easy cheese...

i've been hoping to try my hand at making cheese for awhile (especially after finishing animal vegetable miracle by barbara kingsolver, in which she talks about how straight forward cheesemaking actually is). i took the plunge today after reading this post over at smitten kitchen. talk about simple. i actually even had all of the ingredients on hand, though i would have preferred local cream instead of horizon brand, which is ultra-pasteurized. exposure to high temperatures during ultra pasteurization kills off millions of good bacteria and enzymes in trade for a longer shelf life. this is the reason you cannot make yogurt with ultra pasteurized milk, and i expect it generally works the same way for cheese.
we generally drink strauss organic milk, which can still be had in lovely glass bottles. the flavor is excellent and i love that it is not homogonized--it's traditional cream top milk. just look at all that yummy fat floating around, ready to be made into cheese!
three cups of milk, plus a cup of cream, heated slowly to 190 degrees, making sure not to let the milk at the bottom of the pot get scorched. after reaching temperature, 3 tablespoons of lemon juice into the pot. a quick stir, a 5 minute rest. then into a colander lined with cheescloth to drain and set up.

the end result was somewhere between ricotta and mascarpone. thick and creamy and surprisingly effortless. i see a lot of this cheese in my future, as a summer staple on pizzas and in salads. and of course, spread across anything else that crosses the table. yum!

side note: i was left with just about 3 cups of whey from making the cheese. i read online that whey can be used in place of water for making breads and the like, so i stirred up a big batch of pizza dough, using most all of the liquid. we'll see how it turns out!


this moment...

happy weekending!


a little thing...

a heat wave earlier in the week sent the kids and i running to the thrift store in search of air conditioning. it was one of those days. those of you without a/c will surely understand. we hit the pool in the morning, came home, napped. the kids got up and we sat around sweltering. i watched the temperature in the house reach 90 degrees, and declared it a minor state of emergency. we evacuated. apparently we weren't the only ones with the idea--the thrift store was packed. i had to stalk someone to get a cart.

we elbowed our way through the crowd and managed to find a few things: a crocodile creek puzzle for hudson, an eeboo game for lucy. i got a brand new pair of jeans with tags still attached--had no idea that this particular thrift store has a premium denim section hidden in the back of the store. in the minds of lucy and hudson, however, the best find was a vintage fisher price school desk toy, complete with stencils, magnets and chalkboard.

a fresh coat of chalkboard paint, and this gem from 1972 is in near-perfect condition. i say near-perfect because as you can see, we are missing letter "w" from the alphabet set. those who know me best would be shocked that i bought something that is missing a peice, but the letters are standard size and i have high hopes that i'll come across one soon. until then, an upside down "m" can do in a pinch!


hanging around...

if there are any of you long-time readers still hanging around, you might remember no dryer july, the month in 2008 that i line-dried our clothes exclusively, down to the last baby bootie. how far i have fallen. i must admit it hadn't even crossed my mind to me to hang out any laundry over the past few months... or year. ahem.

until i saw this post over at small notebook, one of the blogs i pop into time to time. the post, combined with some lovely photos, was just the inspiration i needed. and it just so happened i had a load of diapers in the washing machine ready to come out.

diapers, check. motivation, check. laundry line, gone. got stowed away for a party or something? maybe it broke? i don't know. a thorough search turned up nothing. so i went on the hunt for my wooden drying rack. couldn't find it (are you sensing a trend here?) but came across a metal rack--which was covered in rust from being left out through the winter(s). it was stowed ever-so-neatly under my potting table, which apparently did not provide proper cover.

okay, i was getting desperate. poking around the yard and jeremy's shop is not high on my list of fun things to do. by this time my diapers, if they'd been tossed into the dryer, would have been well on their way to getting dry. but i was committed, and i am at times somewhat makeshift-y, and so i rigged up what i like to call the laundry ladder from a 10-foot piece of picket fencing i found laying around. yes, treasures just pop up from all over the valley girl property.

it worked alright. i forgot how much i dislike hanging laundry--getting to that meditative place is a bit difficult when small people are running around dumping juice on each other (because sticky is so fun, mama!). of course, they were also very helpful in dragging the clean wipes around the deck, rendering them pretty filthy before hanging them up for me. gotta love those two for trying.

it's not the hanging of diapers themselves that i dislike, but the tedium of all the wipes. i must admit that, after shooing my little helpers away, i left a bunch of wipes at the bottom of the basket in crumples and they dried that way. perfection is not my strong suit.

i'd like to commit to at least hanging out all of the diapers (2 loads per week) through the summer. but only if i can get a proper laundry line back up. someone just about 3 feet tall took the term "laundry ladder" to heart. look at me, mommy!!! i would have got a photo, but i was too busy rescuing her from the top!


toy of the year...

