Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Cest La Z

Cest La Z is the latest addition to my blogroll. Penned by my fabulous spouse, it is currently addressing issues in Computer Science education with a, so far, single departure towards biking.

Mike is trying his hand out with blogging and we only ask that you give him a chance to figure out his spacing issues -- something to do with the script he is using to upload his text.

Mike has been tooling around cyberspace since he was in high school -- where he learned to program big IBM machines with punch cards. He and I were some of the earliest cyberdaters as we spent long hours chatting from our college computers -- his at home and mine in a computer lab on campus and later from a "dumb" terminal in my dorm room hooked up to a 200 baud modem that I had to stick my phone handset into.

He's taught computer science for most of his almost 20 year teaching career and has seen trends come and go. Opinionated and strong minded, he fights for what he believes is best for his students -- and given where so many of them have wound up, it works.

So go check him out -- but don't give up if computer science education is not your thing. I suspect that, come summer, there will be more travel, biking and history on tap.

Cest La Z!

Friday, January 22, 2010

One Ball Down ...

I spun 11 skeins of the background color for Mike's new sweater. Each skein averages about 200 yards of sport weight yarn. The piece below measures about 13 inches (it looks smaller due to the curling that I didn't bother to eliminate for the photo). It has used, so far ...

ONE ball of yarn. Just a hunch here, I think I may have enough yarn for this thing ...

(And the entire sweater will not be this boring, just the back and arms. The front has some seriously exciting intarsia going on.)

Sunday, January 17, 2010

A tale of Two Sweaters ...

One finished!*

And one begun!**
* Sweater for Little Squid. Generic Basketweave pattern stitch using the guidelines from Ann Budd's The Knitter's Handy Book of Patterns.

**Sweater for Mike. Hand dyed, hand spun, roughly sport weight yarn. Construction guidelines will be from the same book, pattern will be one-of-a-kind. Look for the finished product sometime around October.

Saturday, January 09, 2010


I've been looking for something really deep to post about and even had a huge monologue going on last night as I was trying to fall asleep. Unfortunately, it was all about work stuff which I really can't post about. Sorry! Let's just leave the work stuff with this: there was a public hearing regarding the fate of my school last week. It goes up for a vote on the 26th.

On the home front, I'm still plugging away on Little Squid's sweater -- front, back and right arm are done. Left arm is about halfway up his forearm. My rigid heddle loom is now clear of weaving and the final product will be run through the wash tomorrow. And I've started spinning the alpaca-merino blend that I bought at Rhinebeck.

I've also made some yogurt.

You may remember this post where Little Squid and I experimented with frozen yogurt using our homemade product. We never did master it but hey, that's what next summer is for. Right?

Meanwhile I have continued to make yogurt every week or two using the same method. Recently I've seen some posts on other blogs raving about a Crock-pot method of making yogurt.

I studied it, thought hard about it, and decided that I will stick with my method. It is fairly simple and only requires about 2 hours of my time depending on the temperature of my kitchen. In cooler weather the cooling processes occurs much more quickly then it does in the heat of summer.So, for those who are interested, this is my adaptation of Harold McGee's yogurt making technique as originally published in the New York Time on April 15, 2009.


First, heat the milk to 180 degrees Fahrenheit. I do this by heating about 12 ounces milk at a time on high in the microwave for 1 minute (in a 4 cup measuring cup) and then dumping it into a pot on the stove with the flame at a medium setting. (I make a gallon of yogurt at a time. You can easily make less.)

While it is heating, I monitor the temperature and twiddle my thumbs. This is actually why I microwave the milk. The one minute intervals keep me interested enough that I do not walk away and then forget that I have milk heating.

Once the milk reaches 180 degrees it is time to cool it. I do this in two or three or, when making 2 gallons at a time as I do during the summer, 4 bowls.

During the warmer weather I surround the bowls with reusable cold packs to help it cool faster. I also stir it frequently to increase the amount of milk that comes in contact with the cooler parts of the bowl (and the air).

When the temperature of the milk reaches 120 degrees, I take yogurt that I've set aside from the last batch (2 tablespoons of yogurt for every quart of milk used) and mix it with some of the warm milk to thin out the yogurt.

This yogurt-milk slurry then gets mixed into the warm milk and the mixture gets put into a large container. I use a gallon Tupperware pitcher that we've had forever.

The pitcher gets a lid (I have no idea where the official lid is these days) and then gets wrapped in towels.

Usually I use three towels but this time I used four -- one underneath the pitcher to insulate it from the cold counter. Our kitchen was really cold.

Then the wrapped pitcher of pre-yogurt sits on the counter for about 6 hours, more or less. More if you like it tarter, less if you like it more naturally sweet.

The neo-yogurt then chills overnight in the fridge and is ready for eating in the morning.

I, personally, take it one step further and strain the yogurt in a HUGE fine meshed strainer that we got at a restaurant supply store. Mike cut the handle off of it so that the strainer, sitting on top of a storage container, fits in the fridge. Half a gallon of yogurt fits in the strainer at a time.

One hour usually makes it thick enough for my taste but you can strain longer if you want. Half of the last batch strained overnight by accident. It is incredibly thick and smooth and luscious!

And there you go. A gallon of milk costs between $2.39 (Costco) and $3.50 (Whole Foods 365 brand). A quart of my previous favorite yogurt, Greek Goddess, costs $5.99 at Fairway -- more elsewhere. A gallon of milk makes 2.5 to 4 quarts of yogurt depending on how much you strain it. Monetarily it makes sense but that's not why I do it.

I do it because it is too easy and too good not to.The only down-side is the cleaning of the pan. The stuck on milk can be tough to clean with a regular sponge or dishrag so I use this curly thing. It gets it right off and then I toss the curly thing into the dishwasher to get all the milk-curd crud out. Hey, it works.

Sunday, January 03, 2010

Goals: Update #4

Done! All of the goals that I posted at the start of break have been accomplished.

  • Little Squid now has new, warm mittens
  • Papa Squid has a big sack of homespun sweater yarn
  • and we finished the puzzle.
In addition:
  • I'm almost done with the woven scarf(?) (might be 2 or 3, it seems to be taking forever!)
  • I built another airlift hydroponic system
  • I made a fresh batch of yogurt
  • I figured out how I'm conducting my last 3 weeks of classes
  • I graded the papers that I brought home
  • I played lots of Wii with the kids and Mike
  • I played a few board games with the kids (and Mike)
  • I slept until 7 or (gasp!) later almost every day
  • I started a major cleaning of the kitchen which will ultimately lead to a paint job during either February or Spring break (I'm taking it in small chunks so it is not too overwhelming. 15 - 20 minutes a night of serious cabinet and wall scrubbing.)
  • and I ordered a big-girl Loom.
My goals for the next month are:
  • To spend lots of time at work making sure that the student programs are ready to go on February 1.
That's it. I really can't put anything else on the list with that looming. Oh, and maybe warp my loom once it arrives at the end of the month. (Like that won't happen!)

I'll try to get some pictures of the yarn posted later, and maybe the yardage if I manage to finish it off.