Monday, May 17, 2010

DIY Victory - Mission Yogurt

For the past 10 months I have had an obsession with yogurt. Not just any yogurt. FAGE. Oh, how I love the Greek style yogurt. And not all Greek style yogurt is created equal. No no. Fage is so thick it could easily be mistaken for sour cream like they serve at your neighborhood Mexican restaurant.

Fage is thick, creamy and only slightly tart. And they sell it with this little cups of cherry, strawberry or peach preserves or honey. I am spending a lot of money on this stuff, because I have been eating one a day for breakfast for a while. At almost $3 a cup, I am slowly going broke.

A couple of weeks ago, one of my DIY websites suggested possibly the easiest homemade Greek yogurt I have ever heard of.

Basically, you heat some milk, cool that milk, then add some yogurt you have in your fridge. So far, sounds way too easy. Then she said to cover the milk mixture with a lid and wrap the container in several towels. Now hear is the freaky part. She said to just leave it on the counter overnight. What? Just leave milk on the counter?

I couldn’t do it. This recipe swears by it, and I am not saying I wouldn’t try it, but I couldn’t get past it.

So instead, I got Online and researched several different ways to make yogurt at home without a yogurtmaker. Apparently, you can make it with a cooler and hot water. You can make it with a very large thermos. You can make it with a heating pad. But I found one that suggested using your oven, so I decided to try that route.

To be honest, the hardest part was the heating of the milk, then cooling it. I had a thermometer, and according to a majority of my recipes you heat the milk to 180 degrees, right before boiling. Each time heating to that temperature set my milk to boiling – almost boiling over. Fine. So then I had to let the milk cool to 110 degrees or until you can hold your finger in the milk for 10 seconds without screaming (my favorite direction of the whole lot). I am not a patient person. But I waited and watched until the temp hit 110. However, I could only hold my finger in the milk for only 6 seconds. Now either my thermometer is wrong or I am a wimp. I went with the later, and stirred in my yogurt starter (Fage 2%). Then dished up the liquid in several small Ziplock containers.

Then, after a small preheat, I turned off my over, as per directions and put in my yogurt containers to sit for 8 hours.

It didn’t work. My oven could have been too cold, my thermometer could have been wrong – any number of things could have gone wrong. Either way, I only had bacteria milk.

I spent the whole week fantasizing about yogurt makers.

I even messaged an old culinarily adventurous friend as to whether she had tried making her own yogurt or using a yogurt maker. Her response was this: “Didn’t know you could even buy your own yogurt maker! Greek yogurt is really expensive. I like it, but damn. I think at that price it should come with a hot Greek man to feed it to me. Wait, is that what a “yogurt maker” is? A hot Greek man? If it is I’m gonna need to get one too.”

Now she fantasizes about yogurt makers.

But here is the problem with actual conventional yogurt machines, you still have to do most of the work. You still have to heat the milk, cool the milk, all the tricky parts that make the yogurt process so complicated. Because apparently adding the starter too soon kills the bacteria. Leaving you with just sour milk. Ew.

All the machine does is maintain a consistent temperature. Which is fine, but is it really worth $60.

So I decided to give it another shot. This time the heating pad approach. But I don’t own a heating pad. I have a rice bag that I warm in the microwave. So, here is what happened. I prepped the milk and put the mix in the plastic containers again, making sure I could hold my finger in the warm mixture for 10 seconds without screaming. Then I loaded a cardboard box with towels, my warm heating pad and the bacteria milk containers. Then I wrapped the box in a fleece blanket and let it set.

I checked it at 5 hrs – still bacteria milk. I reheated the rice bag and then sealed the box again.

I check it at 8 hrs. – one container was set. Kind of. I reheated the rice bag and sealed again. I figured something was happening. Might as well give it a full 13 hrs.

At 10:30 p.m., right before bed, I make the final check.

Victory! 4 containers of a yogurty substance. But it wasn’t Greek. It was Yoplait or Dannon texture. But I was too psyched to care. I gave some feeble attempts at trying to strain off the whey, but I couldn’t master that famous Fage thickness.

Regardless, it was yogurt, and right tasty. It wasn’t overly tart, and with a little honey, no sign of tartness at all. I added some granola and it made a faboo breakfast, which I will repeatedly enjoy this week.

