cups milk
2 heaping Tbsp plain yogurt

1. Place yogurt in a bowl, whisk until smooth, and leave on the counter until it reaches room temperature.
2. Heat the milk to 180 to 190 degrees. Remove the milk from the heat and let cool to between 115 and 120 degrees.
3. Whisk a small amount of the warm milk into the yogurt to thin it. Then pour the loose yogurt back in to the milk.

4. Pour the milk into a sterile quart jar or an insulated bottle, cover it, and keep still and warm until the yogurt sets-anywhere from 4 to 10 hours.
I place some towels in my freezer bowl and let the yogurt set in there.
5. Once the container is set, place it in the refrigerator to firm its structure and slow the continuing acid production. Then enjoy! But remember: Before you've eaten all the yogurt, set aside 2 heaping Tbsp as a starter for the next batch. Make yogurt again within 4 to 5 days for the best results.

Makes 3 3/4 cups.

I actually cut this recipe in half.

I know I didn't fulfill this whole challenge with the cheese and kefir, but I did make butter!!  I'll tell you more about that later.

Currently listening to:
Tilly and the Wall - Rainbows in the Dark
Tilly and the Wall - Rainbows in the Dark MP3 Download

10 April 2011

99 Skills Challenge: #1 Read and understand product labels

Click here to see the 99 Skills that I am challenging myself to explore.

For those of you who read this, I want to invite you on an adventure/challenge with me.  This challenge will introduce us to new ideas and ways of doing, especially in terms of being "eco-friendly."  What do you think?  Are you in?  Maybe you'll also blog about your adventure?

But first, I'd like to start this post by disclosing how lazy I am.  For those of you who know me best, this will come to no surprise.  My purpose for this disclosure is to hopefully convince those of us who think that "being green" takes too much time or energy or is too hard, that most of the time, it's actually pretty easy.  Basically, what I'm saying is, if I can do it, you can do it.  It's just a matter of exploring how and understanding why these actions are important.

I sleep on average 10-12 hours a night, spend most of my waking hours drinking coffee and sitting on the internet, and honestly, contrary to popular belief, I don't really like being outside (especially when it's cold or hot).  Don't get me wrong, I enjoy the occasional backpacking and camping adventure, but I could never live in a yurt.  I used to run daily and ride my bike everywhere, using my car only for out of town adventures, but lately my running shoes and my bike have been gathering dust.  Nowadays, you can also find me in the Starbucks or Burgerville drive-thru, even without my own to-go cup (egads!)!  I'm hoping to either change some of these habits or explore why I do them (laziness? cheap-skate? convenience? brain washed?)

A friend recently posted a link on facebook to this article.  It's more a list than an article.  A list of things people can do to be more "eco-friendly."  I think it's a pretty good list and that it might be interesting to explore them all both in real life and via this blog.  Some of the skills, I have already aquired or explored, and for those I hope to polish them, find ways I can do them better, or encourage others to try them out.

I won't go in order, but I will hit try to hit all 99.  What do you think is a good goal?  At least one a month?  I'll try.  Here we go!

#1 Read and understand product labels
Mark Bittman, author of How to Cook Everything Vegetarian: Simple Meatless Recipes for Great Food:

I'm not sure exactly when I started thinking about what I ate...well besides, "is this delicious?"  I grew up eating grilled cheese sandwiches, french fries, cheese pizza, and cheese burgers...sense a pattern?  And my idea of a "healthy" meal was what we ate in Ireland on a Sunday after church: peas, mushy carrots, roasted potatoes, and some meat.  And to be honest, now that I think about it, not much has changed!

At some point, however, after high school graduation, I decided to stop eating meat.  I think it was a combination of living in a college dorm and not having access to real kitchen and not knowing where to begin when it came to preparing meat (I'm still a little unsure).  There was also the convenience of veggie burgers, veggie pastas, and grilled cheese sandwiches prepared in the local university cafeteria.  I felt good about the decision to not eat meat, because of the environmental degradation caused by most of the meat industry in the United States.  The number of hog farms in North Carolina was declining, while at the same time the total number of hogs was increasing exponentially.  You couldn't travel across the state without smelling a hog farm and during the hurricane seasons the hog waste lagoons had potential to flood and contaminate the water supply, effecting mostly low-income communities.

Factory farms have quickly replaced local, family-owned, generational farms and are a major contributer to global environmental degredation.  The need to grow feed contributes to deforestation and often uses excessive amounts of pesticides and fertilizers.  Such high concentrations of waste pollutes water sources and soil.  The farm workers, surrounding communities (again, both mainly low-income), and consumers are also negatively effected due to the amount of chemicals, pesticides, and growth-hormones used in production.  And lastly, let's not forget about the treatment of the animals.  Whether you're a vegetarian or an omnivore, it's hard to argue that animals in factory farms are treated humanely.  These animals live in overcrowded buildings (rarely, if ever, seeing the outside world), are over-bred and genetically mutated, and are restricted from doing what they were born to do (roam, hunt, forage, nest, etc.).  Yet, whether intentionally or not, we still consume a mass amount of factory farmed meats.