hands down, is still a baby chick or two. or three or four, or, you know, eight. lucy's most favorite pastime as of late is tucking them in, whispering sweet nothings, and sending them off to dreamland. the whole act is so convincing, i often have to make sure that they haven't been put to sleep, if you know what i mean. i'm not up for more mom-on-chicken mouth-to-mouth. fortunately a little poke in the side sends them popping up, peeping around and in good health. only to be captured and coerced into slumber once again. fun times!



late spring/summer-ish weather returns. we are out of our sweatshirts and into big pots of sun-warmed hose water. well, that goes for the kids, anyway. i stood on the sidelines armed with towels.

today was a challenging day for me as a mama. lucy & hudson whined, cried and fought, pretty much nonstop, for the entire duration of the day. save, of course the 45 minutes they were running around whole foods like complete banshees, laughing hysterically at themselves. oh, and then there was the very end of the day when these photos were taken. a small snapshot of peace and bliss, squeezed ever-so-tightly in between the tantrums.

the moment jeremy walked though the door i headed (sprinted without looking back) out to the library to pickup a couple of books i had on hold. this summer's required reading list is all about urban farming: the quarter acre farm (how i kept the patio, lost the lawn and fed my family for a year); and farm city, the education of an urban farmer. have just finished animal vegetable miracle by barbara kingsolver and highly recommend it as a great and informative read. we are revisiting some ideas about self-sustainability around here. big changes are coming in our future.

as for this moment, i am drinking a bit of wine and ready to delve into the pages that lay before me. kids have been in bed since 6:30 and all is again well with the (my) world. cheers!


some things...

here i am trying to play catch up again. while the rest of the blogging world carries on at pace, this little spot seems to fall upon silence a bit too often. truth be told, we have a lot going on, but then again, who doesn't? real truth be told? i got (kind of, sort of, grossly) addicted to past episodes of greys anatomy. you probably know that we don't own a t.v., but trust me, netflix can be just as dangerous. a total time suck--why we got rid of the tube in the first place. my nighttime ritual of tea, photo uploads, blogging and journaling for the kids was swiftly replaced with tea, greys and halfhearted laundry folding to make myself feel less guilty. rest assured i am now current and the world can (hopefully) carry on as normal.

hudson and i took a mini vacation--the annual women's retreat for the family. the sweet (19 month-old!) boy joined us girls on a 4 night cruise that sailed out of san francisco and ended up in vancouver. lots of food, some wine, some sightseeing. the weather was surprisingly decent and he & i were able to enjoy the pool and spas on the ship. hudson turned out to be a pretty agreeable traveler and not-so-fussy-roommate--even sleeping in past 7 which is practically unheard of around here now that it is so light outside. must have been the blackout curtains. this was the first time i'd left lucy for any chunk of time--she's had a few overnighters with grandma, but nothing more than that. she and jeremy got to spend some daddy-daughter quality time together. they marked off half-days on the calendar that i wrote out for her, and followed the ship's travels on the map. when we arrived home, she was all in one piece and happy, and that's the best that a mama can hope for. she and hudson had a cheerful reunion and pretty much have not left each others side since.

of course, it's not a perfect relationship. it's all fun and games until someone brings out the teeth, people. ouch.

our baby chicks grew and grew and grew until we decided they were ready to move out. all was well until tragedy struck--in the form of two troublesome dogs who forced open the coop when we were out and killed all seven of them. it was a definite halting moment for us--the small scale responsible urban farmers that we strive to be. in all truth lucy handled it best--we told her the simple truth of what had happened, she asked a few questions and moved on. the entire situation was completely out of her control, and i guess that's something that three year olds are used to. as adults, we aren't quite capable of that innocent three year-old mentality: we blame ourselves, question what we could have done differently, and think a lot about the circumstances that surrounded the entire situation. what if, if only. after all, one of the main reasons we keep chickens is to give them a good life. we can chalk those seven lives up to a learning experience, but it somehow seems cruel. though really, there is no other choice. next day we got four little fluffballs, and a few days later, four more. we're moving forward with a life lesson under our belts, and of course with fondness in our hearts for the little chickies that we lost.

of course, music remains lucy's favorite chicken of all time. she's teeny and grey and i think just a little bit slow due to a bad pecking when she first arrived. lucy has taken music under her wing, for lack of a better term. let's just say that the doll sling gets washed a LOT and lucy's babies now spend their days tucked comfortably into the cradle.

are you thinking we eat a lot of bananas? ha. we got an exciting shipment from the midwest a couple of weeks ago. more on that later.

my mom turned sixty in may, and i just celebrated my 31st birthday on sunday. there was a surprise party organized by jeremy. never in my life did i think i'd write such a sentence, but i was grateful and flattered and loved and most of all, surprised. shocked is a more relevant term. next time, honey, pretend we're going to a fancy restaurant so that i'm dressed appropriately. m'kay?

we have got a box of vintage straws and really, the kids think there's nothing better. they suck up water like it's going out of style and it makes me happy. that's it for the moment. i'm sure there will be more to come... unless anyone can recommend another highly addictive show.

(just kidding, please don't).