Bright and cheery

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I just love how bright and cheery the garden looks after some heavy rains and with a nice bit of sunshine and warmth. Yes, the tomatoes are actually blooming! It feels like spring.

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The garlic is growing at amazing speed too. The fresh green leaves are delicious in salads.

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Almond tree in full bloom – quite seasonable for the month of Shvat in Israel.

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This gorgeous little fellow was darting to and fro among the flowers, and I managed to capture it during a moment of rest.

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Beautiful winter roses. What can be prettier?

Making Coconut Oil Soap

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You guys know how I love to make something out of nothing – or, at any rate, something useful out of something useless, right?

I had some very old coconut oil that had clearly outlived its fitness for human consumption. This gave me the all-clear for doing something I had wanted to try for a while: making coconut oil soap. Coconut oil is pricey, so I wouldn’t use it for soap when if we can eat it.

Unlike the previous time I had tried my hand at soap-making, I now have a digital kitchen scale, which made it a lot easier to follow this simple recipe. I also added a few drops of rosemary essential oil for a refreshing scent.

I used the cute little silicone molds I also use for candles. In the photo above, you can see my freshly unmolded pure coconut oil soap bars, which are now set to cure on a rack on top of my kitchen cabinets. I can’t wait for them to get ready so I can use them.

My first time making injera (with pictures)

Pop over to Mother Earth News to read about my first experience in making injera, a traditional Ethiopian fermented flatbread that forms the base of every meal (when I say base, I mean this literally, since injera also serves as the plate!):

Teff, Ethiopia’s traditional grain, has been enjoying its well-deserved spotlight as a recently discovered superfood. Teff is extremely healthy and nutritious, and certainly worth getting acquainted with. You can find teff in health food and ethnic stores. There is a darker variety and a lighter one, and it’s worth trying both to see which you like better.

The process, in pictures:

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Starting the batter.

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Day 3: Bubbles are the evidence of successful fermentation.

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Day 4: Diluting the batter with water prior to cooking.

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I let it cook a tad too long and it over-dried somewhat, but it was still really good, and I hope to do better next time.

Listen to the rain

Time for another garden update! I’m really behind on weeding, because we’ve had so much rain and the outdoors are so chilly and unwelcoming, but at least things are growing.

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Tomatoes – one of the varieties we’ve planted.

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My husband’s container potatoes. It’s his special pet project.

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White beans… I did do some weeding here since this photo was snapped.

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Garlic shoots are just poking out of the earth.

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A row of mustard – we enjoy the tender young leaves in a variety of soups, stews and salads.

What about you? Growing anything? Or are you waiting for the thaw?

And it rained, and rained, and rained

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For the past couple of days, it has been cold, dreary, windy and rainy, and we’ve been shut inside, doing our best to spend our time productively and pleasantly indoors. I started some seeds, did some baking, and went on with my crocheting projects. The little poncho/capelet is coming along nicely.

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I’ve also ordered some yak wool blend, and I’m excited to try it – I’ve never worked with yak wool before, but it sure feels very pleasant to the touch.

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A batch of super simple granola bars, thrown together in 5 minutes, out of the oven in 15 – a healthy snack to keep up our energy in the afternoon.

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A kitty who found the coziest spot on a cold morning. Behind, you can see our crafty center, where we keep all our art supplies, paper, glue, modeling clay, etc.

I look forward to sunny days and puttering around the garden, but in the meantime, there’s so much to be grateful for – for instance, the fact that we repaired the roof and the air conditioning before this last cold and rainy spell.

Delicious No-Bake Energy Bites

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Sweet cravings are a serious thing in winter – the cold, dark days make us long for something sweet with our afternoon tea. If things get desperate enough, you may find yourself dipping into that secret chocolate stash you don’t want your children to know about.

That’s where these bite-sized balls of yummy goodness come along! They are simple, versatile, easy to make, require little to no processing, are full to burst with healthy nutrients, and contain no refined sugar. Please keep in mind, however, that proportions are not exact, and you will need to play with the consistency a bit until you get what you like best.

You will need:

Approx. 1/4 cup chopped walnuts

1/4 cup sunflower seeds, lightly crushed

A handful of sesame seeds

A handful of raisins

1/2 shredded coconut

1/2 cup natural date spread, or 10-12 processed medjoul dates

2-3 tbsp raw tahini

Shredded coconut, chopped almonds or peanuts, or sesame seeds for rolling

Mix all ingredients in a bowl until you reach a nice workable consistency. You may need to add a little water if the mixture is too dry, or a little shredded coconut or another dry ingredient if it’s too runny.

Form small balls and roll them in the coating of your choice.

Place in container, pop into freezer, and voila! You have a delicious, nutritious, easy-to-serve energy treat to curb those sweet cravings.

My first children’s book is here! (updated)

An unusual path to dragon-taming

I am happy and excited to announce my very first children’s fantasy novel, Dragon Diplomacy, is now available in print. The Kindle edition is available for pre-order now, and will release at the end of the month.

From the blurb: “Loriel is an inquisitive 12-year-old fairy living in the enchanted forest kingdom of Silverbell Wood. The peace and tranquility of Silverbell are disrupted by Gadrak, a troubled dragon who comes to live in the middle of the fairy domain. The dragon’s incessant raids on the bordering human kingdom of Elderland cause the wrath of its people, who are determined to invade Silverbell – a prospect that might end in disaster, with the protective enchantments broken and the delicate balance of the fairy forest disrupted.”

As all my fiction books, it is published under the pen name of Hannah Ross.

I really can’t say this often enough: I appreciate and love the readers who support me by buying my books. Without you, I would never be where I am today, with 12 novels and 4 nonfiction books under my belt, and more to come. So a huge thank you! You make me doubly excited about sharing my writing with the world, and you rock.