Sunday, December 26, 2010

Double Decker Bread Box

I found this adorable vintage bread box on Craigslist. It is made of tin, painted, and decorated with decals.

My plan is to store the butter dish in here, to keep it away from my butter licking cat. He's figured out how to knock the lid off the butter boat. This bread box has 2 levels. The bottom level, for the bread and butter.

And the top level for other baked goodies.

The second picture is closest to the actual color. We'll see if this thwarts my cat's evil plans. For $5 it was worth a try.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Regarding Laundry, I Led You Astray.

Not intentionally. Let me explain. Way back when I first began making my own laundry soap (about 9 months ago) I remember reading posts about how folks were winding up with dingy gray whites. At the time my whites were bright, so I didn't take much heed. Now, all these months later, guess what? My whites are getting progressively grayer. I used my friend, Google, to try to discern the cause. Many have opinions (not enough soap, too much soap, water not hot enough...) but no one really seems to know why this occurs. I suspected it was something in the homemade laundry soap, itself. I use the standard formula of grated soap, washing soda and borax. I had a nagging suspicion the washing soda was the culprit. I washed a big load of whites in just the grated ZOTE and instantly saw a huge improvement. After yet a second wash, even more of the gray is gone. I will now use only the ZOTE for my laundry, with a vinegar rinse.Today's task, wash the light colored clothes which also have taken on a gray cast. I'll let you know if the improvement continues.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

I Never Tire Of This

A vigorous ferment is a lovely thing to behold. Here is the mead fermenting away.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Attention All Vikings!

Or wannabe vikings. Ghetto Neck Brewery & Winery is adding Meadery to its repertoire. Due to my current fascination with honey bees, I couldn't help myself. Today I started my first gallon of Mead. This will be an apple cyser mead. I found the recipe on I followed the recipe, as given, except I tossed in 24 raisins.
Last night I heated the cider, then added the honey and everything except the campden tablet and the yeast. After it cooled in the pot I placed it in my small fermentation pail and added the crushed & dissolved campden tablet.

I loosely covered it and let it sit overnight. Actually until this afternoon. Then I poured the works into a 4 litre jug, using a funnel to pour and trying to get it all aerated. Then I dropped in the 24 raisins,

and pitched the yeast (which I had already acclimated by stirring it into 1/4 cup of very warm water).

Oops....I forgot to mention that before I pitched the yeast I used my hydrometer to check the specific gravity. This batch has started at 1.074, which means it has the potential for approx. 9.8% APV at completion.

I found this handy wine log PDF online, and am going to try my darnedest to be organized and keep track of my different batches. Just in case I hit on a great one, I want to be able to recreate it.

I am also chipping away at the huge task of delabeling and scrubbing all my empty beer bottles. Ugh! Will it never end? This is not even half of them. And once those are clean, I can attack the wine bottles. Groan.

Now for something completely off topic. I found this nifty old meat/cheese slicer on Craigslist (where else?) for a whole $10.

The guy was asking $20 but since this is a vintage slicer (late 70's or early 80's) I talked him down. And yes, it works. probably better than most of those on the market today. I want one in case I get a chance to make some beef jerky. But it will also come in handy for slicing lunch meats and cheeses.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Christmas Socks

I've been working on these for a while. Truth be told, when you own a yarn shop you get precious little time to knit. But I got them done in time to wear them a bit before Christmas. In fact, I'll be wearing them tomorrow.

The design is my own, made up as I went along. I like how the trees came out. The center stripes are a nod to the Christmas ribbon candies my grandparents used to have around when I was a child.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Check Out These Jugs!

Today it was time to rack the Ghetto Neck closet wine. Of course I have absolutely no idea what I'm doing. Lucky for me, any idiot can make wine. Might not be good wine. But it'll get you drunk. Here we have, from left to right: Cranberry Blend, Grape, Apple Raspberry & White Grape Raspberry. I couldn't resist a bit of sampling. The snifters contain Cranberry Blend (left) and White Grape Raspberry (right). As of now, the cranberry is my favorite. They look much more official now that they're in proper glass jugs with bubblers. We'll be drinking one of them at Christmas. I still plan to get a "real" wine making kit very soon.

