Thursday, October 15, 2009

Apple Picking!

Yesterday, we had fun driving to an apple farm and picking some apples as well as a pumpkin for Halloween. The farm had 30 rows of trees and about 15 different varieties to try. There were some emptied trees, but, to our delight, we were able to sample most of the apple types before deciding on the 3 we wanted.

Princess M liked the Rome Beauty and we liked the Fuji and Golden Delicious apples.
They had a tractor pulling a trailer with some bales of hay on it that we rode a few times for M. It only circled the orchard, but was fun nevertheless. We decided we'd finally use a gift card for dinner at Macaroni Grill. On the way there, M kept asking how much further it was til we got to Macroni Girl... which kept JoDee and I in hysterics.

Sunday, October 11, 2009


I've recently discovered the beauty in a little milk gone sour. Growing up, we had a lot of milk go sour from thoughtless kids leaving the jug out all night long, and as far as I remember, we always just threw it out. Well, later in life, I learned that real buttermilk is milk gone sour, but it wasn't until recently that I started investigating this prospect of actually using spoiled milk. (I absolutely abhor to waste food. We actually eat all our leftovers in this house: usually.)

Well, not too long ago we had a little milk go sour and I decided to use it. I googled all kinds of sour milk recipes and we had some really yummy pancakes. And in the process, I found many articles on the "safety" of using soured milk. I was very surprised to learn that sour milk is tons safer to consume that fresh milk right from the cow. Apparently, there are 2 ways to remove bacteria from raw milk. One is to pasteurize, and the other is to let the milk sour. It seems the acidic environment created by the souring process kills all of the bad bacteria. So with this mental block out of the way I was determined never to throw out milk ever again; and in fact, I get a little excited now when some milk starts to sour.

Then last week, we got behind on drinking and I had an entire gallon go sour. we used a cup on a cake recipe, but there was so much yet to use (and if you wait too long, the flavor is not as good.) I decided to try my hand at cheese. I had a recipe for cottage cheese, and did some more googling on cheese making, and decided to make my first cheese a hard cheese rather than a cottage cheese.

Unfortunately, I didn't think to take pictures of the process, but it was relatively easy. You take milk that has gotten to the "chunky" stage, heat it in a double broiler until the curds separate from the whey (remember Miss Muffit?), cool a little, add salt, and then pour through a cheese cloth to remove all the curds from the whey. Depending on how much whey you drain out, your cheese will be soft curds for cottage or ricotta cheese, or harder like mozzarella. I hung my cloth to dry for a few hours and pressed it overnight, and in the end, I got this from a little less than a gallon of milk.

There was also over a half gallon of whey left over from this process. Most of the recipes I saw said to just throw it out or feed it to the chickens; but I was determined to find a use for it. It's a shame to throw it out because it's just loaded with proteins and other great stuff from the milk. After a little more research on the internet I found some great ideas. You can use it to boil noodles or potatoes in, or even better, use instead of water in making soup or instant potatoes or gravy. I'm very excited about this not wasting thing!

Tonight, I made my first dish with our homemade cheese. I made Italian for dinner, so I chopped up some cheese, cherry tomatoes, and sprinkled with basil and balsamic vinegar (a caprise appetizer we had at Macaroni Grill once and just loved: only they used mozzarella.)

The homemade cheese is blander than mozzarella, but it worked very well in this dish. We all enjoyed it, even my girls. I understand it's also very good in any dish you might put tofu in, because it soaks up all the flavors of whatever it's in. I want to try a Thai stir fry next.

Next batch I'll add a bit more salt to cut the bland and I want to try adding some flavors to the curds before draining the whey. Maybe peppers for a pepperjack experience, or just garlic and herbs. Mmmm. I can't wait for another gallon to go "bad."

Sunday, October 4, 2009

August Pics

These pictures make me want to cry. M has not had the best luck with friends amoung our neighbors. There's a whole group of girls on our street, but they're all 8-10 years old. No one her age, and definitely no girls for her to play with. Until this month she didn't know the difference; she was just content to play with Mom & Dad. Enter Little Miss W:

W is a chatterbox 10 year old who runs with the older girl crowd on the street. She has "saved" M several times by bringing her home when she wandered off to play while I was working in the front garden. (M was fine, but it was dramatic for W to "save" her) One day, W's friends weren't around, so she spent the whole morning playing with M. M was so thrilled, and kept telling me all about her "friend." When W had to go home, she promised M to come play again in 2 days. M waited on pins and needles for the blessed day. But with her friends back, W didn't want anything to do with a little 3 year old anymore. (You can't blame her really.) But W never came, and M would continually want to go out front to go find her "friend." When we would run into W on the street she would quickly give us some reason why she couldn't play and run off to her friends.

