Monday, August 30, 2010

Yogurt Making

There have been several times in the last several months when I've awakened with quite troublesome joint pain and have known it's the result of exposure to corn products.  I manage to avoid most corn products, but I've been sooooooo hungry for yogurt, and neither of our local grocery stores have any corn-free brands--they all contain corn syrup, corn starch, or both.  I've been thinking I really need to just make my own, and was about to do it last week with a dear friend's starter.  Then I realized that if I'm going to eat all those lovely lactobacillus goodies, that I want to be certain that one of them is L. bulgaricus--because that's one that is constantly being threatened by antibiotics and almost anything else that attacks.  So, this weekend I went into ABQ and visited Vitamin Cottage and purchased this:

I admit I know people who say they never start with anything except whole milk yogurt, but I was after these lovely probiotics:
and a 1:16 ratio of non-fat starter was fine. Although Brown Cow yogurt is made with pectin, I did not add any to my yogurt recipe, and it still turned out just fine.
I also purchased this:
because I wanted milk I could be sure is top quality (and I'll be saving a lot of the money I've been spending on yogurt).
I gathered my equipment:
 half gallon measuring cup--I love this one because it's tempered glass and the markings will never, ever wear off.  I've had it for years;
heavy, stainless steel cooking pot;
stainless steel mixing-bowl, much thinner than the cooking pot;
1/2 cup measuring cup (this is one of my favorite DeMarle measuring cups--they have magnets in the handles that keep them from getting separated in the drawer;
my candy thermometer; a whisk (next time I'm going to use the DeMarle heat resistant spatula instead); nine lovely little jelly jars and their lids; my Playmate cooler;
I poured a half gallon of the milk into the stainless steel pot and heated it on med-low (5 on my stovetop's scale of 10-1) until it reached 190 degrees according to the candy thermometer.  I've been told anywhere from 185-195 is sufficient, just keep it under the boiling point.  This is a higher temperature than I've used to scald milk in other recipes.  As it began heating I stirred it occasionally with the whisk, but next time I'm going to use the DeMarle heat resistant spatula because it will keep the bottom of the pot cleaner.  As the milk heated, I began stirring it constantly.  That process took about 15 minutes.
I put about two inches of cold water in the sink, set the mixing bowl in the water, and poured in the milk.  The reason I transferred the milk to the stainless steel bowl is that I needed to cool it to 120 degrees F., and the pot would have taken a lot longer than five minutes or so to cool.  (I allowed a bit of water to run down the drain so I could continue adding cold water to the sink; some people use ice water.) The lowest temperature shown on my candy thermometer is 130, so I had to estimate the 120 degrees.
When the scalded milk reached 120 degrees, I added one half cup of the plain yogurt and whisked until it was thoroughly mixed with the warm milk.  Then I filled two jelly jars, one for starter for next time, and one to use to make cheese. I used plain golden metallic Kerr lids for those two jars so I'd recognize that they were the plain ones, although if you opened a jar and didn't smell vanilla, you'd also know it was plain.

To the remainder of the milk & yogurt mixture, I added about a tablespoon of pure vanilla extract and seven packages of Stevia.  If you don't mind metabolizing sugar, you could add sugar instead.
I put about an inch of hot tap water (about 120 degrees) in the bottom of the playmate.
I filled the other seven jars, put the lids and rings on, and sat them in the bottom of the playmate. I added enough more hot water that it came up to just below the rings on the jars.
Then I closed the Playmate and set the timer for three hours.
 I was busy piecing a quilt, so I think it was about 3.5 hours before I realized the timer had gone off. The water in the cooler was still quite warm; I'd expected it to lose more heat in that time.
I set the beautiful finished jars of yogurt in the refrigerator and went back to piecing.
For dessert last night, I poured a yogurt over blueberries that were pretty tart, so I added another little packet of Stevia.  For breakfast I poured it over some strawberries and added a little blue agave syrup, which metabolizes more slowly than sugar. My lunch today included yogurt over fresh-sliced figs.

It's really hard to describe how creamy this yogurt is, despite the fact that I used 2% fat milk.
I can save one of the plain jars of yogurt for starter next time or (since I still have the rest of the Brown Cow plain yogurt that I can use for a starter), I can use both plain ones to make "cream cheese" by pouring the yogurt into a piece of cheesecloth, tying the top shut, and tying it to a wooden spoon balanced on top of a large mixing bowl and letting it drain.  It will taste every bit as good as cream cheese on our bagels but with much less fat.

If it's not too late in the canning season to find more jars, I'm going to look for slightly larger ones so that when I'm ready to eat my lunch, I can just add the fruit to the jar of yogurt.  Of course, at home I love to put the fruit in a pretty dish and dump the yogurt on top.