So victory and high fives to all my DIY sisters and brothers. I am on my way out to buy powdered milk and price yogurt machines.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010


Sometimes I can be really stupid when it comes to very simple technical things. Like I have a dear sweet aunt who has been crocheting me doilies for Christmas for years, and all I have done with them in stick them in a box. I never wanted to lay them on coffee tables, but I loved that she made them for me, so I just stashed them until I got a better idea.
Today I found it.
I was flipping through my craft blogs this morning and I found a great tutorial for a Doily Pillow.
Apparently you just sew the doilies together. For some reason I had it in my mind that I would have to crochet a whole pillow-front. I feel very silly now. The pillows on this tutorial are so cute, I am going to have to dig around in my closet and find them from Christmas past.
Add this to the Must Craft list.

Monday, January 25, 2010

DIY undies!

For a long time I boycotted Victoria Secret. I hated the fact that everytime I went in that store, I was either ignored, or the sales people knew nothing about their product. On countless occasions I would describe items I saw in magazines, to the point of bringing in photos of Victoria Secret ads from Vogue, just to have the sales girls shrug and say, "I've never seen that before." and then direct me to the catalog.
But even in my boycott days, I was never brave enough to attempt something a lot of crafters have already tackled - DIY lingerie. Craftster is full of ladies who dare to make their own bras, panties and night gowns with wonderful results. For some reason, I have always been afraid.
For those of you who do not share my fears, and want to give it a shot, check out this website these patterns from everything from robes to chemises.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Our rock stars are not your rock stars

Since we have moved to Lexington, we have been presented with a lot more options. We can now shop at Whole Foods, our Library has 5 branches, and I have been able to meet a few pretty awesome writers. That, I was not expecting. No where on the Chamber of Commerce website did it tout "Frequent Book Tour Stop." A couple of months ago I walked away with Silas House's autograph and met a writer names Holly Goddard Jones. But Saturday night I hit the jackpot - Joyce Carol Oates.
For those of you who do not know, Joyce Carol Oates is a literary powerhouse. She has about 148 titles to her name, has been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize in Literature 4 times, and teaches at Princeton University. She also scares the pants off me.
When I saw her on EKU's website as part of their Winter Masters of Fine Arts in Creative Writing Residency, I thought it was a misprint. JCO is BIG. Why on earth is she coming in for Eastern Kentucky State? Then I saw that she would be doing a reading, and it would be open to the public.
I was so excited, I showed up at the theater a half an hour early, and sat in my car and read Foxfire by the security lamp light while big flakes of snow piled up around me. When I went in neither food nor beverages were allowed in the theater, so I stood in the entryway, as to finish the coffee I picked up on the way. I chatted up a guy who was in the program about good restaurants in the area. (Turns out coffee drinkers are the new smokers). But lucky for us and our coffee love, because we got to walk in with the wee lady.
She is tiny. That is what struck me the most. She walked in this huge pink down parka, and pink cloche hat. She looked like she could be someone's grandma, or some lady sitting at church using a red pick to fluff up her graying black hair. But when she stood before us, she held all of our attentions in the palm of her hand. She could have read for three hours and none of us would have complained.
She read a short story from her anthology High Lonesome: New and Selected Stories from 1966 to 2006. It was about a woman who has her home invaded by two methamphetamine addicts. Oates is fearless in her subject matter, always pulling events straight from the headlines and putting her own even darker twist on them. I've read several of her books, and she is not afraid to create characters who rape, kill and completely betray their fellow man. She scares me, because the monsters she writes about are us. But I LOVE her, for that same reason. She has a novel from the point of view of the serial killer called Zombie, and I am too afraid to read it. So here we are - 30 strangers sitting in a dark theater listing to this little woman read about this horrible, terrifying and potentially real terror, and we were all so riveted that no one ever coughed or tried to clear their throat. The whole room was dead silent. I just kinda sat there with my mouth open.
So, of course, when it was time to go up and have your books signed by her, I acted like a blubbering idiot. I gushed all over her. "I'm such a huge fan, and I like this book, but it is not my favorite. My favorite is Foxfire, but I don't own Foxfire, but I have checked it out of the library like a million times, and I looked all over town today for a copy, but no one had one. And Blonde! I am such a huge fan of Blonde. . ." and at that point she handed me my book, said thank you and moved on to the next person. And to add to the creepy fan vibe, I practically whispered that whole diatribe, like speaking where she could hear me would offend her, or perhaps I temporarily lost the ability to project.
But it didn't matter then. I practically danced out the door. Not, not danced, because dancing would have been too slow. Instead, I grabbed my coat and bolted, putting on gloves and hat as I speed to my car. Maybe I was afraid she would ask for her autograph back, so I high tailed it out of there. I had this whole plan to talk to the coordinators of the event about EKU's program, as a possibility of attending, but that idea completely flew out of my head. I was out the door, phoning my husband to tell him how awesome it was.
I'm still all giddy about it.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Success - Christmas Craftacular

