If you only knew . . .

Posted in Uncategorized on November 12, 2010 by xxxicana

that I can see behind the facade of kindness and gentleness that emanates from your being. Your serenity precedes you as you walk along the path; self-confident yet unassuming. You are the type my mother should have warned me about. Still waters run deep, they say — but it’s not always true. You are as shallow as the pool that Narcisus gazed upon. Like him, your focus is personal, self-absorbed, and limited. You do not see the resentment created by years of control. Control administered with a gloved hand and silver tongue is control nonetheless. To the external world your virtues are extolled — and you capitalize on the sacrifice, suffering, and mayhem of lived experience. Exaggerated deprivation is belied by a lifestyle of privilege that you can’t or won’t acknowledge. Identity is fluid — shifting and changing as we present ourselves to the various audiences we encounter every day. But you have congealed yours as it manifests itself as a personal mystique to be commodified, recognized, and adored. Secretly, we resent the serenity. Secretly, we see the lie. Secretly, we know that there is no joy behind the mask of tranquililty.

Yogurt making tutorial

Posted in Uncategorized on August 21, 2010 by xxxicana

Gentle readers, I thought I would post photos and directions from my last yogurt making session. I started making my own because I eat a lot of yogurt. I found that after a while, I was schlepping too many plastic yogurt tubs to the recycling center. As many know, just cuz we drop stuff off at the recycle center doesn’t mean that all that trash really becomes some other product. In the Reduce, Recycle, Reuse system, one should reduce first. So, that’s why I started making yogurt. It supersuper easy to do! Plus, you will find that your yogurt is very tasty and satisfying made by your own hand.

Below are instructions for making two quarts of yogurt.

First things first. Assemble your ingredients and utensils.

Ingredients:

2 quarts of milk (that’s 8 cups)
1/4 cup yogurt for starter (I used an entire 6 oz container of Dannon plain).
1/3 cup powdered non-fat milk (optional, but recommended)

Utensils:
2+ quart sized pot
large stock pot
thermometer
wire whisk
2 glass quart canning jars with lids and rings.
Heating pad
Bath towel

Directions (with lots of side comments!)

When making yogurt, the most important component is the starter. The starter must be yogurt with live active culture. For this batch I purchased a 6 oz. container of Dannon. You will be able to use your homemade yogurt as starter for up to 5 or 6 batches. But, the culture weakens over time, so it is necessary to purchase a fresh container of yogurt.

Powdered milk: this is actually great stuff to have on hand. I don’t care for drinking the stuff, but it comes in handy for cooking. This box of PM cost a little over $6.00. I reconstitute it for cooking since it is non-fat and cheap. For yogurt making, adding 1/3 cup of PM results in a thicker final product. It can be omitted.

Milk: I use 1% milk to make a low-fat yogurt.

Utensil prep
It is always important to the cleanest possible conditions when making yogurt or canning.
First, place a kitchen towel in the stock pot, then add about 4 cups of water. Place the jars, jar rings, and wire whisk in the pot. Heat the water to boiling and let everything boil for about 5 minutes to sterilize.

A note about containers: some people re-use plastic yogurt tubs, which in theory seems good. However, I am concerned that heating the tubs to sterilize will contaminate the yogurt with toxic chemicals. I use wide mouth “mason” jars. If you want only two jars, look for used jars at thrift shops or garage sales. New jars are not terribly expensive and are useful for other canning projects or to store stuff in the fridge, freezer, or shelves. If you have hard water, you will notice that a white film will cling to the jars. This doesn’t compromise the food. To get rid of the film, soak jars in a vinegar/water solution.

Heat milk: Sterilize your milk pot by boiling a small about of water for 5 minutes. Dump the water out; let cool for a bit. Pour in the 2 quarts of milk and heat on medium until it reaches 185 degrees (F). I use a candy thermometer. Use the wire whisk to stir frequently to avoid scalding the bottom. Heat until the milk reaches 185 degrees. Remove from heat.

Cool the milk: Some people allow the milk to cool on its own. I’m too impatient, so I give the milk a cold water bath. Put the milk pot in the sink and fill it with cold water. Stirring the milk will help cool the milk faster. The milk needs to cool to 110 degrees. The milk can’t be too cold or too hot — otherwise the culture will either be killed (too hot) or not grow (too cold). BTW, I use the cold water for washing up afterward.

Remove milk from cold water bath. Whisk in the powdered milk and mix well to dissolve. Next, add the culture; again whisk well to distribute throughout the milk.

Fill the jars: Pour the prepared milk into the sterilized jars, pop the lids on and screw the rings on. Now it’s time to let your milk turn into yogurt. The process requires that the milk be left undisturbed for around 8 hours in a warm environment. I find that the heating pad method is the easiest.

