How To Make Yogurt

4 Sep

There are a lot of yogurt tutorials out there. It’s understandable, because yogurt is much cheaper to make than buy. And in theory, it’s easy to make: heat milk, cool milk, add starter, incubate, refrigerate.

But if you screw it up, you end up with slimy sour milk. Shudder.

Most of the yogurt tutorials are either too complicated or simplified. I took a complicated recipe and pared it down to a level that I am comfortable with.

Hardware

  • Double boiler, improvised is fine
  • Digital thermometer with temperature alarm
  • Stirring spoon
  • Ladle
  • Yogurt Containers, like GlassLock
  • Heating Pad
  • Towel

Ingredients

  • Half gallon of whole milk
  • Yogurt starter, either freeze dried or 4 Tablespoons of plain yogurt with live active cultures

Instructions

  • Set up your double boiler. I use a mixing bowl over a saucepan of water. I’ve tried not using a double boiler, but I keep scorching the milk. Even worse than yogurt that tastes like burnt milk is cleaning the burnt milk out of a pot.
  • Pour the milk into the top part of your double boiler. Heat the milk to 185 degrees Fahrenheit, stirring occasionally, and use the fancy thermometer’s alarm to warn you when it’s getting close.
  • Hold milk at a temperature between 180° and 185°F for 10 minutes, stirring constantly. Adjust the stove temperature as necessary. This step is important to make the yogurt nice and thick.
  • Turn off stove and let milk cool down to 112°F. Again, the alarm on the digital thermometer is very helpful because it lets you walk away from the stove while the milk cools.
  • When the milk has cooled to 112°F, ladle some of the warm milk into a measuring cup or bowl. Mix the yogurt starter into the small bowl of warm milk. Add the small bowl of milk with yogurt starter back into the rest of the warm milk. Stir well.
  • Ladle warm milk into your yogurt containers.
  • Put lid on full yogurt container.
  • Place the full yogurt containers on your heating pad. Set heating pad to lowest setting. Cover containers and heating pad with a towel.
  • Let yogurt incubate for 5 hours, then remove it to the refrigerator. Let it set overnight.
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New Sunhat

18 May

I recently finished sewing a new sunhat for Daisy. She’s grown out of the sunhat she wore last summer and autumn. I used this pattern from Merriment Design. It is beautiful, and I’m quite pleased with how it turned out.

Daisy models her new sunhat while enjoying a ride on the swings.

The hat is fast and easy to sew, it took me around 5 or 6 hours. I used my bias tape maker to make the straps, but otherwise I followed the pattern to the letter. The next time I make this hat, I will baste the hat lining in before sewing it. But that is the only modification I’ll make – this is a great pattern!

Crib Rail Guard Tutorial

28 Apr

Crib rail guards keep baby from chewing up the furniture.

Daisy will be pulling up to standing any day now, so I made crib rail guards to keep her from chewing up the crib rails. I didn’t know this was a possibility when we got the crib, which is handmade and solid cherry. (Which is to say, expensive.) We got the conversion kits so that it can be turned into a toddler bed, and then a full-size adult bed. Fortunately, my sister warned me that teething toddlers like to chew on their crib rails and leave tiny little tooth marks in the wood. I was inspired by the cloth crib rail guard tutorial by Jill at Baby Rabies. However I had to change a couple of things – first, the sides of my crib are shaped with a curve. Also, I didn’t like the added work of applying fabric over plain quilted fabric. And finally, I don’t like the look of ties.

Materials:

  • 2 yards of Moda quilted fabric – $34.50
  • 2 yards of trim fabric (also Moda) – $18.00
  • 18 hook & eyes – $10.00
  • 1 yard of 3/4 inch velcro – $2.21

Quilted Poppy Fabric by Moda for Crib Rail Guards

It is hard to find attractive patterned quilted fabric, although it might be a little bit easier at the moment due to the trend of quilted purses a la Vera Bradley. I had the most luck searching for “double sided quilted fabric”, and found what I was looking for at fabricdepot.com – a beautiful Moda poppy print on a light blue background. If you have a quilt shop in your neighborhood, you might be able to get two fabrics of your choice quilted together for a small fee. I also got trim fabric for the attaching tabs and bias binding.

I started my project by pre washing all my fabric so that it won’t shrink when I have to wash it. Then I took half of my trim fabric and turned it into bias binding, using this tutorial. After the long strip of bias tape was created, I ran it through my one inch Clover bias tape maker. It took me about two evenings to finish the bias binding.

Completed wheel of bias tape made from contrast fabric.

After that was done, I measured the crib rails and made a template of the side rails with cardboard. For the front and back rails, I measured the length and the wrap from front to back. And for the template, I measured the length and tallest height of the side rail and cut a rectangle of that size. Then I held the cardboard up to the side rail and drew in the curve. I cut my quilted fabric for the front and back rails to be the exact size as the width (50 inches) and wrap (11.25 and 12.25 inches). For the side rails, I added a half inch seam allowance, cut out four (one for the left and right sides of each side rail), and made sure that they were mirrored so that the poppy print would be on the outside of both covers. Finally, the width of the side rail is one inch, so I cut out a two inch (one inch plus two half-inch seam allowances) by 28.25 inch (the length of the side rail) strip for each of them.

