Decluttering in Progress: Study

Finally I’m getting somewhere with decluttering our study! A few days ago I cleaned up my messy art supply cupboard. In that process I filled a bag with big bottles of old,  coloured wall paint and some other art stuff; this bag will go to church tomorrow for Sunday school.
Some old pairs of jeans that didn’t fit into my fabric box went into another bag, which I filled with other ugly old clothes from the “get rid of this” box in our study today and took it to a fabric recycling container. As this container is grouped together with other recycling containers I decided to finally get rid of an old scanner and an equally old pair of small computer loudspeakers (container for small electronical devices), as well as two bags of clear glass trash from the kitchen I had to take there anyway. So I walked up that hill with a load of trash and came home feeling much lighter.
In addition I put a “free stuff” shoebox of smaller random items on the outside window sill as I sometimes do.
Finally tonight I found someone from church who will take the bag of better clothes to a donation point by car.
Still a lot to get rid of before my birthday party!

First sourdough bread!

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Monday I prepared my first sourdough starter with rye flour. It lived on our bathroom heater, so the wild yeast multiplied like crazy and the sourdough was ready for a test run after four days – it was full of millions of tiny bubbles and the smell had turned from vinegar to freshly cut sour apples.

As recommended I added some normal baking yeast to this first use of my sourdough culture. Apart from that it contains nothing but flour, water, and some salt. I’m looking forward to slicing it tomorrow and eating some of it with butter and homegrown cress :)

The bread weighs more than one kilogramme! I need to find someone to help me eat this, as I won’t be able to eat all of it before the next baking day and our freezer compartment is really tiny (and we don’t own a toaster – I don’t like untoasted defrosted bread).

Next week I’ll try to make a bread without extra yeast. I’d also love to add some spelt flour – I prefer mixed bread over pure rye. Do I have to add yeast when I add flour other than the type I used for the starter?

First home-made bread of the year

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Because of a lot of stress (master’s thesis, family issues, and health problems) I haven’t had time and energy to bake my own bread this year so far. Today I felt motivated to get back to it – store-bought bread just doesn’t come with a nice crust, and I craved some ‘real’ food. This bread is a very simple one, made from spelt flour (1/2 whole grain, 1/2 white flour) with dry yeast, salt, and water. I added a little bit of baking powder for extra fluffiness and put a bowl of water with salt and herbs in the oven. Top and bottom are sprinkled with pestled flaxseed and amaranth (adding some crunch and nutrients).

One of these days I want to try my hands at sourdough.

The best thing about fresh bread (besides getting to choose the ingredients)? Eating the first, still warm slice with butter.

The Bottle Gourd Experiment, Day 1

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After two years of harvesting a handful of tiny carrots/kohlrabi/potatoes and bitter lettuce I decided to try something different in 2015: bottle gourds. The seeds arrived a few days ago; today I put three of them in some water to prepare them for germination. Tomorrow I’ll let them dry and plant them into some moist soil on Monday.

I have not yet decided whether I’ll try to keep them all inside our kitchen or whether I’ll get the courage to ask our landlords aka church people if I may use the handrail of the side entrance stairs as a ranking aid.  At the moment I’m thinking about keeping one or two inside and the other one or two outside next to the stairs. As I want them to produce nice, round calabashes they’ll need a ranking aid. So for the one(s) in the kitchen I’ll have to sacrifice the old loft-bed ladder I’m using to air (or store) once-worn but still clean outer wear like skirts in our small bedroom.  With some tweaking and pushing it should fit between the wall and the kitchen counter (the side with all the other plants) so the gourds will be able to grow next to the window. It’s just an east window, but our kitchen is pretty warm in summer and should provide the right climate!

As for a planter, I own a plastic basket which became jobless today (it used to be our waste paper receptacle, but we found a bigger cardboard box at the grocery store); lined with a plastic bag or something similar it should be a suitable home for at least one of the plants. For outside … there is a seemingly abandoned crate I might nick for that purpose.

