I’m ready for Fall!

Okay, so it’s obvious I’ve neglected my blog for awhile.  I could probably dream up a long list of “whys”, but I won’t even try.  I think it will suffice to say that I’ve simply been focused elsewhere.  Who knew retirement would be so busy, so fun, so time consuming?! Ha!  I’m really enjoying my life these days and am thankful that I CAN enjoy it.  It’s not like we are busy every moment of every day – going somewhere, doing something, because that is not the case. Sometimes (oft times) the joy for me is in the NOT going and doing. After all, up until my retirement a few years ago, my every moment was pretty much planned out for me. Now *I* make my schedule, and frequently my “schedule” includes things like sitting on the back deck, reading my library book!   I am so happy, so content, and so grateful for both.  Sometimes people get bored as they age and don’t have a job to keep them involved in life so to speak – well, that is not me. A long time ago I used to love a song by James Taylor called “The Secret of Life”.  The first line goes: The secret of life is enjoying the passing of time……  I remember hearing that when I was young, really young, and wondered if I’d enjoy my “older years” as much as I was loving my younger ones.  Yes, life is sure different now, but I’m still enjoying the passing of time. Here’s a link to a video of that song – one of my all time faves.    So here are some of the things that have been happening here this summer…..

  • Since returning home from southern California in early June, we’ve gone camping 4 times and are slated to go again in a week or so.  We love camping and it’s especially fun when we go with our neighbors who also have a motor home. I wish that our kids would also get RV’s so we could plan trips with them as well!!
  • We have had fun with our now 9 1/2 month old kitten, Frankie.  Frankie has been with us since February – he’s made a trip down I-5 all the way to So-Cal and back. He spent 3 months in Palm Springs, and is now an official RV Cat too.  He seems to enjoy camping almost as much as we do.  He’s great on his harness & leash as well. Our late kitty, Jinx, was an indoor/outdoor cat.  He was pretty savvy regarding all the wildlife around here.  Frankie is an outdoor-only-on-a-leash kinda kitty.  BUT, he loves watching out the windows at the birds every day and alerts us the moment a raccoon or deer appear on the back deck!! I’ve only seen Frankie hiss twice, and both times were at large, bold raccoons. We put peanuts out daily for the Blue Jays and squirrels, and have suet hanging for the wild birds as well… so the window is like “cat TV” for little Frankie, who, by the way, is NOT so little anymore! He’s a robust 12 pounds now!
  • I’ve been doing lots of reading lately – check out the tab above, “Books 2017”. In the summer, I love slipping out onto the back deck with my latest read in the afternoon and spending an hour or sometimes two, in another time and place.
  • My nemesis “Mr Diverticulitis” has unfortunately reared his ugly head this summer as well.  Now that I’m over the latest flare-up, I’m trying some different things in the hopes of preventing these attacks from happening.  I’ve added drinking ALOE water to my daily regimen. It’s supposed to be very soothing to the digestive tract. I’m trying to be much better at remembering to take my Vitamin D, Flax Seed Oil, and other supplements. I am now consuming some raw, organic, unfiltered apple cider vinegar daily. I actually don’t mind the flavor, mixed in with my aloe water. I’m still culturing kefir also.
  • We went kayaking once so far this summer, and oh my how I love it!!  Hubby just ordered new roof racks called “J-Hooks” to make transporting the kayaks much easier. I’m thinking that we’ll get one or two more kayak expeditions in before the cool, wet weather arrives.
  • Speaking of weather, it has been exceptionally dry this year. I think we’ve had only two or three days of rain since returning in early June!  I hate to say it, but I’m actually getting a little sick of sunshine!  We traveled to Palm Springs in early March and if you count the three months of nothing but sun down there, and now three months of nearly nothing but sun up here, well, I haven’t hardly seen a cloud or raindrop for SIX MONTHS!  I’m ready!  I’m ready for some cool, crisp autumnal weather — the kind that makes you want to light amazing smelling candles and cook soup!

