Sourdough Bread

img_0111Sourdough is easy to make, it just requires some preparation time and a sourdough starter (which you can find out how to make here). I have mentioned sourdough before in my post A Pretzel Attempt.

Our friends (whose blog can be found here) who got us started with sourdough, gave us a recipe that works well. I have changed a few things around, so here is how I do it:

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I start by putting 4 cups water, 2 cups sourdough starter, and 8 cups whole wheat flour in a large bowl, which I then place at room temperature (or by the fireplace) for about 4 hours. This part of the process is called the “sponge.”

DCIM100GOPROG0047884.img_0088After that, in an even larger bowl, I mixed the sponge, 5 cups water, about 16 cups flour – I like to play around with different combinations of white and whole wheat flour; the more whole wheat, the healthier, the more white, the fluffier – and a couple tbsp of salt. Once this is kneaded together, I mix in either some molasses, cinnamon and raisins, or whatever I want to have the bread taste like.

DCIM100GOPROG0057970.I divide it into loaves, put them in buttered bread dishes, and let them rise overnight. The dough also works well for buns. In the morning I baked the loaves at 400° f for about 45 minutes.  Sometimes it will take longer or shorter depending on the size of the loaves.

img_0110The instructions I above will yield six regular sized loaves, so be prepared for large quantities.

Brownie Birthday Cake

img_0124I made my own birthday cake this year. I doubled this brownie recipe, and added some shredded coconut to spice it up a little. I baked it in two square pans. I then doubled this recipe for healthy chocolate avocado icing. Both of these recipes are sugar free and gluten free.

I made a cake platform out of cardboard and aluminum foil, and once the brownies finished baking I put the first one down as the first layer. I then spread some of the icing on it, and lay the second brownie on top as the top layer. I used the rest of the icing to cover up the sides and top of the cake. The result was this nice simple chocolate cake.

Airplane Mural

DCIM100GOPROGOPR7853.If you’re looking for a great way to brighten up your bedroom (or any room for that matter) here’s an idea: Paint a mural! That’s what I did, and it turned out to be a lot of fun.

I chose to paint a WWII airplane called the P-51 Mustang. I started by using a projector to project the image on the wall. Then I used a pencil to trace the outline and all the main features. After that I started working on painting it, using just regular craft paint. I had fun playing around with light reflection, shading, textures, and colours.

Once done the main airplane, I continued to fill in the background with some smaller planes. For these smaller planes, I printed pictures out, cut out the outline of the plane, and traced it on the wall. I then finished with paint.

You could try painting anything that holds your interest. I hope this inspires you to get working on some art.

Note: some of the smaller planes you see in the top picture are actually models hanging from the ceiling.

Gulf Shores, Alabama

This year for the holidays in December, our family decided to go on a road-trip adventure. We decided to go to Alabama, USA. While our backyard was covered in snow, we thought it would be great to head somewhere a little warmer for the holidays.

We rented a place in Gulf Shores, which is south of Mobile, AL, and is on the Gulf of Mexico. The cottage we rented was only a five minute walk from the beach. I was interested to note that all the structures in the area were on stilts (beams). This is to preserve the building an case of a flood.

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We had a great time at the beach nearby. The sand was a different texture than that of freshwater lake sands. I’m guessing this is because of the salt in the seawater.

I had fun on a skim-board, which is a thin wooden board that you throw down into very shallow water and jump onto. It’s fun because you just glide barely above the sand on a thin layer of water. Beach stores sell them.

DCIM100GOPROGOPR7860.Two of my brothers also made this mosaic out of seashells.

DCIM100GOPROGOPR7858.We noticed a bunch of little holes in the sand all over the beach, and when I dug one of them up, I found a tiny land crab!

DCIM100GOPROGOPR7859.The waves were very high and powerful and we had to be careful of the undertow, which is a current that pulls against incoming waves underneath the surface, and can pull you right under.

One day we met up with some friends at the Explorium in Mobile. The Explorium is a big science centre with lots of neat stuff to look at and do. Another day we went on a boat tour of Mobile Harbor where we saw navy ships, a container ship getting unloaded, and a WWII ship which is now a museum.  Our friend Dan – who inspects ships – explained all about each of the ships we saw.

