We opened our second homemade farmhouse cheddar cheese today and had a taste test. I prefer it over the first one. It is milder and tastes more like cheddar, though it is not as creamy. It is still drier and more crumbly then storebought cheddar. Again, there was some undesireable mold underneath the wax.
I don’t mean to sound self centric, but stuff happens to me that doesn’t happen to other people. If you are a member of my family, you’ll know exactly what I mean, because strange things happen to you too. It took me a while to understand that our stories aren’t typical. A friend of mine has taken to calling me B-Dub for Bizarro World because of the strange happenings in my young life. I would relay my stories to him with a sense of innocence, like “This is what I did last weekend, I went in the bathroom only to discover a copperhead wrapped around the showerhead” and he was astounded at the multitude of strange events in my life.
With that said, I have a number of stories that say a lot about who I am. I could blog about being kidnapped at 15 and how I made a daring escape or about the dead body found on my driveway three days after the kidnap incident. I could blog about harboring runaways in my basement or about my relationship that ended when my boyfriend skipped town with my car and the contents of my bank account. Those stories all have shaped my character, but I think any one of those would be too much self disclosure for this setting. With that in mind I’d like to relay the lighthearted tale of a simple grocery shopping expedition gone wrong.
I went to the grocery store with some friends to pick up a few items, and on my way in I perused the fruit and absentminded partook of the juicy free samples of pineapple they always have. I started to make my way up stairs with a friend to look for toothpaste, as this was a two story emporium of an urban grocery store. On the stairs, a security guard ran up to me, I think he was Ethiopian. Out of breath he said, “Miss, I saw you, you TOOK something!” Imagine how confused I was about being accused of shoplifting. He obviously thought I should have my hands cut off for my offense. I was aghast and denied that I had done any such thing. Still he continued to repeat, “I saw you do it, you took something and put it in your mouth!” Finally it occurred to me I had picked up a free sample. I told him, I had a free sample. He looked confused and said “No you TOOK it”. Really miffed at this point, I said “Allow me to show you, Sir” and took him to where it read in capital letters “PLEASE TRY A PIECE OF PINEAPPLE”. He said, “Oh” and disappeared out the door without apologizing for almost getting me arrested for taking a free sample. That was when I realized he didn't even work there. So that’s just a typical trip to the grocery store. My point is, whatever happens to me, at least my life is never boring.
At 2 am so AM two nights ago I realized that our furnace wasn't working. I had just finished getting Sam back to sleep and heard it cycling on and off every few seconds. This happened to us once when we first purchased our house, and a neighbor helped us replace the thermostat which fixed it right away. My first thought the other night was, therefore, where would I buy a thermostat at that time of night? It was 2 degrees outside and there was no way that I wanted to wake up Sofi and Sam to move them to a warmer place if it started to get cold. Being from our do-it-yourself family, I decided that the best approach would be to start Googling the problem to see if I could figure out a middle of the night work-around. Matt came upstairs in the middle of this process to start trying to figure out what to do and said, "can't we just call someone?" This had never even remotely crossed my mind. We did, and they were at our door within the hour to start the day long process of furnace rehab that followed (and it's a good thing that there were professionals involved, it was more than a thermostat). As I was awake for those hours in the middle of the night- the first in years without a child somehow harassing me- I started a long thought process about self sufficiency, a specialized economy, habitable climates, and where everyday life has to intersect with the big picture (not to mention the peak oil sorts of things that are always flying around). In the end, I've been too tired to sort it out very clearly; tonight as I hear the rumbling of our central heat doing what it should I sure am glad today that we have furnace repair specialists here. On a side-note, I got a google ad from the Longmont Dairy- my longtime local milk delivery- the other day on this blog that made me really happy. (It was even right after we had completed our first completely successful local cheese project)
Just yesterday I heard two of my relatives (different sides of the family) say that they are embarking on an austerity program. Ironically, one described "austerity" as "living within our means". I've actually been into that for a long time. I think some of the best ways to save money are: Food: Buy in bulk food that is as close to its natural form as possible. The ethnic markets often have cheap prices. Eliminating junk food saves money. Have a garden to grow some food too. If you have a surplus of something don't let it go to waste - preserve it for later. Wine is easy and cheap to make with this Mother Earth News recipe . Experiment with acorn recipes (and let me know if you come up with anything good!). Read the "not milk" website if you want some incentive to eliminate dairy. Clothing: Shop at the thrift store. The selection is more seasonable and you can see right away how the garmet holds up. Little church thrift stores are usually the cheapest. Shelter: Do it yourself buildings, outbuildings and home improvements. There is a thrift store for building supplies called Community Forklift in Hyattsville. Other: Look for bargains on Craigs list or try to make it. With a sewing machine you can make other things besides clothes like curtains, slipcovers, purses, etc. Health: A heathly lifestyle is so important and much less costly than chronic disease. Force yourself to get some aerobic exercise and some strength training exercise each week.Yoga is great for reducing stress and maintaining flexibility. Use herbs to help with common ailments. Elderberries (which can be saved and dried) are anti viral. Aloe is good for burns. For a sore throat: gargle with saltwater, eat large doses of Vitamin C and do the Lion yoga pose. The best defense against infection is a colloidal silver generator that you can make very simply with four 9 volt batteries and some 99.9 pure silver wire. Entertainment: The public library--you are already paying for it with your taxes. That also applies to diversions like hiking in a park. Pot luck parties don't cost any more than staying home. With some hobbies, like art, you have a chance of selling the end product to fund more of the hobby. How did we get to this point where everyone is thinking about austerity? In case anyone wants to know there is an interesting article on Six Errors on the Path to the Financial Crisis here. That article doesn't go into how everyone in the world got seduced into wild overspending, however. (This includes me because I am still paying down a large home equity loan that I took out!) That phenomena seems to be described by Nietzsche: "Insanity in individuals is something rare - but in groups, parties, nations and epochs, it is the rule." Any more austerity tips out there?
