About Kirstin

I am a stay at home mom, married to my wonderful husband and we have 2 beautiful daughters Toddler (04.18.09) and Baby (08.22.11). I am a semi-crunchy mama who is constantly striving to make a better house and home for my family.

Bad Blogger

I have been a terrible blogger these past few weeks. Summer just seems to go by so fast, I can’t believe it is mid-August already! The last few week have been so jammed full of stuff that I can’t describe it all so I am not going to bombard you with pictures, because everyone needs to see copious amounts of pictures of my super cute kids right? If no then you can stop reading!

Most of the time is is what happens when I try and get a photo!

Naked baby trying to choose her clothes!

Playing firemen at grandma’s house.

We tried fresh peaches, they were a hit! (fresh hummus not do much!)

Reading books!

Loving sisters!

We went to the museum to see the special exhibit about dinosaurs. Daddy wore the baby!

We also rode on the subway. We could have done this for the entire day and both kids would have loved it!

Digging for dinosaur bones.

Riding in the sling at the book store.

Playing Lego in her dress up princess clothes!

J decided that going in the house that was made was much better than playin with the house. She then methodically took it apart piece by piece.

That just about sums up my last few weeks. I am hoping this post turns out ok as i am trying to do it from my phone as I am trapped under a nursing/sleeping baby. I hope to give you some more in depth post next week as I have been working on some exciting things!

Have a wonderful weekend!

What I’m Reading

I missed last week’s WIR because my husband and I got new toys phones. As a result there has been much instagraming, friendly competitionin and not a whole lot of reading!

od-3This week I am reading The Omnivore Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals. When I first read the title I was a little bit confused (and I still am as I haven’t gotten to that part) when I saw the four meals. I only eat three meals a day, should I be eating four? Does a snack count as a meal? I’m sure all of my questions will be answered in time. I am only part way through the first part of book.

It is a wonderfully written book, I really enjoy reading Michael Pollan’s work. In this book he is working backwards starting with our highly processed food culture working backwards to what our ancestors ate. The first part of the book and the only part I have read so far is an in-depth look at corn and how Americans (and I’m assuming it applies to Canadian’s as well) has surpassed Mexico as the most corn consuming nation.  It is surprising to think about because we don’t sit down and eat tons of corn, at least we don’t think we do. But when you get done to it ever one of our processed foods is full of corn. He also talked about the feed lots for cows and how they aren’t designed to live on a diet of grain and he problems the poor cows have from eating so much corn.

I am hoping that the as I get more into the book and he talks about more traditional farms and planting that I don’t feel as horrible about the food that I am eating as I do now. I do have his next book on my shelf waiting for me to read it is called In Defence of Food. It is how we can change the way we are eating one meal at a time. It is taking the information from Dilemma and putting it into practice.

What are you reading this week?

(Not so) Spicy Kimchi

After receiving some yummy spices in the mail last week I decided to whip up a batch of kimchi. I have tried previous times to make it with limited success. The first recipe that I had tried was good but it wasn’t really a true kimchi it was more of a vegetable kraut and I shredded everything MUCH to small. The second time I made it I followed the recipe in Wild Fermentation, it was good but it wasn’t the vibrant red colour I have seen in traditional kimchis.

Once my spices arrived I got right to work. I had a ~2.5lb napa cabbage that I removed the core and cut into chunks along with some sliced daikon, and sliced carrots. I weighted it down and soaked it in a brine (as described in WF) for several hours until the cabbage was nice and wilted and the vegetables were soft.  I made a paste with some garlic, korean chilies, ginger, fish sauce and scallions. I drained the vegetables, mixed with the spices and shoved it into a jar and let it sit. I left mine for about 3 days (it was very hot here) to reach my desired taste. You can leave it longer it is just my personal preference. It was lovely it hissed and spewed brine all over by the result was a nice tangy kimchi that had a hint of spice (and a LOT of garlic, next time I won’t be some heavy handed with the garlic).

I was given the recipe for the kimchi by the same wonderful friend who sent me the spices. I am in love with it!

