21 April 2007

Make your own yogurt

While I still buy those outrageously expensive individual cups of yogurt on occasion, I almost always have a quart or two of homemade yogurt in the fridge. I use it mostly in fruit smoothies. Some frozen fruit and some yogurt, blended up, makes a delicious and nutritious breakfast drink. It is super easy to make your own yogurt, for a fraction of the cost of store-bought.

Things you will need:
2 tbsp plain yogurt (with active cultures) per quart of milk
candy or instant-read thermometer
quart jars and lids
small cooler
dish towels

heat the milk to 180

Heat up the milk in the saucepan until it is 180 degrees.

heat to 180 degrees

Then move it off the heat and let it cool until it is about 115. Yogurt needs to incubate at 108 degrees, so by the time you get the starter mixed in and the milk poured into the jars, it will be the right temperature. Put your plain yogurt into a bowl. (the picture shows the jar)
yogurt in jars

Spoon a little of the warm milk in to bring the yogurt's temperature up. Then pour the yogurt mixture into the milk, stir it thoroughly, and pour it into your jar(s).
Stir the starter gently into the milk

Put the lid(s) on loosely. Put the jar(s) into the cooler, pack the extra space with dishtowels,
Ready to incubate

then put the lid on, and let it sit for 5-8 hours. Voila! Homemade yogurt, so little work!

Finished yogurt

What kinds of milk should you use? Any kind. The higher the fat content, the creamer and richer the yogurt. I recently have been making whole milk yogurt because it makes the smoothies very rich and filling and almost like milkshake. But I also make skim milk yogurt from powdered milk. When making it with powdered milk, I often add extra powder to add extra protein. The advantage of using powdered milk is you don't need to heat it up and cool it. I mix the powder with 120-degree water and proceed as usual.

To flavor your yogurt, stir in some jam, or some vanilla or lemon extract and a little honey or sugar.

Want organic yogurt? Use organic milk. It makes your cost savings even more!

When you get to the end of the jar, save the last 2 tablespoons for your next batch. It's called chain yogurting. You can chain yogurt for a long time before the yogurt won't set up well. If you buy a big container for your starter, you can freeze the excess in ice-cube trays and thaw them when you need fresh starter.

12 April 2007

Finally! Off the Needles

I cast on Flirty Skirty so long ago I can't even remember. It was at least two weeks before we left on vacation. Then one afternoon, it was a Tuesday, I had walked the 1/4 mile to the corner to meet the kids' school bus. I brought my knitting with me to knit in the few spare minuted before the bus got there. When the bus pulled up, I carefully set my knitting in the back of the stroller. I didn't have point protectors on my needle tips. Should have, though. Frugalboy got off the bus, shoved his backpack down on top of my stuff, and started pushing the stroller home. Well, when I pulled my knitting out, at least 5 stitches had come off the needles and started unravelling. The lace pattern at the bottom is kind of complicated, with yarnovers and knit-2-togethers and I was very distraught. I didn't have time to sit and fix it for a couple days. I was able to fix all but one column, and on Friday morning I went to my LYS for some help. The lady was able to fix it, hurray! But I was like 4 days behind.

I planned out my trip knitting because I knew I'd have 60 hours in the car. I knew I wouldn't be able to knit the entire time, but honestly, I thought I'd get more done than I did. On the trip, I barely got halfway done with Flirty Skirty and I started a sock on the day I got to the part where I needed lots of light and no bumps to pick up waistband stitches. So even after all that driving time, I did 2 inches of sock ribbing and didn't even finish the project I took with me. Well, this morning I finally finished Flirty Skirty. It's drying now. I'm a little disappointed that it turned out so large. "Didn't you knit a swatch?" you ask. Why yes, I did. And if you measure my gauge on the finished project, it's right on. So it's just big. Whatever, she'll grow.

Flirty Skirty being blocked

Read me a story?

Flirty Model

I took a skirt-knitting break for a couple days last week, though, and knit this up for Erika's baby shower. I love this yarn. It's TLC Cotton Plus. The drape of the fabric is so nice. It's a cotton blend. The burp cloth started as a bib, but I cast on more stitches than I wanted to, and I had recently checked out a book from the library with a blanket pattern that had hearts and stars, so I used the star chart to put the star in the middle. I think it turned out pretty good!