I could go on, but since this isn't a post about factory farms or whether or not I should eat meat, I'll stop there.  It's a post about understanding what we eat.  About understanding what I eat and why.

Ok, so I stopped eating meat in college and after I moved out of the dorms, I started to experiment in the kitchen.  I started with what I would say 99-100% of college vegetarians make and eat at home: tempeh, broccoli, some Bragg's Amino Acids, and rice - maybe add a little more vegetables here and there.  I really hate that meal.  

When I finally stopped working and volunteering 50 plus hours a week, I really started to spend a lot more time in the kitchen.  I had time and I was interested in saving money by not eating out.  I wanted to really enjoy eating at home.  I wanted to enjoy my grilled cheeses, my pizzas, and my high carb diet without all of the processed foods, packaging, or guilt.  In order to do this, I looked up recipes on the internet: how to make my own bread, vegan cheese sauces, seitan, etc.  I also started reading food focused books like Barbara Kingsolver's "Animal, Vegetable, Miracle," and Michael Pollan's "In Defense of Food."  But like I pointed out at the beginning, I'm not perfect and I occasionally enjoy an overly processed fast food meal.  But I try.

So, to really get to the point of this post, I thought it would be a good idea to evaluate the labels and ingredients of what I consumed today:

Breakfast: English Muffin Sandwich and a cup of coffee.
  • Nayonaise - This is a soy-based alternative to mayonnaise.  We normally have a giant tub of Vegenaise in the house, but when we ran out I found a jar of this stuff for 49 cents (!!) at the local Grocery Outlet.  I couldn't resist.  I've also made my own mayonnaise, but I wasn't super satisfied.  There is just something special about Vegenaise.
    • Nayonaise ingredients: soymilk (water, organic whole soybeans), cane juice (dried), corn starch, distilled vinegar, salt, xanthan gum, mustard seed, lemon juice concentrate, onion powder, garlic juice, natural flavor, spices (huh?).
  • Pepper Jack Cheese - We received a giant pack of cheese from a neighbor of ours who volunteers with the local food bank.  It wasn't labeled, so honestly, I have no idea what was in it.  But it was free and delicious and has been of great service in our kitchen lately.
  • Lentil Sage Deli "Meat" - Field Roast is a company based out of Seattle, WA and they make some of the best meat alternatives I've ever had.  
  • Coffee - bulk coffee.  Not sure of the brand, but definitely fair or equal trade, from a local roaster.
  • Milk - I've recently started to buy milk and creamer from a local dairy farm.  They are a family-owned farm that produces and bottles their own Jersey Cow milk.  They are sustainable, grain-fed, and hormone free.  The bottles are glass and re-usable - you pay a one time deposit and return the bottles to the store.
  • English Muffin - This isn't something we normally have on hand.  We purchased this 12 pack of Fred Meyer brand english muffins a few months because they were on super sale and Willis really wanted them.  We've kept them in the freezer and after eating them for breakfast every now and then, we're finally down to one.  I think I'm going to make some from scratch next weekend.

Lunch: Raspberries and Granola & Soda
  • Raspberries - organic raspberries purchased to get me through a graveyard shift at work.  These are the left overs.
  • Granola - the cocoa hazelnut granola I recently made. 
    • Ingredients: rolled oats, hazelnuts, cocoa powder, sea salt, olive oil, cane syrup.
  • Izze. - Every now and then, I'll treat myself to a soda, sometimes a Dr. Pepper, sometimes an IZZE.  IZZE is an all-natural sparkling juice drink.  This one was grapefruit.
    • Ingredients:  pure juice made from apple, white grape, orange, and grapefruit juice concentrates, sparkling water, citric acid, natural flavor, gum arabic, red radish juice.

Dinner: Pizza & Beer
  • Dough - I made the dough today.
    • It contains: flour (from the bulk section), yeast (bulk), sugar (bulk), canola oil (bulk), salt (bulk), organic dry milk.
  • Sauce - I also made the sauce today.  It was super easy and fast.  Just a few ingredients simmered and blended together.
    • Tomatoes from last summer's garden, onion, garlic, basil, and canola oil.
  • Cheese - Same Pepper Jack Cheese from this morning's sandwich.
  • Kale - from our garden.
  • Beer - Willis' home brew.
    • I'm not really sure what's in there except malt extract, yeast, and sugar.
Currently listening to:
Adele - Someone like you

08 April 2011

Thrift Store Finds: March

March offered some great thrift store finds for our household.

Table:  It all started when my mom was in town visiting and we took a trip to the Salvation Army.  At the time, we had no idea there was a 50% off sale.  I noticed a table and 4 chairs for $80.  I really liked them, but would never be able to convince myself that it was worth it.  While we were browsing, my mom overheard that everything was 50% off.  We went to the front of the store and confirmed that everything was on sale, and my mentality quickly changed.  I quickly sent a picture to Willis to see what he thought (I love smart phones).  He responded, "Sure."  The table replaced Willis' Ikea table and two chairs we had in the small "nook" area in the kitchen.
Chairs:  I placed the chairs around the house to add more seating throughout.  If we have guests over, we can just drag them into the kitchen.  I plan to eventually reupholster them.

