Yogurt!

The other day I happened to catch an episode of Alton Brown’s Good Eats, and he did a whole show on making your own yogurt! Imagine that. Evidently he did not consult my instructions on how to make perfect homemade yogurt in the microwave, because he made his yogurt quite a bit differently than I do. He also had a lot of information that I had not heard before, so being the ever vigilant yogurt scientist, I took notes, and did a little experimenting so I could share the results with you.

Alton did not heat his milk up to 180-190 degrees. He just started by heating it to 120 degrees. I have wondered about this step for a while, because hasn’t pasteurized milk already been heated quite a bit? But then he was much more diligent about keeping the milk at 120 degrees for the incubation period. He used a heating pad and a temperature probe to make sure the milk stayed at a constant 120 degrees for at least 4 hours.

So. I decided to forego the heating up to 180 degrees, and just heated my milk to an even 120 degrees in the microwave. I added the room temperature yogurt, and did my usual double towel wrap and placed it back in the microwave (microwave turned OFF.)

Four hours later….hmmm, looks a little too watery to me. Checked the temperature and it had dropped to maybe 106 degrees. So I decided to go all radical and RE-HEATED the partially formed yogurt to 120 degrees, covered it with the two towels and put it back in the microwave for another three hours.

What I ended up with looked like yogurt curdles in a lot of whey.  But wait! All was not lost. Alton had also demonstrated making yogurt cheese (yes, I already knew how to strain yogurt–see my recipe.) But he put a weight on top of the yogurt (a small plate with a canned good on top.) And that worked great! I used my coffee filters, because, dang it, they charge too much for cheesecloth in the stores.

I ended up with some nice thick stuff that had a bit of texture like ricotta cheese. Sorry I don’t have a picture, but I’ve used it in a number of recipes, and it has worked very well.

I think I’ll stick with my tried and true method. But for those of you in colder climates, Alton’s suggestion of wrapping a heating pad around the container with the yogurt mixture would probably work very well.

A few more of Alton’s suggestions that I found interesting:

  •  2% milk makes the best textured yogurt.
  • Buy organic milk, because maybe the farmers feed the cows a better grade of feed.
  • Choose paper cartons–better quality of milk.
  • Don’t stir homemade yogurt too much. It will break down, as it does not have any gelatin in it.
  • Add powdered milk to your yogurt culture for added protein.

I know I yack about homemade yogurt frequently. But not only is it a good buy ($4 for a half gallon of ORGANIC milk will yield almost a half gallon of homemade yogurt. You really can’t beat that price,) but it also tastes so much better than any store bought yogurt I’ve ever had. Its not nearly as tangy (not a fan of the tang.) Plus, its just plain fun to see milk turn into yogurt.

 

A Good Weekend

It was such a good weekend. Had very little to do with food or weight, but thought I’d share. I have designated Saturday as my housecleaning day. (Its a new thing I’m trying out. The goal is that I won’t feel guilty EVERY DAY OF THE WEEK that I’m not doing housework.) But I had something else in mind for Saturday morning, so luckily I got busy and did a bunch of work on Friday.

Saturday I started in on a quilt project. I had made some large blocks a while ago that I just didn’t like very much. And I had thought about cutting them up and restructuring them. And then I saw a tiny little picture that gave me an idea. So Saturday morning I started cutting into those blocks. And putting them back together with tiny little strips of fabric to create crosses. Here’s the result (still unfinished, but I LOVE!)

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And then Sunday was the day for my quilt show reception. I was absolutely sure that no one would come. So sure that, even though I went and bought food for the reception (had a little obsession over that too–why should I buy stuff to put out that is too tempting for me. Decided on apple slices and blueberries, and some rice crackers) I never put the food out!!

So people started trickling in, and my mom and my sister completely surprised me by showing up all the way from the Bay Area! A nice amount of friends came, and it was very fun to share my past year’s work with them. Most of them were very surprised at the volume of quilts I had produced, and all were very complimentary about the quilts and their message. It really was very nice.

So here’s a picture of me that my sister snapped. It actually shows that my jeans are too big now–YAY!