Without a cooler, I think the jars could be set into a warm water bath in a large crock pot set to "warm", but I think it would probably take two large crock pots for this amount.

This is soooooo much simpler than the yogurt makers I used a couple of decades ago where the yogurt had to be warm for 12 hours or so.
Ahhhhhh, the heavenly flavor and joy of eating........

Monday, August 23, 2010

They followed me home...really

Actually three followed me home--quite literally.
This is a Jones Hand Machine--the label says so.  I think now it's more commonly just called a Jones Hand Crank.
The last owner's dad picked it up in London at the end of WWII, took it to South Carolina, didn't use it, and let it sit on a shelf for at least 40 years.

So far the only thing I've used on this machine is sewing machine oil, cotton tips, and some tiny squares cotton batting scraps.
When a machine is this old and has received only minimal care, it's really hard to guess what may have happened to it.  There's a yellowish powdery looking substance several places, especially on the hand wheel.  With a lot of patience, cotton tips, and sewing oil, the substance does come off.
I can't help wondering what its WWI and WWII adventures were like.
The decals all over the machine are extremely fragile--undoubtedly too fragile to save--and that's sad.
The needle in the machine is broken, has a completely round shank, and I'm not sure what currently available needle would replace it.
That bright and shining gold circle is the back of the badge as seen from underneath the machine.

Yes, there will be a learning curve with this machine--and it starts long before it will be ready for sewing.

It does amaze me that a piece of fascinating Victorian mechanical ingenuity can sit around for a century or so and still work.  All the gears operate pretty smoothly--they'll do even better after they get used to being oiled.

I have not figured out how to get the shuttle and bobbin out yet.

Lots to learn--and eager to learn it.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

School Fund Raising

There would be a big picture of cookies right here if I'd ever thought to take one when I bake.

Today the principal at my school insisted that I attend the kick off promotion for our school's cookie dough fundraiser.

I understand budgets are tight.  I understand schools need to fund raise. However, I don't understand why fund raising by schools, institutions that hold responsibility for reflecting the highest moral standards while developing the skills of tomorrow's citizens, should model that it's just fine to throw those values out the window when it comes to raising money.

I'm thinking there are a lot of parents who love their kids who need to attend these kick off promotions. Hours later I'm still appalled at the absolute immorality and overt emotional manipulation of that presentation!  I've tried to avoid the presentation in past years because the salesman comes in and gets the kids so over excited that very little learning can take place for the rest of the day.  Apparently this particular salesman thinks that by offering every teacher a cookie on the way in, their brains will become so clouded by the kind gesture--or the sugar in the cookies--that they'll fail to recognize how manipulative the presentation is.  I arrived late since I didn't go until I received a call from the office telling me the principal wanted me to be there--still was offered a cookie.
The salesman comes in with a fancy multimedia presentation that contains all the elements of the sleaziest strategies devised by our nation's advertisers.  I missed the beginning of the presentation.  What I did see on screen were beautiful teenage girls in clothes that I wouldn't let my daughter wear and whose brains obviously had  been affected by too much sugar--just suggestive enough to excite most 5th or 6th grade males (and any younger ones who've been sexually compromised) and  girls of any age who long to be cool teenagers. I should have counted how many less than honorable marketing strategies were used, but I was so shocked I didn't think to count them.  At one point the salesman informed the students that if they wanted to be leaders, this was their chance and implied that if they didn't sell a lot of cookie dough, they weren't going to be leaders. Of course, sales of cookie dough qualify students for all kinds of purportedly wonderful "prizes"--merchandise that rewards sales of hundreds of dollars of cookie dough with perhaps a total of $10 in inferior quality goods.

The most amazing prize?  An "excuse machine"  with message options such as a ringing telephone, static, an adult's voice, etc. so that when kids can't get off the phone they can push a button, play a message and say, "I gotta go.  I'll call you later." Hmmm...what became of the old strategy--teaching kids to have enough backbone to say, "I'm sorry, but I need to go now" and ending the conversation?

No one is told how much profit the school earns on the cookies (or how much profit the salesman earns) on every bucket of cookie dough.  Personally, I always ask students selling for fundraisers how much profit they earn and what the funds will be used for--and then I usually write the school a donation check for a reasonable amount.  I don't need any inferior or over-priced merchandise, but I do understand the need to raise funds.

As a Christian (and this would be true even if I weren't one), I can't avoid wondering where the moral line is.  I now know that I work with "educational leaders" who think the end justifies the means and who think it's fine to require students to attend presentations that could not meet the criteria taught in  any respectable media literacy program for recognizing and avoiding misleading and untruthful advertising.