Arklow Pottery:  That same day, from a distance, my mom spotted some Arklow Pottery.  We couldn't believe it!  Almost a full set for 50% off!?  We'll take it!  My mom worked in the pottery, so it was easy for her to spot the distinct characteristics of the pitcher and sugar bowl.  Arklow is our hometown in Ireland and the pottery was a large industry providing jobs for many generations, almost everyone has a pottery story to tell.  I remember tourists always stopping to ask for directions to the pottery, located near the beach on the South Quay, or finding pieces all over the beach.  It closed in 1999. 

Jars:  I love having all sorts of jars in the kitchen.  They are so practical.  Bulk foods, water glasses, coffee, canning, yogurt, freezer storage, leftovers, spices, etc.  I found 8 jars with these awesome lids for 50 cents each that are perfect for the spices that we use the most: garlic, chili, paprika, chili flakes, pickling spices, dill, cinnamon, and curry.

The Cow:  We purchased this lamp from Target with a gift card Willis received for the holidays.  At first, I was hesitant because of the price.  But, I really liked the idea of having extra shelving for plants in our living room and the dark wood and yellow shade would fit perfectly.  The problem was the lower shelf.  I didn't want to put plants on it in case the dogs (mainly Bandit) got bored one day and destroyed it.  I tried a variety of items: books, bird house, empty vase, etc.  But nothing looked right.  I really wanted a porcelain dog, similar to this.  Instead, I stumbled upon this cow for $2.00.  It's perfect!
Light:  Remember the orange lamp that Willis couldn't stop thinking about?  Well, I found a matching sconce for $3.  I've yet to affix it to the wall, but plan on it going next to the bed in the guest room.  I'm also keeping my eye out for a good shade.

Currently listening to:
Freelance Whales - Generator 1st Floor

03 April 2011

Horsetail, Ponytail, & Triple Falls Hike

What an amazing weekend.  On Friday night, two friends flew into Portland from Chicago.  We all met  up with some friends and ate an amazing Ethiopian feast at Bete-Lukas, located on SE 50th, just south of Division.  The restaurant is located in what looks like the upstairs of an apartment building.  Right across the street is a food cart pod.  We ordered a variety of dishes, but the Misser Wot (lentils) was by far my favorite.

On Saturday, an old high school friend, who is currently living in Seattle, came down to visit for the weekend.  She brought her cute little pug, named Malcolm.  After introducing the dogs, a whole group of us grabbed some brunch at Gravy on Mississippi.  The wait was long,  but that's to be expected in this town.  But like most brunches, it was well worth it.  Willis and I split an egg sandwich with  sweet peppers and provolone and a side of hashbrowns.  I always forget how giant the portions are there.  When we sat down, I looked over my shoulder and saw a remainding half of a huge scramble someone had ordered.  I'm glad we decided to split.

After brunch we walked up and down Mississippi  Ave. and I discovered some dapper animal prints by Ryan Berkley that I think I really want for our kitchen.  We then went to Powell's Books and Voodoo Doughnuts.  I am always amazed at the amount of people who are willing to stand outside in the cold waiting for a doughnut.  But, I guess it's all apart of the experience?

Aisling & I with Bandit & Hunter at Horsetail Falls
We spent the rest of the evening at my sister's house, eating doughnuts and pizza, and enjoying each others' company.

Becca Yates left this morning to return to Seattle and the rest of us drove out to the Columbia River Gorge for a nice day hike.  We decided to go to Ponytail Falls after a recommendation from friends and our hiking book claiming that it was "less popular."  Less popular? Maybe.  But definitely still crowded!  I'm sure that had a lot to do with the fact that this was possibly the first nice weekend we've had since like October.  Regardless, it was an awesome hike.

It starts at Horsetail Falls, and winds up some switchbacks until you reach Ponytail Falls.  The trail winds behind the waterfall and beneath a lava flow, which is amazing.  The sound is incredible.  After another climb, the trail starts to descend until you cross Oneota Creek on a metal bridge.  The bridge is not the best for little dog paws, so Hunter had to be carried across and Bandit scrambled trying to get comfortable with the footing.  After the bridge the switch backs continue up until you eventually hit Triple Falls.  We stopped for a small lunch break after crossing over the wooden bridge and then hiked back down.  Overall about a 4 mile hike.

Ponytail Falls
Currently Listening to:
Prince Buster - Enjoy Yourself

02 April 2011


My friends Nick and Courtney have been encouraging me to get into home brewing for a while. For my birthday they gave me a not-so-subtle hint/gift. It was a book on home brewing and a gift certificate to a Hombrew Exchange. So I took the hint and last month I went to the home brew shop, got a starter kit and ingredients to make a brown ale.

For my first batch, I wanted to do something easy. I worked with one of the employees at Homebrew Exchange to get the ingredients for "Naked Sunday Brown Ale." It's a recipe from The Joy of Homebrewing. I used a hopped malt extract, so I didn't have to worry about boiling hops or finishing hops. It came out great!