The husband and I sampled our first batch of home brew yesterday. As expected, it still has a ways to go before it's fully carbonated. But it was delicious. We are thrilled with our beer making prowess and have started a batch of Pale Ale as of this morning. I won't bore you with step by step details. But one thing we did differently from the first batch, was we used specialty grains. Here the grains are in 2 separate mesh straining bags, steeping in the hot water for 30 minutes.

Then we proceeded much the same as last time. We have rigged up a fermenting closet. We keep the house between 60 and 65 degrees. The wort needs to be kept between 65 and 70. Instead of heating the entire house, or even a whole room, we are heating a closet.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Non-Electric Yogurt

This is my first attempt at making yogurt without the aid of an electric incubator. In the past I have used an inverted Rubbermaid container, on top of a heating pad. That method produced a good tasting yogurt but was more labor intensive (filling lots of small containers) and required a space to set up the heating pad incubator. I read about using a cooler filled with hot water, instead, so decided to give it a try. First I assembled everything I'd need. 3 clean quart canning jars, with lids and a candy thermometer; the cooler (mine is a bit larger than needed); Milk, yogurt, a pot and a spoon. You'll also need a measuring cup and a measuring tablespoon.

Now we're ready to begin. You can make as a big a batch as you'd like. For every pint of milk you'll need 1 Tbs. of plain yogurt to use as a starter. Measure out your starter and place in a bowl, on your counter, so it can warm up while you're preparing your milk.

Next put your milk into a pan and heat it over high heat, stirring constantly. You want to heat it to between 180 and 185 degrees in order to sterilize your milk. A candy thermometer comes in very handy.

Once you reach the correct temperature, remove the pan from the heat and stir and cool until the milk is below 120 degrees (but don't let it get below 90 degrees). To speed the cooling I like to place the pan in a sink holding cold water.

The above is the standard way to make yogurt. Usually at this point you would place your yogurt into an electric yogurt incubator of some kind. But what if you don't have electricity? Can you still make yogurt? Yes. All you need is an insulated container large enough to hold your jars and some hot water. Here I have divided my yogurt between the 3 clean mason jars.

And now into the cooler they go, along with enough hot water (I used hot tap water) to fill the cooler to just below the lids of the jars.

I then placed the top on the cooler and waited. I did drain and refill the water a couple of times during the 24 hours. And this morning I was rewarded with some finished yogurt.

Monday, November 29, 2010

The Wildabeast Has Been Caged

Today was the first ever "bottling day" at the Willoughby Brewery. In preparation I rose early and scrubbed the heck out of 60 beer bottles. I expected to use about 48 but wasn't sure, so wanted to be prepared.

After they were scrubbed, and rinsed in a disinfectant, it was time to bring out the guest of honor. The carboy full of Wildabeast Weizen.

A thing of beauty, to be sure. Rick and I gazed on it lovingly, like proud parents. Now for the hardest part of the whole thing, how to get the luscious brew from the carboy into the bottling bucket. Rick's first attempts failed. He mentioned sucking on the tube which elicited a big "hell no" from yours truly. I excused myself to go check with my good friend, YouTube, to find out the proper way to prime the siphon. Once we'd got a handle on that little dilemma, the rest went smoothly.

Isn't that a sight for sore eyes? Rich, deep, dark beauty. Mmmmmmmmmmmmm!

Once the beer was mixed with the carbonating sugar, it was time for the last step. Bottling.

We ended up with 46 bottles, with a little left over for sampling. This was the BEST flat beer I ever had the pleasure to drink. Absolutely fabulous. I can't wait to taste it when it's actually bubbly.

After taking all the time to remove labels, there's no way in hell I'm gonna put labels back on each individual bottle. Instead, I put a code on each cap. WW for Wildabeast Weizen. And I enclosed a label in each box.