Yes, I’m more than ready for some cool weather – but there is none in our forecast at the moment, that’s for sure.  I always proclaim Sundays as “Soup Sunday” in the autumn and winter, and make some pretty darn delicious meals…. some of our faves are: Split Pea; Lentil-Veggie-Barley; French Onion; Cheesy Potato; Broccoli-Cheddar; Beef, Mushroom, and Barley; Hot & Sour…. oh my I could go on and on.  Chili is one of my personal faves too, both “con Carne” and “vegetarian” chili.  Hubby will eat it, though he doesn’t crave it like I do.     Another reason I love fall is —- FOOTBALL!!!  I truly enjoy watching both our Seattle Seahawks as well as the University of Washington Huskies. It’s in my blood. I’ve been a huge sports fan since I was about 10 years old and my dad started taking me to local high school games.      One more wonderful thing about cooler weather – I can put away my shorts and T-shirts and move into sweats, long sleeves, and jeans!  I’m just ready for a change, I guess.

Some years we have made an October through November trip to the Palm Springs area. This year, that’s not in the plan, and frankly, I’m thrilled.  Autumn is my favorite time of year and I’ve missed it the past few years.  Maybe it’s because I’m getting older, and let’s face it, the years we have are finite, so I feel as if  I appreciate the gorgeous changing leaves and magnificent colors so much more than I used to. I’ve missed you, Autumn, but this year, we’ll get up close and personal once again!

 

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Making my own Kefir

I’ve done it!  I’ve successfully started culturing my own kefir!  So here’s a short Q & A on the basics of kefir….

  • What is kefir?  It’s a fermented milk drink full of very healthy probiotics.
  • Why not just eat yogurt if you want healthy probiotics?  Because kefir contains many additional probiotics, not found in yogurt.
  • Why do people want to ingest probiotics anyway?  Probiotics are excellent for immune health and particularly for me, they help keep my digestive system working properly. This is particularly important for folks like me with diverticulosis – we do NOT want diverticulosis turning into diverticulitis!
  • What does it look like?  I’ll post pictures below, but milk kefir looks like somewhat thickened milk.
  • What does it taste like?  I drink my milk kefir plain because I enjoy the slightly tangy taste. It also tastes a tiny bit “yeasty” and you can feel a bit of effervescence in it as well.  Many people like to disguise the flavor by adding fruit and making a smoothie. Since I like it plain, I don’t, but I won’t rule out the possibility for the future!
  • Why do you keep saying “milk kefir”?  Because there is also “water kefir”.  Water kefir is cultured slightly differently – I haven’t tried it yet, but plan to.  It makes a fruity, almost soda-like probiotic beverage.
  • Why did you start making milk kefir? Couldn’t you buy it at the store?  Yes, most stores carry kefir (plain and flavored) in the natural foods section of the store…. I’d heard it was easy to do at home, and so now, just for the price of milk, I’m making my own. Also, I started with milk kefir because it’s the easiest to do!
  • How long does it take?  It takes approximately 24 hours for about 1.5 cups of milk to culture into kefir. It sits out on the kitchen counter the entire time. If your kitchen is warmer it might culture faster, cooler may take a bit longer.

So here we go, let’s make some kefir!  First off, the photo below shows the kefir “grains”. They are not acutally made of grain, just for the record.  They are a culture of bacteria and yeast. I got mine from a company called Cultures for Health and they came to me in dehydrated form. I rehydrated them in milk over a period of about 3 days.  The kefir grains grow, the more kefir you make, so pretty soon you have MORE than you probably need – or you can start culturing more milk at a time.

k1

In the next photo, you can see the cultured milk that is now kefir on the left.  I’m about to strain those precious kefir grains out of the kefir, so I can start another batch. The jars are pint size, although they look more like quart size in the pic. The strainer is made of plastic, including the mesh. Apparently you should never touch your culture with metal of any kind.

k2

Below, you can see that I’ve begun the straining process, carefully saving the kefir grains for the next batch.

k3

Here is the strained kefir, in a clean jar, covered with a plastic lid, ready to go into the fridge.  I think it tastes better cool or cold, so I don’t normally drink the room temperature stuff.  Although one could if one desired to!

k5

And here we have the next batch beginning.  The kefir grains have been added to milk to begin the culturing process. I use a paper coffee filter over the top, secured with a rubber band.  This way the kefir can “breathe”. The instructions made it clear that the top needs to be left open while culturing.

k4

I’m pretty excited about this little project.  It’s good for me, and saves me money, and the kefir grains supposedly last a year (or longer) if cared for properly.  When I feel like I’ve got enough for a few days, I can put my kefir grains “to sleep” in the fridge in some milk for up to two weeks. I’m still in the process of learning to make cultured and fermented foods, so there will probably be more on this subject as the year progresses!