Spicy Kimchi (makes approximately 1.5L) (modified from Wild Fermentation)

  • 1 head of nappa (or Chinese) cabbage (2-3lbs)
  • 1 or 2 Carrots
  • 1 daikon
  • 3 or more scallions
  • 2-3 cloves of garlic
  • 1″ long piece of ginger
  • 2 tbsp Korean chili powder (more if you want it spicy)
  • 1-2tbsp fish sauce
  • Salt
  • Water
  1. Core and cut the cabbage, slice the daikon, and carrots and add to a bowl. Add salt and water to make a brine (I used about 3 tbsp of salt and enough water to cover everything). Weigh the vegetables down so they stay under the brine and let sit for several hours or until soft and wilted. Drain, reserving some of the brine.
  2. Grate the ginger and chop up the garlic. Mix together with the Korean chili powder and the fish sauce. Add in the chopped scallions.
  3. Drain the vegetables and reserve some of the brine, mix the spice paste with the veggies until thoroughly mixed. Pack into a 1.5L jar or into a quart and a pint jar, pressing hard so the brine comes up over the vegetables and weigh down the veggies to keep them submerged. (Do this wearing gloves otherwise your hands will be quite spicy!)
  4. Ferment the kimchi in a corner or your kitchen out of direct sunlight. If you are using a jar that does not have a gasket or an airlock make sure you burp them as a lot of gas is produced. Place them on a plate or a towel to catch any drips that might stain your counter. Start tasting them at 3 days until they reach your desired level of sourness, then transfer to the fridge.

I made my kimchi in a fido style jar (bail top with a rubber gasket), it is self burping and every so often on days 2 and 3 we would hear a hissing or gurgling sound coming from the jars as the pressure was released. For some reason each time this happen my 3 year old went into hysterics, she thought it was so funny.

So there you have it, simple, easy, delicious not too spicy kimchi.

Shared as part of Traditional Tuesdays and Fight Back Friday.

Spicy Mail

Korean Chili Spice and Rice Yeast

This week I got some spicy mail, literally spicy. It was a mixture of Korean chillies for kimchi. When I opened the envelope you could just smell the spice, it was heavenly!

There have been some recipes that I have desperately wanted to try but I can’t get the ingredients around here and the websites that do carry them don’t seem to ship to Canada. So what is a girl to do? Make American friends! I had all of my stuff shipped to a friends house and she graciously shipped it to me. I will be forever grateful to her for doing this!

Now that my ingredients have arrived I can’t wait to start making them. I started the kimchi yesterday and it is already in the gaseous stage spewing extra brine all over my counter but it smells wonderful and the beautiful deep red colour I have seen in other kimchis.

The other package is rice yeast. There is a recipe I have been dying to try where you mix cooked rice and the yeast together and let it culture for several days. I have tried something similar to this when I was travelling in China and I hope it is as tasty as I remember! I hope to post some recipes tomorrow.

Have you received anything fun in the mail lately?

What I’m Reading

This week I finished a delightful book called The Midwife of Venice. It was an interesting look at the culture of Europe during the 16th century. It is about a Jewish midwife who lived in the ghetto of Venice and is called to help at the birth of a Christian woman. This is forbidden and the book chronicles the events that happen. I loved this book, it was quick and easy read. It is very interesting as it shed some light of some issues that I was only partly aware of like the anti-Semitism that was happening even so long ago. I also loved the portrayal of birth in the book. It was set back in the day before there was lot of medical interventions and midwives were the primary birth attendants. I loved this book and I will read it again sometime (perhaps when there aren’t 12 people ahead of me on the waiting list at the public library!).

I also finished Wild Fermentation this week. I thought it was a great read even though it is classified as a cookbook (or an uncooked book?). It was great, I love Sandor’s commentary through the book on what he learned while making the different ferments. Since I have finished it I have tried two different ferments out of it. I have tried making kimchi and sourdough. I cannot wait to try these. The kimchi is currently still sitting out on my counter bubbling away. It looks really tasty! I am about to go and put my sourdough loaves into the oven. I have tried on several different occasions to make sourdough bread and ever single one of those failed. I am hoping this one will actually work!

This week I am reading The Midwife’s Song and The Revolution Will Not be Microwaved. I am starting to see a trend with my reading! What are you reading this week?

My Favourite Summer Drink

There is nothing better than a nice cold refreshing bubbly drink on a hot summer’s day. This summer has been exceptionally hot thus far and it is only the start of July. I have found the perfect bubbly drink that I am currently in love with. I am talking about water kefir. It is a lovely fermented fermented drink that is bubbly, delicious and filled with wonderful probiotics.

Water kefir also called Tibicos is a fermented drink using a SCOBY (symbiotic culture of bateria and yeast) kind of like kombucha, sugar and water. It is different because the water kefir scoby looks like little grains or little crystals, so generally they are referred to as water kefir grains. It is really easy to make and if you take good care of your grains they can live on forever (or as long as you want to keep making it).

