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Friday, December 22, 2017

Making Challah

Last weekend I was in the mood to try (and eat) something new so naturally I turned to bread making and decided challah would be the perfect choice.

Challah is a ceremonial Jewish bread typically eaten on the Sabbath or major Jewish holidays. It is distinguished by it's braided strands and golden brown crust.

For my first attempt at making this bread, I followed the recipe found in The Bread Baker's Apprentice cookbook. It's basically the same recipe I found on the New York Times website as well.

The first thing I noticed when reading the recipe, was that it  called for sugar. Although it doesn't taste sweet, there is a half a cup of white sugar in the recipe however there is also 8 cups of flour making a very large loaf!

Since I was a novice, I opted to do the 3 strand braid of the dough rather than the more advanced 4, 6, or 12 strand. I followed the instructions on braiding the bread from this excellent website.
I love that so many breads are steeped in strong historical or religious reference and certainly challah is no exception.

Such a beautiful loaf of bread and even better it tastes wonderful!

Friday, December 15, 2017

How To Commute By Bike

Let's take a break from all this holiday cheer to talk about something near and dear to my heart....

I'm not positive but I'm pretty sure this year marks the 20th year I've been commuting by bicycle to work. Sure, that statement dates me and if I count commuting to school by bike too, its been over 30 years.

Are you interested in bicycle commuting or just think I'm crazy to have done it for so long? Well read on because I'm going to share a little wisdom and a lot of common sense on how it's done.

First and foremost, when you're job searching or home searching, make the commute a priority! When I moved to Portland, Oregon back in the late 80s I had a job. I knew where I was going to work so when I was looking for a place to live, the number one priority was that I was close to work; less than 5 miles. Since initially moving here, I've lived in five different places, but none farther than 5 miles from work. I could probably stop here as this really is the most important part of bike commuting, however then I wouldn't get to talk about the fun stuff, like the bike and gear!

Let's start with the bike. You're going to want a comfortable and safe bike. Over the years, I've commuted on 5 different bikes (really, there's no theme of 5 here) and I've concluded that the most comfortable, responsive rides I've had are on bikes with steel vs aluminum frames. Having never owned a titanium framed bike, I can't speak to them.

Also important and simply weren't around when I first started bike commuting, are disc brakes. Seriously, these are a game changer for bike commuting especially in wet conditions. They allow you to stop much quicker than bikes using caliper or cantilever brakes and the upkeep is much easier. Twice a year I get my bike tuned up and they adjust the disc brakes and install new pads if needed. I think I've only replaced the pads on the disc brakes once or twice in 6 years, in comparison, old style brakes go through pads every couple months.

Aside from the bike, there's a litany of accessories to buy for it and most are personal preference except fenders, lights, and a helmet.

Fenders are a necessity if you're ever, ever going to ride in the rain. They will keep your backside dry and just as important, keep you from being the a-hole rider that spews water onto everyone behind them or passing them. You don't want to be THAT rider and because of that, opt for fenders that cover most of your back tire.

Lights have also come a long way since I've been bike commuting. The use of LEDs in bike lights mean you don't need to haul around a 5 lb battery pack to light your way (or those old generator lights that ran off the friction of your tire--ahhggg!)

For me, since most of my route to work is well lit and I'm not riding in complete darkness, the lights on my bike are more for others to see me rather than for me to see where I'm going. Therefore, I opt for a simple front white blinking light and a red back blinking light. Both these lights have the option of not blinking but blinking lights let drivers know you're a bike and they can plan accordingly. I also like that these lights take simple AA batteries and not some fancy battery you have to run to a special store to get.

A helmet is just common sense, especially if you ride in increment weather. You can spend as little as $15 or as much as you want. I've crashed 3 times on ice and each time I fell and hit my helmet on the concrete before I even knew what happened. It was quick and there was no way I could have kept my head from hitting the ground. After a crash, it's always important to replace your helmet, they're only meant to withstand one blow. Oh, and by the way, don't try riding when it's icy out. Take the bus or work from home.

What you wear to commute in, as long as you followed my advice and aren't commuting 40 miles, is really up to you. As work environments become more casual, I see more and more people wearing their work clothes on their bike and that's certainly how most Europeans commute by bike.

Regardless, one thing you'll want to invest in is a good, reflective rain jacket one that will keep you dry from the rain on the outside and not trap the sweat on the inside. Along that same line, on really rainy days you'll probably want some rain pants. The past couple of years, I've been using a bike poncho to commute in wet weather. I prefer this to rain pants as I find rain pants slip around on the bike seat. I also recommend, for those really rainy days, a pair of shoe covers. They're not expensive (I've even seen people just rubber-band some plastic bags around their shoes) but are worth it.

There are plenty of other accessories you can buy and are important (like gloves and ear muffs) however, you'll probably find over time what you need and like. Early on in my bike commuting, I used a rack on my bike with panniers. I've since migrated to just using a messenger bagand find I like it better.

