Saying goodbye to 2016

ny1I’ve read, or should I say noticed a few memes on Facebook recently saying something to the effect of: “Goodbye 2016, I can’t wait to see you go, you’ve been an awful year”.  I’m sure some of the people that have posted these statements have honestly had a bad year for whatever reason…. although I think that probably the vast majority are protesting political outcomes.  I’m so sick of politics I could scream. So in a way, I echo a slight relief of saying farewell to 2016 and all the crud that went along with the WAY TOO LONG AND DRAWN OUT presidential election.  Oh yes people, I would change the political process if I could. We’d have something like 3 months to get the job done – just like other civilized nations do. But I digress, this blog post is NOT about politics! It’s really my end of the year musings, my look at how I did regarding my 2016 resolutions, and plans for the future.   For me (politics aside), 2016 was a great year, with just one exception. In July we had to say goodbye to our precious kitty and RV buddy, Jinx the cat. I know I’ve talked about this in other posts so I won’t go on and on, but honestly, losing him was hard…. really hard.  We have been pet-free now for about 6 months… but folks, this is about to change!!  Hubby and I know we really want to get another furry companion, so at the end of January we’ll be going to the local shelter and waiting for a special kitty to meow to us in just the right way…. the way that tugs on your heart strings and says “take me”!  Of course I will do a post on that when it happens!! That will be big stuff! 🙂

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Last December I made a post (click here to read) about my new focus for 2016. Number one on the list was decluttering my home.  Whoa baby, did I ever do a good job of that.  I spent months going through closets and cupboards, boxes and bins, getting rid of stuff…. from books to CD’s to clothing and housewares and everything in between. It felt good. It felt really good. I reorganized cupboards, closets, shelves, and our pantry.  My “junk” drawer was in good order…..and now, oh my goodness, it’s bad again.  The junk in the junk drawer is overflowing. The pantry is in near total disarray. My closet is full of too much stuff.  So, it’s going to start all over again in this little house!  The decluttering and organizing will begin anew in January!!  After going through ALL my clothes this past year and getting rid of bags and bags of stuff I didn’t like, want, or need (and I mean big black garbage bags full!), I thought I had it narrowed down to “just the good stuff”.  Now that it’s been nearly a year, I can see with new eyes, the things that I thought I needed/wanted but that I actually never used. If they haven’t been utilized in a year, then it’s probably time to say sayonara . So the decluttering will begin anew!

Number two on my list last year was to eat healthier foods.  Sometimes I’ve been successful at this, and other times not so much.  I am still making and consuming on a regular basis, my homemade cultured Kefir.  This stuff is not only delicious (in my humble opinion) but without a doubt, super-healthy for you.  Kefir contains a greater variety of strains of probiotics and beneficial yeasts than yogurt.  Making your own is easy and SO economical!  I buy a half gallon of milk on sale at the store for 99 cents and that will make me enough kefir for about 2 weeks. Of course, the price would go up if you bought organic milk – and who knows, I may do that at some point. It’s still much cheaper than buying ready-made kefir.        I failed at one of my goals for last year – and that was making my own fermented veggies, but next year will be a success!  I got an awesome Fermentation Crock (click here for details) for Christmas! I’m so excited to finally give this a go!  One thing I want to examine more carefully in 2017 is eating way less in the way of processed foods. No, I don’t want to get all fanatical about it, after all there is NO WAY I’m giving up my Kraft macaroni and cheese every once in a while, but I do want to try and and make things from scratch more. This could even mean making my own breads!  I have a sourdough starter kit from Cultures for Health, the same people who sold me my Kefir making “grains”. I really need to buckle down and give it a try and get that sourdough starter growing!!

Number three last year was to READ MORE and compute less, and in this I was totally successful!  I set a goal of 25 books for the year, and ended up reading 37!  I love to read, so this really wasn’t a difficult or tedious task for me, but I’m still proud of actually exceeding my goal for the year.  I will have the same goal for 2017, 25 books.  I enjoy using GoodReads,com for keeping track of my reading progress.

So, this brings us to next year, 2017. As you can see, my goals from last year still apply for this year – I’ll be reading, decluttering, cleaning & organizing, fermenting, and hopefully more physically active. It’s so dang easy to sit around or just do house work during the day, but I need to get out and take walks much more often.

I’m also looking forward to several things that are upcoming!  In January, we are flying to Hawaii to attend the wedding of my oldest, Aaron. He’s 39 and two years ago he finally found his “soul mate” in Andrea (Andie). We’ll spend a week on the island of Maui with family and friends, and then after the wedding we’ll be going on our own to the Big Island for a few days. Should be fun!  When we return, it’s off to the Humane Society to find the next furry member of our family – can’t wait!  Later on in the spring, we hope to get down to our southern hang out (Palm Springs) and spend some sunny days there – hubby playing golf and me having pool time!  We have RV trips in the works with our delightful neighbors this coming summer also. I hope our new kitty is adaptable – he/she will need to enjoy being at home in the northwest, the sunshine of southern Cal, and on the road in the RV!

Here’s wishing everyone a truly wonderful 2017 ~~ and let’s not wish our years away like the folks who put up the memes I mentioned at the beginning of this post…. after all, we don’t know how many years any of us have left! People (celebrities, anyway) seem to be dropping like flies lately 😦   A HAPPY NEW YEAR TO ONE AND ALL!!!!

happyny

fermcrock

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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.

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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.

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

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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!

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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.

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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!!!