Cut out side rail covers.

I sewed the skinny top strip to the tops of both sides of the side rail cover. Then I applied the bias tape to the raw edges of each of the four crib rail guards. I used this tutorial for help applying the bias binding properly, and to get nice mitered corners at the edges.

The next step is to make the attaching tabs. I made five each for the front and back, and four each for the sides – it is up to you how many to make to get a secure fit. I made the tabs the width of the space between the crib slats – for my crib, the front and back spacing is 1.75 inches, on the sides the spacing is 1 inch. I made the tabs 5 inches long. So with seam allowances included, I cut out twenty 2.75 by 6 inch tabs and sixteen 2 by 6 inch tabs. I ironed down the half-inch seam allowance at one end of each of the tabs. Then I put right sides together and sewed around the three sides of the tab without the ironed down seam allowance. Then I turned the tabs right side out and sewed them shut across the ironed down seam allowance.

I took the rail covers and the tabs up to the crib and pinned the tabs into place so that they aligned with the slats. Then I took them back downstairs and sewed them into place, with one inch overlapping the tab and the rail cover. I sewed a rectangle around the overlapping area and then sewed an X pattern through the center to make it extra secure.

Tab securely attached to rail cover

For the other side, I used heavy-duty hook-and-eye closures (the kind you see on dress pants) and velcro. I hand-sewed the hooks and eyes, making sure that when attached to the crib the fabric was stretched so tight that they were hard to get on. A hook-and-eye stays closed because there is pressure pulling on either side. Without that pressure, the hook-and-eye will slip open. Then I machine sewed on the velcro to “seal” the area below the hook and eye, so that little fingers have a hard time getting at them. I also made sure that the fasteners were placed so that they would be outside of the crib when the rail guards were in place.

Hook-and-Eye closure and Velcro attached to the rail guard. (Left tab is folded back.)

One the closures were sewn on, I snipped the excess threads and put the rail guards on the crib. They fit perfectly, look really nice, and won’t come off when I tug on them. The most labor intensive part of the rail guards was not making the rail guards (which took maybe four evenings), but rather sewing up the tabs, placing them, sewing them on, and then sewing on the closures. Still, given the cost of rail guards that are just plain rectangles on Etsy, I saved a little money and gained the satisfaction of doing it myself.

Three Grandparents, Four Parents, A Toddler, and A Baby Went To Disney World

25 Apr

Well, we are home from Orlando. We’ve been home for a week, but my in-laws stopped by for a visit for a few days. Life is finally back to normal, at least as normal as things get around here.

My camera broke while we were at Hollywood Studios – the retractable lens can’t retract, so there won’t be many photographs for a few weeks. I am finishing up the teething guards for the crib because I changed the design slightly. They are now more firmly attached, but the process is more labor-intensive. I’ll finish the photographs with my iPhone and post the tutorial this weekend.

I never thought I would be the mother who takes her nine month old baby to Walt Disney World. Babies that age can’t appreciate an amusement park and aren’t going to remember it anyways. But it was my nephew’s second birthday, his parents live close to Orlando, he loves Mickey Mouse, and I love my nephew. So that’s how it happened. And we all had a great time.

A little digression, to provide a contrast to how we experienced Disney World as parents of a near-toddler. The last time I went to Disney was ten years ago, with my husband (although we weren’t married at that point), my parents, my sister, and my little brother. I was twenty, my sis was eighteen, my brother was nine. And we did everything the parks had to offer, twice over, and we had an amazing time. We got up early, stayed up late, took surfing lessons at Blizzard Beach, ate sushi, raced surreys at the Boardwalk, and went dancing.

Now a decade and two babies later, this trip to Disney World was very different – just as fun, but in a different way. We all got up early (’cause that’s the way the babies roll), and got to the parks early. We rode four or five rides, mostly baby-friendly rides, but the adults took turns riding a roller-coaster as well. By eleven o’clock, we headed back to the hotel rooms for lunches and naps. The afternoon was at the hotel pool, followed by the second nap. Then we went out for dinner, rode one or two more rides, and went back to the hotel for bedtime. And it was magical. The look on Daisy’s face as we rode through It’s A Small World was priceless – she stared with her jaw-dropped and swiveled her head to try to see it all. One pro tip – take your baby carrier (Beco, Ergo, whatever) to Disney. Strollers are everywhere, but it is a hassle to fold the stroller up and carry it over the turnstile to get on the train and the bus. And you have to park the stroller before you get on the rides.

Disney is very, very accommodating to special diets. We ate out for every dinner, and I never felt deprived. At The Wave restaurant at the Contemporary Hotel, I could eat everything on the menu (including pasta), with slight modifications. That never happens to me, and so it was perhaps the most magical aspect of my vacation.