As a worker in the executive branch it is an incredible relief to no longer be part of the Bush administration. Above is my picture from inauguration...a spot so good that, with binoculars, I could actually see Obama give the inaugural address. I am really hoping we are not going to just nibble 'change' around the edges when real change seems to be what we need.
By luck, I have scored tickets to the Obama inaugration!!! I was planning on showing up anyway, but as one of the unwashed masses. Now I just have to worry about how to keep warm and, since you have to show up so early, how to pack the right all day supplies in the limited size purse (8 x 6 x 4) that they are allowing.
Today was Sofi's 4th birthday party at the Butterfly Pavilion (a nature center sort of place between our house and Denver). It was a smallish party, which I have been learning is the best policy. For several years now, Sofi has admired the Disney princess cake at the non-Wholefoods type store close to our house. This year she decided it was what she for sure wanted. I was tempted to give in; we just got back from our trip, I scheduled the party at the Butterfly Pavilion to minimize the effort required, and we already had one healthfood store pink cake a week ago on her real birthday. In the end, I decided it was important enough that the cake be made out of good ingredients, so I made a 90%+ organic pink princess cake (I decided to go with the candy letters at the grocery store, because I let Sofi pick out all of the toppings that would make it a real princess cake). I also made some cupcakes- I have learned the birthday party trick that it is much easier to get the kids cake fast enough if there are cupcakes- they got to be a princess army around the cake. I drew my inspiration from the cake that Annie made for my mom's wedding. I was proud enough of the effort that I thought it deserved a blog post. In the end, Sofi seemed to be happy that her cake was even more covered with princesses than the one at King Soopers. Also, it was really pink.
A month ago, Guy and I made out first hard cheese, Farmhouse Cheddar. It needed to age for a month, and we opened it this morning, 2 days early. Our cheese did have some mold on it, under the wax, but the insides of the cheese were fine. The mold is probably caused by too much humidity in the cheese room (our refrigerator). We cut it off and ate it anyway. It is very sharp cheese, a bit crumbly, and in flavor it resembles feta as much as cheddar.
For many of us, New Year's Eve means the same procedure as every year: a fondue party at Paul's house. This year the power was out but with the help of a generator things moved along nicely. Since my movie making career is just starting, please excuse the watermark left by the compression software. I need to pay money to get that to go away. Happy New Year and thank you Paul!!!!
Hallie wants recipes so I thought I'd share my ultimate comfort food meal: bisticks and gravy. I learned this recipe from Bernadette's cook boyfriend, Jimmy. Ingredients: Heart smart bisquick mix Flax meal Stick of butter Gimme lean vegetarian sausitch flour milk salt & pepper
Bisticks: Preheat oven to 450. Mix together bisquick, a bit of flax meal, and milk in proportion so it's smooth and sticky. Drop healthy spoonfuls of batter on to pan and bake at 450 for 9 minutes.
Gravy: Melt a slice of butter in a skillet and add bits of sausitch so it is broken into little chunks. Grill until they begin to brown. Add the rest of the butter and melt. Slowly sprinkle in flour and a bit of milk to the skillet and beat with fork. The flour will not thicken until there is milk and it's boiling temp. Continue to add more milk and flour and stir until you've got a creamy thick gravy. Stir in a bit of salt and LOTS of black pepper.
How funny that Emily has blenders on the mind as I logged in to do a write up on them. Bicycle powered blenders sound awesome but if you can't fit one in your kitchen I have a suggestion for you.
Last night I made potato leek soup and to get it creamy I ladled about half of it into the food processor to puree it before rejoining it back to the pot. This makes a nice soup that is creamy without the necessity for any cream. Food processing hot soup on the other hand can get very messy. It is not exactly the right tool for the job. We went to Wal-Mart last night (shame) to get candy for the movie Valkyrie (so dull) and while Brian picked up some shells for shooting trap I picked up an Oster hand blender and chopper for $24 (it's $42 on amazon so it's economically difficult to boycott wal-mart).
Lona is a big fan of the immersion blender for smoothies so I knew it was just what I needed for tidy soup blending. They create this odd suction towards the blade which is at the bottom so nothing splatters. I am not sure how the chopper attachment works but it it does look exciting!
Since my resolution is to cook more/eat out less I intend to start giving my appliances more use. Some other appliances which are very clever and convenient are my kitchenaid mixer which is wonderful for kneading dough (I have a hard time kneading by hand because the counters are too tall and I have a ganglia in my wrist).
I received Kohls giftcards from Brian's Grandmom and Aunt so I got a large pot that came with two different sized strainers that can sit inside to make pasta and steam veggies without needing to pour out boiling water. It's pretty neat but I need to perfect the amount of water I add so as not to make a mess.
Guy also got a pressure cooker and canner recently so I'd be curious to hear if it is transforming his cooking.
Greetings! We are still in Hawaii, which seems like it would be a locavore's dream, since almost everything could actually be grown here (we have all been enjoying bananas guilt free!). We took a (free- we were the only ones who wanted a tour and the owner suggested maybe we could buy some fruit in exchange for the tour) tour of a beautiful biodynamic, organic farm here the other day and got a few free purple sweet potatoes which were the best root vegetable that I've ever tasted! Here is a link to a story about them Laulima Farms. We even got to use the advertised bicycle powered blender to mix our smoothie. I think that it would be really far away from everything to live here, otherwise it would be a great idea.
On an side note, my friend Laura sent me a link to this blog which seems (I only read a few posts) to be relevant to the topic of this blog:Homegrown Evolution