At least by the time one is middle aged, a heating pad becomes a member of the household. There’s nothing like a heating pad for a sore back after too much gardening or other injury or aches/pains of getting on in years. I remember my mom’s heating pad — it is older than the hills! Unfortunately, they don’t make them like they used to. Today, heating pads have a safety feature: an auto off switch. I guess this is good so that one doesn’t accidentally cause a fire. But it makes yogurt making a little more complicated. Since the yogurt needs a constant warm environment, you have to make sure that your heating pad stays on. So, depending on your pad, you have to “reboot” every so often. Or you can try to find a “vintage” heating pad that doesn’t have this safety feature.

After placing the jars on the heating pad, invert the stock pot (emptied of contents and water) over the jars.

This helps retain the heat. Additionally, cover the whole thing with a bath towel to keep out drafts and retain heat.

Set the heating pad to medium. Now, LEAVE IT ALONE!! Resist the temptation to check under the pot for at least 8 hours. Moving the jars can disrupt the coagulation process leaving a runny yogurt. I usually leave the jars to culture for 10 hours as this results in a more tangy yogurt. Once the yogurt has set the jars can go into the fridge over night. The cooling process will develop the flavor further. In the morning you will open your jars to find a beautiful white substance that tastes wonderful!

Above is a photo of my morning breakfast. This is a great way to use your homemade yogurt and get a hefty dose of fiber. I can’t stand hot oatmeal so I eat it cold.

Recipe: 1/2 cup quick oats
2 TB flax meal
1 TB sugar
1/2 cup yogurt
Fruit of choice (a diced Missouri peach is shown)

Mix everything together and let sit for a couple of minutes to soften up the oats. Enjoy!

Well, hope this tutorial is helpful. The process of making yogurt is really easy and quick — well worth the effort. Not only will you savor something made by your own hands, you will save money (ingredients cost around $3.00 compared to >$6.00 for two tubs of yogurt), and you will reduce your plastic consumption.

Black Raspberry Jam

Posted in Uncategorized on June 22, 2010 by xxxicana

Made jam today . . . had 2 quarts of black raspberries from my raspberry bush. I planted the canes three years ago and now it has really proliferated.

This is the first year I’ve made jam from this plant and it turned out purty darn good, IMHO. We’re looking forward to extra flavor in our PB & J sammies. Yum!

NOT the cat’s meow =^-^=

Posted in Uncategorized on June 19, 2010 by xxxicana


Cleo striking a pose

I picked Cleo up from the vet today. She went in yesterday to be spayed after we put up with two estrus cycles. OMG, there is nothing like a cat in heat . . . it was very annoying for the rest of the household. Cleo was acting all the little slut desperately trying to seduce Balam — a neutered male! Oh, the horror of it all! Who would have thought that my darling little cat would be transformed into Hello Sex Kitty??

Apparently, evolution selected for a very strong reproductive urge in cats . . . but in the context of contemporary US petdom . . this is a very maladaptive trait. I wanted to drown the damn cat!!!

This was my 3rd attempt at getting her “fixed” . . . the last two times she had infections (giardia) so she couldn’t undergo the surgery. Third time’s a charm! The Belmont Veterinary Center took very good care of my little baby. She is now “sex-less” . . . another animal that has been rendered sterile. A little sad to remove my kitty from nature . . . but, of course, the responsible thing to do.

When I was little I had a cat named Susan Endora (I was a fan of Bewitched). Susan Endora was a beautiful Siamese with a very nasty disposition and an even worse sense of what constituted appropriate sperm donors for her multiple broods. I grew up in a place and time that people didn’t have the money to go to the doctor for their own illnesses, much less spend money on spaying/neutering. So, Susan Endora, sleek and soft, went through the hormone induced rut that resulted in offspring. My dad says that Susan Endora had very bad taste in partners . . . allowing herself to be impregnated by the raggediest cats in our small town. As a result, my lovely cat had absurdly ugly kittens that we had to try to get rid of in one supermarket parking lot after another.

I had one other female cat we named Negrita. I don’t recall if she was spayed or not (she ran away). I do remember that she would ambush my little spawn “Onion Tears.” As are result, Onion Tears lived in fear of that cat. I probably have the maternal nature of a cat, since I found it very amusing to watch Negrita hide behind the chair and pounce on Larisa! No permanent damage was done to my progeny . . . after all, she has two kitties of her own (both female, ironically).

After Negrita, we had got a cat we named Negrito . . .yeah, we weren’t very imaginative when it came to names. Negrito was a good cat with great hunting skills and a fervent hatred of plaid. That’s right . . . he hated PLAID. If Onion Tears or I were caught wearing plaid jammies, Negrito would attack our legs! Alas, Negrito acquired Feline AIDS and we had him put down after attempting to keep him alive longer than was actually humane. Just for the sake of the narrative, the reader should know that Negrito was a Maine Coon. I think it is a breed thing . . . Maine Coons don’t like plaid.

A while after Negrito died, we got another Maine Coon — Balam. He doesn’t like plaid either. I don’t wear plaid. Balam weighs about 23 pounds and has razor sharp claws. Fortunately, I’m not Scottish. I don’t know why Maine Coons don’t like plaid. Certainly they have no aversion to paisley, polka dots or even horizontal stripes. Some believe that Maine Coons were brought to the New World by the Vikings (who were often at war with the Celts). Perhaps the cats harbor ancestral animosities towards anything Highlander. Or maybe plaid just offends their fashion sensibilities.