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That’s all for now. I’m off to work on more quilts. And maybe a little rug hooking and some knitting. Have to rest up from that busy weekend LOL.

Maintaining and Weight Loss

Well that covers it all doesn’t it? I can hardly believe that its been eight years since I started this last journey of weight loss. And it doesn’t seem like its coming to an end anytime soon.

When I am in Haiti or Nairobi, it seems absolutely ludicrous that I or anyone else would spend a minute of time thinking about food. What’s the best food to eat, and at which time? Should certain foods be eliminated and which ones should you eat for the fastest weight loss? I’m telling you, it seems ludicrous. And yet, here I am, home for a week, and this topic looms large in my mind. I can’t help it.

So. I wanted to be sure to share a brilliant quote by my friend Lori. I swear, some of the best stuff is found in the comments on blogs, and I am always afraid it will not be seen by enough people. On Lynn’s blog entry about “The Mental Price of Skinny,” Lori commented,

“real maintenance is not clutching to weight with white knuckles, but learning to live with the ups and downs that come with it.”

And that seems to be what I am doing right now. I have done the clutching and the white knuckle thing. I have been embarrassed that as a “successful maintainer” I have been not so successful at maintaining the 100 pounds I lost. I have tried to lose some of that weight, and only succeeded in gaining a little bit more. I have eliminated certain food groups, and I have eaten mindfully. I have refined and changed my diet over the years so that now I eat mostly unprocessed food (that’s a good change!) And all that time I observed myself, and made note of what worked for me and what didn’t, sometimes IN SPITE of what the ‘experts’ said.

This Me Diet thing seems to be working. If it stops working, I will try not to panic and white knuckle it, but will try to roll with the ups and downs, maybe tweaking this or that, and continuing on this never-ending journey that we call maintenance.

Lori also posted a link to a very interesting podcast. A couple of experts were talking about recent findings in weight loss. Of course I found it very interesting, because their findings seemed to validate my self-observations.

Paraphrasing, they said:

  • Calorie for calorie, fat does not relieve hunger that well.
  • Protein is the best calorie buy for hunger relief.
  • For the satiation factor, a low fat/higher volume of food works well.

I am definitely paraphrasing here, so check out the podcast for yourself. But these were points that I had observed in myself and so tried to incorporate them into this new diet plan.

I originally lost weight on Weight Watchers. Whether that was their goal or not, what I learned was that I could eat a bigger volume if I would eat a very low fat, high fiber diet. After I left W.W., I was encouraged to try adding in some healthy fats. There is no doubt about it, fat just makes food taste good! But I tend to get carried away with fat.  (Some of you might recall my love affair with walnuts.)

I knew the information about protein, but I didn’t pay a lot of attention to it. Adding the two mid-day meals with 20 grams of protein in 170 calories has made it easy to NOT think about food so much during the day. Its important to me that these are foods that I truly enjoy.

And finally, when I thought about my breakfast choices, I made some changes. I LOVE breakfast. I had quite a variety of nutritious breakfasts that I enjoyed, and most of them came in around 300-350 calories. Nothing wrong with that. Except that I noticed I was often over-full after eating them. So I started cutting some of them back, and developing a new breakfast menu that was lower in fat, but still high in volume. Most of them come in at less than 200 calories. And this seems to be working perfectly for me.

So I guess what I started out to say is that sometimes weight loss is PART of maintaining. That’s just life.

Full Circle Moment

The other day I was looking for something completely different, and I came across this blog entry from September 2011, and was surprised to see that at the end of it, I mentioned having just heard about Wendy’s idea to start a child sponsorship program in Haiti. I’m re-posting it here for your convenience. (Be sure to scroll to the bottom for the ‘full circle moment.)

Shoes

This is a photo essay from my trip to Africa last January that I never published.  As is obvious, I like shoes.  I was so touched by the shoes these little kids from the slums wore.  It was obvious to me, that even though this was a “soccer tournament,” most of these little kids were dressed in their best clothes for the American visitors.  Some of the little girls had a real sense of style and did the best with what they had.  You can see in the last photo that the pile of shoes that we brought with us was definitely the most popular with the soccer coaches, even though there was a whole roomful of sports equipment and clothing strewn about.

