Yogurt

It recently came to my attention that there are yogurts with >4% milk fat. I think 4% is pretty generally considered to be “whole milk” yogurt, and of course whole milk yogurt is 100x better than low- or non-fat yogurt — so how awesome must this fabled 8-10% yogurt be? In our small town, it’s really lucky to find 4% yogurt, never mind stuff that’s also gelatin-free AND in a flavor you actually want to eat (I’m looking at you, coffee-flavored Greek yogurt). AND organic? Keep dreaming!

So I pulled out my two 1970s Salton yogurt makers and got to work. I used five cups of whole milk and two cups of whipping cream, and I’m not certain I’m doing the math right, but I think that works out to ~12% milk fat. Yes, please! Making yogurt is a bit of a process, but not that complicated — you have to heat the milk up to 190˚F to re-pasteurize it, then cool it back down to 110˚F, stir in the starter culture (I always just use a small container of plain yogurt from the store, or ~6oz from a previous batch of homemade), then put it in the yogurt maker for 6-8hrs.

M “helped” me make this batch (i.e., she stirred the milk on the stove until she realized it wasn’t going to turn into yogurt RIGHT NOW), and she really likes “the yogurt WE made”. It’s delicious. I stir in a spoonful of strawberry jam, so it’s creamy and just sweet enough. When we tried the first cup, M declared it “really good” (after every bite), and F actually started crying when it was gone. Kid and baby approved!

Pre-Spring Thaw

How lovely to get a mid-February reprieve, in the form of a few warm days. M is sick, but not so sick that she didn’t want to play outside in the nice weather! We went for a walk down our big path — as far as we could before the snow stopped me from pushing the stroller. What a sky today!

The springy weather (which is a lie — spring is still a long time away for us Minnesotans) got me thinking about our next crop of chicks, so I ordered them today. They won’t arrive for about another month. We’re getting Easter Eggers this time. They lay blue/green eggs, and even more exciting to me is that they come in quite a variety of colors themselves. I hope we get a few different colors to spice up the flock!

I’m thinking of using that middle evergreen in the photo above for our Christmas tree this year. What do you think? I feel like they’re planted too closely together for all three to stay healthy as they grow. Any tree-sages have an opinion on that? My first choice would be to just leave them alone, but if culling the middle one would be better for the other two, then Christmas tree it is! We’ve got the same issue elsewhere (we weren’t the ones who planted these trees), so we could be set for a few Christmases.

I paid our shack a visit, too. I really want it to be salvageable, but I don’t think it is. It was moved to its current location and is sitting on two 12×12 beams — and is majorly sagging in the middle. The previous owners used it as a little barn, and it’s been home to pigeons since then. Trust me, it looks far less ramshackle/deadly in the photo than it is in real life. There’s a lot of lumber in there that probably IS salvageable, but the labor would be intense (or expensive). If only they’d put it on a proper foundation… then it could have been stripped down and rebuilt. I’ll just have to keep thinking about this one!

Clever Clogs

Three years old is a pretty challenging age, I’m finding, but it’s also very cool to see M picking up new skills and concepts so quickly. And often, it seems, out of nowhere. Oh, now you recognize all the numerals? Okay!

When we started home preschool in the fall, M really wasn’t ready for or interested in a lot of traditional materials and lessons. So I stopped pressing, and she’s wound up learning most of that stuff in her own organic M-way instead. Every now and then (quite rarely, as it’s a skill she’s not keen on practicing), I ask her to try writing her name, and she surprised me the other day by being able to write all five letters! We were both so proud.

I still don’t know what “school” will be for the girls as they grow older. I’m not willing to commit to anything on their behalf! I do know that I have concerns about our local public school system (though the individual staff members I know are all completely lovely people). At the end of 2016, I remembered that I had signed up for Heather‘s Home Grown Education webinar thingy and listened to all of her and Ben’s episodes about their homeschooling experiences. I was surprised to find myself thinking that maybe homeschool for us would look a lot like unschooling — or at least like something in the middle. It’s hard to say when my oldest is only three! But the best thing about her “education” so far has been following her interests and seeing how easy the path is when we go that way.

