Friday, September 07, 2012

I Made Cheese!!

This week's excitement is that I made fresh Mozzarella for a Caprese salad.  Making Mozzarella isn't hard...I needed to buy three things I didn't have around the house: Citric Acid, Rennet, and a food thermometer (the candy thermometer I own starts at 120F...for cheese you need to know when the milk reaches 50F).  I purchased my supplies at The New England Cheese Making Supply Company.  $16 dollars shipped me enough ingredients to make 24 batches of cheese.  :)  They also have a great step by step recipe.
I started with a gallon of whole milk, added the citric acid and rennet at all the correct temperatures, and this is what you have after about 20 minutes.  The curds has visibly separated from the whey.
 I used a slotted spoon to remove the curds and place them in a microwave safe bowl.  I zapped it in the microwave a few times, and then poured off any excess whey.
 Next, I pulled the cheese like taffy and wound up with my fresh mozzarella.  In this batch, I actually over-pulled the cheese.  I wound up with a string cheese rather than the nice soft mozzarella I prefer for my salads.  Oh well.  I still have 22 more batches to perfect the recipe.
Here's the leftover whey.  If I could get my hands on raw milk, I could also make butter with the cream and use the whey to make ricotta cheese.  Unfortunately in Virginia it's only legal to consume raw milk from a cow that you own.  A few entrepreneurial farms offer 'cow shares.'  For $100 you purchase a small percentage of a cow, and then you pay a monthly fee of $35 to board your cow.  Since many people own one cow, you can only rely on getting 4 gallons a month, and because I"m making cheese to save money, I have to pass on the $8.75 a gallon milk.

What do you think?  Should you all help me talk Dave into buying me a second-hand dorm refrigerator so I can move on to making more complicated cheeses like Camembert and Jarlsberg?  These are our two weaknesses at the cheese counter, and I'd love to be able to make my own.  I feel very intrepid.  Either my French palate is rearing its head, or family tradition is (my grandfather was a dairy farmer in Vermont). 


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Monday, September 03, 2012

Ahoy, Hoy!

Dave and I went out on a little sea fishing trip today.  We went to Dockside Fishing in Virginia Beach and went to sea on the Bay Princess.  Here's Dave in dock, looking oh-so European:
I'm on a boat.

There was lots of fishing, lots of catching, but very little keeping.  We used squid as bait (yup...I baited my own hook) and caught mostly croakers, and one toad fish.  The croakers are aptly named: they make this terrible noise when they're out of the water.  The toad fish look like toads and have enormous jaws and try to bite (we let the guides take them off the hook and throw them back....they're big, but inedible).
Between the two of us, we probably caught 30 fish, but we wound up only keeping three (okay...I didn't take my fish off the hook when it was time to throw them sharp spiny fin prick, and I was ready to let the fishing guides and Dave deal with the throw-back fish).  For some reason unbeknownst to us, we didn't think it was important to take any photos of our fish before we had them filleted at the dock.  Three fish wasn't nearly enough for dinner, so we supplemented by purchasing two more Croakers at $2.55 a lb. at the Dockside Seafood market.  In hindsight, maybe the market and not the boat is the more economical way to go in the future.
The big excitement of the day was when our neighbor fishing buddies caught a sandbar shark.  I actually thought they were going to be able to keep it, but it turns out they have to be 54 inches long to be legal.  So no Shark Fin soup for anyone on our boat.
Check out that pearly smile!  This is actually our boat guide (not the fellow tourist angler) holding the shark.  He warned us all to keep our distance.
 And just to prove I was there, here I'm am with the VA beach shoreline in the background.  I couldn't tell yet, but despite liberal applications of SPF 50 sunscreen, I came home looking like a lobster.  We might try the legendary Striped Bass fishing after Thanksgiving, but for now I'm happy to remain on dry land.


