Saturday, August 13, 2016

Yogurt Revisited

I like to make my own yogurt. I have for quite a while now. 
Partly because I'm cheap. Partly because I'm picky. 
Mostly because it's not that hard and it's pretty cool to do. It's kitchen alchemy that makes me feel like I'm gaming the yogurt industry. I can get vanilla yogurt. Thick or thin. Without added sugar. A gallon at a time. 

A few years ago, I wrote a blog entry with pictures and details. I'm at my in-laws house. I don't want to go digging online. I have doll hair to untangle. And Olympics to watch. It's faster to just type a summary. My SIL requested it. So you can have it too.

  • I start with a gallon of milk. I pour it in a big pot. 
  • I heat the milk until it's reached 180 degrees. 
  • Then I let it cool. 
  • Yogurt cultures between 100 and 120 degrees. 
  • So as soon as the milk gets down to 120, I add yogurt culture. You can add powdered freeze dried culture. I just add existing yogurt. 
  • My favorite is Stonyfield Farms, because I like the robust flora. But other yogurts work just fine. I add around 4-8 ounces. It's a dollop. The more I add, the less time it takes to culture. If you use leftovers of your own yogurt, it has a diminishing efficacy. So I frequently buy new yogurt in a big container, and use the last serving to make a gallon of my own. 
  • I wisk in the culture, and usually a splash of vanilla extract. I've used vanilla bean when heating the milk before. That was better. But I don't always have it on hand. 
  • Then I let the milk sit. I try to keep it above 100 degrees, preferably closer to 120, for 6-12 hours. The longer it sits, the thicker it gets. 
  • Often I preheat the oven to 200, then turn it off. I put the lid on the pot, wrap the pot in a bath towel, and put it in the warm oven. 
  • Then I write myself a note to not forget the yogurt. 
  • I frequently strain it to be more like Greek yogurt. I line a strainer with a thin dish towel, and pour the  cultured yogurt in. I recommend a large bowl under he strainer, as you can really strain out a lot of liquid. I've used it in place of buttermilk before, with good results. (I add a bit of yogurt to get the right thickness). I've also used it in smoothies, too. 
  • When you chill your finished yogurt, it will continue to thicken. 
  • And then you can add as much or as little as you'd like to it. 
  • While paying less than if you bought it at the store. 
  • With not much hands-on time required. 
  • This makes me extremely happy. I know, it doesn't take much. 

You can also get a fancy yogurt maker. If you like things even simpler. 
Either way, enjoy!

Tuesday, August 9, 2016

Crying a River

Wow. What a day.
I'm still self-medicating with chocolate.
There was So. Much. Crying.
And not much of it was from my 4 month old.

I had no idea 4 girls could cry so much. And I've been doing this Mom thing for more than a few years.

Reasons my children cried today:

I asked them to get dressed.
I asked them to go to the bathroom.
I asked them to put on shoes.
Their shoes were right where I said they were.
I asked them to pick up their dirty clothes off the floor.
I told them if they wanted new sneakers, they would have to choose from the 10+ options at the store we were currently at.
I asked them to wear a pull-up at nap time.
I asked them to take a quiet time after lunch while I ran a final errand.
I asked them to write in their travel journals.
I asked them to practice piano.
I reminded them they couldn't play outside until they practiced piano and wrote in their travel journals.
I insisted that bike riding required shoes.
I asked them to finish their corn.
I asked them to wait at the table for a few minutes while everyone finished eating.
I asked them to pick up the toys all over the floor.
I insisted that they actually DO what I asked them to do.
I asked them to wait until after I was done feeding the baby to read a bedtime story.
I only read one (long) story.
I asked them to either let her sister use her nightlight or unplug it so her sister could plug in a different one.

These are just the reasons I can think of right now. And when I say "cry", I don't mean "shed silent tears". No. We're talking full-out extended wailing behind a closed door.

When I announced that anyone heard crying would be assumed to be exhausted and would go to bed early instead of going to the library? The crying magically stopped. Stopped. After hours of crying at every provocation. Like magic.

Why do I threaten them at times? Because when all else fails, it WORKS.
Oh. And I always follow through. That helps.
If you can't listen to my Nice Mommy Voice, you get my Mean Mommy Voice.
My Mean Mommy Voice came out this evening.
I explained that crying uses up my patience and energy faster than a usual day. And it was all gone halfway through our library trip.
All. Gone.
Because there was So. Much. Crying.

I was told again that I'm the Worst Mom in the World. So no matter what you do, you're fine.
You're welcome.

Monday, July 25, 2016

A Month In

We've been on vacation for a month now. I've gained a bit of my Texas accent back. I'm not as pale as I used to be. And amazingly, I haven't gained 5 pounds from my Mum's cooking.

The girls have run around with a cousin and some neighbor kids. They've been taking swimming, horseback riding, and piano lessons. They've devoured books. And lots of sugar. They've played games and horsed around with Nana and Pawpaw. One of them even managed to give him a bloody nose and a cut on the eyebrow.