Yay for bottle gourds! If this experiment succeeds it might make some people very happy. 180 days of waiting …

 

green kitchen: update

Remember last year’s post about my attempts to turn our kitchen into a greenhouse? I think it’s time for an update:

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One of my many hobbies: filling all kinds of old containers with green life. Mostly ivy, sempervivum, and some fern, aloe vera, moss, and a green plant I can’t name (but it multiplies on its own). I love ivy. And how adorable is the sempervivum in the little milk jug? Not sure yet what to do with the old tea kettle in the background  I found recently – use it to brew ginger tea, or plant ivy (or maybe lavender) inside?

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Ivy in a cracked glass pitcher we don’t use anymore as it leaks (so I just put already potted ivy inside instead of filling the pitcher itself with soil the way I’d have preferred to).

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As I said, this kind of plant multiplies. It starts to grow a “child” dangling from the mother plant, which you then put into water until it grows its own roots; then it can be potted and cut off. This little family lives on top of our fridge, next to the coffee making thing.

Natural Hair Care Update: How to Care for Long Hair with Few Products and Little Effort

It’s been a while since I last wrote about hair care with natural products, so I’d like to tell about the current state of my hair and the way I take care for it in a simple, natural way.

My hair is still growing, albeit slowly as I had to cut the tips more often the last few months. My braid is so long now it tends to get stuck under my coat or backpack when I don’t pay attention. Friction = bad for hair! The first few strands are close to the desired tail bone length now, at least when my hair is wet and I pull it so it straightens for a moment. Growing out wavy/slightly curly hair all the way down to the tail bone takes a looooong time.

Current products in use and hair care routine:

I don’t use baking soda most of the time anymore. Sometimes I still wash my hair with baking soda when my scalp is really, really itchy. Somehow it seems to “reset” the skin, but it also dries it out, hence the spare use.

At the moment I try to extend the periods between washing with shampoo. Right now I’m trying a 3-4 day cycle:
Day 1: Washing with shampoo (when I’m at home a shampoo bar/hair soap, without silicone and all these nasty things; when travelling a mild, natural liquid shampoo) and rinsing with diluted apple cider vinegar when using the solid shampoo.
Day 2: no washing, or only rinsing with water.
Day 3: Washing with diluted vinegar.
Day 4 or 5: See day 1.
So far this works pretty well. I hope to get to three our four days without a vinegar rinse in between, but first I’ll have to wait how it turns out when capoeira class starts again, though I’ve read about other people’s positive experiences with using only water or a vinegar rinse to get rid of the sweat after exercising.

A recent addition to my routine is the use of a paddle brush with wild boar bristles, to spread the sebum by brushing and thus making longer shampoo free periods possible. It takes a while every day to thoroughly brush my hair with it (100 strokes isn’t enough sometimes …), but so would washing, drying, and detangling it! Plus, extra arm exercise.

For the tips I still use coconut oil or sheabutter nearly daily, as they are very dry despite my attempts to spread the sebum all the way down by the whole brushing endeavour. Maybe it will take a while for my hair to adjust, or it’s just too long already.

As I try to avoid blow drying my hair (heat is really bad for hair!) I have to leave the house with moist hair sometimes. In winter I now just roll it around my hand and put it under a very thin, crocheted beanie (one of these with holes in the crochet pattern) in a loose bun. This way it dries without tangling too much and doesn’t freeze like it did some years before.

One thing I’ve neglected the last few weeks is putting my hair up in a bun every few days instead of braiding it. Wearing a tight braid at the same spot all the time can result in itchy scalp and/or a headache. I really need a nice new hair pin. My old one broke and it’s hard to find a wooden one that isn’t too long but still very sturdy.

Update: For now I have switched from vinegar-only washing to conditioner-only washing for the days between the “real” washing day with shampoo, and before and after using shampoo I put conditioner in my hair as well; I want to keep this up at least for the cold winter days – my hair feels really dry and frizzy without extra care at the moment. New post will follow soon.

first attempt of making onigiri and a mini bento

A while ago I started looking at cute bentos and wondered whether it’d be fun making some myself. When we did our weekly grocery shopping last Saturday I decided to grab a bag of Japanese rice because I’m not particularly fond of non-sticky rice at the moment (and making mushy rice all the time just takes too long and can be messy). So today I ended up trying to make onigiri and then proceeded to eat most of them before taking pictures. But I saved the two I had made for my husband – both filled and decorated with a little chopped chilli and carrot – and included them in a mini bento:

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It neither looks perfect nor will it provide a full meal, but it’s the thought that counts, right?