I'm so late getting this up because post-Christmas is sometimes more hectic for me than before Christmas. But I am thrilled to report that all in all my handmade holiday was a success. But I will admit, there were a few setbacks.
1. I began to hate all the handmade projects I was working on. By the time I was rounding the corner on my mother-in-law's handmade piece, I was sick to death of looking at it. So sick of it, I put it in a frame, wrapped it, and never took a final picture of the piece. It turned out lovely, but I have no actual proof of it.
Also, my grandfather's knitted hat had me screaming "HATS ARE HARD!" to my husband after I frogged it three times.

2. Last minute throw togethers. I had two projects that absolutely had to get done the night before they were to be presented. I don't handle last minute pressure well, so rolling out crumbly pie dough that was supposed to be smooth resulted in me throwing my rolling pin across the room and dough in trash.
3. Not reading the instructions. I learned the hard way that allowing paint to dry on a paper stencil will result in painted paper bits sticking to your project and send you running screaming to Joanne's fabrics to resupply and start over. When I told the cashier it was a "craft emergency" she told me to buy my person a gift card instead. Not the type of attitude I expected from someone who worked in a craft store.
But in the end, everyone loved their gifts. My grandfather cried in delight, "I got a toboggin!" when he unwrapped his hand-knitted hat. My Maw hid her new quilt because she said she didn't want my sister to be tempted to steal it. And my cousin planned on using her stenciled canvas bag as her new book-bag.
All in all, several happy campers = one happy crafter.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Off time

You could say, I am taking a quick vacation from crafting to recover from Christmas Craftacular (photos and full report up tomorrow) and get my new year's wits about me.
So I plan to read, read, read. Reading is an indulgence I never allow myself, which is so silly of me because I love books and I love to write.

Here are just a few selections from my vacation reading list:
Into the Woods - Tana French
The Wizard of Oz - by L. Frank Baum Can you believe I have never actually read this before
The Secret Garden - by Frances Hodgson Burnett. This one either. I watched the movie when my sister was little and I totally fell in love with it. Now, I am actually going to read it.
Wicked - by Gregory Maguire. For the third time, I am going to try to read this.

I also listen to a lot of books. This is perfect for in the car, doing dishes, or embroidering. Lately I have been on a Harry Potter kick, but I called out "Accio Coke Zero" from my couch the other night, I decided I should probably give it a rest. On deck are:
Finger-lickin Fifteen by Janet Evanovich
Paint it Black by Janet Finch
My Sister My Love by Joyce Carol Oates
Remember Me by Sophia Kinsella
American Wife - Curtis Sittenfeld
Parchment of Leaves - Silas House

Not on deck, but definitely recently purchased - Nice Girls Don't Live Forever by Molly Harper. Please, please, please check out this hilarious Southern vampire romance about a girl who opens a coffeeshop for the undead and gives her cold and distant sire boyfriend the ole' heave ho. I give it 4 out of 4 very triumphant stars, and not just because it was dedicated to me.

Happy January fellow bookworms.

Monday, December 28, 2009

On Holiday

Just wanted to let everyone know that I will be breaking from the blogging until Jan. 4. Heading for Phase 2 of Holiday celebrations in Tennessee, and still have handmade gifts to finish. I am a procrastinator to the core.
Looking forward to a fantastic 2010. See you guys next year.