Monday, December 26, 2011

Mead Making

Let's just say that Portland's culture of craft beer and homebrewing has had an effect on my husband, Dan. He liked beer but was never all that excited about it, until we moved to Portland. Then he got a taste of what fine micro-brewed beer was all about. And now, he has been bitten by the homebrew bug. First, came the trip to F.H. Steinbart for all of the equipment. And, given his love of dark beers, his first batch of homebrew was a stout. That was bottled a couple of weeks ago and is now happily sitting in the basement waiting for its first tasting,  which is most likely sometime in January. 

But, brewing beer was not enough. Next up on the agenda was mead. Most people don't even know what mead is but there are now about 150 meaderies in the U.S. And, for the uninitiated, mead is honey wine. It is an alcoholic beverage made from fermenting a mixture of water and honey with yeast. It is believed to be the first fermented beverage, predating wine and beer. And, it is found throughout history in Europe, Africa and Asia. 

Dan bottled the mead last week, on December 22, which was the first day of winter.  And, since mead should bottle-age for awhile (at least 3 months but 6 months or more is preferred, according to the books), we think it only appropriate to have a tasting party on the longest day of the year, the summer solstice on June 21. Between now and then, we need to think of a name for the mead and design a label. After all, we have 23 pints of it in the basement (right next to the stout). What's next on the homebrew to-do list? Well, Dan is thinking about a Belgian-style ale since it takes a year to bottle-age. After that, he has his sights set on making hard cider. That's for me, since I am the hard cider fan in the family.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Blackberry Jam

Dan and I finally got up the nerve to trying canning on our electric stove in our little home in Portland. We hadn't canned anything since last fall, so we were a little bit nervous and feeling a tad rusty. But, everything went well and we even managed to can two batches of jam in just a few hours yesterday afternoon. 

The berries are just glorious in the Pacific Northwest. We had great berries in California but nothing like the ones that I have tasted here. I had purchased a half-flat of Oregon blackberries from one of the farmers at out little, neighborhood farmers market in King. Their sole purpose was to become jam. However, they were so ripe and delicious that we were barely able to control ourselves and not eat them right out of the box. Fortunately, we have a bit of willpower and 15 half-pint jars of blackberry jam to show for it. Most of which, will more than likely be given away as gifts. Our next canning project is raspberry jam while those are still in season. Oh, we are still hoping to find some local apricots as well since that is one of our favorite jams.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Learning to Sew

I wanted to take sewing classes back in L.A. but just never got around to it. Now, that I'm in Portland, with a bit more time on my hands (for right now), I thought it was time to give this a try. By chance, a couple of weeks ago, Dan and I walked by a sewing store on NE Alberta called Modern Domestic. We popped in to take a look around and I inquired about classes after I saw this super cute tote bag on a wall with a little tag saying that they had a class that teaches you how to make it. I love purses and totes so I could not resist signing up then and there for the class.  

Once I got home though, I panicked that I would not be able to make a tote since I had not touched a sewing machine since I was about 11 or 12. So, I went on Modern Domestic's website and found a two-hour basic sewing class that I could attend before I took my tote bag class. Taking the basic sewing class gave me just enough confidence so that I could tackle the tote bag today. I can't believe that I actually made the tote in the picture. It was a really fun class and it's nice to have produced something cute and useful. Now, I want to go back and use some open studio time to make another tote. Oh, and I'm taking the class this Friday where I can learn to make envelope pillowcases...very excited about that.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

The Darling Buds of May

April showers do bring May flowers. Even with the wetter and cooler than usual weather this year (or so I am told), the flowers and trees are definitely in bloom here in Portland. It's not that spring isn't and wasn't lovely in Los Angeles but it's different than it is here. And, part of my fascination with it is that I don't, as of yet, have a clue what most of the plants are. I do know that there is a photo of a Wisteria, a Rhododendron, a Lilac, a Dogwood and may be Blue Bells (but I'm not sure of that one). The others, I have not a clue about. And, not knowing is kinda nice since it gives me yet another thing to learn about my new home.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Project Grow and Our New Raised Bed

It's springtime and I've been thinking about vegetable gardening for many, many months now. I stopped working in our L.A. vegetable garden over this past winter once Dan and I had decided to move to Portland. It just seemed silly to keep putting in all that effort on something that we were going to have to leave behind. But, know that we are in Portland and the sun is finally starting to make an appearance, I can't help but want to get back out there in the dirt. Our new home will have some areas that are veggie garden friendly but we are not ready yet to start on that project...and it is a project. We needed something that was easier to manage and get started with so we wouldn't miss the whole spring and summer growing season.