So last week I was at a meeting at church, and a young couple, who I admire very much, each had an idea for ministry that I got very excited about.  The husband happens to work at the same University hospital that I worked at, and he said that on a recent trip to the downtown area, he noticed the shoes of a homeless woman, and thought to himself that no one should have to wear shoes like that.  So he had the idea to collect good comfortable walking shoes and take them to homeless people on his lunch break!

Then his wife shared that she had been trying to figure out how we could set up a sponsorship program for the kids in a church in Haiti that our church has partnered with!

Both of these ideas are things that I feel passionately about.  Just that day I had been feeling so lost–what am I doing that is worthy? etc.  I know that there are some things volunteer-wise that I want to do that require the use of my hands, so that will have to wait until after I have my right hand surgery done.  But these two things are things I can do now!  I was so excited after that night.

 And here I am, a little over a year later, helping to distribute shoes to the kids in Haiti:
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A Different Perspective.

How funny that my blog friend Helen should write about perspective at the same time I was thinking about this. And my old blog friend Lynn wrote such a good post that also gave me some input to how I was feeling about my trip to Haiti. (BTW, Wendy wrote a really great overview of our trip with some great pics here.)

So here’s a few of the things I was feeling on my trip to Haiti.

  • Frustration. I can’t solve this problem. EVEN OPRAH WINFRY CAN’T SOLVE THIS PROBLEM. (I actually thought that…) I also get frustrated at “rich Americans” who can seemingly turn a blind eye to the problems of the poor and needy in our world. I call it flipping the channel. We all see it–the devastation that poverty and injustice brings to people all over the world– on television. But if you can’t stand looking at it, you can always just flip the channel. This is where Lynn’s poignant article about the ant farm comes in, describing a little boy who grew to love the ants in his ant farm as he watched them working, and then was devastated as he saw his friends stomping on some ants. Lynn made the observation that you cannot love what you do not know.
  • Disconnect. I felt disconnected from the process. I even felt disconnected from God, which was VERY irritating. I didn’t have the passion that Wendy was feeling. Like Lynn mentioned in the comments about how she felt from a distance (“punched in the gut”) when we ran out of shoes, Wendy was VERY upset about that. I was just pragmatic. I had hoped we would have enough, but the common sense side of me knew we didn’t have quite enough shoes with us, even if every pair had fit every child. Like I told Wendy, “there are 200 kids here, we would have had to have about 400 pairs of shoes to ensure we had exactly the right size for every kid.” That said, I have to admit that I was wrong before we left–those kids have big feet! They are not very big people, so I thought we needed more smaller sized shoes. We will be sending another suitcase soon with larger shoes.

So. The frustration I can get over. I even wrote about it here. You know, that old starfish story. I can’t help everyone, but I can help this one that I see.

The disconnect, that took a little longer to work through. Its funny the ways God chooses to speak to you. Well, at least the ways He chooses to speak to me… a friend called who had actually been to both the places that I have been (Nairobi and Haiti) so she knew in person what I had seen. That helped a little. A sermon by David Platt that I watched on video gave me a few more insights. Then, Saturday night, I watched a YOU TUBE video (and I cannot recommend this video to you highly enough–it was amazing) and I found a different perspective.

The youtube video was an amazing one-man play called C.S. Lewis: My Life’s Journey. It was so well done. The actor portrayed C.S. Lewis sitting and and actually talking to a group of writing students. When he talked about his wife, and the short time they had together, and how mad he was at her death, he said he finally realized that the three years they had together (she was expected to die in a few weeks and instead had a 3 year remission from bone cancer,) was a gift.

