Valkyrie’s Log – Blending, Baking, Confucius and confused Cultures

Milk and Whisk

Location: Home, Colorado.
Status: Cultured.

Today should have been a day of long walks and cupcake baking. But instead was all culture killing and Zhou dynasty quizzing. Our Saturday had consisted of Kombucha bottling and Banana Bread baking, banana bread so good that we totally ruined our appetites for dinner and ended up going for a very pleasant guilt induced evening walk for nearly an hour. Guilt for putting ice-cream in our lunch time smoothies (1 apple (peeled), 1/2 cup blueberries, 1/2 cup plain yogurt, 1/4 vanilla ice-cream, splash of milk and 2 ice cubes) that were supposed to be paired with salad but somehow the salad became unnecessary😅 Also mild guilt for the accidental dinner of L’s freshly baked banana bread, only mild as it was almond flour banana bread with relatively low sugar content (comparatively speaking).

So today started out as a “back on track” healthy active day. We had tuna salad for lunch and only the smallest square of banana bread 🤤 Then I was going to make yogurt and L was going to knock out the rest of her Social Studies from the previous week. But boy oh boy do the social studies of the Phoenician culture and the Shang & Zhou dynasty’s know how to swallow a day whole! Mid lecture, having pasteurised the milk to 180ºF, while clarifying the tactics behind the Mandate of Heaven and the influence of Confucius… I dumped my thermophilic culture into a piping hot half gallon of milk. Yogurt makers of the world will be simultaneously gasping in shock and groaning in sympathy. I put the whole pot in the fridge in a vain hope that if I cooled the milk down to the required 110ºF fast enough and scraped the meagre amount of leftover starter yogurt into the pot, things would somehow magically be saved… tune in again tomorrow to hear the most likely inevitable plight of our latest batch of Instant Pot yogurt (I’m going to give it the night in the hope that those few mighty cultures will take a leaf out of their Viking host’s book and conquer the whole darn pot!).

Grateful for:

  1. Banana Bread and Skype

Valkyrie’s Log – How to teach your homeschool student to enjoy exercise

Location: Home, Colorado.
Status: Working it out.

We became the proud owners of an FTX Inspire home gym a couple of weeks ago and now that it is all set up, we’ve made ourselves a fitness plan. I told my husband I wanted to work out a little every day, I find it much easier to pop down to the gym in the evening and knock out a 20 minute work out than to commit to an hour 3 times a week. These workouts will supplement our morning dog walks of 40 mins minimum and keep us in good shape for twice weekly hikes!

I love a good table so here is what I made for my daughter L and I (M for Mom). Explanation of exercises is below. We can fill in the sheet as both a record of (hopefully) our improvements in strength, and as a record of L’s Physical Education.

Upper Body 3×10

1. Pull Ups 3 x 10 or 4 x 5
2. Inclined seated press  3 x 10
3. Negative Push ups 3 x 10
4. Standing Shoulder row 3 x 10 each side
5. Rotator Cuff Pull out (elbow in) 3×10 each side
6. Bent Row 3 x 10 (3-5kg)
7. Tricep extensions with rope. Elbows tucked
8. Tricep dips on bench
9. Bicep curl elbow tucked
10. Hanging knee lifts

1. Squats x25
2. Push ups x10 (Knees down if needed)
3. Straight arm pull down (v low weight) x25
4. Lying leg lifts x15
5. Crunchies x25
6. Russian Twist x25
7. Jumping Jacks x20
8. Burpees x10
9. Mountain Climbers x20

Lower Body 3×10

1. Side Leg Out (handle on ankle) 
2. Goblet Squats
3. Reverse Lunges
4. Calf Raises (stand on toes)
5. Hanging Knee lifts
6. Hands through reverse squats (rope through legs, back to machine, heavy weight)
7. Glute Bridges 
8. Back Extensions 

The quantities for Upper and Lower body work are a target for us to work towards as we build our fitness over the next couple of weeks. The cardio numbers were higher originally but my husband decided it was best to start low and build up rather than to have numbers that felt wildly unachievable.

To begin with we will focus on form and familiarisation with the machine. Yesterday I did 10 of each Upper Body exercise just to get the hang of it, some 10’s were enough, others were easy. L will use no weights, working mostly to her own body weight and building up strength befitting her build, for her using the machine is more about novelty rather than necessity, no baby body building here! I will work my way up to weights that make the numbers achievable but still challenging and then I’ll work to build up the numbers.

The most important factor is to enjoy working out together, focus on form & fun, quantity (repetitions) and quantity (weight) come second.

Grateful for:

  1. A healthy family who enjoy staying fit and strong.
  2. The convenience of a home gym

Valkyrie’s Log – How to avoid a Pizza Coma

Cauliflower Pizza Base

Location: Home, Colorado.
Status: Cooking.