What to do? Finding a community garden spot was the answer. And, thanks to my friend, Jana, we did just that. Jana introduced Dan and I to her nephew, James, who just happens to work for Project Grow. Project Grow is a progressive program for adults with developmental disabilities that teaches them skills so that they can develop careers in urban farming as well as the arts. Most of Project Grow's urban farming space is dedicated to growing produce for area restaurants and for a small CSA. But, they have a few raised beds available for members of the community. And, Dan and I were able to score one of those beds. It's not huge but it is definitely large enough to give us some veggies this summer and fall.

We finally got our butts over there yesterday and started pulling out the cover crop of vetch and a few stray leeks and green onions that were in the bed. And, we managed to loosen up the soil a bit as well. Now, I need to go find some northwest hardy vegetable starts and get planting.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Battle Dandelion

Sure, they look all innocent and cute...if you only have a couple in your yard. However, we have dozens and dozens of them. They're in the front yard, the side yard and especially the backyard. We are pretty sure that we're being invaded by the dreaded dandelion -- the weed nemesis of many a gardener. And, since yesterday was a gloriously sunny day here in Portland, I decided that I needed to tackle the dandelion onslaught. Actually, my lovely goddaughter, Jebrahn, took charge of the dandelions while I tried to cleanup some of the other yard issues plaguing our neglected garden.

Jebrahn was able to get a large patch of the backyard cleared but there are still a lot of them out there. It will certainly take more than a few hours on a single Sunday afternoon to rid us of this foe. It's definitely not a one day job. I wish you could just pull them out of the ground but they have deep roots so each one has to be dug up. 

Wednesday is supposed to be pretty nice so I might try to dig up some more then. The only solace in this battle against the dreaded dandelion is that most of our neighbors seem to have a ton of them in their yards as well. 

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Getting Settled in Puddletown

Well, our move to Portland happened and we have been here now for nine days. The journey from Los Angeles to Portland was not without some adventure when Dan's car brokedown on I-5, mine got a flat and we had to spend a day in Los Banos, CA dealing with our various car repair issues. However, we like to think that our little detour to Los Banos was the universe's way of telling us that we needed some rest from our packing and moving travails. All of this put us a day behind but we still arrived in Portland late last Monday evening in time for the movers on Tuesday morning and we were at least a bit rested.

Unpacking has been lots of fun (she said sarcastically). We don't have a enough room for everything in our small house but fortunately, we have a basement and a garage to store things that we do not use on a regular basis. Looks like Dan and I will need to continue purging more of our possessions on our mission to declutter our lives.

We now have a functional kitchen, which is nice since eating out all the time gets to be a drag... and expensive. We baked a loaf of bread the other day and tonight, I will even attempt a pasta dinner.

So, we are getting our new home set-up little by little. More to today, including another trip to Target and Home Depot. At least, we now know how to get there. Hopefully, we will have a little time this afternoon for some more exploration of our new home town. So much to see and do.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Movin' On Up...North

I just couldn't resist a reference to The Jeffersons in the title for this post. Sorry. However, to get back to the actual point of the post, Dan and I are indeed moving up north to the beautiful Pacific Northwest. To be more specific, we are going to Portland, Oregon. Yes, it will be quiet a change from Los Angeles in many, many ways. However, it is a change that we are excitedly looking forward to. 

Well, the packing part is not so exciting. Actually, it's a bit of a nightmare and extremely stressful. Dan and I trying to purge and pack at the same time. It is amazing how much stuff you can accumulate. We are doing our best to get rid of some of this stuff...even a bunch of our beloved books. But, we are keeping most of our gardening tools, decor, etc. since we have been blessed with finding a home with a small backyard. So, I will be writing a lot in the future about our adventures in gardening in a much damper climate and learning to cook with an electric range (Ugh!). But now, the clock is ticking and we have exactly one week before the movers show up to load our possessions into a van for the drive north. So, I should probably get back to packing.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Yes, I've Been Gone for Awhile

I know, I know... it's been several months since I last wrote a blog post. To say that I've taken a bit of a break, would be an understatement. A lot has happened in those months but most of it had nothing to do with gardening, cooking or sustainability. It had to do with family and the passing away of my mother. And, my grief has made writing on this blog a very low priority. Some people are able to write about their grief but that is not the point of this blog so I will not be sharing on that level.  I am, however, trying to get back to writing about some of my passions and being more consistent with my blogging.