Thursday, April 8, 2010

Go Fly a Kite!

Today I did something for the first time.  I flew a kite.  And it was just one of those simple things that bring so much pleasure.  It was a bit too windy today but I was still able to get the kite to fly.  Z1 and Z2 got in on the action too.  We were thrilled with how high we got the kite to fly!  And I was thrilled that my boys won't have to wait till they're 28 to fly a kite! 

I've had the kite for years now.  I bought it at a rummage sale for $2 or so but it's been sitting around all this time.  Recently we started going to Orchard Beach which is vastly different now than it was when I was growing up.  It's actually beautiful and clean and a lovely place to hang out.  And since it's the beach, you usually get a wonderful breeze--perfect for kite flying.  So today we came to find out that the $2 kite is actually a very strong, sturdy, quality kite. 

It was so much fun out there with the boys today.  After kite flying and playing in the sand, we played hopscotch and hide-and-seek.  Days like this I live for. 

Photo Credit:  "my first kite" by jeanieforever on Flickr.com

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Making yogurt again

Over the last few weeks I've once again started making yogurt at home.  I started making yogurt two years ago when we joined a food co-op and were getting fresh milk (pasteurized but not homogenized) and eggs.  We don't drink milk though and I didn't want it to go to waste so I learned to make yogurt.   Nowadays, I just realize how much cheaper it is to make my own yogurt and on top of that, I'm not thrilled with all the sugar and additives to be found in commercially made yogurt.  Not to mention that there's no guarantee that the "live active cultures" are still live and active by the time you bring that yogurt home.

Making yogurt is so simple as to be ridiculous.  There are tons of multi-step, complex yogurt making instructions to be found online but really it's an ancient, basic process once you understand what's going on with the bacteria.  The whole point is not to kill the bacteria but to create a situation where the bacteria multiplies. My Syrian friend in graduate school regularly made yogurt and didn't even use a thermometer.  She would just almost boil the milk and used  her (clean) pinky finger to test the temperature.  Her rule was if you could keep your finger in the milk comfortably for 10 seconds, it was cool enough to add your starter yogurt.  Then, stick the mixture in your oven to set.

Here's my simple step-by-step process:
  1. You need (very) clean pots, jars and utensils.  Anything that touches the milk/yogurt should be clean.  You can sterilize everything but that's not really necessary.  Just wash with soap and some good, hot water.  
  2. Heat a half-gallon of milk till it almost boils (about 180-185 degrees Fahrenheit).
  3. Let it cool to about 120 degrees Fahreneheit.  You can speed this up by sitting your pot in an ice bath.
  4. Add a cup and a quarter cup of plain yogurt (either some you bought or some you saved from you last batch) to your cooled milk and mix well.  
  5. Incubate in a warm place for 5+ hours.  I use a cooler that I fill with warm water (about 120 degrees Fahrenheit).  Make sure the water only comes to the neck of the jar, i.e. don't cover the jar with water.
  6. Remove from the cooler (or wherever you've been incubating) and let it set in fridge.  

That's it.  You have wonderful, freshly homemade yogurt that you know is chock full of live active cultures.  

The process for making soy yogurt is similar but you really need a good thickening agent or else you get like a soy kefir.   

Photo Credit:  "IMG_3101" by justinhenry on Flickr.com

Monday, April 5, 2010

Laundry, Laundry and . . .

More laundry!

I feel that for a family of four, I do a lot of laundry.  Now, I know my perception may be slightly skewed because I'm still washing diapers for Z2.  But honestly, the hamper gets full at least every third day which means I do laundry at about that pace (not counting sheets and towels).  I cannot abide a full hamper and bags of clean laundry laying around. I have to get them folded and put away.  I can't help it!

Our washing machine is in the basement.  And our basement is a neglected, dank, moist and dark place.  Z1 thinks it's an adventure to go down there.  So I don't really enjoy going down there to do laundry.  In my dream situation, the laundry room would be an inviting, clean and bright place.  But whatever, most days I give thanks that I have a machine in my house at least (and I don't have to go the laundromat) and keep it moving.

Well, after those torrential downpours we've had over the last few weeks, the basement was really wet and I had to put on my rain boots to go down there.  (Normally, you can't wear house shoes in the basement anyway but with all the rain, you really had to get on some serious footwear--the water was about 1-2 inches deep).  Anyway, I was f.u.n.k.y. about the whole thing.  Actually mad about having to go to the basement to toss clothes into a machine that washes them for me!  

Once I realized that I was being petty, I tried to change my way of thinking.  I started thinking about how doing the laundry would be different if I didn't have a washer and dryer.  Here are some things I thought of:
  1. I'd have a dedicated laundry day where the whole day would be devoted to doing laundry and pretty much nothing else.  Preferably I would be outside and it would be very warm.  I then started to wonder how the early peoples in the northwest did laundry in the winter time.  
  2. I'd spot clean a hell of a lot more.  The kids would wear their clothes a lot more before they finally made their way into the laundry pile.
  3. I would have "play" clothes and "going out" clothes seriously separated.  Right now having separate clothes adds another step to the process of getting out of the house (because they'd have to change before we leave and we have problems getting out of the house as it is).
  4. The kids would have a lot less clothing.
Okay, so most of the laundry I do is the kids' laundry, I realized.  It's amazing how grimy kids can get!  I know that being the mother I am, I absolutely won't let the kids go out with dirty clothes.  I feel like it's a reflection on me so it usually ends up that at the end of the day, whatever they are wearing goes in the hamper.  
 
But it's also amazing how even with technology to help us get these tedious tasks done, they still remain tedious.  I guess it's just the never ending nature of the chores. 

Anyway, as usual, I like to think about how I'd go about living my life happily without the modern conveniences of consistent electricity and appliances.  I think it's good to imagine these scenarios becoming our realities--to prepare, mentally at the very least, for what could be. 
 

Photo Credit:  "Dear Laundry' by DJ Lein on Flickr.com
Photo Credit:  "Laundry Lady" by Just B Cuz on Flickr.com

P.S.  The basement redeemed itself somewhat.  I had to go down there to try to re-start the boiler (which took on water and quit last Tuesday, got fixed for $50 and then proceeded to quit again on Thursday).  While I was down there, waiting to see if the thing would fire, I started looking around.  I found an addition Bingo game and a mancala game complete with the stones.  I carefully cleaned them off and they're in perfect condition despite having been down there for only God knows how long.  I spotted a sewing machine and a few other things down there but I didn't want to rile up my allergies.  The hubby says he's  going to totally clean out the basement this summer.  I mean, really.  If you're going to be dark and dank, basement, you shouldn't be cluttered too. 

Sunday, April 4, 2010

It really works!

 

And I can happily and unreservedly cosign.  As of today, 25 lbs. lost! 
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