And that changed my perspective. The trip to Haiti was a gift. It went unbelievably smoothly. The difficult physical aspects (no electricity, sketchy running water, ? food) were all easy for me. None of us got sick. I saw one mosquito the whole time I was there, and NO spiders. (well, okay, I saw one small daddy long legs. I see more spiders than that in my own home in a couple of hours.) And this morning I finally put a couple of other things together. That personality trait that served me so well as a nurse, the ability to disconnect, was still in play. I always credited that as a gift, as I was able to be truly compassionate to my patients and their parents, and yet I could go home and not think about them on my days off. I believe that this is what allowed me to minister more whole heartedly to my patients without ‘burning out.’ So that hasn’t changed about me. Its not likely to change. That’s how God made me. And that is why, by Saturday morning, on my weekly talk with my brother, we could talk about making plans to return to Haiti.

P.S. I can’t leave the subject of Haiti without sharing my favorite memory with you. One of the little girls I sponsor is Elvena. Her mother is dead, and her dad is, well, just plain crazy (I’m quoting one of the locals.) So when I met her on Thursday, she was very shy, not too many smiles. On Friday, we walked around the village, and visited some of the sponsored kids in their homes. Out came Elvena, dressed in her new hot pink and coral Old Navy outfit! And by Sunday, when we went back to Carrefour Poy for church and our last visit, Elvena just kept hanging around me. Big smiles. Not wanting hugging or touching, just being around. And as we left Carrefour Poy (in the only car that even goes to that village!) it was just like a scene from a movie. There was Alvena, still in her colorful Old Navy outfit, running along behind, laughing and smiling and waving. And as we went on, she came to her road, and turned and ran on back to her home. I didn’t get my camera out for a picture, but I will never forget that. It was a gift.

P.S.S. If you want to see a slide show of my entire quilt exhibit “The Housetop Quilts,” go to my quilt blog, and there will be a link there.

Back to the Gym

I finally went to the gym today, after being absent from it for almost two weeks. It sure felt good. And it felt really great that I had not lost any of my strength or endurance during that time. I even challenged myself and got two 45 second planks done!

Oh, what’s that you say? Where was I?  Oh yeah. Haiti. What would you like to hear about?

The city slums?

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The country slums?

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Side-of-the-road slums? (a strip mall??)

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How about what I thought were little ATM boxes everywhere on the side of the road? Turns out they were lottery boxes. Just what a devastated country needs.

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Do I sound… I don’t know how I sound, or even what I feel. We were headquartered in Port au Prince, and drove through rubble and slums and tent cities and garbage and a LOT of people every day and all the way out to the country area where Carrefour Poy was. Its just a lot to process.

We did have a very ‘successful’ trip, accomplishing almost everything we set out to do. We brought over 150 pairs of shoes with us, but we still ran out before we were able to give every child a pair of shoes. We were able to meet with each of the sponsored students, and quite a few of the students still waiting for sponsors. We had a ‘teacher appreciation dinner’ (served them American style sandwiches) and we were able to visit with some of the students in their homes.

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The similarities to Nairobi were almost eery. And as I learned in Nairobi, there is peace in a simple life. Our host and chauffeur and interpreter, Pastor Gilbert, lives in a modest home in the middle of the rubble of Port au Prince. Like I said, sometimes there is electricity, and sometimes there isn’t. When there isn’t electricity, there isn’t running water (one of the most useful things I learned was that I could wash my hair with 5 cups of water! One to wet my hair, and 4 to make sure it was rinsed. That will come in handy someday.) There were always people coming and going from his house, and they had several women living with them who had no where else to go. A young nursing student and their 5 year old niece also lived with them. And yet, in the midst of all that, I thought, “Gilbert’s home is a very peaceful place.” Oh, and they had THE MOST WONDERFUL COFFEE ready for us each morning. What else could a person want?

Here’s a couple of shots of us at the San Francisco airport, all bright and shiny, at the beginning of our journey.

My friend Wendy and her son, with their healthy choices of kombucha and coconut water.

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Guess what I found?

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And at the end of the trip, Wendy and I and the three outstanding young men who worked with us as interpreters and more.

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As always, I had a little travel quilting project with me. I don’t usually have that much time to work on my travel quilts, but they are like a security blanket for me. And just taking them along with me usually inspires the direction I will take with them. You can check out my travel quilt over on the quilt blog if you want to.