Star Burp Rag

Today I cast on Katja in more Cotton Plus. It is already turning out to be a quick knit.

11 April 2007

What I did on my Spring Vacation, Chapter Two

We left our house at 8:22 on Friday morning. Saturday, Sunday, and the following Friday, and Saturday, we also left at 8:22. It seems that it takes us approximately 82 minutes to get ourselves going in the morning! Because we all wake up naturally around 7. The only reason we didn't leave at 8:22 the last morning, was we went to breakfast. But we actually left for breakfast at 8:23.

Riding in a van with 4 kids is quite an adventure! We have a portable DVD player and we strap it up on the ceiling of the van with velcro. It fits perfectly in the storage compartment with a flip-down lid that is there (where a factory-installed DVD player would be). We bought 8 new movies for the trip. I left the seat next to the baby's empty so I could climb back there to sit by her. (If you are a car-seat nazi, quit reading now.) I would take her out and nurse her and cuddle her and then put her back in while she kicked and screamed. (ok, you can start reading again. And don't judge me...it's actually legal to nurse a baby in a moving car in some states, and I don't do it in cities, or when there is traffic, only on the highway)

We drove about 600 miles each day. The first night we slept in Moab, Utah. The next night we slept in Vega, Texas, which is a little before Amarillo. Between the 90 minute stop in Albuquerque to see my sister and the time change into Central time, we just didn't feel like going all the way into Amarillo. Sunday night we arrived in the Houston area around 7:30pm.

Let's talk about climate. Here in Idaho, it's barely spring. This morning I had to remove ice from the chicken's water and I'm afraid we may have lost fruit blossoms. The peas in my garden are barely coming up. In Houston, we just about suffocated from the heavy humid air, and we didn't stop sweating. It was only in the 70s, but my parents keep their thermostat at 78 and we were still accustomed to our house at 67 degrees. Finally on the third day, my mom had the air conditioner people come and do their inspection so she could turn on the air for us. My aunt told me later that she and my uncle felt sorry for us because my parents always keep their house so warm! It was better with the air, but it was still humid.

Monday we took the kids to the park near my parents' house. Can you believe the size of this play structure? I have never seen one so huge. But then again, everything is bigger in Texas.
Everything's bigger in Texas
Four kids in a row
One of the things I like about Houston is it's always so GREEN! We live in a desert and are lucky to see 12 inches of precipitation in a year, so it's a stark contrast.

That afternoon we went to the arboretum. It's a garden-type place with lots of labelled plants and koi ponds and stuff. Cool place.
Kids at the Arboretum
A lizard I saw on the pathway
At the arboretum

Tuesday morning we drove downtown to go to the Houston Museum of Natural Science. We went to the Cockrell Butterfly Center and to the current Frog exhibit. It was really cool. Here's the pictures we took. If you want descriptions and stuff, go to flickr.
Fuzzy frog

On the way home from downtown we saw this car in front of us. Thought it was strange that they weren't using their own cars for the shuttle service.
What's wrong with this picture?

Wednesday morning we spent at this place called an antique mall. It's a big warehouse with booths where different dealers sell their stuff. Didn't find anything we couldn't live without. When I was a senior in high school, my mom and I found this set of antique china in a little shop is Groene, Texas. It was a huge set, 100 pieces, and was only $425. I didn't love the pattern, though. It was a pretty plain set, though the flowers were pink roses if I recall correctly. We didn't buy it since we didn't love it, and have regretted it ever since! So I am always on the lookout for a fantastic deal on antique china. I don't have any fancy dishes at all and someday would like some.

Then Wednesday afternoon, we got lucky enough to get a personal tour of a historic farm. The area my parents live in was originally settled by German immigrants and a lot of their land was donated/sold to the school district so lots the schools are named after Germans. My aunt is a docent at the farm and though she usually only gives tours to 4th graders learning Texas history and it's only open to the public one Saturday a month, we got to come and see.
Wunderlich farm
Wunderlich farm plaque

Thursday we drove to Galveston. It is almost a 2-hour drive from where my parents live. My kids had heard that "there is a BEACH by Grandma's house??" so this day was what they had been waiting for. We started the day at Moody Gardens in the Aquarium Pyramid. Now, you all know that I am a tightwad. I love a bargain. And tickets to Moody Gardens are not cheap. I had found coupons for $2 off the adult tickets and the two younger kids were free, but it still cost our family $47 to get in for the day. But it was worth every penny. We don't have anything like this anywhere near us in Idaho. It was such a cool place. We saw all sorts of tropical fish, seals, penguins, sharks, turtles, rays, and starfish, err, sea stars. It was interesting for all the kids, and for the grown-ups, too.

