Sunday, May 31, 2009


I have a little obsession. Making stuff. It's partly a "green" thing. You know, less packaging and transportation. Part health reasons, like fewer added ingredients, more organic ingredients. Part economics - it costs less to make things (at least it should!!). And partly it's the little rebel in me that likes to say, ha! I don't have to buy your stinkin' overpriced green-natural-organic product at the store, I can make it myself. I do believe strongly that we should be willing to pay for good quality healthy organic green products, but sometimes it's hard when you compare bargain basement made-in-a-far-off-country Target prices to those at Whole Foods. I'm no trail blazer though, all my projects have been researched on the good ol' internet.

So I've been working on yogurt. My first attempt was only partly successful. I learned that my oven doesn't stay warm very long and can't be set to under 170 degrees. Chris thinks it's a food safety concern, as in, mind-your-own-business-you-lawsuit-fearing-oven-makers-who-think-I'm-going-to-poison-my-family-with-food-heated-to-less-than-170-degrees (in my humble opinion). But I digress. The temperature fluctuations were probably to wide and the yogurt separated. It tasted fine though and I was able to use it for frozen smoothie drinks.

The basic process I've learned is to heat milk to 180 degrees, let it cool, add the starter (I used a package starter), and place in canning jars. Once in the jars, the key is to keep it at about 110 degrees for 4-6 hours. This time I used a large pot to place the glass jars in and then immersed them in hot water (110 degrees). I started it at about 6 pm when we were also cooking dinner and had the oven on. The pot stayed on the stove while we were cooking and then once the oven cooled down I put it in the oven. I checked on it a few times, changing the water once and turning on the oven for a couple minutes once. At 11:30 pm, we were going to bed and I heated the oven slightly and then turned it off and left it for the night. The water was still about 110 degrees at that point. In the morning, I put the jars in the refrigerator and let them chill for a couple hours.

The texture was great, but the flavor was um... different. I forgot to mention that I put dry milk powder in the milk heating phase. I have read that it makes thicker yogurt, but I think it also changed the flavor a bit. For the ultimate test, I served up a couple bowls, drizzled a little honey and put a couple drops of vanilla on top. Maia and Sofia loved it. So there you go.

Man, this is turning out to be a long post. I'm pleased with the yogurt making though. I can see how it there might be a bit more trial and error and how it might turn out differently each time. And that's probably ok. A couple times, I've come very close to going over to the mall and buying the darn $50 yogurt maker at Williams Sonoma (it gets very good reviews), but then the little rebel, and the little spend thrift voice their disapproval and I'm back to researching on the internet.

Next homemade project: shampoo. Yes, there have been some bad hair days going on around here, but I haven't given up yet.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Little Artists

Just popping in to share the latest bulletin board offerings from Sofia and Maia. We try to keep their artwork limited to this space (believe me though it is hard). They are very prolific artists, knocking out at least several offerings per day. Their abilities seem to change daily. Maia especially has taken some great leaps lately, and has been drawing lots of people, hearts, and flowers. Her people are really starting to come to life. Sofia draws lots of family portraits, horses, and princesses. I just looked over there this morning and thought a picture was in order. Please go to flickr to get the full effect with notes and everything.

I am working on another skirt (the curtain skirt) I was almost finished when I pulled a couple dingbat maneuvers. The zipper I bought was a little too long so I trimmed it from the top (first mistake). No big deal, right? I hand sewed it into place (hand sewed!!) because I don't have the right presser foot for an invisible zipper. Well, I failed to sew stops at the top of the zipper and while fiddling with the waistband, I accidentally pulled the slider off the top of the zipper. Ack. Couldn't get it back on. So I'm off to Joanne's for a new zipper, which I will trim properly from the bottom, SEW A STOPPER, and re-handsew back into the skirt, which is turning out very cute and I can't wait to wear it. :)

Friday, May 01, 2009


I spent quite a bit of time in the yard this week. Seems like an endless amount of work this time of year. But hopefully it will pay off with some edibles. I planted a couple avocado trees down on our back slope. It was slightly treacherous but should be a good place for them, and once they grow they should keep some weeds down with the leaf fall. One tree (seen below) was started from seed last year and one was store bought. I've read mixed reviews on starting avocados from seed - everything from they won't fruit, the fruit tastes bad, and they take longer to fruit (like 8-20 years). Since I can't wait that long, I bought another tree and I'm hoping if anything they'll help each other with pollination.
Then we've got some strawberries going, a couple tomatoes, and some cucumbers. The cucumbers are starting to sprout. I wasn't sure they were going to make it due to that super hot weekend where I was gone and someone forgot to water... but anyway, at least three have sprouted so there may be some homegrown cucumbers in our future after all. I also planted a lemon verbena - mmmm, such a sweet smell, and basil. I still need to decide on a place for a wild California rose, and have quite a bit of repotting and moving succulents around to clean them up and make space. So I'll be busy again this weekend. Happy gardening!