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Friday, August 31, 2012

My Abstract Tree

Hey All!!  I snagged a great Groupon a few weeks back for a place called Sip n' Paint Virginia.  I got look at their classes, and selected one that had a project I would enjoy hanging on the wall if it actually turned out well.  I was very skeptical about my ability to produce a nice final product (I stopped taking art classes in middle school), but for $15 I thought it couldn't hurt.  Here's my palate all ready to go:
The class was so wonderful!  The instructor took her time and guided us step-by-step through own to make our own Abstract Tree.  We started with a nice blended background, and then began building the tree and swirls.  Here I am hard at work:

Here's the final product.  The instructor's version was neater and sharper than mine, but I'll give myself a little pat on the back since this was the first time I've ever done any 'real' painting.
We all had a great time, and each of us had a wonderful piece of at to take home and frame at the end of the class.  I'm hoping they'll re-offer their Van Gogh Starry Night class soon!


Blogger Lauren hypothesized...

Gorgeous! It looks like a Klimt.


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Sunday, August 26, 2012

Pinterest and Organization

Confession: my house has taken over.  I'm ready to reengage the enemy and win the war!!!

Vanity of Shame
Dave and I moved into our 'new' place last October.  We did a lot of work the first two weeks we were here, but after that we both went back to work and progress came to a screeching stop.  Ever since then we've been trying to undo the messes we later made trying to 'stash' away things that were never properly unpacked and organized. 

Then, there's the problem that we just have too much stuff.  We are finally in a beautiful home with plenty of square footage and a small back yard, but for some reason we still feel like we have less room than ever.  I think our 'stuff' decided to reproduce while we had it locked away in storage for the past two years.

Pinterest Inspiration
My Tiffany Blue Makeup Board

I'm trying my best to weed out the unnecessary stuff.  Meanwhile, I'm trying to find pretty and creative ways to deal with my mess.  This week's project: a magnetic makeup board.  I turned to Pinterest for inspiration.  The one on the left is theirs.  The one the right is mine. 

I found a cookie sheet for .80 cents at a thrift store and spray painted it blue with some paint left over from another project.  I gave it a clear polyurethane coat to make sure the paint doesn't chip or get ruined by the magnets.  Then, I used Gorilla Glue to put the magnets on my makeup (1.97). 

I'd like another little basket for lipsticks, etc, but otherwise I'm very happy with the results!  Now that I'm sure it works, I need to slap a few more magnets on some of my other favorite makeup items.  Any other ideas for how to make my new makeup board even more fabulous?


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Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Coupon Fun

OK: Guilty confession.  I watched TLC's Extreme Couponing last fall, and like the sheep that I am, I was suddenly hooked on couponing.  Let me follow this up by stating that I am not an extreme couponer.  The people on that show are crazy!  Seriously, who buys a cartload of mustard just because it's 'free?'  While I might not have achieved a level of crazy that would land me on the show, I've definitely noticed that the cashiers are giving me looks when they see my pile of coupons (the two OCD coupon binders probably contribute to this).

To get started, I bought 4 subscriptions to the Sunday paper in order to get coupons.  The subscriptions paid for themselves the first week I went shopping with coupons (I saved $60).  I have to thank the Krazy Coupon Lady blog for TONS of help in learning to recognize a good deal and helping me crack various stores' coupon policies.

WARNING: Shameless bragging ahead.  I had a particularly successful day today, and felt the need to toot my own horn.  The photo above shows today's 'loot.'  Almost everything I purchased was on sale, and I then combined store rewards and coupons to reduce my total.  All the products would have retailed for $67.88.  Instead, I paid $12.85, for a total savings of 81%.  Best of all?  The 4 bottles of hand sanitizer, Sleep Aid, and cat litter were FREE! 


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Sunday, February 26, 2012

Oscar Predictions

For the first time since I began my Oscar predictions, I'm not 100% sure of my "Best in Costume Design" pick. It's usually such a clear and obvious choice for me. I decided to go with the movie I wanted to win this year, rather than the one I think might win. The best I've ever done is 18 out of 24 categories correct. Let's see how I do this year:

Best Picture: The Artist
Best Director: Michel Hazanavicius, The Artist
Best Actor: Jean Dujardin, The Artist (George Clooney is the possible upset here...)
*Best Actress: Viola Davis, The Help (wow....congrats to Meryl Streep)
Best Supporting Actor: Christopher Plummer, Beginners
Best Supporting Actress: Octavia Spencer, The Help
Best Animated Feature Film: Rango
Best Foreign Film: A Separation, Iran
Best Original Screenplay: Midnight in Paris
Best Adapted Screenplay: The Descendants
Best Art Direction: Hugo
*Best Costume Design: Jane Eyre (the Artist is probably the safer pick, but how can I fully appreciate the costumes when it's in black and white?) yup...the Artist won. I respectfully disagree with the Academy.
Best Original Song: "Man or Muppet" from "The Muppets"
Best Original Score: The Artist
*Best Documentary: Paradise Lost 3: Purgatory (congrats to Undefeated....once I saw PDiddy on the Red Carpet for Undefeated, I realized I was probably gonna lose this category).
Best Documentary (short): Saving Face
*Best Cinematography: The Tree of Life (congrats to Hugo)
*Best Film Editing: The Artist (congrats to Hugo)
Best Makeup: The Iron Lady
Best Sound Editing: Hugo
Best Sound Mixing: Hugo
*Best Visual Effects: Rise of the Planet of the Apes (congrats to Hugo)
Best Short Film (Animated): The Fantastic Flying Books of Mr. Morris Lessmore
*Best Short Film (Live Action): Raju (Congrats to the Shore)

17/24...not my best year, but not to shabby either. What kills me is that I got some of the more difficult categories right this year (I got two of the 'shorts' categories right), but there were a few upsets that tripped me up. Oh well. Until next year!


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Wednesday, June 01, 2011

Birthday Weekend in Charlottesville

Yay! I'm actually posting something on our blog for a change. Dave and I escaped DC and Rolling Thunder by heading out to Charlottesville, VA with our friends Laura and Kathleen. My sister-in-law was awesome and let us borrow her convertible:

MUCH fun was had by all. We spent Saturday shopping, shopping, shopping, and eating. When it was lunchtime and our feet were hurting, I suggested the strategy of eating at the next restaurant we saw. Apparently it was a good strategy because we found this amazing French place called Petit Pois:

We couldn't go to Virginia wine country without visiting several tasting rooms at the local vineyards. Dave and Laura seemed to enjoy this part of the trip:
While Dave and I were just along for the ride enjoying the wine tasting, our friend Kathleen was on a mission to stock her wine cellar and made some serious purchases:
Sunday was my birthday, but we seemed to spend the whole weekend celebrating. Saturday Dave found this great cupcake store called Cappellino's Crazy Cakes. We got to learn some local lore about the cupcakes - a very pregnant woman was in line ahead of us getting a free lemon drop cupcake. Apparently the cupcake is supposed to help you go into labor if you're overdue. The store claims this has worked for 43 babies to date. I'll have to remember this trick...eating cupcakes sounds way better than doing jumping jacks or eating spicy food.

I'm soooo excited about my birthday present from Dave. He got me a pair of red 18th century walking shoes. They're being made, and I should get them in a few more weeks.

On Saturday night we celebrated my birthday at the Ivy Inn Restaurant. I looked around for a nice meal online and came across this place that's known for cooking with sustainable meats and local produce. It sounded like fun, so off we went. If you are ever in Charlottesville you MUST go to this place. It was amazing...and I've spent more eating at Joe's Crabshack. Definitely order the Shrimp & Grits (I don't like grits...and I LOVED this). The waiter was very nice and helpful, and since it was my birthday, we got a free Champagne toast and I got a special dessert:
Sunday we went out to Monticello. The estate was beautiful, but it was a very hot day and we had to wait quite a while before our tour began. If I ever go back I need to remember to reserve a tour ahead of time online. I'm a bit of a history buff, but there was quite a lot of new stuff for me to learn about Thomas Jefferson...and I have to say, most of it wasn't very flattering. I'm definitely glad I went. We found a fun purple shamrock plant to that was grown at Monticello's nursery to bring back to Jennifer as a thank-you for letting us use her car.

After all his patience with the shopping/wine tasting/touring, Dave finally caught a break on Monday when we stopped for lunch at the Blue Mountain Brewery. My Dad would love this place - they even grow their own hops right in front of the restaurant. Dave tried a sampler of all their draft beers:
Every time we turned around there was a gorgeous view (especially at the vineyards). I considered going back to school to become a vintner for about five seconds...before I remembered that I have a black thumb and am terrible at chemistry. It was a fabulous weekend. Thank you to everyone that helped make it so wonderful!


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