We'll let these set for a week and then we plan to sample a bottle next Sunday, just to see how things are progressing. It will probably be 2 to 3 weeks before it's all done and ready. Stay tuned.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Everyday Bread Recipe

My husband requested I make some "white" bread. He also asked for thicker slices. I am happy to oblige. I am using a modified version of this recipe for white bread from Here is my version:

Willoughby Daily Bread

1 tsp. sugar
6 3/4 tsp (3 packages) yeast
2 cups warm water

Mix together in a bowl, with a whisk, and pour into a large mixing bowl. Add:
1 cup sugar
4 cups of warm water
Mix well and let sit for 10 minutes. I put mine in my KitchenAid mixer.
3 tsp. salt
1/2 cup (one stick) melted butter
6 cups unbleached flour

Mix on slow speed for 3 minutes. Pour into a very large mixing bowl. Add:
7 cups of unbleached flour (a cup at a time)
Mix with a wooden spoon after every addition.
Turn out onto floured surface and knead for 10 minutes, adding more unbleached flour as needed. Put 1/4 cup of oil in a large bowl. Roll dough around, to coat all sides. Cover with a cotton dish towel and place in a warm, draft free place and allow to rise until doubled. Pour out onto a floured surface and punch down. Cut into 4 pieces, form into loaves and place into 4 large buttered (or oiled) loaf pans.
Melt 2 TBS. Butter and brush tops of loaves.
Again cover and let rise until doubled. Remove cotton towel. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Bake loaves for 35 minutes or until they are deep brown and sound hollow when tapped. Allow loaves to cool before slicing. This bread freezes well.

Makes 4 large loaves.

HINT: I allow my dough to rise in the oven, with just the oven light on. Then I leave the pans in the oven while it preheats. Be sure to take the towel off, before baking. LOL

Sunday, November 21, 2010

I'm Still Here...And it's Snowing.

Pardon my silence. I've been fighting a nasty cold and had just enough energy to get through my workday. But I'm feeling better. There hasn't been a whole lot going on this week. The beer is still fermenting, as is the closet wine. I did send the husband on a shopping trip to the brew shop, Beer Essentials, and had him pick up some more gold beer bottle caps, some wine yeasts, a carboy handle, 4-one gallon jugs, and 4 bubbler airlocks. I've saved up enough for my wine starter kit. I just have to decide which one I want. In the meantime I found a lady over in Gig Harbor who's boyfriend is a wine rep. She hooked me up with approx. 40 wine bottles and they are getting a bubble bath as I type.

I found her via Freecycle. I love Freecycle. And Craigslist (as you already know). Here are this week's Craigslist bargains: A vintage Pendleton wool/cashmere pea coat, in new condition, for $40 (and the seller delivered it to me at work).

And this Worm Factory worm bin, for $45 (delivered to my front door). This bin is selling for $109 on

My worm colony is bursting at the seams. The worms have been multiplying like crazy this summer. I already have one stacking worm bin but it's time to start a new high rise. Last , but not's snowing here in Tacoma, WA. That's right, SNOW!

It's not slowing down the chickens, though. They are good ol' PacNW hens. All 3 of them laid an egg today.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Willoughby Brewing Company (part two)

Today it was finally time to move the Weizen to the secondary fermenter. I never thought that yeast would settle down. We've named this batch Wildabeast Weizen because the yeast was so robust. First thing's first. I sanitized the carboy, tubes and airlock.

I also wiped down the spigot with a bleach solution.

Then it was time to rinse everything well and hook it up to the fermenting bucket. I couldn't resist sampling some. It was sweet and rich. Can't wait until it's done. Look at the lovely deep caramel color.

Now we wait 14 days, and then it's time to bottle it up.

Ghetto Neck Winery's First Batch

The weather is dark, dreary and drizzly, here in the Pacific Northwest. Time for indoor amusements. And the perfect time to get my feet wet in wine making. I had the recipe, and the equipment already assembled. And now I found myself with a large block of time. The recipe is located here, on I read through the reviews and made an adjustment to the amount of sugar. Many reviewers said that 4 cups was too much. One reviewer claimed that 2 cups per gallon was sufficient, I decided to meet them halfway, and use 3 cups per gallon. The following is the recipe, as I made it, including my more detailed instructions.

