Monday, May 19, 2014

Allergies!

Last year I discovered I have allergies! Hooray! According to sources online, it is oak and birch that are producing the most allergens right now. The craziest part is that Greg ("he's allergic to everything") is not really having any reactions to whatever is in the air, but I am.

So, putting aside the fact that I now want to watch My Girl…

I've been reading all sorts of crazy articles online about allergies. This morning Greg told me he'd make some coffee, because he usually finds that helps with his allergy symptoms. He's told me this before, and it sounds strange, but it really did help.

That led me to this article, about foods that help with allergies. My reactions? I'm glad I had sushi for dinner last night. And I'm glad I dislike celery. And I always thought that eating spicy foods was good to help clear out your sinuses. I am imagining pollen being in my nose and just getting washed away.

That article linked to this article, about natural allergy remedies. Reactions: I won't be stashing clothes in my garage (I don't even have a garage). I also think I might have read this article last year. This morning we closed up our house to the outdoors, and the cleaning process has begun. Hopefully by the end of the day we'll have dusted every surface and mopped all the floors.

The internet is full of so many amazing facts. Here is an article about allergy facts, which had some information I found to be really astounding.

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Answer Me This!

I just love a good link-up. I can't help myself. Here is one I got excited about that Haley is guest-hosting, where you simply answer the questions. I had fun writing these, and I hope you enjoy reading my answers.

1. What's the scariest thing that's ever been in your yard?

Probably a skunk, which is nothing to be too terrified of, assuming you haven't got it cornered. I used to live in a barn (transformed on the inside to be a house) in Vermont, and we had a really high skunk population. Several times I got home late from the office, only to pull into the driveway to see a skunk milling about. So then it would just be a game of timing my escape from the car. One time the skunk was on the porch (possibly eating dog food that one of my house-mates had not skunk-proofed), and that one took the longest to wait for.

2. Beards. Thumbs up or thumbs down?

Thumbs up. See exhibit A.

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3. If stuff breaks, can you fix it?

I guess I feel pretty confident about my ability to fix stuff, so I usually at least attempt to fix stuff. The problem is that it often takes more than one try, and the first try might not look so pretty. Imagine my front bicycle light, dangling off of its mount, with some ineffective pieces of duct tape stuck to it in various places, and there you have exhibit B.

4. What was your first car?

A (94?) Nisan Sentra! Black with a purple racing stripe! I loved that car!

5. How often do you eat out?

When I first moved to Sweden, I ate out basically never because restaurants are crazy-expensive here. The prices for lunch are much more reasonable though, so I've started going to lunch once a week with some friends from work. 

6. Why is your hair like that?

For nearly half of my life I've just been on this trend of growing my hair long and then chopping off 10+ inches to donate. The problem is that I really don't love how my hair looks when it gets long enough to be able to donate. Plus my grandma told me she loved my short hair and thought I should always keep it short. 

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So right now my hair is just a bit past my shoulders. This second photo is very recent, but I've actually cut a few inches of my hair since this was taken, because the length was starting to bother me. I've been considering chopping it short again, because I like it best, but I worry that I'd pay for a crazy-expensive haircut only to have look not-good.


Saturday, May 17, 2014

Initial ginger beer research

There is so much information to know about making ginger beer! I have spent my entire Saturday morning reading up on the different options.

Now I just need to decide how 'hardcore' I want to be about this. The simplest option would be to boil some water with ginger root and sugar, essentially making a ginger simple syrup, which I could add to bubbly water.

Taking it up a notch, I could do the same sort of thing, but add a bit of yeast. This would result in a (probably negligible) amount of alcohol, and a time-sensitive beverage. Here is a really nice article about this method, designed for school children to make, I guess.

The thing is, it is tricky to have and store a sweet and carbonated beverage. The addition of yeast in the beverage will carbonate the beverage by turning sugars into alcohol + CO2. But since you want your beverage to also be sweet, you have more sugar than you want to turn into alcohol. So when you make ginger beer this way, you need to drink it within a day or two of putting it in a bottle. This is probably not a huge concern (especially if you avoid glass bottles), but it does mean making very small batches. And if you have small batches, then you don't really want to use champagne yeast, because the amount in a package would be total overkill. Maybe there is dry champagne yeast, which you could just use as you need? We normally buy liquid yeast packages though. And I'm getting disorganised in my thoughts here, but I've read that using bread yeast can add strange flavors.

The ultimate project then would lead to pasteurization. This allows you to put a beverage with sugar and yeast in a glass bottle, cap it, let it ferment a tiny bit to produce carbonation (while leaving some sugar to result in a sweet beverage), and then you pasteurize to kill the yeast, thus preventing further fermentation and the risk of bottles exploding. Pasteurization is a whole other animal. I'm not sure if I'm ready to tackle these risks just yet.

Actually when I was doing all this reading it reminded me of the time I gave away all our de-labelled and cleaned bottles when we moved from NH to Sweden. Basically I was thinking that we had spent many hours taking labels off of so many bottles that it would be a shame to just recycle them all. So I put an ad on freecycle, just to see if anyone wanted them. I actually got a few responses in a timely manner. I gave them to the first guy to contact me, who told me he was so glad to get them since he had tried making a batch of rootbeer which had resulted in exploded bottles, so his supply of bottles was lacking.