I think I’ve mentioned her favorite bee book, which I would have said was quite above her level. But it’s one of her favorite books, and she’s retained a lot of the information — knows about field bees vs house bees and the egg-larva-pupa-adult cycle and how honey is made. A lot more than I knew about bees as a kid (or even a month ago!). So it’s fun to see how much she can learn when it’s entirely self motivated. What a privilege it would be to be able to foster and support that kind of education!

Valentine’s Craft

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We got a start on our Valentine’s projects right after breakfast today. Shaving cream marbling! You just make a layer of shaving cream, drip food coloring on, and spread it around. Then press your paper (we used card stock) down evenly, lift it up, and squeegee the shaving cream off. It’s like magic! The pieces where M just randomly stirred the dye in look much cooler than when we tried to make neat lines.

I think we’ll cut hearts out of our marbled paper and make some belated valentines. M was keeping a running list of who she wanted to mail them to while we were working!

Afterward, we just played with shaving cream on the table. The best part of being in elementary school was using shaving cream to clean the desks, no? I even let F try it out, though of course she wanted to taste it. She was pretty good, though — she loved the way it felt!

Kid Food

M finishing up two of her favorite foods: tofu and sweet potatoes. I want to say I was out of college before I’d even tried either of them. I can’t remember with tofu (I wasn’t a very “good” vegetarian in college, in terms of eating a complete and varied diet), and I certainly would have had access to sweet potatoes at holidays, but I was a pretty picky eater. So it’s funny to me that M loves them so much at age three. I’ve come to the conclusion, based on my own two girls and what friends have told me about their babies, that all kids like tofu. Mine would eat it every day! Tempeh, too, although that’s harder to find around here.

So I wonder what M will try for the first time in her twenties. Maybe a hamburger*, I guess!

*I don’t know many adults who were raised vegetarian, but I think all of the ones I’ve met have actually become vegan once they were grown. So maybe M will go all-lentil and wonder why I fed her so much cheese as a child.

2017 Books, Part One

Part of my plan to reduce screen time is books, books, books! It’s easier to check Facebook than get lost in a book when there are little kids hanging off you, but (especially thanks to some “fluff” books) I’m managing it. Here are my quick thoughts on the books I’ve read so far this year:

Choose Your Own Autobiography by Neil Patrick Harris — Who doesn’t adore NPH? I didn’t love the choose-your-own-adventure format (I felt like I was missing big chunks of the story), but it’s very funny and well-written.

The Year of Living Danishly by Helen Russell — I’m interested in this happy-Scandinavian thing, and this was a thorough look at life in a quite-differently-run country. I thought Russell did a good job looking at both sides of Danish culture (the good and the bad), and the book definitely made me wish certain things were different in the US! (Not that I need much help with that.)

Other Minds by Peter Godfrey-Smith — Rob sent me this one; everybody needs to know more about octopuses, no? This was more of an after-the-kids-are-in-bed book, so I could focus on the ideas better. Lots of trying to puzzle out evolution and consciousness and other cephalopod-y goodness. Bonus: When I said “cuttlefish”, M thought I was saying “cuddlefish”, so now she calls them “snugglefish”.

The Power of Off by Nancy Colier — I’ve already mentioned how important I feel this book is. If you struggle at all with over-use of devices / the internet, give this a read. Our culture has given technology addiction a pass, saying, well, that’s just how modern life is, but I don’t think that’s entirely okay.

The Cozy Life by Pie Edberg — A sweet little book about hygge. I enjoyed the first part of the book — the discussion of hygge and related culture. I especially enjoyed the interview with the author’s father (who grew up in Denmark). The second half of the book wasn’t really for me, as I’m not looking to redecorate my home, and children make a lot of her suggestions a little far-fetched.

