A Home for Herman Jr.

Herman Jr. is off to a good home!

Today I gifted some of my sourdough starter (affectionately named “Herman” by my mother) to a friend at work—this is the third coworker I’ve had the opportunity of sharing my starter with, which is pretty cool! I love the community and DIY spirit that fermenting foods creates.

I also shared with her a recipe for sourdough pizza crust, which I used to make these incredible heart-shaped pizzas for Jordan and myself on Valentine’s day. I will definitely be making more of this dough and freezing it for future pizza Fridays around our house.

The one on the right is pesto-quinoa, tomato, salami, leek, and parmesan. It was incredible.

You might be wondering about good ol’ Herman. I created my starter the old-fashioned way: leaving flour and water on the counter for a few weeks, feeding periodically until it would bubble and double in size overnight. I use all-purpose flour, which I know is a no-no, but it’s been working for me and will continue to work for me until I can buy whole-wheat flour in bulk. And, hey, my starter is 9 months old now! I must be doing something half right!

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Sunset’s “Breads: Step-By-Step Techniques” is a treasure trove of recipes.

I’m also itching to make another starter. I got this book on bread baking for 50 cents at the library, and it has some instructions for creating a sourdough starter that I’d never heard of before: heating yogurt and milk on the stove, leaving it on the counter, then adding flour once it starts to bubble after a few days. The idea of incorporating dairy is so strange to me; I feel like I need to try it and report back with my results.

But as much as I want to make another starter, I’m also hesitant about collecting too many starters… I would rather not wake up one morning to discover I’ve somehow managed to cram 10 different sourdough starters into our refrigerator. Fermentation is a slippery slope. (As we speak, I’m in the process of growing a kombucha SCOBY on our kitchen counter and planning a batch of blackberry mead.)

Last night my husband told me he’s glad I have inexpensive hobbies like “putting things in jars on the counter and looking that them.” I should probably take that as my cue to just make another starter already, huh?  ¯\_()_/¯ 

The Habitat ReStore: a First-time Homeowner’s Dream

One of my newest obsessions as a first-time homeowner and wannabe gardener is shopping at the Habitat for Humanity ReStore.

If you’re a new homeowner and looking for affordable building materials, furniture, yard tools, scrap lumber, etc., I cannot recommend enough that you check out your local Habitat ReStore. Or if you’re big into DIY projects or on a budget, this store is also for you!

Most things are priced very low since they’re trying to move inventory quickly. I’m lucky enough that there’s one a few minutes from my work, so I often go there on my lunch break. And I love knowing that the money I spend goes toward a cause I believe in.

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Written on the steps at the front entrance of the store

Here are some examples of a few of my best and favorite ReStore finds:

  • Beautiful vintage yellowware bowl for 3.99
  • Vintage tin recipe card box (with dividers inside still!) for 1.99
  • Numerous new or gently used terra-cotta pots (my location almost always seems to have a great variety) for only a few bucks each
  • Bulb planter for under $1
  • Hoe, pitchfork, and tall paint roller, ranging from $3–7
  • Large seed starting tray for $1
  • Canning lid rack for $1

My biggest tip for shopping at the ReStore: If you see something you like, scoop it up! I can almost guarantee you that it will not be there if you come back for it later. That’s how fast the inventory moves.

My second tip: Keep your mind open. Last summer I went looking for large dowels to frame my strawberry patch so I could cover it with netting, and I ended up finding some staircase rods instead that worked really well. You just never know what you’ll find.

Archie thinks these repurposed staircase rods were put to good use.

I hope this inspires you to check out your local Habitat ReStore. Happy thrifting and reusing!

Slow Snowy Days & Painting the Kitchen

It’s been a bit odd around here for the past few days–we have snow, which is very unusual for our part of Washington. We woke up last Wednesday to about an inch, but it melted by the time I got home from work. Then on Sunday we got around 3.4-4 inches.

It was nice to have a Sunday together just lounging around the house with the pets, making pour-over coffee and listening to records. Toward the evening I got a little antsy and started painting our kitchen cabinets, which is something I’ve been meaning to find time for after testing the below cabinet door a few weeks ago. I absolutely loathe the orange glow the cabinets infuse our kitchen with.

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I also loathe the baby blue counter tops, but that’s another story.

Yesterday it snowed all day, and we received another 3-4 inches. My work closed our offices early so we could all get home safe (Don’t laugh, it’s a real concern here when the city is never prepared!), so I decided I’d spend the extra time making even more progress on our kitchen cabinets. We are fortunate to have quite a lot of cabinet space, so I have a long way to go.

Excuse the mess, but, ya know, we live here.

I feel like half the time I don’t know if I’m doing any of this painting the “right” way. It seems like there are a million different Pinterest tutorials, so I’m just taking it one step at a time and going with what seems right for me. Overall, I’m very pleased with how they’re turning out.

I decided to use General Finishes Milk Paint in Antique White (a little spendy, but I’m really liking how it looks–and you don’t need to prime with it!), and this morning I ordered some new cabinet handles that I think will match the chrome on the oven better. Most of my painting supplies I  picked up from our local Habitat for Humanity ReStore for next to nothing and secondhand.

