Hello Spring? Summer?

I am not sure whether spring happened or not here in the Midwest… What I do know is that we had a very long winter and now we’re enjoying some much deserved warm days. This is our second summer in our house and I wanted to try my hand at growing some vegetables and herbs. Mr. A built me a very nice raised garden bed, which we were able to fill and plant some seeds sometime in the second half of May (it was indeed a very long winter!).

My gardening knowledge is pretty much nonexistent so this whole growing vegetables thing is an experiment for me. I was reading a little bit about Square Foot Gardening and decided to use this method as guidance. Since the bed is 2’x6′, this gave me 12 squares to play with.

2014 Garden Plan

2014 Garden Plan

I planted carrots, cucumbers, and zucchini. I’m very hopeful for these three crops. My zucchini and cucumbers are growing nicely (I think!) and about half of my carrots are coming up as well. I still have four squares left, in which I’m thinking to plant some spinach. We’ll see.

Vegetable Garden

Zucchini, Cucumbers, and Carrots

I also have some tomatoes that I started indoors in the beginning of March and then transplanted into large containers outside. They’re not looking too good though… On the other hand, I may get some tomatoes anyways since Mr. A’s grandparents gave us a tomato plant last weekend and it already has a tiny tomato!

Tiny Tomato

Tiny Tomato

I can’t wait to have fresh tomatoes with fresh chives from my little garden experiment!

Rainy Day Thoughts

I can’t believe it is April already! Where has the time gone? First quarter of 2014 has come and gone and, unlike previous years, I feel quite proud of the small accomplishments I’ve made so far (with Mr. A’s support!). I am not sure I can pinpoint the exact moment I made the decision of making some changes in our lives, particularly around food, but I’m glad I’ve started to go down that path.

I don’t think I have made any great or huge changes (hence my label of ‘small accomplishments’), but I do believe all the little changes will add up in the end. Slowly, my eyes have been opening regarding the current state of our food supply and, for me, it is scary. Both Mr. A and myself work full time outside the home and I am just so shocked at how difficult it is to try to make better choices for our health while working. It seems the day does not have enough hours!

Anyways, on this cold, rainy day here in the Midwest, I found myself reflecting on some of the things we’ve done so far:

  1. Switched our milk and eggs to organic
  2. Our grocery shopping habit has changed: our shopping cart now mostly consists of fruit and veggies
  3. I’m more diligent with reading labels. If I don’t know what it is, it stays on the shelf!
  4. Tried my hand at making my own sourdough starter (and it’s still alive!!)
  5. Planted some tomato seeds in the hopes of actually growing tomatoes for us to enjoy fresh (that is, if I manage not to kill the plants)
  6. Baked yummy and better-for-you banana bread using whole wheat, honey, and coconut oil (still tweaking the recipe but the last batch was amazing)
  7. Got past the color and enjoyed a green smoothie for the first time
  8. Made my own peanut butter from scratch!
  9. Enjoyed home made peanut butter smeared on a slice of home made sourdough whole wheat bread!
  10. Trying out a DIY cream for my skin which only has two ingredients: coconut oil and vitamin E

Putting them down on paper (or digital paper) really makes it more real for me and reminds me that it is possible to make changes. You just have to start taking action. It won’t make it any easier, but it does give me the motivation to keep going. I hope that, if anyone is reading this, it gives you the motivation to make the changes you want in your life. Even if you work full time outside the home, it is possible. It’s probably a slower pace of change, at least that’s how I personally feel, but it is change nonetheless.

It is time to put wishes and ideas into action.There’s a quote I have on my desk at work that helps kicking my butt into gear. I can’t remember where I got it from, I wish I did so I could give proper credit, but here it is:

What if today was someday?

Here’s to a good first quarter of 2014 and to an even better rest of the year!