Somebody to Love by Matt Richards and Mark Langthorne — A wealth of Freddie Mercury information, somewhat poorly executed. The writing itself is perfectly fine, on a sentence-by-sentence level, but I nearly stopped reading halfway through because the structure was so annoying. It needed a heavier hand with the editing, to make sure events were related chronologically instead of pulling the reading backward and forward with almost every paragraph. It evened out toward the end, so I’m sure the problem was just that there was SO much information there; it didn’t get entirely straightened out into a perfect narrative.

The Magnolia Story by Chip and Joanna Gaines — If you’ve got eyes, a heart, and HGTV, I think you are required to love Fixer Upper. A total fluff book, but very sweet, and it’s an interesting peek into both house flipping and how some of these TV shows come to be.

Lately

— I’m going through the 30-day device detox from The Power of Off, and apparently that means all my extra time is being directed toward the kitchen. I saved up enough eggs (we’re currently getting 1-2 a day, and I like to keep an “egg buffer”, so we never run out) to make pasta on Sunday. M was in charge of putting the dough into the extruder — you have to feed it little pieces every so often. I did the cutting and laying out to dry. I used most of the macaroni noodles to make a big batch of mac ‘n’ cheese (this basic recipe never fails), and the girls and I ate it up in two days. The baby can really put away some noodles!

— I took some sliced apples (from our neighbors’ trees) out of the freezer to make a pie. It was originally going to be apple-blackberry, but when the blackberries thawed, they smelled and tasted a little… ferment-y? So I gave them to the chickens instead. The pie came out super pretty, but I decided it NEEDED custard to be truly A+.

— I also made beans and rice, even though since it has salsa (aka pieces of things) in it, I wasn’t sure it M would eat it. But she did! F cleaned her plate, too. Success.

— On Monday, I gave M a new haircut. A bob. M looks good in anything, so of course she’s super adorable with her new, shorter hair. I can’t believe how she looks like a little… PERSON now, with her real haircut. She’s pretty proud. And after I clipped her fingernails yesterday, I asked if she wanted me to paint them. I never have before, and I think I’ve only painted mine once since she was born (when she was really little), so it was a new concept for her. But what’s not to love about making part of your body PINK, with GLITTER? She held perfectly still and didn’t smudge them even a little. And after we did her fingers, she decided her toes needed to be painted, too. She’s such a grown-up kid now!

Family Room

I wonder if the family room will ever feel totally “settled”. When we moved in, it was a huge space. I’m not even sure what the dimensions were, but it ran from the front of the house to the back and was wide, as well. During the summer of 2015, we split it in half and turned the front half into my bedroom (F eventually moved into my old bedroom). The remaining family room space was more contained and cozier and felt more useful.

I shuffled the furniture around a little while ago, swapped the sitting area and the kid area to give more space to the kid stuff (the slate tile in front of the patio door not being super play-friendly). I really like it now! It feels much brighter in the room now that the dark bookcases aren’t under the window anymore. It’s still pretty full of furniture, despite moving the love seat out to the barn, but I prefer that to big, empty expanses. The shelves behind the table (the left side of the second photo) house all of M’s home-preschool materials, and the rest of her area is her little kitchen and other “dramatic play” stuff.

We’ve been playing down here much more regularly since the shuffle. I love sitting on the sofa now that I can look out the patio door! Now we just have to teach F that the play food in the kitchen is just for PRETEND eating.

Toys

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I mentioned M’s current Littlest Pet Shop love in my last post. Small animals are her thing! Despite constantly despairing over the number of toys (and plastic ones at that) in the house, I bought her this play set recently, and it’s been a big hit. She already had a bunch of the pets, and now they have somewhere to live. Anything that sparks her imagination and can keep her entertained for stretches of time is a win, in my mind.

Yesterday, I pulled out the big box of My Little Pony and Barbies from my own childhood. We’ve looked at them before, but this was the first time M really seemed to lock on to the fact that these were TOYS and fun ones, at that. I was quite surprised that she gave the Barbies any time at all (she’s never cared about baby dolls — it’s always been animals with her), although she mostly just wanted their furniture for the ponies. She was heartbroken when I said it was time to clean it all up, so I think she’ll want to drag that box out again — and soon!