How to ride safely, is more important than any gear you buy. It takes a long time to feel comfortable on a bike in traffic. It's important to always be visible and that means riding in the lane with cars if you're on a street with a traffic speed of 35 mph or less (and you should be.)  You don't need to take all the lane, but don't hang out so far on the shoulder that you have to swerve in and out of traffic to get around parked cars.

It goes with out saying that when you're on a bike you're vulnerable. Your best line of defense is to act predictable which means follow the traffic laws, stop at stop signs and red lights, take your turn at four way stops, signal when turning and changing lanes, and ride in a straight line.

The best advice I can give for bike commuting is simply to try it. You'll discover over time what works well and what doesn't work but just try it.

And now if you've stuck with this post long enough to get to the end, for your viewing pleasure, here's a (bad) video of my commute.
If you're still reading...don't forget it's not too late to order Lora's Beauty Goats' Milk Soaps for the holidays! They make great gifts for everyone on your list and with free shipping on orders over $30 in the US you can't go wrong!




Friday, December 1, 2017

Stocked for the Holidays

And just like that the online Lora's Beauty store is stocked for the holidays!

Shop soap for everyone on your list. It makes a great gift for a favorite teacher or coach!

Have a brother that's hard to shop for? Soap is the answer!

What about Mom? Is she wallowing in too many sweaters? Soap is the answer!

Don't forget Dad. This rugged Pine Tar soap will be sure to please.

Not to be left off the list, of course, is the significant other. Pick up a few bars to have them smelling sweet!

Lora's Beauty offers Free Shipping in the US with all orders over $30 so you can't go wrong with an all natural, skin loving and soothing gift!

Friday, November 24, 2017

Soap For The Holidays


Last week I participated in a holiday bazaar at work. It was a lot of fun and I sold pretty much my entire stock of soap, so this week I've been frantically busy making more!

I've made more of my most popular soaps including Peppermint Ice. I add menthol and peppermint essential oil to this soap to provide a fragrant, skin tingling experience while bathing.

The Oatmeal Ginger was a huge hit at the bazaar and I needed to make more. This soap has a lovely spicy ginger scent and is made with colloidal oatmeal making it a wonderful soap for dry skin. I think it was the scent, however, that had it selling so well.

I also sold out and remade some of my Lavender Meringue soap. The white 'meringue' on this bar is a shea butter rich soap making it extra moisturizing as well as beautiful.

My Cinnamon and Honey soap is always popular. Made with ground cinnamon and scented with cinnamon leaf essential oil this is a very fragrant bar that's also great for oily skin.

Also in demand was my Safflower and Honey soap. This is another very fragrant bar as it's scented with fennel and anise essential oil so it smells very much like black licorice. The safflower in the bar gives it it's pretty pale yellow color and is a wonderful additive for soothing skin.

All these bars will be available in a couple weeks and in time for holiday shopping.


For those who can't wait, the online store is currently stocked with plenty of other soap like Mug-o-Beer,
Pine Tar




Lora's Beauty soaps make wonderful gifts for anyone especially those hard to shop for people! Who doesn't need soap? Lora's Beauty is an affordable luxury.

Friday, November 10, 2017

Easy DIY Holiday Wreath

I've got an easy, inexpensive, and fun DIY project to share with you today.

All you need is an old book, tape, hot glue, and a stapler!

So, let's start with the end product. 


Pretty nice, huh?

Believe me when I tell you, it's easy, after you get over the idea of tearing up a book.

Oh, you'll need something for the middle of the wreath. I used Christmas ornaments but I could picture dried flowers or autumn leaves.

I glued everything onto a cardboard box I cut in a rectangle shape 12" X 16" and cut the corners off.

Ok, here's the video on how to make your own wreath! I skipped the part about cutting the ragged edges off the pages and don't obsess over the rolling of the paper and that part about flicking the wrist. Just roll the paper like an ice cream code.



A big THANKS to my friend Rodney for sending me the video!

Friday, November 3, 2017

Pressure Cooker Love Times Two!

Last March I shared my love for my new pressure cooker,well today I'm going to heap a little more love on it!

I originally bought it because dried beans can be cooked in 45 minutes. Last week I discovered a new reason to love it; acorn squash in 10 minutes!

Yes, you read that correctly, 10 minutes to get squash that's cooked so completely it pulls away from it's skin. That's a game changer for me. I love stuffed acorn squash and to be able to have it in 10 minutes rather than the hour it takes to cook in an oven, well, that's *heaven*.

Here's how you too can have perfect acorn squash in 10 minutes.

First, cut your squash in half lengthwise and clean out the seeds and stringy guts.

Next, pour about two cups water in the bottom of your pressure cooker and place a steamer basketinside using caution not to scratch the Teflon coating in the pressure cooker. Now, add your squash.

Set pressure cooker to high and cook for 10 minutes.

While the squash is cooking, on a skillet cook the stuffing for the squash. You can use whatever sounds good, I usually use some sausage, bell peppers, garlic, onions, and chili peppers. Grate a little cheddar cheese (or a lot) for the top.

