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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.

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.

Shopping and Seaming

25 Mar

Yesterday was a crazy busy day. I got up early to hit the mother-to-mother consignment sale at a local high school. It’s like an enormous yard sale that only carries things for children. The doors opened at 8:30, I got there at 8:10, and there was already a long line. They have this sale twice a year (one for summer clothes in March, one for winter clothes in October), and I started going last spring when I was pregnant. Until today, I’ve had amazing success with this sale. I would get a full wardrobe of clothing in each upcoming size for Daisy for $2-$4 per item. Today went pretty well, but they had no 18 month size pajamas. Not a single pair. It’s not a complete bust because I got a nice variety of summer clothing in 12 and 18 month sizes, but I’m not sure where I’m going to get pajamas now. Maybe I’ll drive to a consignment store next week.

And yesterday evening, I finished seaming the Dewey Cabled Pullover. I’ll post some pictures later today of Daisy wearing the sweater, but right now all I’ve got is a picture of the sweater laying on the table.

The sweater now that it's all sewed up. So cute!

(This is the Dewey Cabled Pullover from Vintage Baby Knits by Kristen Rengren, knitted in Touch Yarns 4 Ply Merino.)

Giving Cloth Diapers A Try

22 Mar

If you think you’d like to try out cloth diapers, just to see if they might be for you, there are several great options that are pretty inexpensive. You can get a mini kit, use a trial program, or buy used diapers.

I started with the Green Mountain Diapers Newborn Mini Kit.  I would recommend adding a second package of wipes, a pail liner, a Snappi, and a spray bottle to the order. We started using the cloth diapers after the baby’s umbilical cord fell off, and it was a great success. The only downside is that the mini kit only comes in newborn size, so if you have an older baby, you would have to order the pieces individually and not as part of a kit.

Jillian’s Drawers has a offer to try cloth diapers for $10. I have not tried this myself, but it looks like a nice way to try the most popular diapering systems for a very reasonable price. Also, the diapers you get are brand new and not previously used.

Finally, you can buy second-hand diapers from Diaper Swappers, Craigslist, or at for-sale-or-trade event at your local chapter of the Real Diaper Association. There is nothing unsanitary about using second-hand cloth diapers, because cloth diapers are designed to be used over and over.


This is part four in a five part series.

I went a little veggie crazy

15 Mar

Daisy and I took a little trip to Produce Junction today. I call it a trip because the closest Produce Junction is 25 miles away. But even factoring in the cost of gas into my groceries, it’s an amazing deal on fresh fruits and vegetables. For $60, I got a pound of sliced mushrooms, grape tomatoes, 2 dozen eggs, 4 eggplants, an enormous bunch of kale, 6 red peppers, 8 pickling cucumbers, 6 romaine hearts, 6 grapefruit, a dozen bananas, 8 sweet onions, 4 red onions, a half pound of blueberries, 9 leeks, 2 bunches of asparagus, 3 bunches of cilantro, 3 bunches of parsley, a dozen heads of garlic, 2 pounds of potatoes, 8 gala apples, a bag of cuties, an enormous bok choi, and 6 baby bok choi. If it were closer, I’d go every week.

Produce from Produce Juction

All the food I got, stacked deep.

Now that I have all these vegetables, I need to do something with them before they go bad! I made leek and potato soup and steamed asparagus for dinner (more on this later), so a little has been consumed, but there’s a whole lot more left! The fruit is for snacking, not cooking, so I’m not going to make any plans for it.

  • grape tomatoes: cut up for the baby, and in salads
  • eggplant: eggplant parmesan! eggplant and peppers with peanut sauce!
  • kale: sautéed with garlic and red pepper flakes
  • red peppers: eggplant and peppers with peanut sauce, snacking, cut up for the baby
  • cucumbers: in salads and refrigerator pickles
  • hearts of romain: salad
  • sweet onions: a supporting ingredient in most recipes
  • red onions: in salads
  • leeks: already all used up in potato and leek soup
  • asparagus: steamed with lemon and salt
  • cilantro & parsley: supporting ingredients in many recipes
  • garlic: roasted garlic!
  • potatoes: used half in the potato and leek soup, not sure about the rest. Roasted maybe?
  • bok choy: stir fry
  • baby bok choy: wilted in soy sauce, over rice

So it looks like we have food through the weekend. And for sixty dollars! Woo!

Tonight I made leek and potato soup from Twelve Months of Monastery Soups by Brother Victor-Antoine d’Avila-Latourrette, a Benedictine Monk in upstate New York. This recipe is very simple, healthy, and delicious. It doesn’t call for cream like most leek and potato soup recipes, which is great because not only did I not have cream, I didn’t even have skim milk. I’m not sure why the other recipes call for cream since the soup was superb without it.

A pot of leeks I am sautéing in butter.

Leeks sautéing in butter, a beautiful shade of spring green

The only difficulty with the soup was the nearly two hours it took me to clean and cut the leeks, and then peel and dice the potatoes. I didn’t have any of the baby’s nap time left to sit down and knit. The leeks and potatoes simmered for an hour while Daisy and I sat outside and enjoyed the beautiful weather. Daisy investigated grass with the intensity of a bomb-defuser.Then Jim came home and we all trooped inside for dinner. Jim ran the stick blender through the soup and chopped some parsley for on top.

Perfection.