DCIM100GOPROGOPR7862.We stayed in Alabama just less than a week. We had a great time, and because we went on the off-season, there was hardly anyone else on the beach. Next time you’re looking for your next travel destination, I recommend looking into Gulf Shores, Alabama. It’s a great place to visit.DCIM100GOPROGOPR7809.

A Pretzel Attempt

img_0004While some friends were visiting from Thunder Bay, they gave us some of their sourdough starter and showed us how to use it. Sourdough starter is a bacterial culture (like a ginger bug) and is used to make healthy fermented bread products. You can look up all sorts of recipes on what to do with it, and you can also look up how to start one. Our starter is made from Rye flour, and I feed it a cup of Rye, and a cup of water every week to keep it going. There are other types of starters too.

Originally my sister was in charge of feeding the starter, but she moved on to some other things and passed it on to me. My first idea was to make pretzels. I found a recipe online, and prepared the dough. After following the instructions right up until I had to shape them into pretzels, I started to find that the dough was very sticky (apparently the rye starter is what made it sticky) and when I would try to make it into a shape, it just sort of morphed back into one big blob.

I was getting slightly annoyed because it wasn’t working very well, but my Mom encouraged me to try something else with the dough instead of the classic pretzel shape. So, I just cut of little lumps of dough and made bite sized pretzel nuggets, which actually turned out really well. They didn’t look very appetizing, but they tasted great.  Unfortunately I didn’t get any pictures of them to post here.

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This is the pot I boiled the pretzels in.

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I made about half the dough into those, and with the other half made a couple of loaves of bread (I added a bit of maple syrup and cinnamon to make it a cinnamon loaf) which were fluffy and tasty.

img_0005It’s fun to try new stuff, even though it doesn’t always work out.  When something goes wrong, it can be easier just to give up, but when we try to improvise and make something good out of a bad situation, we can often end up with something really good, even if it wasn’t what we were expecting.

Coconut Bird Feeder

img_0103One day my Mom asked me to crack open a coconut she had gotten. I first drilled holes to pour the coconut water out, then used my hatchet to chop off the top. I scrapped all the fruit out of the the shell, then had the idea to make it into a bird feeder.

I drilled more holes in it about an inch apart, and then put a string through the bottom (similar to the way I did the Oriole Feeder) with a couple twigs attached. I filled the coconut up with suet, and hung it with our other bird feeders.

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img_0106Not long afterwards birds started showing up and eating the suet through the holes while perching on the twigs tied below.

I realized later that this would be a good feeder especially for when it is warm and you have melty suet – like mine is sometimes 🙂 – because the suet will melt down into the holes. I also recommend not including any seeds or bugs or anything bulky in the suet you use for this feeder, because it could clog up the holes.

This is a great way to make use of your coconut shells after you have eaten the fruit inside.

Moose Hide

IMG_0041.JPGI went to visit some friends who live in an area where a lot of Mennonite families live. While there, some of us went for a bike/unicycle ride. We stopped at the neighbours, who have a meat and animal processing shop, where hunters can bring deer or other animals to be made into summer sausage, hamburger, or – best of all – pepperettes!

DCIM100GOPROGOPR7451.When we walked in the door we saw a moose!

Later we came back to watch them skin it. They threw the legs (from the knee down) on the floor, and when I asked what they did with them, they said they throw them out because there’s not really much meat to salvage off them. I asked if I could have them and they said sure. One of my friends (whose name is Elijah) took two legs, and I took the other two. My other friend (whose name is Scout) asked if he could have the whole hide (which they where also going to get rid of because it was not in great condition) but his mom only let him have a couple pieces.

Back at my friends’ house I skinned the two legs and put the skins in a plastic bag to take home. When I went home I looked up how to tan hides and found this video which was very helpful. I then worked on tanning them. Once I finished I called my friends to ask how their moose hides had gone. Elijah, who had gotten the other two legs had only ended up skinning one of them but the one he had skinned worked out fine. My friend Scout (who had gotten a large piece of the hide) left his Moose hide out in the sun, and sadly a sudden ice storm swept through and ruined it.

Fortunately the tanning of my Moose skins went well, and I look forward to trying to make something out of them.IMG_0038.JPG