Two onigiri, some grapes, four salty licorice starfish, and a piece of espresso-filled chocolate. I put the sweets in a silicone muffin mould so the licorice and the rice won’t get mixed up. All stuff could be found in our kitchen. And if Darling doesn’t want to take this to work with him tomorrow I’ll gladly eat it all by myself!

I won’t be making these all the time, but once in a while I might try to pack a nice bento-style lunch for at least one of us. They’ll all come without any seaweeds – the ones they sell here have a warning on them about having an extremely high iodide content; I have to be a little careful with that stuff. And as I’m not that fascinated by the taste of nori I don’t really mind.

The ones I ate today where all either plain rice (still tasty) or with olives (also nice). But I should go and buy new salmon this weekend … mmmh, smoked salmon as a filling for onigiri. Would be nice with some pickles on the side. Or meatballs and tiny onigiri for dipping in my beloved peanut sauce to go with some slices of cucumber? I really need to replace this ancient cucumber in our vegetable box … it’s all wrinkled and close to becoming petrified.

 

 

simple meal: mushy turmeric rice and peanut sauce

Again a “I’ll tell you what I made for lunch” post instead of posting a picture of it, I hope you don’t mind. This meal was mushy, sticky, and awesomely delicious. And it contained lots of dead cow. Moooooo.

Just for your information: I don’t own any American measuring cups so when I talk about spoons I mean the ones you use for eating! As a matter of fact I don’t even measure the water in any real way – I just use my gut and rely on experience with different substance:water ratios.

Still want to cook with me? Here we go.

You’ll need:

  • two cooking pots (at least one of them with a lid), spoons; recommended: second lid or something like a flat sieve (I think it’s called a “splatter guard”) to protect your kitchen from splashes.
  • water
  • 500g sieved tomatoes
  • 500g minced meat
  • rice
  • peanut paste (preferably unsweetened)
  • 1tablespoon coconut oil
  • 1/2-1 1/2 cloves of garlic
  • 1/2-1carrot
  • 2 teaspoons of turmeric powder; onion salt, pepper, other spices to your liking

Chop garlic and carrot into very fine pieces. Put the meat and a little coconut oil into one of the pots; rice with salt and a little more water than you usually use into the other one (I normally use a rice:water ratio of 1:2.5, so today it was at least 1:3 and I added even more water later). Turn on the heat as far as possible, don’t forget to put a lid on the rice! Stir the meat and oil a little so it doesn’t burn at the bottom. Set kitchen timer to 15 minutes (first round of checking the rice).

When the water of the rice begins to boil turn the heat for this pot down a little.

When the meat is starting to brown, add garlic, stir. Wait until all of the meat is at least somewhat brown, then add the sieved tomatoes and some water (tomatoes:water should be about 2:1). Add your chopped carrot, stir, and hurry to cover the pot  – you’ll want this to boil until at least 1/3 of the liquid is gone, which works best at full heat, which sadly makes hot red sticky stuff splash out of the pot, so a splatter guard is your best friend here.

After 15 minutes, check your rice. If close to all the water is gone but the rice is not the slightest bit mushy, add a little more. You can also add a teaspoon of turmeric powder to each of the pots now.

Let everything cook, check the rice every 5 minutes or so and add water until it has the desired consistency (for me this was “mushy sticky mess” today). Occasionally stir the sauce, and be careful with that splattering stuff.

I didn’t check the time, but I think I let the rice cook for 25 minutes and the sauce for 30 minutes. When both parts of your meal are ready, put them together in the bigger one of your two pots.

Add peanut paste to your liking. I had put aside about half of the food for freezing and used about two generous tablespoons for the remaining half, so 3-4 tablespoons for the whole amount would be good, I guess. If you don’t like peanuts just add a little or use your favourite non-peanutty spices instead (and why are you reading this recipe in the first place when there’s “peanut” in the title?) to turn the food into a weird version of pilau or something-masala.

Turn down the heat and stir that mush for just a few minutes. Enjoy!

Favourite Friday: things I like to do the old fashioned way

The Favourite Friday series is back!