To make my water kefir I have started making it in a 1.5L fido style jar. This results in a lovely bubbly drink. I add 1/3-1/2 cup of water kefir grains, 5.5-6 cups of water and 1 tablespoon of organic raw sugar for each cup of water. I mix the sugar in the water and let it dissolve and then poor over the wk grains. Then I seal it up and put it ontop of my fridge for 2-3 days depending on the temperature and how many grains I’ve added. You can see the bubbles starting to form at the top and this one has only been going for 18 hours. The translucent shimmers at the bottom of the jar are the grains. The yellow colour is due to the organic sugar which isn’t pure white.

Bottled blueberry raspberry water kefir.

I find that that fermentation goes MUCH faster when it is hot outside (it has been in the high 30C here this week) and it slows down if there aren’t as many grains in the jar. As you brew more and more of it you will get to know your culture and how long it takes. Once I have done the initial fermentation I strain out the grains and do a second ferment with some fruit for an additional 24 hours. Currently our favourite flavour is Raspberry Pineapple. Once I have done the second ferment I strain it into some bail top bottles and load it into the fridge. I am thankful this is a short process because it doesn’t last very long in our house! I would like to note if your water kefir is very bubbly and you leave it sitting out for too long you run the risk of explosions as the pressure can build inside the bottles. If you plan on leaving the bottles out at room temperature burp them every once and a while to release the pressure and prevent explosions.

Each time I brew my wk I find the grains multiply. Mine seem to be multiplying like crazy and I am finding myself drowning in kefir grains. Every other brew it seems, my jar is getting a little crowded with grains, so I scoop some out. There are some options when it comes to storing your extras, I store some in fresh sugar water mixture in the back of my fridge and the rest I dry and store as backups. I originally got a tablespoon or so of dried wk grains from Yemoos Nourishing Cultures (I talk about it here) but the best way (and the cheapest) is to search out a friend who has some or even look around at craigslist or kijiji to see if there is someone giving them away in your area. I now have half a cup of dried grains (will hydrate into almost 3 cups worth of grains) and I have half a cup stashed in the fridge. Now with such a wonderful amount of grains I can brew all the wk we can drink for years to come!

Have you tried water kefir? What are you favourite flavours?

Shared with Traditional Tuesdays, Simple Lives Thursday, Pennywise Platter and Fight Back Friday

What I’m Reading

I love books. In my house we have hundreds of books. We have 4 bookshelves stuffed full of books and then we have more books stored in boxes in the basement. I really need to go through and clear out some of them but then it is like getting rid of an old friend.

Wild Fermetation coverWhen I am reading I always try to have a mixture of fiction and non-fiction. This week I am reading 2 books. I am reading Sandor Katz’s first book Wild Fermentation. I am really enjoying it. I like the fact that it is more than just a cook book. He goes into some of the history and social issues behind the fermentation of food. I am only about 40 pages into it but I am really enjoying it. The only thing I don’t like about it is it is larger than a trade paperback book so it is hard to hold it with one hand while I am nursing :)

The fiction book that I am reading/was reading I finished it this morning was called Secret Daughter. It was a really wonderful read. I found it a little sad because it is based in India where there is a very large emphasis placed on having a male child. This book chronicles the life of an Indian woman who had a daughter but was forced to give her away to save her life. I found it a little close to home because I have two beautiful little girls and I couldn’t imagine having to give them up. I also found it very interesting since in the new around here there has been several stories of sex selection abortions around the country. Other than the depression nature of the subject this book was very well written and I read it in 2 days, it was that good!

What are you reading?

Happy Canada Day!

Today we celebrate Canada’s 145th birthday. As a kid I always looked forward to this day as it meant that Dad was done work for 2 weeks and we would go camping. This year we had lots of plans to play outside with the kiddie pool and use the fun new water guns that my husband bough for himself the girls and possibly see some fireworks. However this morning A got out of bed and came to tell me that she had spit up all over her bed. She then spit up on  my coffee table. So all of our plans are up in the air at the moment.

I will say with all of the grossness that is vomiting, A handles it very well. I guess it is partly due to the fact that her sister still occasionally spits up if she nurses too much. So for now I am spending the day watching a Veggie Tales movie (we are on the 3rd time through it) with my sick little girl while J crawls around and eats things off the floor. But Happy Canada Day to you all.

Happy Canada Day – from a sick little girl!

Mail Order Bacteria…..Who Knew?

When I first started into cultured foods I thought I would try the easy things like drinks. Those seemed to be pretty easy and looked pretty tasty (and anything to try and break my family’s pop habit). So I started looking around our small town to see if anyone sold any cultures. It turns out that they do not. I started looking around to find different places that sold the cultures I was looking for. It turns out that my options seemed to be limited as some places didn’t ship to Canada or they charged a huge amount in shipping.