Ghetto Neck Homemade Closet Wine

1 (.25 ounce) package active dry yeast (2 1/4 tsp.)
3 cups sugar
1 (12 fluid ounce) can frozen juice concentrate - any flavor except citrus, thawed
1 gallon glass or plastic jug, with a lid
1 good quality balloon
1 rubber band

Make sure you have 100% juice. The first step is to make sure your frozen concentrate is completely thawed. Next, assemble your equipment. Wash everything you'll be using with soap and water. Rinse well. Now you'll need to sanitize everything that will come in contact with your wine. Bleach water is fine, but don't get too carried away. You want to be able to rinse the bleach smell and taste off the items. No one wants bleach flavored wine. I think 1 TBS. of unscented bleach per gallon of water is enough. You're sanitizing...not sterilizing. Fill the jugs with bleach water, along with your glass measuring cup. Also rinse out the balloons, well, and soak them, the rubber bands, the jug caps and any plastic measuring spoons/cups you'll use, in a glass bowl of bleach water. Let everything soak for 30 minutes. Now you're ready to begin. It's easiest to make multiple gallons, at the same time. You can use the same measuring equipment. Just be careful not to recontaminate it. Set items on plastic wrap or tin foil, between uses.

Step 1: Rinse out the jug, with warm water. I rinse (and shake) 3 times. You want to get all the bleach out.

Step 2: Rinse the plastic measuring cup, and the whisk. Dissolve the yeast in warm tap water. Don't worry about water amounts. As for temperature, you want it warm enough to dissolve, but not too hot. Dissolving your ingredients, at each addition, makes them much easier to get them into the jug. Don't worry if there is a little yeast left in the measuring cup. It will eventually all wind up in the jug, since you're going to use that cup to add the remaining ingredients.

Step 3: Add the sugar, 1 cup at a time, the same way you did the yeast, making sure to dissolve it well before pouring.

Step 4: Pour the concentrate into the measuring cup. Put a little water in the container and stir with the whisk to get the last bit of juice. Pour that into the cup, as well, and add it all to the jug.

Step 5: At this point you should have the yeast, sugar, and juice in the jug. Now fill the jug up the rest of the way with room temperature water. Be sure to leave some space at the top. At least an inch or so. Now rinse the jug cap, place it firmly on the jug, and shake it really well. You want to get that yeast and sugar mixed up. Remove the cap (wash and re sanitize if needed for the next gallon). Rinse your balloon out well. Place it over the open top of the jug. Rinse your rubber band and secure it to the base of the balloon. YOU DID IT!

Now you need to find a dark place, room temperature, to put the jugs so the yeast can work its magic. I opted for the bottom of the linen closet. I set everything on an old towel, just in case. At this point I have no idea what to expect.

I checked on the jugs an hour after placing them in the closet. 2 of the balloons were already inflated. I took a sewing needle, ran a flame over it to sterilize, and poked 5 holes in each balloon. HINT: It is much easier to poke holes into them once they are inflated. You need to poke the holes to allow the carbon dioxide gas to escape. Don't worry about nasties getting in. The gas is coming out with such force that nothing is going to get in. Besides, to holes are really tiny.

After another hour, all the balloons were inflated (and pierced). Boy, are they ever noisy. Just hissing away. We'll leave them be, and check in on them in 3 weeks. At that time I plan to rack (siphon) the wine into glass jugs, leaving the lees (sediment) behind.

Friday, November 12, 2010

Christmas Wine

The beer is still doing its thing. The plan is to move it to the secondary fermenter (carboy) on Sunday. In the meantime I found this nifty recipe for an easy homemade wine. I want to get into making "real" wine, with fruit, but the season has passed. So I will make due with this. And it looks like fun! I couldn't wait to assemble my ingredients for Roxi's ghetto (or red neck) winery. Here are my fancy fermenters.

My super high tech airlocks.

And my fruit juice. Only the best!

The plan is to get these going on Sunday. I want them to be ready to drink by Christmas. I'm making 4 different varieties: Grape, white grape/raspberry, apple/raspberry, and cranberry blend. Yum! I was so excited to get started, I had to run out to Safeway and pick up the juice and balloons right away. Unfortunately they didn't have bags of balloons. WTH??? But they sold them in the floral section for $.25 each. Yikes! Oh well, it's for a good cause ('cause I want some wine). The lady asked what colors I wanted for the balloons? "Um, they're for wine airlocks, and I doubt the wine will care". She still sorted through and made sure I had 4 different colors (shrug). The fermenting jugs are mostly from my fabric softener (white vinegar) with one milk jug thrown in for good measure (because I didn't have 4 of the others).