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Cause and Result – Solar Cake!

13 May

 Well what do you know! The cake I was waiting on when I was writing the previous post did bake and was devoured before I could say Jack Robinson!

 OK, I said Jack Robinson many times before the cake was ready, but once it was it didn’t last long.

 On Friday night I went to bed knowing that first thing Saturday morning I would be putting the solar oven together and making my first sun cooked dish ever. I couldn’t decide what I wanted to make…. I love slow cooked stews and pot roasts, but as a novice I am still a little weary of cooking meat in the oven, although it is done all over the world, and the internet is full of recipes to prove it.

Anyway, I woke up on Saturday, not very bright and not very early, at 0900, which is quite late for me, especially if I need to get an unknown dish ready to go….

Due to my dwindling pantry contents , I had no choice but to make a cake.

 I had one technical problem I hadn’t solved yet, and that was the question of the pot lid.

In a solar oven, while the foil reflects the heat and light of the sun, the pot  in needs to be black so that it can trap the heat, and not reflect it back to the foil like a white or steel colored pot would do. I do have an old black pot, but it doesn’t have a lid, so I usually use a lid from a white pot I have which is of a similar size.

This wouldn’t do today, so I had to improvise a lid out of the bottom of an adjustable baking pan.

 I think that this had some effect on the time it took for my cake to bake, but more on that later.

 

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Anyway, I made my batter, and chose a spot in the garden where shade falls latest in the day, and positioned my ‘cookit’ on the cart I had previously used for my seedlings, (Life has a way of working out like that. If I had made the oven earlier, I wouldn’t have been able to use this cart, which conveniently has wheels on it.) making sure the longest shadow it created was directly behind it. I wasn’t quite sure what angle to position the lower front flap. So I just let it do what came natural, and I think that also had an effect on the length of time it took for the cake to bake.

In the pdf from solar cooking.org, it says  it should take about double the time to cook any thing in the solar cooker, so I estimated, since this cake takes about 45-50 minutes in the oven, it would take at least 2 hours in the cookit, if not more.

I started it at 1050, and at about 1300 took a look to see how it was doing. There was condensation on the inside of the plastic bag in which the pot sits, effectively acting as a heat trap, and the pot was very hot to the touch, both good signs, but the cake was not done. I could see that something was happening, because it had bubbles on the top, so it was obviously rising. An hour later it peeped again (and when I say peep – I mean peep…just lift the lid slightly, peep quickly and close it all up again) it looked like nothing had changed. I am sorry that I didn’t touch the surface with my finger to see how it felt – if it was more viscous than it was when I first started baking it.

To pass the time, I decided a siesta was in order, and at about 1500, I woke up and went to see if I could have some cake with my coffee, and it turns out that I could!!

It had turned to a lovely golden brown, and was obviously ready (this time I did check with my finger.)

When I bake a cake in the oven, a thin crust forms on the top when it is ready, and the middle is higher than the edges. In this case, there was no crust at all, and it seemed to have risen evenly, except for the fact that the pot it was in had been sitting on a slant, so the cake came out slanted as well.

Did I get to eat it with my coffee? No, not quite. It got devoured by R and the Kids before the kettle had time to boil! (Yes, they did have lunch! It was just that good J)

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How To Make A Solar Oven

12 May

I have been thinking about solar cooking for a long time, ever since I found out about it.

Last week I finally found a piece of cardboard large enough to make a solar cooker according to these plans from solarcooking.org

So yesterday, after I had finally finished planting my garden, and had run out of plastic bags for a carpet I’m making (more on that to come) I decided it was time to make my Cookit. Solar cooking .org has a pretty detailed layout, both in metric and inches, though the inches are easier to go by in this case and your result will be more accurate (the grid under the layout plan is by inches).

Anyway, I don’t have inch rulers, so I had to calculate the measurements when not clearly stated in centimeters, which was a bit of a pain.

While measuring cutting and measuring again, I also had to contend with our local lion, which deemed the cardboard, the ruler, the exacto knife and everything else worthy of battle.

 

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I will not go into the whole process of making it – the instructions on solar cooking org are quite clear but I will offer a few tips.