Just a reminder — my 2016 book reviews are now at the top of the blog, under the heading “BOOKS 2016”. 🙂

 

 

New Year, New Focus

 NYE SeattleHappy New Year 2016!!!  Wait.  What? 2016????  How can that be?  Seems like it was not long ago that we were welcoming in the new century, awaiting the Y2K bug, and partying like it was 1999….   yet here we are, a full 16 years later…. and happy to still be here, I might add!

Some years I enjoy documenting my New Years resolutions and this year I’m going to do just that.  To keep myself on track, I intend on doing fairly regular updates on how well I’m succeeding.  So, lets get started.

Numero UNO on my list is:  Decluttering my home.  I have spoken about this in the past, and have been marginally successful.  Maybe I should change that to minimally successful.  In the past month or so, I’ve donated two large garbage bags of clothes and the entire back end of our SUV was full of other stuff that I no longer wanted or needed. I have completely cleared out my kitchen of items I don’t use, yet there is still TOO MUCH STUFF! But friends, that is only the proverbial tip of the iceberg!  I still have closets and drawers full of (many different sized) clothes that I need to part with.  Our 3rd bedroom – AKA “the Office” – is a disaster area. From top to bottom it’s full of crap I don’t need.  Just this past weekend we gave away a large piece – a 5 foot tall “kitty condo”, lovingly made by hubby for our cat Jinx – who no longer uses it.  It’s moved about 50 miles away to our son and future daughter-in-law’s place where they have two new rescue kittens who apparently are in love with it already! 🙂  Yay!   Personally, I have found that when I clear out stuff, it makes me feel good.  I haven’t read the huge best seller book (yet) that’s out there about the “magic of tidying up”, but yes, it’s on reserve at the library. Since it’s so popular, I’ve been waiting for it for some time, but that’s okay. I understand she (the author) says that if something doesn’t give you “joy”, then it should go.  What gives me joy is seeing my cupboards, cabinets, and drawers cleared out to the point of being able to see what I have and access what I have and use what I have!  I will do some before and after photos of my horrendously messy office.

Numero Dos is to Eat healthier foods.  It’s easy to say that, but I’ve actually made a plan.  First off, let me divulge that I suffer from diverticulitis.  I’ve found that for me, the best way to keep “it” at bay is to add pro-biotics into my diet.  Of course there are numerous ways to do this…. Some people take probiotic pills, and while that may work well for some, it doesn’t for me.  So I’m in the process of learning about lacto-fermentation and will be making my first fermented veggies (I’m starting with carrots) soon.  I’ve been drinking kefir for months, and am just now starting to culture my own kefir using milk kefir grains and water kefir grains.  Kefir and fermented veggies provide a myriad of helpful bacteria for our bodies, our immune system, and intestinal health. When you consider that one bottle of store-bought kefir is anywhere from $3-5,  I’ll save a lot of money by making my own.  I also eat Greek yogurt which also provides a few probiotics, but not nearly as many strains as the kefir or fermented veggies. I downloaded a very informative book for my Kindle for only $2.99 called Fermented VegetablesI’ll keep you posted on how my fermenting and culturing goes!  I got my kefir grains from Amazon.com, from a company called Cultures for Health.   Not only do I plan on eating probiotics, but I’m really going to try and focus on preparing our meals from whole foods, and sometimes even organic when it’s feasible (and not insanely expensive).  I guess my main goal here is to cut out extra chemicals and additives from our diet.  I will update on that quest, as well.

Numero Tres is to compute less and read more!  I find it so easy to spend an entire afternoon on the computer, and I have a feeling that I’m in pretty good company here.  Let’s face it, fooling around on the computer is probably not the best way for one to spend their free time. I truly DO love reading.  Last year I set a goal to read 25 books.  I thought that was a reasonable, attainable ambition.  I failed.  I read 22 books, (I think).  Okay, that’s not so bad, but I’m resetting the goal for 25 books again for 2016. By the way, I do NOT count books like the Fermented Vegetables book in this list of “read books”.  I’m thinking I might put a new tab on the top of the home page here where I have an easy spot to document my reading progress and yes, I’ll call it “Books 2016”.

I think the above are pretty good goals for the upcoming year.  Oh yes, there are others, but not everything is brought to life on the blog 😉      I’d love to hear what any of your goals, plans, hopes, and dreams are for 2016 – and Happiest of New Years to ALL!!!