Balam stretched out under the fan

No upgrade for me . . . yet

Posted in Uncategorized on May 7, 2010 by xxxicana

So, I’ve been in Southern California now for almost a week and have noticed that many peeps have fancy smart phones. One person I know keeps up with emails and reading on his Iphone while he’s commuting on the metro. The West-Carranzas have fancy Iphones, too. I also found a comedy “infomercial” on youtube that there’s an app for immigrants to find their way across the border! So, I was feeling a little bit of techno-envy. I ran a search to compare droids with iphones that was really enlightening! The bottom line is that over a 24 month period, the average cost of a smart phone is about $2800.00!!! That’s about 1/3 the cost of my car! For the time being, I won’t be upgrading. I am rarely too far from an internet connection — I spend most of my time at work or home and the commute is only about 10 minutes.

I bought a Dell Inspiron Mini last month to take to the National Association for Ethnic Studies Conference. The cost with all the bells and whistles was around $600.00. The advantage of the Mini is that I can actually work on the thing . . . wordprocessing, power point, excel spreadsheets in addition to emailing, Face Book, and of course, blogging.

I’ve been very happy with my mini. It fits into a large purse, is very light weight and has a very long battery life. I’m also able to Skype with my honeybunny when I’m away from home. I think that I made the best choice for my particular needs.

Mister Man and I, however, DO need to upgrade our cell phones. I might get something with a keyboard so I can start experimenting with Twitter. It seems that a number of Profs are tweeting to communicate with students. Not sure if this is a good thing or just another way for technology to intervene in my private time. But, at least I’ll have the capability.

My new sister

Posted in 1 on February 14, 2010 by xxxicana

The parental units got a new doggie!  She’s too cute,  but not as smart as my kitten.

Planning, organizing, and streamlining to avoid a nervous breakdown!

Posted in 1 on January 25, 2010 by xxxicana

Although it is nearly the end of January, it’s not too late to discuss New Year’s resolutions.  I didn’t really make much of a list, but I did decide to streamline my life as much as possible in prep for the tenure process.  I also want to pay off as much of my lingering debt as possible.  So, I decided to try menu planning.  Typically, I just make dinner on the whim.  If the ingredients aren’t in the house, I head over to the market.  Of course this results in lost time, greater expenditures, and often frustration which leads me to order take-out!

So, I prepared two months of menus (Jan and Feb) with shopping lists.  We’ll see how things go.  So far, it has cut a lot of stress for me.  I checked my menu and see that today is “gruel” day.  Gruel is what Mister Man calls Khichdi — a single pot meal of rice, lentils, spices, cauliflower, carrots, tomatoes, and whatever other veggies are hanging around.  It’s a super tasty vegetarian meal that warms the tummy on cold evenings.  It also has a ton of fiber — and at our age, fiber is really important!  We love Gruel!

I’m really trying to avoid the nearly daily stop off at the market — and it seems like each visit is an easy $40.00!  But, a lot of my purchases are poorly planned which only adds more time to my day.  I’m going to try a single market day for the bulk of our month’s supplies with only the occasional stop off for perishables.

I’ve also planned out my debt repayment plan following a snowball method.  My goal is to start 2012 with no debt at all!  (I want to be debt free for the end of the world, heehee).  Again, the biggest problem is not a lack of $$, but rather unplanned and unnecessary spending.  Oops, I bought a pair of shoes this month that are definitely not necessary! But check them out . . . can you blame me?

It’s too wet and cold still to wear these stylin’ shoes . . . but I can’t WAIT to debut them.  Frivolous, I know, but I’ll be good from now on, promise!  I’ve been budgeting now for about a year and it has made huge difference in how I spend my money.  No more spending more than I earn and I’ve even been able to shunt money away in a savings account.  My goal is to save up money for a down payment on an acreage so that I can have a big garden and lots of chickens!

Next, and I’ll work on this asap, is to budget my time.  I found a posting today on Inside Higher Ed that helps tenure track peeps to prioritize their time.  I’m going to dedicate some time to creating a time plan. Like a lot of people I have a lot to do with limited amounts of time.  But, I enjoy relaxing with Mister Man and getting plenty of sleep.  This requires a strict time budget that will allow me to work at top efficiency so that I can max out my relax time.  I’m also hoping that time management will lower my stress level which will lower the amount of cortisol in my system which will hopefully help me lose some poundage.  See!  it’s all part of a plan to reduce the belly fat!!  Ulterior motive revealed.

My parental units will be celebrating 50 years of marriage this summer and we are all going on a family cruise.  I’d really like to fit into some chic cabana wear and even a bathing suit.

Ah, I can hardly wait to be out on the ocean, sipping a fruity umbrella adorned drink and enjoying the wacky extended Sanchez clan.  Good budgeting now will allow me the funds, time, and mental state to fully embrace the festivities!