Saturday, November 27, 2010

Homemade yogurt in winter

This morning, as I made my son and I a fruit smoothie for breakfast, I felt love toward my mason jar full of creamy fresh yogurt. I felt an ode coming on, and since I have not practiced my odes, thought a blog entry might suffice. Homemade yogurt is so sweet and delicious and easy, yet so many do not make it. My mother buys store yogurt, and the other day I tried some and it was SO sour! That's the way homemade yogurt tastes when it's really old. Which tells you that it can last a loong time!

In the summer, making yogurt is so easy because the house is nice and warm all the time. In the winter, unless you keep your house super warm and heated all the time, making yogurt is a bit trickier. If you just do it on the counter, it will probably take forever to "gel", if it does at all. You can try putting it on a heating pad, but that's usually too warm and makes the bottom part of the yogurt extra "gelled" and the top soft--not uniform. This is where the aquarium heater comes in.

I never thought an aquarium heater would come in so handy in the kitchen! The great thing about an aquarium heater is that it maintains temperatures that yogurt likes, right around 80. Most aquarium heaters maintain heat between 75 and 85, nice comfy temps for fish and plants who live in the tropics. Comfy temps for microbes too... kind of a goldilocks zone. You only need a 25W heater, which are the cheapest ones, but it's nice to have one that allows you to adjust the temperature, although that's not necessary, since the ones without adjusters are usually set at around 78, which is perfect.

The other part of this set-up involves something that won't let that heated water rapidly cool down--an insulated cooler or ice chest. I use something that is like a drink cooler that construction workers use. Fill it about a third of the way with warm water (why wait for the aquarium heater to do its job?) and then submerge your mason jar, or whatever you ferment your yogurt in, into the water. You want the water to completely surround the milk, so it will be very close to the top. Your jar won't float when it is completely full of milk. Then you just put your aquarium heater in the water and in about 12-24 hrs you got the best yogurt ever. While the yogurt is "cooking" I put the mason flat lid on, slightly ajar, don't know why, I just do. Also, I put the top on the drink cooler, but not tightly, and check on it every now and then to allow the oxygen and carbon dioxide to equalize with the air.

If you've never made yogurt before and are wondering about *that* part of the operation, it couldn't be simpler. Bring almost a quart of milk to 180 degrees (if you don't have a thermometer, that's the point just before it's boiling, where you've got tiny bubbles around the edge and a very thin skin). The reason it's *almost* a quart is because you are going to mix in some yogurt to make a quart. Then cool your milk back down to about room temperature, or at least just barely warm. Now get your clean quart jar or clean old yogurt container and pour a little milk into it and add about 3-4 tablespoons of plain yogurt (I have had success with cheap generic brands and organic alike, just try to get some without any additives, like gelatin) and mix it together. Then add the rest of your cooled milk and give it a good stir. Now you are ready to incubate!

Friday, November 19, 2010

Soup Glorious Soup

I have been loving soup lately, much to the chagrin of my family. My husband says that meat should not be in liquid. He thinks it should all be cooked on an open flame. Whatever. We're not charros.

Anyway, good soup requires good broth. Here's how to make broth the easy way... Whenever you cut up an onion, carrot, or celery (or parsnip or turnip for those who eat more veggies than us) save ALL the scraps (papery onion skins and ugly ends included) and put them in a gallon ziploc in the freezer. Also, if parsley or other fresh herbs starts to get wilted, put that in there. Any time you have any chicken scraps, cooked or uncooked, put them in there too; the leftover bones, skins, etc. Especially if you have a roasted chicken put the carcass in there. Also put the gizzards and innards in there (no need to cook). When it gets full, put everything in a big stock pot and cover with about an inch of water. Don't worry if you don't have a lot of celery or parsley or whatever in the mix; it's different each time and it will taste fine. I never waste good new veggies making broth--only scraps. (Save your ziploc and just put it back in the freezer to start filling again.) Put some bay leaves in there. Simmer for about 4 hours. When you see the scum, skim it off. (I don't think it would hurt you, but my intuition says to remove it.) When the broth is nice and brown, let it cool and strain all the stuff out--discard. You can also season at this point with salt, pepper, and herbs, or just leave it and season when you use it. I glean any meat bits for soup. Put the fresh broth in a big bowl and chill overnight. That way you can remove all the congealed oil. (Again, not bad for you, but greasy broth seems less appealing.) Then freeze in quart bags or quart yogurt containers. Now you have delicious homemade (FREE) broth with no msg or thickeners or stabilizers and whatnot. When you make soup with it, usually you can add water to it and still have plenty of flavor.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Be Here Now

