Monthly Archives: February 2015

Puzzle: February 19, 2015


Here’s another mini-puzzle (2-19-15).The answer to the last puzzle is there on the bottom.

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Filed under crossword, Crossword puzzle, minicrossword, NYTimes

Hard Cider Update

IMG_1223After a few days my cider started bubbling– I was surprised because I didn’t expect that from my preserved cider. I let it bubble for about a week, then it stopped. I racked the cider and put the stoppers and airlocks back in. There are no more bubbles, so the yeast is now completely spent. We sampled it and tastes just fine, but there wasn’t much of a “hard” bite to the cider. On to more fermentation!

I found this website and followed their suggestion of making a nice hearty starter with more champagne yeast, some apples and some un-preserved cider. I found the unpreserved cider at a local grocery store, Donelans.

Can you see the bubble in the airlock below? It is hard to take a picture of a moving bubble. The other picture is the starter I made yesterday. I will add all of the cider and starter together into the large 5 gallon container after the starter starts for two days.


Here is the starter and the cider from before ready to be mixed together. The preserved stuff was definitely still fermenting! Yay! It was all carbonated and delicious. Maybe I had over-yeasted it enough to get it going when I first started. The bucket I am using is from my beekeeping days. I hope to have bees again in the future, but I just don’t have a space right now. Plus they take some time. You can just buy the gate and drill into your bucket. The smaller spigots are better for beer and cider, but this is interesting, too.


I just want to point out that the beautiful rustic sofa table behind some of my pictures was made by Eugene Albright, a master Adirondack Rustic artist from Glens Falls, NY. He makes pieces like this, ready to buy, and also does a lot of custom work. His website currently sucks, but check him out at the juried Rustic Furniture Fair at the Adirondack Museum this and every fall.

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Filed under adirondack, apples, beer, beer spigot, champagne yeast, hard cider, honey gate, Making Stuff, rustic furniture

Puzzle: February 15, 2015


Lately Phil and I have been dabbling with making a few small puzzles, similar to the new NY Times minis. I made a full-size puzzle last year and it was such a fun challenge. I submitted that puzzle to the NYTimes, but I didn’t have some of the formatting right. If you are going to submit, make sure you look here.  The most wonderful aspect of the experience was seeing a personal message in my inbox from the man himself, Will Shortz.

So, if you like puzzles please enjoy the  ones we publish here. Feel free to print them out. Answers will be on the next published puzzle. Here’s a pdf Puzzle.2.15.15

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Filed under crossword, Crossword puzzle, minicrossword, NYTimes, puzzle, will shortz

Kombucha Production

IMG_1121I am now in steady kombucha production. Each weekend I advance through each of the three stages of my kombucha making. It takes a little to get up and running with this production, but where I was once concerned about making my first scoby from the store-bought drink, I now have scobies to spare.

Just about every Sunday I make some tea, throw some sugar in, let it cool, add a scoby from the hotel, IMG_1225cover the container with cheesecloth and put it in the cupboard. I have always used glass but this week I just made it in the big metal pot that I made the tea in. I don’t know if this will work or not. I also want to experiment with kombucha coffee soon.

Second, I take out the tea from the week before, put that scoby in the hotel, and put that tea (now kombucha) back in the cabinet with a cap on it to get bubbly.

Third, I take the capped kombucha that has been sitting for a week getting bubbly, take out any additional scobies and put them in the hotel, strain the kombucha into mason jars and refrigerate for easy drinking.

So, I gave my daughter a holder to attach your iphone to your microscope this Christmas, and of course I’m the only one who wants to use it. I made a slide of scoby, and check it out. We talk a lot about how beneficial bacteria are needed for gut balance, but when you come face to face with one it feels a little creepy. Here’s one of the pictures I took. The image isn’t that clear, but you can see what I’m talking about. If you are a scientist and you know this to be a “non-beneficial” bacteria please message me immediately!!!


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Filed under beneficial bacteria, gut, kombucha, mason jar, scoby, scoby hotel

First hard cider attempt

We have an avid hard cider drinker in the house, so of course I’ve been thinking it is time to make some cider. Long ago I made beer, and even had some hops growing on the house. And I’ve been fermenting a lot of kombucha recently so I’ve refamiliarized myself with the process.

I found so much information online that it started getting confusing, so I decided to just throw myself into it. A quick visit to Beer and Wine Hobby got me champagne yeast and some new airlocks and stoppers. I started with 3 gallons of local pasteurized cider and put half a gallon in a small glass container with a little yeast, and I put the rest in 5 gallon food-grade pail with the rest of the yeast. I am hoping for a dry cider, so I didn’t add any honey or sugar.

Everything seemed to be going well until I read the fine print on the cider ingredients where it states:

Ingredients: Freshly squeezed apple cider, potassium sorbate (as a preservative).

I’m pretty sure this will blow the whole fermentation this first time around, but since it was already all poured in I will see what happens. I think I’ve got a source for un-preserved cider but if not I will wait until next Fall’s apple season


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Filed under Cooking, fermentation, hard cider, hops, Making Stuff

Mid-winter update

Just plugging away up here in the New England cold. As usual, it has been an unusual winter. We have had warm weather, lots of rain, and then absolutely freezing cold with wind-chills, no snow at all, and just last week a blizzard worthy of two snow days. We are supposed to get hit with snow tonight again, so we may have another snow day tomorrow.

I’ve been up to a few things here and there, including on-going brewing of kombucha, fixing the dishwasher (remember which screws go where), making lots of roasted veggies (I am loving roasted cauliflower and brussel sprouts),  maintaining my cast-iron pots (coat with oil and leave upside-down in the oven for an hour at 200 degrees. Put a paper towel underneath to catch the drips).

With all the warm and rainy days earlier this winter I had been watching my mushroom logs for progress (none so far). Now they are deep under the snow.

IMG_0828  IMG_0986IMG_0931 IMG_0987



A walk on a clear and cold day just after the new year prompted some thinking about family, passions, and the meaning of life. My son and I came up with three guiding principles in our lives and we have them posted on the family cork board.  It is centering to look at these words when life gets a little crazy and frustrating. Mine are Love, Explore, Contribute. My 9yo’s, with explanatory commentary, are Food (“like yummy food”), Love (“like hugs and stuff”), Skill (“like video games”).


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Filed under Cooking, Family, Health, Home Repairs, kombucha, Making Stuff, mushrooms

Harvard Museum of Natural History

Just a short walk from the Harvard Square T in Cambridge, MA is the Harvard Museum of Natural History with extremely interesting permanent exhibits. This museum is worth visiting for both adults and their children. I focused my visit this month on three exhibits.


The glass flowers, made by Rudolf and Leopold Blaschka, are intricate glass botanical structures. This was early 3-D modeling for science cataloging! Click on these images to take a closer look: these are all glass, even the needles, leaves and flowers on the stems. There are so many specimen that it was a little overwhelming, but if you are a botanist or glass enthusiast this will blow your mind.

IMG_0841The second exhibit of the day was Earth and Planetary Science – essentially a large room full of minerals — from the common to the extremely rare — including intact zircon crystals from 4.3 million years ago. Most are under glass, but there are several that you can touch.

IMG_0843The last exhibit I visited was the comparative zoology collection, including sea creatures in glass and a broad range of preserved actual creatures. Here are jars of preserved octopus and squid.

A few more pictures:IMG_0835  IMG_0838IMG_0845

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Filed under botany, Cool Locations, geode, glass flowers, minerals, Museum, octopus, sea creature, squid, Travel and Visits, Travels, zircon crystal