1. make sure your cardboard is flat. Mine got warped from being outside in the dew and the sun for a few days, so I had to take time to flatten it first (if it’s warped, the sun won’t bounce of it in the right direction)

2. Unlike me, take time to glue the aluminum foil on properly. As I was making it, I realized that I was being a bit lax with it. If the foil isn’t glued on properly it will have a marked effect on how long the solar oven lasts.

3. Have wipes handy and close.

4. I don’t know why, but my foil, crinkled after I had glued it. I was fine when I left it yesterday afternoon, but when I came to check on it and put it into action this morning, the foil was a bit crinkly. I am sure this is not a good thing, and will have an effect on how well it reflects the sun and what direction it sends the rays, but the extent of the effect remains to be seen.

Another problem I had was finding a cooky bag big enough to hold my pot, (which is not a very big pot). I am sure that if I search the internet hard and long I will be able to find some for purchase, but since I  am impatient to start solar cooking, I just took a couple of the oven bags I had on hand, opened them up and sewed time into a double sized bag. Once again, the needle pricks might make this less efficient than a factory made bag, but it seems to me that the effect will be minimal.

As I write this post, my cake, is busy baking in the sun…..Stay tuned to see if it baked well!

Also, while you are biting your nails in suspense, waiting to see if this worked or not, check out Julies solar box cooker.   I might  give that one a try too.

Anyone got a good source for slow cooking recipes?

Hear Yea Hear Yea….

25 Apr

I have been meaning to post on the blog all week. I have so much to talk about, but because I am so busy doing bloggy things elsewhere, it seems as if the last place I can actually get to is the blog.

I have been blogging for about 6 months now, time to look around and take stock, and maybe start behaving like a good blogger, posting more often (yeah right), commenting on other blogs and so on.

 

photo credit creative commons license Lbo

Toward that end I have added a blog roll to my side bar. I have posted links to my favorite blogs, and if you enjoy reading my blog, I am sure you will enjoy reading theirs as well. Please check them out.

 Also, I have finally gotten over my aversion (ok, I lie, but in Rome…) of facebook and have opened a page for upcyclingruth. I am still trying to figure it out, for example, how I get my blog posts feed to work there, and so on. If anyone has any advice for me on the facebook issue, I would love to know how you run your face book page. Is it your personal page as well or just your blog page? Any insights will be appreciated.

Also, I would of course love it if you all popped over and liked me and friended me (if that is what you do on facebook J).

OK. Now please join me in praying that the feed will work and this will be published on facebook!

We Bought A New Camera!

19 Apr

Eeehaaa!!

Finally, we have bought a new camera! Since we knew we couldn’t get a brilliant dream camera, we were happy to get anything that was an upgrade on our old one, which for an 8 year old point and shoot wasn’t bad at all. When I bought it, it was cutting edge, 5mpx was fantastic, and we were happy with it as long as it lasted. (it was a Sony Cybershot)

Today R was out and about and he bought a Canon SX130IS it is 12.1 mpx has a 12x optical zoom and you can set it to take a photo when it recognizes a smile… that’s a bit over the top as far as I am concerned, since I can still recognize a smile myself!

Anyway, It seems quite good for a point and shoot in its price range. I have taken a few pics with it, and am quite happy with the results. I am sure once I read the booklet and learn a bit more about it, it will do us great.

There are two things about it which really bother me though; one is that it doesn’t seem very sturdy. It’s a bit plasticy and you need to flip up the flash for it to work. Its not that flipping up the flash is difficult, but having a hinge on a camera is just having one more thing that can break.

Another thing I really really do not like is that it has regular AA batteries. It doesn’t even come with rechargeable ones. I think that is terrible, both environmentally and generally. How long can regular AA batteries last with a flash going all the time?

Of course we will purchase rechargeable batteries, ASAP, but I am still unhappy with this.

In any case, it is certainly much better than borrowing cameras or using the one in my cell phone, which is not state of the art, as you might have noticed.

Anyway, here is its test run photos, mind you, I have not edited these at all, and I usually do, just a little bit.

 

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Does anyone know this camera more intimately? Any advice?

Our Camera Finally Died :-(

26 Mar

This is not the post I wanted to write. I have a couple of things going on and plans for even more projects, as if spring has awakened me from my recent slumber. Unfortunately, my camera, which I bought in Amsterdam, in my previous life, or so it seems, has finally and completely died.