And our kitten, Lenore, has remained ever watchful over my kitchen revamp.

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I’ve always wanted a cat that would sit in baskets and other things around the house, which my husband has not been shy in voicing how specific and odd a wish it is.

And now I have her, much to my simultaneous delight and aggravation. Kittens are hard work, you guys.

Hope you all are staying warm and safe!

Home, home on the range…

Have you ever tried to water bath can on a glass-top range? Our house came with one, and when I made jam and canned plums last summer and fall, well, let’s just say I was less than thrilled. It was a very frustrating experience.

From my experience, glass-top stoves are ridiculously difficult to can on because they don’t heat evenly — it’s hard to keep water at a boil to properly seal the jars — and anything that makes its way onto the glass immediately burns and is almost impossible to get off. Yes, even water. And I was only doing small-batch canning! I shouldn’t have been so difficult.

A few weeks ago I decided it was time to seriously start thinking about a new range.

I’ve been enamored with Kaitie Moyer’s vintage gas range on Instagram for a while now, and I decided to do a little research to see if getting a vintage range of my own would be worth it. This particular article from Slate, about the positives of cooking with vintage ranges, had me convinced I needed to find one.

I knew the prospects would be pretty slim that I’d find one I liked at an affordable price within the next year or so — we don’t have a gas line to our house, so it would need to be electric, and it would need to be about the same size as our current range to avoid ripping out cabinets. And, preferably, be in working condition. Many vintage ranges aren’t, and when they do work, they’re upward of $1,000. Yikes.

But, as I often remind myself, it never hurts to look. I opened Craigslist, thinking I’d just sigh over all the ranges I could never afford, and almost immediately found this beauty for $220.

I named her Betty. She’s a 1953 Frigidaire “Thrifty 30” porcelain range, and she works like a dream. She heats up much faster than our old range, and she cleans up much easier too. (Seriously, the drip pans are ridiculously easy to clean.)

I still cannot believe my luck. I think the people selling her had absolutely no idea what she’s worth. (I almost feel bad about it…) We had to put a new plug on her so she’s compatible with the outlet in our house, and we saved $20 by using the plug from our old range. AND I was able to find a PDF of the user manual online. (I unfortunately printed it backward, but oh well. You live and you learn.)

The only parts that don’t work are the clock and the timer, which aren’t a big deal to me. (There’s also a slim chance the clock isn’t broken — I read that the clocks on these ranges hummed pretty loudly, so a lot of people unhooked them. I will need to do some investigating.)

It’s been so much more enjoyable to cook with a range that actually works well, and it’s encouraged me to try many new recipes instead of sticking with our stand-by favorites. And it’s encouraged me to finally start planning our kitchen remodel. (More on that in the future!)

Now if you’ll excuse me, my mom has hinted that she’d like another jar of homemade blackberry jam, so I’d better get to work…

Bottling Our First Homebrew

My husband and I are big craft beer people, and we’ve been itching to try our hand at homebrew for quite some time. Now that we have our own house, a bigger kitchen, and more space to store everything, we figured it would be a good time to get serious about all our talk.

Last month during one of my frequent lunch-break trips to the thrift store, I happened upon a brew-your-own-IPA kit for $5. Everything was new and sealed in the box, so I snatched it up knowing a complete kit was a steal and would give us the push to finally get started brewing.

The process itself was pretty simple, and we had everything we needed in our kitchen already. Most of the afternoon was spent over the stove in the kitchen making sure the mash stayed at the right temperature. I was able to share some of my fermentation knowledge gleaned from maintaining my sourdough starter, which my husband found interesting, I think. (He might have been humoring me…)

After two weeks of fermenting, it was finally time to bottle!

As most people in my life are aware, I hate buying anything new. I try as much as possible to find what I need secondhand, and bottles for our homebrew were no different. I was able to find swing-top bottles fairly cheap at a few different thrift stores, ranging from 75 cents to 1.99. They’re larger than a standard beer bottle, probably around 22 oz., but we like to drink the “big boys” so it’s not a big deal.

When it came time to fill the bottles, we let gravity do most of the work. The instructional video on the web page for our kit made it look pretty easy, but this worked much better for us. Now we wait two more weeks… again.

And hopefully it won’t be flat — we realized we left too much headspace in the bottles. You’d think someone who regularly cans would realize this, but, hey, it was our first time and some mistakes were bound to happen.

It sure looks pretty, though, doesn’t it? I just had to sneak it out of the “fermentation cupboard” (aka the seldom-used laundry room cupboard) for a picture.

Some things I would do differently next time include:

  • Leave a little less headspace
  • Use cheesecloth inside the strainer to catch any super-fine sediment
  • Use a bleach-water solution to sanitize everything instead of frantically searching everywhere for a powdered sanitizer

In the meantime, I’m flipping through these two brewing books I got for Christmas, trying to decide what to make next. I’m thinking a blackberry mead, maybe. Have any favorite recipes? I’d love to hear!