We've done a lot of driving. We've seen friends I haven't seen in years. We had to introduce new children. But it was like we'd never left each other. I was at home. In their home. Far away from my home.

I just feel at home in Texas. The sky is big. The horizon is far away. There are animals and plants that are wild and a little dangerous. Life is not tame and safe out here. Some ruggedness is still appreciated. People drive nicer. Strangers chat with genuine friendliness.

Tonight we girls are in a hotel in Oklahoma City. The drive was pretty easy. LittleFritter only cried for about 2 hours of it. But the roads were straight, wide, and rural. We've been watching a never-ending string of thunderstorms with strobe-like lightening. The girls are mesmerized. We don't get these in Boston.

Tomorrow we meet up with family in St. Louis. We transition to the next phase of family bonding. I always enjoy time spent with family in Minnesota. I'm looking forward to the next week.

But it's not Texas.

Friday, July 22, 2016

Moonrise in my Rearview

It's 1:30am. I'm deliriously tired. But not sleeping. Maybe it's all the coffee I drank to get us here. Maybe it's the adrenaline from driving winding country highways in the dark. With deer roaming everywhere. Maybe it's just the residual high from visiting friends I haven't hung out with in years. Whatever the reason, I'm awake. And thankful to be safely back at my parents' house.

Over 2 days, the girls and I logged over 400 miles in a loop from San Angelo, TX to Round Mountain, then Dripping Springs, then back to San Angelo. During the daytime, we were treated to stunning Hill Country views. Tonight, leaving after LittleFritter's bedtime, we were treated to stars. Lots of stars. They really were big and bright.

I'm too tired to be very eloquent. But I was reminded of some things on this little trip.

Visiting old friends nourishes my soul.
Getting all of our kids together is a special kind of fun. Especially with pools involved.
I love driving Texas highways.
Big open horizons make me feel free.
Seeing the Milky Way makes me feel small.
But I enjoy feeling insignificant compared to the majesty of creation.
Scorpions creep me out.

I'm grateful for good friends who extend their hospitality to my chatty brood. And remind me that moving away isn't a complete loss. It just gives us fun get togethers in more places.

I need sleep. Goodnight.

Saturday, July 16, 2016

Playing Catchup

Umm, I've lost track of what day it is. We're still on vacation. We've been busy. Here's some proof. 

Reading at the library. 

Playing in the sprinklers. 

Climbing on trains at the Railroad museum. 

Marveling at the model train setup. 

HeyMama petting Benny the donkey after a horseback lesson. 

Pawpaw making the big girls sick at the playground. 

MeToo's first day in the saddle. 

What else have we been up to? Swim lessons, piano lessons, reading, writing, trips to the neighborhood pool, playing with the neighborhood kids, staying up late watching movies... We've been busy! Next week our cousin will be around to play with, and we'll take a mini road trip to see some old friends. Let the fun continue!

Saturday, July 2, 2016

Day 6

We spent Day 6 in Hot Springs, AR. We fed gators. We held gators. We visited Hot Springs National Park. We drank mineral water fresh from the earth. We napped. We found Barbies at the grocery store. We visited the hotel pool. It was a good day. Here are some pictures to prove it. 

Alligators enjoy chicken for lunch, too. 

HeyMama fed a gator. 

MeToo fed a gator. 
HurricaneDebbie was skeptical of everything gator-related. 

There were some sad overheating wolves, too. 

Other random inhabitants included monkeys, peacocks, turkeys, a raccoon, a bobcat, and some turtles. 

A trip to a historic bathhouse provided some Edwardian decorating ideas for our remodeling project. 
Maybe I need a stained glass ceiling. 

Or a giant statue in the middle?

Tomorrow promises to not be educational at all. After trying out a local MegaChurch, we're taking the girls to a water park. We'll head towards Dallas after dinner and see how far we get. We're crossing our fingers that Laura will cooperate. Please cross your too!

Friday, July 1, 2016

Day 5

Somehow I missed a day. Today is Day 5 of this trip. We did a lot of driving. It was a whole day of driving. With some stops. LittleFritter can go about 2 hours before she needs out of her car seat. So when we stop, she needs feeding. And then changing. And the big girls need toileting  and feeding. And the chance to run around. And the grownups of course need all of this too. And then there's some minor van repacking and reorganizing that needs to happen. And then, an hour later, we're back on the road again. So we played with a travel frisbee at one stop, and did cartwheels in the soft grass at another. And some toddler-led yoga. The big girls have been great. We usually hold off on the electronic devices until around 4 or 5pm. Traffic is more tolerable without bickering and whining. And the girls can usually manage themselves until then. LittleFritter becomes a disaster around 5pm. She despises her car seat. And that time of day is when she's usually awake and cranky. If I sit next to her and do everything I can think of, she just mildly cries and fusses instead of full-blast screaming. But it's still pretty noisy. And exhausting. In evening traffic. I have learned that she really likes zerberts on her feet. And being sung to, but only if you do it very earnestly. 

So we've covered about 1500 miles, and have about 500 more to go. 
God help us.