I am not even an amateur photographer and I don't have a steady hand for the no-flash shots, so this one is blurry, but there was a big seal swimming behind them.
Moody Gardens Aquarium


In this one, the kids are wet because they had just stuck their hands in the water to feel sea urchins and sea stars (which we were informed by this weird dude that worked there, they are NOT starfish like everyone incorrectly calls them)
Cool underwater tunnel

After the Aquarium we ate lunch at Benno's. The fish was great. Then we shopped a little on the Strand where we saw a cruise ship in the port. Then we went to the beach.
Kids on the beach
They aren't the cleanest beaches, but the kids didn't know the difference. They each filled up a plastic cup with shells and played in the surf a little.
Running fingers through the sand
Frugalbaby made it a full-body experience.
Total body experience

Right before we were about to go, a big wave knocked Frugalgirl1 down and soaked her to the bone. She didn't even complain!
Kids in the surf
They really had a good time. Everyone had a bath when we got home and we managed to not get too much sand in the van!

We left to go home the next day. I was so glad we were in Texas during the bluebonnet bloom.
Bluebonnets on the freeway

It had been flooding the night before in area of North and East Texas, but luckily we missed it. But boy, did it rain. I spent a lot of that afternoon scanning the horizon for tornadoes. Seriously. There were warnings and watches all through the counties were driving through.
Rain, all day long

One of the flooded areas we drove by.

And here's one of those you just can't resist.
Obligatory Oil Well Shot

We ended up driving 750 miles the first day, and about 600 the second, so we got back home in time to retrieve our dog from the boarding kennel, which closed at 6. We got there around 4, and everyone was glad to have the dog back!

All in all, we had a great trip. We put almost 4000 miles on the minivan but hopefully it will be a trip that the kids remember for a long time.

Zoom zoom

Last night Frugalboy competed in his first Cub Scout Pinewood Derby! It was combined with a cake decorating contest. He unfortunately lost all his races by a nose but still had a good time. And the cake turned out great.
Number 289
Tray of cheeseburgers
Cheeseburger, anyone?

09 April 2007

What I did on my Spring Vacation, Chapter One

Before we left on our trip, I thought it would be cool to take picture of the signs at the state borders all along the way to document the distance. Frugaldad said he'd had the same idea, but hadn't said anything because we'd be sure to miss one and then we'd be mad. But after our first few hours in the car, I had great success. Nah, of course we won't miss one!
Utah border

The next day, though, when we were heading east out of Monticello, Utah, into Colorado, I was in the back seat with the kids, and I didn't have the camera back there with me, so I totally missed the sign. Oh well, I guessed we'd catch it on the way home.

A little while later, when we drove into New Mexico, I was ready with the camera, but was unable to get it to focus and snap at the proper time. Grrrrrr.
Entering New Mexico

When we were heading into Texas that evening, I was ready with the camera but it was getting dark, so here's that attempt.

Texas border

Well dang it, if I can't get the "welcome to Texas" sign, maybe I could get the "thanks for visiting" sign on the way out. Yeah, right.

Into NM again

That is the "Welcome to New Mexico" sign, because I couldn't get it to snap in the dim light and rain in time for the Texas sign.

But finally, success again heading north!

Leaving NM

And right after that:

Into Colorado

I didn't get the "welcome to Utah" sign again because I already had one, and I guess I forgot to do the Idaho one, but since we live here, it's unnecessary, isn't it?

06 April 2007

Special Delivery

The postal employees must think it's strange when people order live chicks through the mail! But look how cute!
Kids and Chickens

New baby chicks

(and I am still planning a marathon blogging session about our vacation! I am in the process of uploading photos to flickr so go take a peek!)

03 April 2007

Coming (sometime) soon...

The account of the thrilling adventures of the Frugal Family as they drive 4000 miles together in a minivan.