Friday, July 29, 2011

Making Greek yogurt!

I eat a LOT of yogurt! On Body for Life Greek yogurt is a protein (15-20 grams protein per serving) while most other non-fat yogurts are considered a carb (5 grams protein per serving). But Greek yogurt is PRICEY! So I made my own and plan to do so again and again! There are lots of recipes online and they all basically consist of the same things:

Mix your milk with any other ingredients you're using (like dry milk powder)
Heat it to about 180 F
Let it cool down to about 110 F
Mix in yogurt starter (yogurt culture or just plain yogurt from the store)
Keep it warm

I heated my milk in a glass bowl in the microwave. I didn't have to stand over a hot stove and make sure it didn't burn and using my instant-read thermometer I knew exactly when it was done!

While the milk was cooling (which took about 1/2 an hour) I turned on my crockpot (on low) and once it was heated, I turned it off with the lid on and my instant-read thermometer inside. When it was the right temperature I put my milk in and wrapped it in a blanket a la Year of Slow Cooking. With the instant-read thermometer inside, I could tell when it started to dip below 110 degrees, I'd turn the crockpot on for a few minutes and then turn it back off.

I incubated mine for 6 hours, strained it through coffee filters and made 7 containers of Greek-style yogurt from a 1/2 gallon of milk and one container of yogurt. Want to know the cost break down?

I usually pay around $1 per 5.3-ounce container of Greek yogurt (around 19 cents/ounce). Sometimes on sale and with a coupon I can get it for 50 cents but not very often.

I paid $2.19 for a half gallon of skim milk, 75 cents for the 1/5 cups of dry milk powder and $1 for my starter yogurt. Total: $3.94 for 34 ounces or around 12 cents/ounce of homemade yogurt.

What makes it an even better deal is that I no longer have to buy a starter yogurt so my next batch will only cost $2.94 which is less than 9 cents per ounce!

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

2011 County Fair

This year's fair is in full swing and all the crafts have been judged! I'll start off with the best! My doily for this year won 1st place Crochet Tablecloth or Table Dressing and went on to win Champion Crochet Project! The judge's comments were on how even the tension was, the good use of variegated yarn and how well blocked it was. After years of completing a doily every year, I must have learned enough to get all the steps right! This is my VERY FIRST Champion in the open division so this is pretty special.
My other crochet projects included 4th place in Any Other Crochet Item with this ring toy.Bothoth 3rd place Crochet Wearable Item purple (purple baby sweater) and 4th place Crochet Wearable Item (green shawl).
And 3rd place Crochet Baby Afghan (the cream one with blue trim).
In quilted items I placed 4th in Large machine pieced and machine quilted with my Play Ball quilt (far right).
3rd place in Wall Hanging, Table Runner or Mini Quilt with the table runner on the far right
And got 4th place Any Other Quilted Item (large or small) with my brown and blue pillowcase (far right)
My nautical Santa got 1st place Holiday Ornament.
I got a 2nd place Throw or Pillow with my crochet-edged fleece throw that I learned to do at Make-A-Blanket-Day!
The judges liked my card basket made from old Christmas cards and gave it 1st place Item Made From Recycled Materials.

But so that you don't think I stole the show, I also took 9 items that failed to place at all, including my plastic canvas turkey, painted glitter holiday house, framed cross stitch picture, and cake postcard. It's a lot of skill but it's also a gamble when you exhibit at the fair. You have to guess at what the judges will like and what else will be there.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

2011 IL Marathon 10K

A very belated post about the 10K in April! I shaved 10 seconds off my previous 10K time! 1:05:24 It was a gorgeous day, overcast in the morning and then the sun came out. I worked the 24th mile water station for the marathon after I showered and got a touch of sunburn on my cheeks and nose, the first of the season! It's so much fun to cheer everyone on and I'm always really inspired when the day is done.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Body for Life

30 days ago, I started doing the 13-week Body for Life plan. I got the book on PaperBack Swap, read it and found it sensible enough. Eat smaller meals more often, a balance of carbs and protein, mostly whole grains and plenty of vegetables! Combine that with a regimen of weight training three days a week and high intensity interval cardio sessions three times a week and it sounds like a livable plan! For the most part, it has been. One day a week is a rest day from exercise and another day is a free eats day, more then enough freedom to have some treats and pizza! I'm not going to bored you with my daily meal plans and exercise updates on his blog but I've been blogging them on SparkPeople if you want to see samples.

Reasons Body For Life is relatively easy for me:
1-I love cottage cheese!
2- I love veggies! I can't think of a veggie I don't like. (But then again, it's very hard for me to come up with a FOOD I don't like or won't eat, other than meat products.)
3-I love the control and planning! Each Sunday I write my meal plans for the whole week. I take inventory of items needing to be used up and how many meals worth are left, then I make meal plans and note items needed for grocery list. Makes it easy to shop and use up what I already have!

The workout plan is pretty much spelled out for you. I can work it around gym classes I like and fit yoga into my rest day. And I can get creative on my cardio days and either run or bike, jump rope, do an interval session from or take Zumba or Body Attack at the gym!