Sourdough Starter :: Day 2

Today is Day 2 of my sourdough starter and I’m starting to worry again. I didn’t see any separation or liquid like Sarah’s (from Frühlingskabine Micro-Farm) starter on Day 2.  I looked around for recipes, just to see if I was the only one. From the several recipes and how-to’s that I read, it sounds like the liquid forms when the flour-to-water ratio is a bit off (I’m really hoping that’s it! Or that it’s just too cold still). Interestingly, a lot of the recipes I read didn’t call for pouring off any liquid. Instead, they called on discarding half the starter as a way to control the size of the starter. I also found out that temperature affects the growth of the yeast (cold slows it down, heat speeds it up). I’m pretty sure my yeast will be slow-growing, as currently the temperature in the house is around 67 degrees.

Sourdough Starter Day 2

Sourdough Starter Day 2

With those tidbits of information in mind, I decided to keep going ahead! I decided to skim off the top layer of my starter. There was no liquid, but the top layer of the dough-like substance seemed a bit darker in comparison with the rest. I think I did it just to be on the safe side and be sure that all I had in my jar was my main mixture as Sarah indicated in her blog post. I fed it, gave it a good stir, covered it with the cheesecloth and, instead of setting it back on my kitchen counter, I placed it on top of the fridge. I’m hoping it will be a tad bit warmer in that spot than on the counter.

Sourdough Starter Day 2

Sourdough Starter Day 2

In an unrelated note, it was 50 degrees today. It was so nice outside, sunny and cool instead of frigid cold. Since we have an extra bit of sunshine in the evenings now, I grabbed my sneakers and headed outside for a good 20-minute walk! Have to enjoy it while I can, apparently, we’re expecting snow tomorrow night.

A Second Day 1

Every once in a while, I see DIY ideas and projects that I become obsessed just want to try out. Some come out good and others, well, not so good. Through them all, Mr. A is supportive (though sometimes he gives me his very skeptical, ‘are you serious?’ look when I present to him a rather unusual idea) and makes me laugh when my failed experiments bring me down (a certain marshmallow fondant comes to mind). This is another DIY endeavor that made it to my I Must Be Insane Must Try List. I recently found this little blog post while browsing Pinterest and read through all the day-by-day posts. It seemed easy so I said why not? I can totally make my own sourdough starter and bake amazing bread all by myself!

First Sourdough Starter

First Sourdough Starter

Friday night I started by mixing the flour and water in a glass jar and covered it with cheesecloth. Simple enough! I can already smell the loaf baking in my oven! Well, come what should have been Day 3 of my sourdough starter and I really didn’t see any separation at all. It had certainly doubled in size and there were bubble pockets everywhere, but no liquid. Mr. A and I must have looked quite comical, both of us staring at this half-gallon sized glass jar, determining whether we should keep going and risk poisoning ourselves (this last part may or may not have been an overreaction in both our minds) or start from scratch. I’m wondering if it was indeed bad or maybe I wasn’t patient enough. Maybe it’s too cold in the kitchen, after all, it was in the 20’s today and there’s still plenty of snow outside. Or maybe it could have been the four layers of cheesecloth I accidentally put on it as I didn’t realize until today that the cheesecloth already came doubled up (I had never even bought cheesecloth before I got the itch to try making my own starter).

Since I have no clue what I’m doing, I decided to start it over again. My sourdough starter has been mixed and is resting in a gallon-sized glass jar (yep, I had just purchased an upgraded jar for my would-be-Day-3 starter as it was rapidly outgrowing the half-gallon jar). This time, only a double-layer of cheesecloth is covering the opening. I didn’t take any pictures of my second attempt, maybe tomorrow I can have Mr. A take a picture of it.

Kitchen Inspector

Kitchen Inspector

Speaking of do-overs, I’m also re-starting posting in this little blog of mine. Hopefully I’ll be a bit more organized with my crazy life in 2014 and make more time for things I enjoy… like writing. So here’s to a second Day 1, both for this little blog and my sourdough starter!