Regular stuff: I was very happy that I didn’t overeat on this trip at all. And my joints did extremely well with the airplane travel. I swear they have added leg room to all the planes. After spending a week in 80-90 degree weather, with irregular weather and irregular running water, I arrived home in the middle of the night to bitter cold. And ironically, just as I was looking forward to a nice American hot shower, my water pipes froze up.

I’m glad to be home.

So Much to Say, So Little Time…

Well, I missed out on that whole end-of-year-review AND the beginning-of-the-year-goal-setting. I’ll just say that my BF pointed out to me that it had been a VERY GOOD YEAR for me, and she is so right. And it is already starting to be a VERY GOOD YEAR in this new year.

The two biggest projects for the past year are converging at exactly the same time, and that is the reason there is “so little time” to write. Tomorrow I go to Folsom to hang the quilts for the gallery showing. The quilts that I have been working on all year. TWENTY quilts. I am so pleased that I set a goal for myself to make 20 quilts, and that I actually was able to accomplish that. Some of them are pictured over on the quilt blog. I hope to have all of them photographed and to do a slide show or something. But that will have to wait for a week or two.

Because the other BIG THING that is happening is that I leave for Haiti on Monday. And this is also at the end of a year of working on our child sponsorship program for the children of Carrefour Poy. We are so happy with what we have been able to do so far. But have so much more that we want to do. It will be so helpful to ‘see for ourselves’ the situation and the needs. You can see some pictures of the kids on our website. We were so happy when they were able to start a lunch program. And our shoe drive for the month of December reaped fantastic results. We have about 175 pairs of shoes! Our suitcases are stuffed to the gills. Fortunately the weather is warm there, so our lightweight clothing will not take much room!

But you all know that what I really like to talk about is the daily dailies. And food. So here’s a bit of this and that.

I made crepes!! I was pretty excited at how perfectly I was able to make crepes for the first time. I used Georgie’s recipe, which if you look at it, it is a form of our protein pancakes.

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But here’s the weird thing. I made these for myself Christmas morning, but I didn’t really like them. The chocolate banana filling was too rich for me. So I tossed them, and had a piece of that baked oatmeal that I had made out of the fruit salad. BTW, I liked that baked oatmeal so much that I figured out how to make it again and will post that recipe soon. The crepes themselves were great, though, and I will try them again. Maybe with a blueberry filling.

And then, for Christmas, I finally bought myself one of those spiralizers. SUPER COOL!!! I bought the one that Cammy had pointed out to me. So nice. Hand-held, and I can put it in the drawer when I am done. Look at these cool spiralized carrots and zucchini! I cooked them and made some of my Darn Good Spaghetti Sauce to serve on top of them.

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And this is a nice little gift idea: Home-made muesli fixings. My mom likes me to make muesli for her. Lately I haven’t had enough oatmeal on hand, so I just put all the other stuff in a container and tell her to mix it in with oatmeal. For Christmas I had the idea to layer the ingredients in a mason jar. You can use whatever you want as the add-ins. This jar has slivered almonds, unsweetened coconut, date pieces, dried apricot pieces, and dried cranberries. The powder in the top is some cinnamon splenda.

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And a little health and exercise update: after 6 weeks of PT, going twice a week, and dutifully performing all my exercises between visits, my knee is VASTLY improved! I celebrated New Year’s Day by taking the three mile walk to the end of my road and back. I haven’t done this for about 9 months because it hurt too bad to go uphill or downhill for too long, and there is a very long steep hill on that walk. On New Year’s Eve I was at the gym, and it was a bright and sunny day, so I got to take a dip in the pool. What a treat! I am doing fantastic staying on my “me diet.” I am not sure what will happen food-wise in Haiti. I am taking some protein bars with me, and hopefully I will not gain weight like I did in Africa. That was a bit weird…

 

I’m not sure I’ll get to blog again before I leave, so I will say Happy New Year and farewell. And will be anxious to share with you when I return!