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.

Cold weather yarn projects

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The drop in temperatures means it’s a perfect time to whip out the yarn and crochet hooks (or knitting needles) and get to making beautiful and useful things. Check out these cute two-color slipper socks I recently completed – perfect for pattering around the house for kids who don’t like bulky slippers. I’m really quite proud of them.

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And while I’m on the roll, here’s the start of another project – a circular white round poncho. I haven’t crocheted in a while, and it’s a true joy to get back to it. All I need is to get started with a project and make sure I always have it in my bag for those quiet spells I’m out and about and have a few spare minutes waiting in line or sitting on a bench in the park while my kids play.

Patterns used: Bev’s Very Easy Booties, enlarged to a size that would fit older kids.

Bea Poncho – I love lacy patterns like this, and it’s really easy and fun to work.

Making money from home – revised

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Re-reading my previous post on making money from home, which I wrote almost two and a half years ago, I thought some updates are in order.

Following the birth of another baby, a house move, and many frumpy days spent in a maze of boxes and/or with sick little ones, I was reaffirmed in my wish for work that could be done in the comfort of my home, with a steaming cup of tea and in pajamas, depending on no one’s schedule but my own. Moving to an area with a fast, reliable internet connection was a godsend, and I am now able to play to my strengths more than before, focusing on what I’m good at: writing, editing, proofreading and translation – all of which is a perfect fit for a work-from-home solo entrepreneur.

My holy grail is still writing and publishing my own books, both fiction and nonfiction. I will keep at it, and if I could, I would do nothing else. But it’s extremely challenging to make one’s way as an author, and when you’re starting on a little to nonexistent budget, you are prone to get stuck. So part of my other-source earnings will be funneled as an investment in my books, with the darling wish of someday being able to work on them exclusively.

For more income streams, I registered on freelancing websites such as Freelancer.com and Guru, but soon saw these places are absolutely flooded with people from developing countries who are willing to work for ridiculously low wages and swarm upon every project within minutes. Getting noticed was extremely difficult without several “pay to play” options (on Freelancer, they offer paid certification tests) which I consider greedy and unethical – since the host website receives a mediator cut from every project acquired through it, I don’t think it’s fair to try and get more money off people.

Being trilingual, I’m also registered on several crowdsourcing translation platforms such as Gengo. I’ve made some legitimate earnings through Gengo, but their pay rates are low, their work volume very unsteady, and their ratings often arbitrary, with senior translators appointed for reviewing without really understanding the nuances of the language.

I tried doing transcription through similar crowdsourcing platforms, but quickly realized that, again, the pay is extremely low (unless it’s transcription + translation), plus you need a quiet work environment to listen to audio files – with four kids at home and me working on the living room couch, trying to get everyone to be quiet enough for me to listen to audio is stress-inducing and just not worth it.

Recently I discovered Upwork and so far I am loving it. Hands down, it’s the best freelancer website I ever came across. They are committed to only accepting qualified people providing in-demand services, so not every profile gets approved, and the traffic is a lot less crowded. I had to apply three times before I was accepted. There are many tests you can take for free to prove your qualifications, and choose whether to display them on your profile or not. You can check out my profile here.

I would like to stress that my objective is not to make as much money as quickly as possible, but just enough to allow me to stay home with my family without struggling financially. It isn’t easy to find the perfect balance, and I will probably keep going back to this topic in months to come.