This is getting really wordy, but I have to say, I have a pretty big concern about exploding bottles. That isn't something you want to take lightly.

At the same time, Greg and I (mostly Greg) have a slight interest in making cider, so learning the art of pasteurization could be a useful skill for our future.

For me, it all sort of comes down to my goals for making ginger beer. A few weeks ago I was trying to find an interesting restaurant in Stockholm, and I found a dumpling place and they had ginger beer on the menu, and ever since then I've just been wishing I could more easily get myself some ginger beer. (That restaurant was, sadly, not open on the weekends, which I didn't realise until we were standing outside the door.)

So if I just want the experience of ginger beer, any of these methods should suffice, so logically it makes sense to just do the simplest and cheapest option, which would be one of the first two. Both are really simple, and I'm sure both are quite economical, but I could check the numbers to maximize that benefit.

I think my plan will be to start with one of these methods, because I just really want to drink a ginger beer. Then, after I can do more research on pasteurization and gain some confidence in my (our) skills in that area, step up the ginger beer-making game.

Also, for reference (for my future self, mainly), I read this entire forum which was really useful. And here is one that will be useful for pasteurization research, but really? I can handle 17 pages, but 108?

I've done a lot of other reading as well, but if anyone has tips or sources I'd love to hear about it. Brian, are you still lurking? When you made cider did you pasteurize it? I think we had some friends 'pasteurize' by exposing their cider to some sort of light? I don't know, but is this a thing?

Friday, May 16, 2014

7QT - reading, quaintness, & ginger beer!

1. Here is a fascinating video to watch. It is super long, but I saw it posted on another blog and decided to save it to watch over the weekend. It was really fascinating (double use of this word is noted and left as is for emphasis).


2. Last week I sent in an application that makes me really nervous and excited. I shouldn't talk about this too much before anything is decided, but it is definitely what is on my mind.

Recently on the internet I saw some sort of cartoon that had text along the lines of "Remember that job you applied for that you were sure you would get but suddenly stopped talking about? How'd that go?"

Hopefully this isn't one of those situations(:

3. I realized there is an indentation in the couch in the spot where I normally sit. One solution would be to stop sitting on the couch all the time. The other solution, which may or may not be my solution of choice, is to simply shift myself one person-width to the left. (The couch is super nice over here. Plus I'm closer to the window and nature!)

4. Recently I had a conversation with a Stockholm-dweller who was commenting on the quaintness of Uppsala. I do agree that Uppsala does have a nice small-town feel, despite being Sweden's fourth largest city, and that is part of what I love about this city.

He said it seemed like everything, pubs included, were closed by 6 pm. I assured him that at least the pubs stayed open later, but admitted that I didn't actually know how late they stayed open. At this point I was informed that I didn't exactly have the look of a person who spends their time closing down pubs every night. I was pretty amused by that. Definitely more amused than when he told me my "pajamas" made it look like I just rolled out of bed before leaving the house.

5. Last weekend I finally went ahead and purchased Jen's new book (I have a big obsession with free library books and free kindle books). As much as I like my books free, it is always nice to feel like I am supporting another person's creative endeavor. And I feel like this is a pretty good creative endeavor to be supporting(:

I spent a good portion of the weekend on one spot (you know, shifted to the left of course) on the couch, and Greg made the comment that he wished he had taken a time-lapse video of me sitting on the couch, gradually shifting positions (I guess I move around a lot while reading), while I devoured Jen's book.

6. I am going to make my own ginger beer! I haven't been this excited about a 'homesteading' project since I found out how easy it was to make your own cheese!

I got the tip about making my own ginger beer from Kate, who has admirable knowledge of the crunchy life.

7. I think I might have passed my first Swedish tests! I don't actually know, because I don't know how to say that in Swedish. So if they told me I passed, I didn't understand what they were saying. I do know that they told me 'they were satisfied' to indicate that the exam was over (this was during the oral exam, where you just have to ramble on by yourself). Hurrah! (maybe)

The End & The Link-Up

Sunday, May 11, 2014

May Ten on Ten

Every now and again I like to participate in this photo blogging thing called Ten on Ten, in which you take a photo an hour for ten hours on the tenth of the month. You can see my previous editions here, here, and here.

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1. Rooftop gardening
2. Hot water is ready for coffee
3. Sometimes you miss the good ones… just moments before I grabbed my camera, I saw a man ride by on a bicycle with a double bass on his back. These next three bicycles that passed weren't quite as unique.
4. Sidewalk's edge
5. I got a bit behind my photo-taking schedule after getting lost in this for a few hours. #sotg
6. Test run of the Rhuby Triangle (can't say we spend a lot of time making cocktails, as evidenced by the use of a tablespoon over a shot glass…)
7. We have a lot of neighborhood cats. This one touched my leg.
8. Canapé construction
9. Quite a spread
10. A quick fun fact, which is neither quick nor fun: The best Bloody Mary I've ever tasted was this one, which was made with tequila, which I'm told makes it a Bloody Maria.

Friday, May 2, 2014

Mom visits Sweden - Stockholm

We also went to Stockholm, where my mom got a free energy drink at the train station.

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We found these guys out at Skansen, a place of many wonders.

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Everyone loves Dala horses!

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So there you have it! I hope to continue this trend of finally going through my many lists and finally posting the photos I always mean to post. We shall see if it actually happens :)