M was convinced W was still her friend, and kept wanting to go find her at her house. Alex and I tried to tell her that W did not want to be her friend or play with her because she was so much older, but she just didn't understand. Finally one day we were out front and M saw W playing down the street. She excitedly ran to her to ask her to play and was broken hearted when W told her she didn't want to play with her & to go home. It hurt me to see her so sad, but what can you do?

Now to explain these pictures:

M was playing in the backyard, just screaming/squealing for fun when suddenly some girls on the other side of this fence started squeeling back. They had a blast echoing each other for a while, and M ran to tell me about the new friends she had made on the other side of the fence. If she peeked through the slats, she could even see them jumping on their trampoline. I asked her if they were big girls like W or little like herself and she was sure they were little. So, at the prospect of a girl her age nearby, we walked around the block to meet her new "friends"

Turns out the "little" girls were actually 8 and 10 years old, and were not thrilled to see a 3 year old that they were forced to be nice to in their yard. I quickly made our excuses (it was bedtime for M anyway) and had to practically carry her kicking and screaming from their house.

For days M would beg me to go play at her "friend"'s house, and I had to insist that we would not be going until we got an invitation from them. (which I knew would never happen, but I couldn't brake her heart again.) So for days, M would peek through the fence waiting for the girls to play in their yard. If she found them there, she would try to play her scream/squeal echo game again. But the girls would never squeal back.

This day, Alex found M in the backyard, just forlornly staring through the fence at her "friends" and squealing, to no reply.

Another day he found her with a kitchen knife in the corner trying to cut through the slats to get to their yard. (picture pending). Oh what I'd give to find a little girl her age on the street for her to play with. :(

July Pics

Princess M LOVES Movies! She went through a phase where she wanted to act out everything she saw on the tv for a while. I knew what movie she had seen by what stunts she wanted to pull afterwards. Several I had to nip in the bud and then endure all the why's afterwards. This one I didn't catch until it was too late.

Anyone want to guess what movie she had just watched before taking the red marker to her sister's face?

If you haven't seen "Nanny McPhee", it really is a fun film (and who doesn't love Collin Firth?) Just be sure to hide the markers afterwards.

M discovered the joy of waterslides this summer.

She's quite the bullet. Fastest kid on the slides.

This one was bitter cold, but she still loved it!

We attended our family reunion this month too. Unfortuneately I didn't get any pictures on my camera. I'll have to get copies of those my sister-in-laws took.

June Pics

I kept thinking I'd make the time to get all caught up with blogging; but I realize I haven't blogged anything since the beginning of June and it's now October. So, I'm just going to do one blog entry for each month and post the pictures we have.

Here's June:

Besides the Renaissance Festival, several other fun things happened that month.

Princess A's 8 month photo.

Does this look familiar?

On really good nights, sometimes Princess M gets to watch a movie in bed, downloaded from netflix. She really loves this treat.

Princess M put the sour cream on her quesadilla all by herself. ;)

My roses were gorgeous this year!

Baby A got her first swim suit which matched Princess M's. M was thrilled!

I love the crisscross.

Isn't she cute?

This is an interesting story. You can't see it very well in the picture, but if you look really close at her eyes...

even closer....You may notice a shine. She found my Victoria Secret lip gloss; which happens to be incredibly sticky stuff that does NOT come off, and smeared it all over her eyes. She wanted to put some make up on.

Upon examining the ingredients, there were several chemicals that we did not even recognize so we got a little worried. I looked everywhere for the number for poison control. Did you know it's not in the phone book? At a loss for what to do, I called 911 to see if they could give me the number for poison control. She wouldn't even talk to me until I gave her my address. I did, and then explained what happened, that it's not really an emergency and I just need them to connect me to poison control. She can't do that, and she can't even give me the number. But she wanted to send out an EMT team to look at her eyes. I protested that it wasn't necessary and it would be a real waste of everyone's time & money. She pretty much strong armed me over the phone to let them come, insisting that they wouldn't mind, and it would be no cost to us.

So that night we had a visit from the fire truck and not just 1 or 2, but 4 firemen who all rushed in and started peppering M with questions. She was so overwhelmed that I think that alone was enough incentive never to play in my makeup again. Upon looking at the ingredients in the lip gloss, they promptly called poison control. And yes, I got the number from them for future reference. There ended up not being any harm done, but it was quite the bedtime drama.

Princess M learned how to roller skate.

That water was Ice cold! But they still had a blast.

Baby A's 9 month pics

My gorgeous girls!!!