Modern technology is cool and everything, but some things I still I like to be done in an old fashioned way. Definition of old fashioned used very loosely here.

I don’t put our laundry in a tumble dryer after washing, but hang to dry.

Very few people still write letters or send postcards, which is very sad. I love getting postcards for my birthday, and I’d be happier about a few letters per year than I’d be about a ton of e-mails. Also, if you don’t like paper, a text message is still better than birthday greetings on facebook. I ask people to send me postcards when they go on holidays, and cherish these cards more than your travels blogs (which are totally fine and interesting nevertheless) because they are personal.

We switched to soap bars a while ago and I like them better than liquid soap. Liquid soap is a waste of packaging and full of weird chemicals these days.

In class at university I take notes by hand, despite my bad handwriting (sometimes I can’t read my scrawl myself), and I carry around a small note book (as in paper) and a timer instead of using a smartphone or my computer for putting down important stuff. It’s just easier for me to concentrate on real paper. That’s why I prefer to print out at least the most important papers I have to read, because to truly get to the bottom of a complicated topic I need to sit in a comfortable position and cover the paper in highlighter and side notes.

I buy physical CDs if I want to listen to something more often, and I like using them in my old CD player. Sometimes I sit at my computer, but the music is coming from the CD player or radio next to my table. All-in-one devices are cool, but most of the time I feel more relaxed when there are different devices for different purposes. When just the radio is on while I read a book I don’t feel the urge to check my e-mails all the time, because it would mean having to boot the computer first. And it would be very confusing if music came out of my camera while taking pictures.

I don’t own a smartphone. When I need to go somewhere new I look at a map (okay, I cheat and use googlemaps to draw myself a small sketchy map to take with me), and I ask people for directions. When I need to catch a bus on the way home I either look up the times before or I ask someone who knows them or can look them up. Sometimes a smartphone can be really useful, but in many situations I prefer talking to actual people. On the train I read books most of the time.

Some things I don’t do all the time I but find comforting once in while are making food stuff from scratch – bread, pizza, candy, smoothie, lemonade, iced tea – and growing my own vegetables (though I’m not very successful at this).

In the kitchen I use simple devices most of the time – whisk instead of electronic mixer, simple manual juice squeezer instead of a big machine, mixing bowl with measuring marks instead of a scale. Less complicated to clean, and it just feels more natural.

And just this week I hang up some herbs to dry in the warm summer air.

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The next two weeks I’ll tell you a bit more about random things I like to do in my free time.

feeling overwhelmed by stuff

I guess the song “I see fire” and reading the first volume of the Lord of the Rings trilogy triggered my longing for open spaces again. For some time now I’ve known I get overwhelmed and distracted by stuff very easily, but I tend to ignore and then forget this fact. Tonight I’m sitting at my desk, unable to concentrate on my writing, even though my self-set deadline for handing in this paper is in two weeks.

Not feeling ready for a big purge yet I try to get some things out of my way little by little, and what is not in use right now but is likely be used again in the future – e.g. curtain rods – will be put away out of sight for the moment. Not the most minimalist thing, but hey, I guess even wandering folks like Aragon have some things stowed away, leaving them in the houses of friends they visit from time to time. (Sorry, I watched a talk on YouTube earlier today and the speaking scientist quoted the line “all that is gold does not glitter”). I’m also going to put all my childhood memorabilia into one place, saving them in case I’ll have someone to inherit them to one day. The bed drawer blocked by my night stand should do fine.

Things I’ll try to sell or swap:

  • cheap Window Color knock-off
  • small mosaic tiles (I tried to get rid of them before, but it didn’t work)
  • old computer loudspeakers and scanner
  • purple plastic toy pony

Things added to the give away box:

  • two cheap plastic toy ponies, bright pink and in bad shape (fakies I got with a bunch of My Little Pony figures and used for experimenting with acrylics on plastic)

I also brought some stuff home from yestarday’s swapping party: biking gloves, some four tops (mostly for experimenting with style, I might alter or re-swap them after a while), and two items for my birthday party decoration in autumn. Sadly none of the items I had brought to the party found a new home … maybe next time? Otherwise they’ll end up in the next donation bag.