Monday, December 1, 2014

On becoming 'cultured' & celebrations galore~~

Weeks have passed in a flash!  Where has the time gone?  It seems we just got back from Nicaragua and already planning our winter migration.  We have celebrated non-stop; get-togethers with friends, birthdays, Thanksgiving, with more to come.  I fear we will roll out of here exceeding our weight limit!  The good news is we are learning about the benefits of fermented foods and getting 'cultured' in the process...

Getting cultured with kefir:

Kim & Else, truly a lovely couple
We got together with Kim and Else for a kefir making class. Kim went through the step-by-step process, starting with a tablespoon of kefir grains (which actually look like curds). These grains are the starter culture, much like the concept of sourdough, and are placed in a quart glass jar filled about 3/4 full of milk.  The jar is covered and left to sit out on the counter-top for approximately 24 hours for the fermentation process to do its thing.  The time frame is faster (or slower) depending on the surrounding temperature.  The kefir is ready when the grains raft on top and clear bubbles form along the bottom.  Now it's time to strain, return those super-powerful grains to a cup of milk for storage, or start another jar. Kim strains his kefir into a blender to smooth it up a bit and pours into the glass jar and refrigerates.

Our own brew
The essentials
We returned home with our very own jar brewing, and have continued to make kefir on a daily basis. We also purchased Donna Schwenk's book, Cultured Food for Life, which is loaded with how tos and many excellent recipes.  I have felt noticeable improvement in the two weeks we have been consuming, and that's saying a lot with all that's going on around here!

Liliana's 5th birthday celebration:

 Kids are a kick to photograph, even in bad indoor lighting, and here are a few from our day:

Blowing out candles with help from a friend...

Lil brother Damien wants some of that cake action!

How cute is this face?!

Daughter Terri planned a great party at Cameron's Inn & Pub in Half Moon Bay. Lots of good food, like pizza and nachos, even healthy stuff like veggies and fruit, was served.  Well... and cake and cupcakes, of course. They have a great facility with plenty of grassy play area that nicely accommodated the "jumpy thing", and the pinata bash, as well as an in-door shelter in case it rained. But the sun came out for a beautiful day and the party was well-attended by kids, parents, and family alike.

Kicking off the pinata bash!

Liliana greets her off please!

This mud puddle gets a lot of action!

Curly, blondy just hanging out!

Watermelon for this one!

Christina gives the tether-ball a whirl

Next up~Thanksgiving:

Our group photo!

Probably my favorite holiday of the year, not only because of all the good food with family and friends, but more importantly, focusing on how much we have to be thankful for.  Truly thankful!  Norm and Wendy hosted the grand gathering and for once in I forget how long, all 5 of my grandkids were in attendance; Daniel home from San Diego State, and Noelle from UC Santa Cruz.  The Half Moon Bay family drove up for the day (that's a lot of driving), Wendy's mom Chris, and Dave & Krissi were there.  We so missed our Loomis family whose work schedules are so restrictive.  Gary works for the Post Office, enough said!

These are Sonoma Willy birds, properly brined and smoking!

Willys resting!

We had so much food but I refrained from photo shots.  All the favorites were present; mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, gravy, cranberry sauce, dressing, rolls, green beans...some traditional, some with a new twist.  There were pies of every flavor and the very best, Chris' bread pudding with caramel sauce.  And some very good wines!

A bad lighting shot of all the grands & Annie with her new bone!

And the lovely granddaughters...

The "day after" hike:

Black Friday was not about to find us shopping at the mall or online for that matter.  Instead we hauled our over-stuffed bodies out for a proper two hour hike at Helen Putnam Park.  This Sonoma County Regional park is a great combination of several connecting trails, all providing beautiful scenery and a little something for all levels and ability.  The coastal hills floated in and out of the fog, the sun occasionally peaked out from behind puffy clouds, and folks and families and friends enjoyed a glorious day.

The 1st hill is a bit steep!

We're huffing & puffing about now...

Surrounding farmland & coastal hills...

Families out for a stroll on a beautiful day!

Into a tunnel of Oaks...

Where we meet up with the dog lady!

And get to the neighborhood at the trailhead on the other side, before heading back...

Along a different trail with a new perspective...

Lovely layers with a touch of blue...

And some miscellany:

We had some much-needed rain and discovered a nasty leak in our slide.  Why don't we do proper sealing and caulking during the dry summer months?  So when we pass through Yuma next year, we'll be getting that repaired as it entails removing an awning.  In the meantime, on sunny days you will find Howard on the roof with his tube of silicone!

And of course there were more celebrations and get-togethers!  Norm's birthday, 2 days after Thanksgiving, called for local Dungeness crab, salad, and sourdough!  Janis, our good friend and park host had a bunch of us over for the absolute best, homemade egg nog last night.  

I declared this day as one of modest eating, relaxing, and catching up on photos and journal. But we have more to look forward to before departing on the 15th.  Cheers (burp)!

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