This simple phrase, brought to us by our friend, Ram Dass, brings me some peace. Especially in this experience of pregnancy. I am in a gentle state of pregnancy. My morning sickness has vanished. I have energy and drive to keep my house clean and healthy meals on the table. My belly and body are not yet huge, but I have a notice-ably larger belly that is manageable. My spine feels much more comfortable in a curve than a straight line. The beginning feelings of movement tanatalize me. I have heard the heartbeat twice now, which I wish I never had because I like the secrets and not knowing. Last pregnancy, I didn't even contact a doctor until I was past four months and then switched over to the midwife when I was close to six months. I fiercely opposed any doctor. This time, I naturally contacted the midwife rather early to start up the relationship, and I'm glad I did. But I don't like the technological invasions into the life of the unborn baby. One of my paranoid pregnancy fears is that the baby will die and I won't even realize it. So now I fear waiting to hear the heartbeat. Or also anxious about when I will next feel movement. It can drive me batty at times to where I'm poking and prodding until I feel *something*. And I am only 17 weeks! I know that this feels the same as the last two pregnancies. I need to just "forget that I'm pregnant." And that's where Be Here Now comes in. My mantra for existing in the moment. I am here and there is a baby inside of me. We are here together. We are here now. Breathe out......

Monday, September 27, 2010

Good News

Erik is not going to get laid off, but has to take a 20% cut in hours. That means a 4-day work week. At least he still has his job. Whew...

Saturday, September 25, 2010

I want to cry

I want to cry and be strong at the same time. Erik found out today that he's probably going to get laid off. SO many emotions... anger, hurt, worry...

THANK GOD for my family.

I already am an anxious person in dealing with daily living (which is such a waste of energy, *that* needs to change) so I have to closely monitor myself to not worry about this situation too much.

Blessings... healthy children, loving husband, supportive and loving parents, beautiful house, and able to stay home for now.

We are not alone in this ordeal, this I know. Erik already talked about how he didn't want to work there the rest of his life, that it wasn't all it was cracked up to be. If he could get a job as a park ranger or something like that in the end of all this "change" that would be a miracle. In the meantime, what kind of job can he get now? We are shooting for tree trimmer with his old company, Asplundh, but that too would be a long shot miracle. We have heard so much about how hard it is to get *any* job that this change that we face is daunting... Please keep us in your prayers.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Morning Sickness Continued

Boy, pride surely goes before the fall! Last night, about an hour after I posted that, my husband comes in the bedroom, where I'm just facebooking and trying to ignore that cauldron in my stomach, and starts talking to me about god knows what. I can feel myself crashing and cannot talk with him. I tell him I don't feel good and he says, "Well maybe it's what your eating. Are you just eating bread?" And I said, "Do not even think that you know." He left to watch a bit more tv and I tried to turn the light off and go to sleep but as soon as I put my head down, I knew it was coming.

I had been snacking on what I thought was my wonder snack all day: boiled garbanzo beans that had been dried in the oven with salt. They seemed so perfect and I made sure I drank lots of water. They really did work good, but the hormones are still regulating and they can definitely still spike, bringing me back to the more delicate stage. I don't mind it that much. Back to morning zombie (no puking this morning!! I think the mint in the morning helps.) and back to The Price is Right! Yesterday I almost missed meeting my son at the bus-stop on the corner because I didn't watch The Price is Right. When it's over, Family Feud comes on and at the first commercial break I went to get him. (I think that was a schedule I developed a few days ago! :nut) Yesterday I was listening to Joni Mitchell's album Night Ride Home on repeat and writing down the lyrics to my favorite song on that album The Second Coming (based on W.B. Yeats Poem-Crazy to read when you are pregnant) and suddenly the thought blasted into my head that I needed to pick Noah up from the bus-stop and I didn't know what time it was! I ran into the bathroom to check the time (11:10, bus-stop time 11:13--they don't wait for you!!!). No time to get the 2-year-old ready to come with me--no time to do anything! Thankfully my dad was in the kitchen, but I had no time to tell him anything--RUN!!!!! I tore out of the house in bare feet, ran down the cobblestone driveway and on asphalt in 100 degree heat! Made it to the shade tree just as the bus arrived. Must have been a sight to see me in barefeet as I crossed the street to the sharp red gravel and welcomed my son from the bus. "Why are you barefoot, Mom?" "Oh, nothing, just ran out of the house. I was afraid I was going to miss you!" "Oh." Scrunched up look on his face as he kicks the gravel toward home. The adrenaline was still pumping so I didn't feel a thing until after the bus pulled away and it was just me and Noah holding hands. "Ow! I gotta run back to the house, my feet are burning!"

It actually felt kind of good to run like that, but I paid the price. My body rapidly declined in energy level toward the end of the day. My mind soon followed. I became zombie prego once again. A comfortable space once I became familiar with it. Grunt and grumble and answer everything with an "I don't know." Kind of like a teenager in some ways.

I think it's easier to joke about it now that I think I see the light in the distance!