October in Colorado is not like October anywhere I have every been. We are in the middle of an Indian Summer. Whether this is a normal occurrence or an anomaly will remain to be seen, but with temperatures of 28ºC/82ºF during the day, I am not complaining! So sunny, dry and warm are the days that we hardly notice that night temps are around 3ºC/37ºF! In fact we open the windows in the morning to let the cool in before the thermometer rockets to the sky!

Today was Day 2 of Time4Learning Supervision. Our daughter set to work, knocking out her entire 25 left over Mathematics modules in one day. Some sets she flew through independently, some required a little explanation… some a little more. But she did it. Unfortunately she had lost two days to one subject so was not finished in time for a movie, but we did take time for pizza and a work out before bed.

Pizza and work-out may not seem to go hand in hand, but when you have cauliflower pizza, the post dinner coma is a thing of the past. Now I’m not going to pretend to be any kind of foodie blogger, so here is a link to the recipe I used. I’ll just say, the first attempt I made cauliflower puree instead of cauliflower rice. Then I used frozen cauliflower rice but didn’t thaw and squeeze it. This time I thawed it, squeezed a LOT of liquid out of it and I think it would have been perfect had I had the right amount of Parmesan and not used grated cheese as a substitute. It tasted great but had a more rubbery texture than it would have. So there are my tips, here is the recipe. Bon appetite!

Grateful for:

  1. The weather! When you have the sun everyday, it becomes easy to take for granted! Talking to friend back in Ireland has reminded me to appreciate it!

Valkyrie’s Log – Getting our Kombucha to Fizz

Healthy tea kombucha with lemon and cinnamon. Recipe for homemade Kombucha

Location: Home, Colorado.
Status: Fermenting.

Disclaimer, this post is almost entirely Kombucha geeking out, if you have no interest, feel free to skip on to tomorrows post.

On a day where not a lot happened, I got to enjoy the fruits of previous weeks work. As my daughter worked hard to catch up on some work she overlooked from last week, I sipped away at our first batch of Kombucha (there is some debate in our house about the pronunciation of Kombucha, I pronounce it with a “cha” and my husband pronounces it with a “ka”, how do YOU say it? The pleasant fizzy tingle from a successful (eventually!) 2nd ferment was a lovely little uplift on a day that was neither great nor bad.

Having made it once before, I had chosen to do a Green Tea Kombucha, it had worked out great previously and even our then 7 year old had loved it. I had hoped to have it ready before my husband left, but it only decided to achieve it’s light fizz immediately after he departed. He has never enjoyed Kombucha although he admits that his previous attempts never achieved a fizz and it sounds like it was over fermented to a vinegar like state. He is not one to let taste get in the way of healthy food consumption and we regularly witness him drinking what look like strawberry milk shakes over Skype that are in fact beets, cucumbers, celery and whatever vegetable they have left at work that most would throw away. So having in the past forced down something closer to apple cider vinegar than Kombucha, I was excited to show him how delicious it could really be.

The temperature in our apartment was fluctuating pretty widely through September. With no air conditioning and Colorado’s infamous sunny days, the afternoons were in the high 80’s and nights down to below 70ºF (from 26ºC to below 21ºC for those like me to whom Fahrenheit is illogical gobbledygook) . This made keeping our Kombucha at a stable temperature pretty tricky. We put it down in the gym where, although cooler than the ideal fermenting temperature, it was at least more stable. Averaging out at 72ºF and not going below 70 as far as we knew (although we weren’t checking it at night). I tried bringing it up to the apartment and wrapping it in a sweater to help maintain a stable warmer temp. But that didn’t help. Eventually it started to get less sweet and as it was over 10 days I went ahead and bottled it up. Then I bottled it up again after forgetting that I was supposed to stir it first! Don’t forget your stir!

I stored them in a cupboard and checked a different bottle every few days. I had read that I should put it in the fridge each time to cool before testing. But I think that may have actually been counter productive. When there was still no sign of a fizz after nearly 2 weeks, I took to google. I found what I was looking for here. The only possible answer on the list was No.9… I needed to add more sugar. Also after all the tests it could be that there was a little too much air space left in the bottles at this stage. As I brought out my 5 bottles (I had gifted one bottle to our friend and neighbour, I have yet to ask if he waited long enough for it to fizz of if he just drank it flat) to add a little honey to, low and behold I detected a hint of fizz! I went ahead and added a little honey to 4 of the bottles and decanted most of the 5th bottle into the other 4 to reduce the air space. We polished of the 5th bottle with great pleasure and the remaining 4 went down to the gym which is much warmer these days as outside temperatures have dropped enough to activate the heating.

After a couple of days we cracked open one of the bottles and voila! delicious Kombucha. There are now 2 bottles left and my next batch, my first ever Black Tea Kombucha, looks ready to be bottled (small bubbles appearing on the surface)!

Grateful for:

  1. End of ‘radio silence’ morning Skype chat with my love
  2. Delicious healthy homemade Kombucha
  3. Card games with a friend to end the day