I'm urging parents to find out when those fund raising promotion presentations will be made to their sons and daughters, to attend them, and to voice their concerns about them.

Very scary....

Monday, August 16, 2010

Is Quilting Your Favorite Part of Quiltmaking?

Quilting is my favorite part of quiltmaking.  Of course,  I've learned that I have to machine quilt (after decades of hand quilting) because the years fly by and I have a lot more quilts in my dreams than in my home or picture albums.

Christina over at A Few Scraps is having a quilt along that focuses on the quilting and a give away to go along with it.  I don't often post about such things, but I know a lot of people with vintage and antique machines who'd like to stretch their wings--this is a great opportunity.  Check out Christina's Post and decide if this is for you!  Then we can all quilt along, accent on "quilt", together.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Another Treadling Quilter...

A quick post:
Please visit Treadleworks By Tammy to meet someone who has rediscovered using a treadle sewing machine.
The Singer 66 Redhead pictured here is mine (and some blocks I was setting together).
Tammy's photos of her 66 are on her blog.


Monday, August 9, 2010

I Love Vintage Sewing Machines

Love antique ones too--but I don't own any of those, and so far, I'm quite happy with my vintage machines.
This is the machine I'm now using for most of my quilting...
It's from 1935 and has a very pretty faceplate.  I chose it because class 15 machines have high capacity vertical bobbins.  Many people just set the stitch length to zero and attach a darning foot or a spiral wire when they quilt.  I don't like the drag that feed dogs create on a quilt, even when the stitch length is set at zero, so I was very grateful when  Dolly over at Dolly's Home decided she'd figure out a way to get the feed-dog-lowering mechanism to work and encouraged me to do the same.

I know some people with both vintage and quite modern machines use both for different purposes. We have a fairly new, fairly small list where those of us with vintage machines that we actually use are sharing our experiences.  It's called Vintage Machine Q & E [Quilting and Embroidery] and

If you and/or a friend would like to subscribe to this group:
1. visit
2. send email to

Okay, back to the reorganization of my sewing studio.....
Happy quiltmaking....

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Do Your Quilts Whisper Their Names?

This quilt, made by my friend Judy Robinson, quilted by me on my Singer 15-88 treadle, told me her name is Cherry Vanilla Parfait.  She whispered that to me while I was quilting her.
I used some of my favorite quilting threads, Fil-Tec Glide in a soft rose and a silvery white.
Judy says she was amazed that this quilt turned out to be so serene, since the pinks are really warm.
I think it owes it's serenity to the fact that there are more vanilla blocks than cherry blocks.

I thought this pattern was one of Judy's creations, but she says it's by another designer.  I'd love to give the designer credit, if I knew who she was.  If you know, please let me know.
Tonight I'll take the quilt to Judy so she can bind it and attach a label from our Victory Quilt Ministry.

When do you know what your quilts will be named?  Judy says that, more often than not, she doesn't have a name for hers until they're completed and she's photographing them.  I tend to refer to my quilts as something generic, such "the blue and yellow rose quilt", until I'm quilting them.  That's when I hear their real name! Therefore, I've been listening for the names of Judy's quilts while I've been quilting them too; I can't bear for her beautiful quilts to have generic names; besides, when they are completed, I list them on my blog.

I now have at least a temporary/transient place to photograph my quilts.
Thanks to decades of hand quilting, I have various sizes of bars with fabric headers already attached.  I pinned this (and the last several) quilts to the bar and used a couple of pieces of cord to hang it from the light clips on one of my eaves.  The trick to this is getting it even and snapping a picture when there is no breeze.  I love this location because it has north light that makes the quilting more visible.

Happy quilting......

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Damask & Hardware

Blue damask tablecloth and matching napkins.  They'll go into separate projects.  Tablecloth has a hole patched with blue silk ribbon--not very well done, so it may receive an applique with nearly matching hand dyed fabric.

Other stuff is from Harbor Freight.
I have loved hardware stores and lumber yards since I was three years old.
The background story:
I was three, standing at my mom's side in our farm kitchen when my dad came in and asked me if I wanted to go to Gridley with him to get Bob Whar.  As usually happened when he went anywhere, he got involved in some long winded conversations, and I wandered around the hardware part of the store looking at bolts, nails, screws, and finding myself being tutored by a couple of their salesmen, learning such things as the differences between two-penny and five-penny nails.  I had a great time, and forgot all about our purpose there.
On the way home I realized we were missing someone and asked, "Where's Bob Whar?"
Dad replied, "In the back of the truck."
I peered out the back window of our 1948 green Studebaker pickup truck, but all I saw back there were some boxes.  Although I don't remember our exact conversation, it took a minute or so before I understood our errand had been to purchase some barbed wire!
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