On good thing about morning sickness... I'm so glad I got to know John O'Hurley, the ousted host of Family Feud! He is such a snagglepuss! I think I'm going to buy his CD.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Bless the Saints, Bless the Pilgrims

Noah just told me that he wanted to give Micah a new name... (names have been coming up a lot lately) He ran through a bunch of names like Frank and Johnnie and then stranger ones like Rocket Fan, each time the name not quite feeling right to him. He finally settled on Bat Jamie. My immediate thought was to check the animal totems and see what Bat represents, so I did, and Bat represents Rebirth/Transformation. Sigh... Blessings... Jamie--my cousin Jamie--was reborn and transformed just like all of us are...she completed her teaching in this life form...she participated in a powerful teaching of sorrow, reflection, forgiveness... the man and people that conspired to murder her and her two sons are the ones that will experience the most suffering from their actions, unless they continue with hardened hearts, asleep. Those who most acutely feel the loss of Jamie are given the gifts of an opened and awake heart. The suffering is present to them and they can choose what to do with it, whether to use it for helping other people, or just to harden back their own hearts. Our culture encourages us to hide the suffering of the world from our hearts and keep seeking our own desires. But when we realize that the happiness of others and the joy of others contributes to our own joy, then we can begin to open our hearts to a more peaceful way. Through rebirth and transformation. Jamie's smiling face and laugh are forever.

Friday, August 6, 2010

The Sorrow and the Agony (of Morning Sickness)

The "get off me don't touch me" is totally ramping up. When my 2yo nurses he's all elbows and knees and shoulders, which before I used to just flex my muscles and take pride that I had my own personal gym machine, but now I just want to remove him from my surroundings! At night he nurses for five minutes (if I can stand it) and then it's tough love; I am so thankful that my two boys sleep together, I wouldn't be able to stand sleeping with them--if you can even call my restless insomnience sleep! LOL! It reminds me of fever sleep--never fully dissolved in the dream--waking, turning, lots of leg stretching, strange dreams, even talking in my sleep the other night--which I never do--and it scared my husband so much--who is already a worse sleeper than me even in this pregnant state--that he wanted to stay home from work (he's always thinking up excuses to stay home--every day he calls me and when I say I am a couch blob he says, "Do you want me to come home?" NOO!!! I'm pregnant, for godsakes, not dying!!)

If you are pregnant for the first time and you *feel* like you are dying or want to die or are severely depressed over your lack of ability to do anything or think a straight thought--congratulations! you are normal! When I went through this the first time my husband and I had only been together FIVE MONTHS (not yet married)! OMG, the fighting was incredible--he didn't understand what happened to me, I thought I had truly lost my marbles--why *couldn't* I do ANYTHING for weeks on end?? My husband had never seen anything like it and thought I was exaggerating! We had to go to counseling, but the smell of her plug-in air freshener was so repulsive that I just created a whole emotional ball around what was wrong with *her!* and then around that time it started to let up and "aaaaaaaaaah" I could breathe again and just tried to forget about that horrible time!

Life from the Couch

Just call me the couch blob. All I do is watch instant Netflix movies--documentaries about Buddhism to calm my morning sickness ravaged brain and body. My kids eat Luna bars and bagels all day, along with dried fruit--all stuff they can pilfer from the pantry.

I watch those movies to calm my mind that only wants to focus on how tired or nauseated I feel.

I try to keep stuffing food in me, usually carbs, in an attempt to keep the sickness at bay, but I am only at 6 weeks today, which is usually the START of morning sickness and I know how bad it can get--that's what depresses me--the thought of how it can get worse and worse over the NEXT 6 WEEKS-- and that also draws me toward the desire for calm and peace--which is mostly impossible when you have a 5yo and a 2yo- boys- running around. My mother graciously took the kids out shopping today (a very Buddhist activity :D) during which time I drew and meditated, which was like a vacation because finding time to meditate is few and far between, not like I ever did it *before*, when I had the time! lol But suddenly I'm craving it and wanting to take the fast route to peace in order to escape the feeling of being trapped in nausea! (all selfish reasons, but that's natural and at least it's *something* opening that part of me!)

Cravings... the weird thing about cravings is... mostly all food repulses, but then occasionally a germ of an idea about a flavor or food quality will sprout and that develops into a craving... which is something to look forward to, fulfilling that craving... it's best to be specific about the craving... sometimes I search for it... maybe based on past pregnancies... thai food, fresh summer rolls from the first... the perfect burrito with plenty of lettuce and pico de gallo, drenched in hot sauce from the second...but if it's too vague then I can't fulfill it and am left with a pseudo feeling of satiation... but when the opportunity to fulfill a craving arises and all the pieces fall into place, the result is a harmonious remedy... all the senses unite and thank the universe for that moment of indulgence... but then, the strange part is... more often than not, after the craving is filled, the object of desire becomes the object of repulsion, often inciting the same feelings of nausea that it had been the promised rectifier of! Such is the nature of the morning sickness brain!

Wisdom Quarterly: American Buddhist Journal: The Pregnant Nun

Wisdom Quarterly: American Buddhist Journal: The Pregnant Nun