Reasons it is a little difficult at times:
1-As a vegetarian, my protein sources can get rather repetitive. Cottage cheese, Greek yogurt, string cheese, tofu, seitan/fake meat, eggs, repeat. Sometimes it would make it quite easy if I ate grilled chicken or shrimp or lean beef, especially at restaurants.

2-I really like fruit. And BFL counts fruit as a carb, so for each meal you can have your carby item (bread, rice, etc.) OR fruit. Normally I would eat both in a "complete" meal. Of course, I'm eating twice as many meals as normal so I'm still getting all my fruit in for the day, just not alongside other carbs. So it all works out.

3-The great GOB of water you drink every day. I try really hard to drink the massive quantities requested of me. I try to fill up my 20 ounce water bottle twice in the morning and once in the afternoon. Plus water with breakfast, lunch and dinner. Sometimes I don't get in as much as I'm supposed, and SOMETIMES I drink a little too much and have to sprint to the bathroom cross-legged!

Friday, July 15, 2011

Easter Basket

Before Easter I took a flower arranging class. We made a colorful Easter basket arrangement. I've never been very good at arranging flowers, I suppose because I never really learned the basics. Our instructor for the evening looked very familiar and I found out she was a fellow 4-H leader! So I told her this sad story of why I never learned much about flowers:
One year I signed up for flower arranging in 4-H. I read my project manual and decided on a wildflower arrangement in a mason jar, surrounded by driftwood and a swath of homespun fabric. Very Little House! I picked black-eyed susans and coneflowers and queen anne's lace and all sorts of lovely things. On my way to the competition I stopped when I saw some more gorgeous flowers along the roadside and added them to my collection. But when I got the flower-arranging competition, EVERY other competitor had their flowers delivered by a florist. Roses, carnations, irises, and exotic flowers were wrapped in cellophane, ready and waiting. My wildflowers were wilting already and looked homely in comparison. In 4-H flower arranging, you create your arrangement while the judges watch so I couldn't place my arrangement and run. I would have to stand there while everyone watched me try and create something out of my bundle of roadside flowers. And I just couldn't do it. I picked up my mason jar and went home. And I never tried it again. Until this year!

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Herb garden and berries

My herb garden is looking quite lovely, thanks to that new ring of rocks and the ample rain this spring. This is the side that faces the house, the low stuff is over here. From left to right, thyme, basil, sage, parsley, golden oregano and the tall cilantro behind that. The pot has some dill but not much, I HATE when it takes over the garden.

Then the back side, left to right:chives, green onion, catnip, and walking onions.
Next to the herb garden, along the fence, are my berries. I've already picked a handful of raspberries (this is the first year for these, I planted them last summer) and it looks like we'll have a huge crop of blackberries just like last year!The weird thing is there doesn't seem to be a lot of new canes coming up for next year! I'll be sad if I have to prune these back to near nothing because there aren't very many new canes. The raspberries on the other hand are sending up canes left and right, everywhere within a 10 foot radius! The blackberries have never been much for sending out far-reaching runners but they have always at least sent up replacements for the old, spent canes!

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

The sunny side of the house

The sunny side of the house, the west side, is the street side. It's mainly just lawn with a Hawthorne tree in the middle. This is the side of the house where I get to change it up every year with annuals! I choose something new to plant along the driveway every year, this year it's purple alyssum. And I plant the pots on my brick patio with different color combos. These two bowls are new for this year. No one ever sits on the bench so I decided to sit these there instead! This pot, on the step to the front door, is a houseplant that I bring outdoors each summer and added some petunias to.
These pots are full of sedum and they stay outside all year long. I added petunias, sweet potato vine and fiber optic grass this year. And that tall thing is an eggplant! I had to find places to put all the seedlings I had left over so here is one of them!
Near the driveway is the birdbath and beside it is my sunny sedum patch and a couple of hen and chicks. And you can just see the purple alyssum behind the birdbath that lines the driveway.

Friday, July 1, 2011

My ultimate home gym!

I love seeing people's home gym set-ups. And I've shown you mine before when it went from this to this. But it's gone another step to becoming the ultimate basement fitness center and I think it might almost be complete!

But first, we'll start the tour where workouts start, my table and chalkboard. This is where I keep my workout plans, where I put my clipboard, Gymboss, watch, lifting gloves and water bottle. I also keep some weights and kettlebell over here.This is the floor area, where I keep my bar for squats and such, where I do any type of floor exercises and I usually keep my yoga ball in the corner but it's escaped in this photo!
One of the new additions!!! My new weight bench that I got off craigslist for $25. That's right, complete with bar, weights and 2 dumbbell bars! I need a few more plates but for now this is getting the job done.
And the second big addition, also from craigslist! Our new tv! Now I have my choice of watching squirrels outside OR watching the news.
There is one more new addition that I forgot to take a picture of. It's not in the basement, because my basement has no doorways. My pull-up bar is upstairs in a doorway. We'll round out our tour with a picture of the staircase, because I actually do quite a few exercises on the stairs! You can also see where I hang my resistance bands and keep my yoga blocks. And used to use that table as my bench, back before I got my super-bargain!
Here's the whole room. Do you have any suggestions? I'd love to add a horizontal stripe to that orange wall and I feel like I could better utilize that pegboard wall for more storage than just one resistance band and my ball pump. But I can't really think of what to hang there.