We have managed to revive it several times but this time, it isn’t working. That wouldn’t be so bad if I had not lost my smart phone… leaving my self totally cameraless.

I will be purchasing a new camera soon, probably something inexpensive, a point and shoot is all we can afford at this point. Anyway, please forgive the lack of posting. I am trying to borrow a camera so that I can at least photograph my current projects to post.

Tin Can Party Favors and Strawberry men – What I Have Been Up Too

15 Mar

 Purim, my excuse for not blogging came and went a while ago, and for some reason, maybe because of spring and because I am planning my garden, I have not managed to bring myself to blog, or even to read others blogs.

 There is something about this bilingual blogging that is a bit of a drag. Writing in one language and then translating it into another, having to post all of the images twice means that one single post takes a lot of time. I can not just sit down quickly blurt something out – blurting might be ok in one language, but I do not think it translates exceedingly well.

 Any case, I didn’t log on to bitch and moan.

 Purim (in a way the parallel of Halloween, at least as far as costumes go) is usually about mothers running around like chickens without head to either buy or make fancy dress costumes. This year my kids were quite adamant about wearing their costumes from last year (a witch and wolverine). After considering persuading them to go for something new, I realized how crazy that would be and thanked my lucky stars that they are creatures of habit, and I would have fewer things to worry about this year.

 At my daughters preschool, they have a Purim feast, and the parents have to bring a disguised dish – or a dish with a fun presentation. I decided to make a fruit plate and was quite happy with my strawberry men.

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Another tradition that is associated with purism is giving small, sweet gifts to neighbors and friends, since I didn’t have to spend time making costumes I could spend more time getting into trouble with the sweet gifts. Of course, I made ozne’ haman (which are cookies with a poppy seed filling) and regular cookies, but as far as I was concerned, they were not as important has how I was going to package them.

I thought that I could make boxes like Chinese take away boxes out of cereal boxes. I did, and the kids and I decorated them with stamps I made out of some packaging I found in an air conditioning box, but I didn’t love them. They were a little big for what I wanted, and lacked fun. Although we all had fun making them, they were not whimsical, and I wanted whimsical.

I was getting quite desperate, since time was running out, and I knew there was no way in hell I would give my neighbors cellophane covered plates. To  boring.

 I noticed out of the corner of my eyes the huge tin can collection I have on my fridge, (it has since been moved) and I decided to use them. If I had thought about it earlier, I would have painted them, but I love them au natural, though no one but me can figure out why.

 I made sleeves out of baking paper, which I tied of at the top, hot glued candy around the edges and made a festive little greeting flag.

 I love the result, and intend to use it again.

  I didn’t get any feedback at all from my neighbors, so I hope I am not alone in thinking this was a terrific idea.

The Inner Workings of My Mind

9 Feb

photo credit creative commons license shinnythings

This is what happens to me between projects:

My mind goes dead.

I get totally stressed thinking what to make next. Then I remember to check my list.  Ahh, yes, that would be a good one to do now.

Look around the house to see if I have everything I need to do it.

No.

Damn.

OK, I’ll make more of these….and I do start, but I am not quite there.

Because I live on a mountain (hill) in the middle of nowhere, going out to get supplies is more complicated than it was when I lived in Tel-Aviv, for example. I have to plan it. I have to decide if I want to deal with looking for stuff with the kids in tow. Believe me, making calculated decisions about what to buy while getting your kids to keep their grimy paws off everything in sight as you embarrassingly side glancing at the shop proprietor while you are at it is no easy feat.

Anyway, say for once you managed to multi task yourself into getting what ever it was that you needed for the next project (This time – Wax paper. Yes, wax paper, that’s all. No major thinking there, which is probably why I managed to pull it off)

You finally manage to sit down to start making said project, and all these ideas start bouncing around in your head… boing… what if I threw in some color…. Boing, Ooh, I could do this as well…. Boing… wouldn’t it be cool if…. Ooooh, I need to get some more wax paper…..boing….

Now I am no longer stressed about what I will be making next. The stress has shifted. Now I am stressing about if I want each and every item in my house to be made out of wax paper…..

And you?