After the squash is finished cooking, spoon in the stuffing and top with cheese!

What's better than stuffed acorn squash? Stuffed acorn squash in 10 minutes!!!

    



Friday, October 27, 2017

A Few Things I've Found and Love

Sometimes you run into a few things you really like and want to tell someone about, such is the case with these items.

First up, is this coffee my son actually found and brought back from his trip to Borneo.



It's lightly sweetened and makes the BEST ICE COFFEE EVER! I can't say I love it hot, but iced, it rocks! It comes in little bags, much like a tea bag. Simply toss a bag in a large mason jar and add cool water and let it steep in the fridge a few hours. When you want a quick coffee fix, pour it over ice. It's perfectly sweetened but add a little milk or cream if you like your coffee that way.

I just ALWAYS pack my lunch for work. On a whim, I picked up these reusable wraps:



I love that they're reusable, clean up easily with a soapy, wet cloth, and stay sealed in my lunch bag. Since they are made with bees wax, you simply close them and they seal from the warmth of your hands. Best of all, no more wasteful plastic wrap!

Have you tried Gin-Gins yet?



A couple years ago, a lady at work gave me one of these and since then I've ordered them faithfully. They're chewy and have a strong ginger taste as they're made with fresh ginger and because of that, they're good to ease an upset stomach. I've even tossed one into hot water and made a wonderful ginger tea! These candies would work great for Halloween trick-or-treaters and you won't mind being stuck with a bunch of leftover candy!

And finally there's this water filtration system:



I bought this for my son for his trip to Borneo. He ended up not needing to use it but we tried it out at home and it works great! It takes up very little room so packs easily in a backpack. It's so simple to use and there's no waiting to drink the water. You fill up the bladder, attach the filter and can drink right from it! This will be going in our Earthquake Preparedness Kit for sure (once I get it started.)



Friday, October 20, 2017

New: Oatmeal Ginger Goats' Milk Soap

Lora's Beauty is happy to announce another new fresh-from-the-goat goats' milk soap, Oatmeal Ginger!

This soap is made with finely ground oatmeal and fresh ginger. It's been widely known that nothing beats oatmeal for soothing skin and reducing inflammation caused from eczema and other skin rashes. It calms irritation by gently correcting the ph of inflamed and irritated skin.

Ginger's benefits for skin are not as well known, however, it contains over 40 antioxidant properties, meaning, 'hello glowing, radiant skin!'

This soap is scented with ginger and cassia essential oils giving it a beautiful spicy scent that lingers on the skin well after use.

The beautiful coral color occurs naturally from the cassia essential oil.  A little turmeric is added to provide the darker color in the bar. Turmeric is another natural choice to help soothe irritated skin.

The all natural ingredients in this bar will be a wonderful addition to any skincare routine. Fresh goats' milk, oatmeal, ginger and turmeric combined in one bar of soap will bring joy to your shower and your skin!

By the way, the Pine Tar Goats' Milk Soap is also available now in the online store.

I have a feeling this is going to be a popular bar, especially for the men out there. This bar screams rugged and outdoorsy (yet still being  gentle).

Also, did I mention pine tar is also great at neutralizing body odor?

Order now, from the online store!

    

Friday, October 13, 2017

Oktoberfest in Leavenworth Washington

Last weekend we made a rather spur of the moment trip to Leavenworth Washington for
Oktoberfest.

Let me back up a little. This past summer we tried on numerous occasions to make it to our favorite summer festivals, we even tried to make it to a new one, however, EVERY TIME we lit out we'd arrive only to find the festival was the coming weekend or the last weekend. Even Google was in on it, telling us the Hawthorne Street Fair was going on when it wasn't. By September, we had given up, besides the whole Northwest part of the US was engulfed in fire and smoke so we just hunkered down and called it a summer.

Needless to say, when October came and the fires burned out, we were ready for a road trip so we checked and double checked and triple checked before we booked our reservations to Leavenworth for Oktoberfest! And lo and behold, we made it.

We purposefully drove the long way there, through the Columbia Gorge so we could see the aftermath of the Eagle Crest Fire that burned for most of September.

Yes, there were tell tale signs of it from the freeway, probably more so if you were hiking, but the Gorge is still beautiful.

As is the Yakima Valley, where the windmills are placed so close to the road you could almost reach out a touch them as you drive by.

Ah, but the town of Leavenworth was breathtaking and ready to celebrate! A parade though the main street began the party.

And what's a parade without horses! Seriously, they're my favorite part of parades.

The weather was beautiful so we drove a little outside of town for a quick hike before the eating and drinking commenced.

Nothing beats hiking in Autumn.
Except perhaps hiking in Autumn next to a beautiful river...


loaded with fish!
Back in town the party was getting started.

The music was jumping, the beer was flowing, and the food was delicious!

We may make Oktoberfest in Leavenworth an annual tradition (after checking and double checking what weekend it's on of course!)