Enter Yemoos Nourishing Cultures. It was at this place I found all of the cultures I was looking for and a few I wasn’t. Since I had already started my own kombucha SCOBY I ordered some water kefir grains, milk kefir grains and some yogurt cultures. I thought for sure that these would get snagged at the boarder as being some sort of bio threat or something! I have never ordered living things through the mail, it was such a thrill.

I placed my order and a week later a package arrived at my door, my cultures made it without a hitch! I opened it up eager to get started. Each of my cultures came with it’s own adoption certificate! I thought that was such a sweet touch. I have each of my certificates proudly displayed on my fridge so everyone who comes over can see how much I love my bacteria!

I have had these cultures for a while now. I started them all at different points so they are at various points of reproduction. My water kefir grains are going the strongest. They multiply each jar that I made (so much so that I am now trying to give away grains, I am drying them to save for later and trying to come up with other creative ways of using them). Each one makes a lovely treat. I love my bacteria!

Shared as part of Fight Back Friday.

Giving Cloth Diapers a New Lease on Life

I have two beautiful little girls and I have cloth diapered both of them. I love my cloth diapers they are seriously cute and so easy to do and what baby doesn’t look cute with a giant fluffy bum. Using cloth diapers I have saved our family quite a lot of money and garbage! I love our diapers and even my husband doesn’t complain about using them (win!). We bought most of our diapers second hand and when we are finished I plan on selling them. That has to be one of the best features of cloth is they just keep going!

I have quite a significant stash of diapers probably about 36 pocket diapers and several hundred prefolds. I love my prefolds and will never every get rid of them there are so many things they can be used for like when your roof leaks they are perfect for cleaning up the mess or when your baby dumps an entire full mug of coffee all over your carpet prefolds to the rescue! I usually use my pocket diapers the most because they are super easy to get on a squirmy baby, I have a large number of them most of them are bum genius. These are my favourite. All of my other diapers are snaps except my BGs these are velcro (aplix, hook and loop whatever name you prefer). So after 3+ years of diapering to say the velcro looks a little sad would be an understatement!

The part that bothered me more that the sad velcro was the fact that the laundry tabs didn’t stick any more. All of the diapers would stick together in the wash and come out as a giant diaper chain. That was never fun to pull apart.

I got this great idea that I was going to take off all of the velcro and the tabs and put on snaps. Snaps are great, they stick really well and little fingers can’t get them undone to fingerpaint with the contents of their diaper. As I have learned from experience! So I pulled out my trusty stitch ripper and got to work. It took me about half an hour to remove all of the velcro, thread and tabs from the whole diaper. It did take longer on the diapers where for some inexplicable reason BG had stitched their logo into the tab rather than a simple X. But once all of the velcro was off I marked the diapers for the snaps.

To mark the diaper for snaps I have tried various methods (template, copying a diaper cover etc) but the best placement I have found is to mark the top line of snaps right under the stitching from the velcro. I put ten snaps on each row spaced 1 inch apart. Then I measure down from the top row 1 inch and mark for the next row. The stretchy tabs I just simply place my ruler where I think the snaps would look good and measure 1 inch and put some dots. To mark the diapers I use a sewing marker where the ink fades incredibly quickly (24hrs or something like that) and it has an erasing end, very helpful especially if you have children pulling at your arm while measuring. Once the dots are all placed I haul out my handy awl and poke each one of those marks to make a hole. I use plastic snaps from Kam Snaps in size 20. They are wonderful and they have colours to match all of the BG diapers there are other places where you can get the same snaps so just look around. I also bought the snap pliers a very handy piece of equipment!

The only tricky part with putting snaps into your diapers is to be very careful not to stab your finger because that hurts and will bleed all over your diaper. Once you have all the holes poked and the pointy cap of the snap pushed through them you can then start squeezing on either the socket or the stud depending on which part off the diaper you are working on. The stud goes on the stretchy tabs and the socket goes across the belly. This part goes really fast but make sure you squeeze the pliers extra hard because if the prongs are flat enough you will have trouble snapping your diaper closed (if you run into some problems after you have them all done you can always go back and squeeze them some more). After you are done squeezing until you think your hand will fall off you have completed your first diaper. Only 16 more to go!

Since I have been doing this for a while it takes me anywhere from and hour and a half to two hours to do a diaper start to finish. Generally, I will pick 2 or 3 diapers (usually all of one colour) and work on them all at once. This is a great way to refresh sad looking diapers to give them a new life so they can last even longer! My next project after finishing all of the snaps is to redo the sagging elastic in the legs. Right now they are still functional but losing their stretchiness. I am pretty sure I can always find some way to monkey around with my lovely diapers!

Share as part of Simple Lives Thursday.