As a result of our excellent vacation, we’re all planning on going back again soon. Disney convinced me that it is a great vacation for children of all ages and their parents and their grandparents. Yes, it is expensive. But there are ways of mitigating the expense. And a care-free vacation that is enjoyed by the entire family, without stress and squabbles, is worth some expense. Daisy probably won’t remember this trip, but the rest of us will, and that’s good enough for me.

The Best Laid Plans

10 Apr

It looks like I’m not going to finish the teething crib guard (and thus, the tutorial), until late next week, when we get back from Disney World. (I’m going to Disney World!) I can only sew in the evening after the baby has gone to bed and is, ahem, using the crib. So I have to attach the velcro straps but I’m not sure where to place some of them. And tomorrow night is book club, and then Thursday is packing, and then Friday is Disney. So there you go.

We are going to Disney to celebrate my nephew’s second birthday. It will be nice to spend time with my family, who I don’t get to see enough. But golly, Disney is expensive. Expensive isn’t quite the right word. If everything cost half of what it does, it would be expensive. Exorbitant is closer to the mark. But we’ll have fun, since the pain of paying those bills has been felt and dealt with.

The book for book club tomorrow is Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins. I read it while I was pregnant, about a year ago, and I really enjoyed it. I’m not sure if I could read it now with the same sense of pleasure because (spoiler alert) children die in it and I can’t help but put myself in their mother’s shoes and then I feel sick. The deaths aren’t graphic, but they are there. Hunger Games is one of those rare novels that actually caused me to change my behavior. Before I read the book, I would watch train-wreck reality television like Jersey Shore when there was nothing else on. Afterwards, I realized that just as the citizens of the Capitol were complicit in the Hunger Games by watching them, and so I was complicit in the continual degradation of popular culture by watching those trashy shows and their commercials, and thus encouraging it. I think there is also something to be said about professional football, where people (including me) cheer on healthy young men as they injure each other for our entertainment, until those men have to retire with serious injuries and frequently brain damage. Hunger Games has hidden depths – on the surface it is an entertaining story about a strong young woman who stands up to an evil empire. But if you look a bit further you see distorted reflections of popular culture and our modern civilization, and how some things aren’t as innocuous as they seem. Great fun!

Happy Easter

9 Apr
Daisy wearing her Easter Dress and Sweater

Daisy, wearing her Easter Dress and matching sweater

We were traveling for Easter, so I couldn’t post. It was a lovely weekend, and full of “firsts” for the baby. The day of Easter was a little rough from a combination of teething, stranger anxiety, family she hasn’t seen in a month, and sleep deprivation. But we all pulled through.

I am working on a crib teething guard tutorial that I hope to post tomorrow or Wednesday. It’s pretty exciting for me because I am a decidedly novice sewer.

(Sweater pattern is Summer Days by Elena Nodel.)

Review: The Warmth of Other Suns by Isabel Wilkerson

5 Apr
Cover of The Warmth of Other Suns

The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America's Great Migration by Isabel Wilkerson

I recently finished reading The Warmth of Other Suns by Isabel Wilkerson on my Kindle. It is one of those rare works of nonfiction that reads like a gripping novel. The book mostly follows the stories of three protagonists who were part of the Great Migration, with ancillary stories and corroborating accounts woven in. These three people, Ida Mae Gladney, George Swanson Starling, and Robert Pershing Foster, never crossed paths, but their reasons for participating in the Great Migration and how it affected their lives are remarkably similar. Wilkerson does not put the heroes of her book on a pedestal, which is a temptation for many authors (fiction and non-fiction). But the frankness and honesty of Wilkerson’s reporting makes the reader really like Gladney, Starling, and Foster, despite their flaws and mistakes.

Before I read this book, the Great Migration and Jim Crow (the largest factor in its genesis), were abstractions to me. I knew of their general existence, and of the civil rights struggle to end segregation, but I’ve never taken any classes or read previous books that dealt with it in any great detail. I am so glad I read this book and filled in this gap in my knowledge. It is a little shocking, in retrospect, at how this history has been played down. I think that it would be very beneficial for this book to be assigned in high school American History and English classes. In English classes because the author does a fantastic job of personalizing a subject that could be very dry and academic, and American History classes because the Great Migration completely altered the American landscape. In 1910, 89% of all black people lived in the south, but by 1960, it was down to 60%. That’s significantly larger than the emigration caused by Ireland’s Great Famine. I learned about all sorts of things, such as the everyday brutality of Jim Crow – it wasn’t just segregation, but included racially motivated murders that were routinely unprosecuted, and that in northern cities, white people would riot when a black family tried to move into the neighborhood. I had heard of the 1967 riots, but never these other riots, such as the 1919 riots.

This is a fabulous, fascinating book and I highly recommend it. The subject matter is serious, but I didn’t feel morose while I was reading it, which is important when it comes to my limited leisure reading time. The stories in The Warmth of Other Suns are those of the triumph of the human spirit over awful conditions and forbidding odds. And I love those kinds of stories.