Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Vacation!!!! (All I ever wanted.)

I am taking a five-day vacation and I'm taking this blog with me.

I hope you have a safe and fun holiday weekend.

I know I will.

See you Tuesday.

This is not a cheese-making post

Last September, Cody and I took a little class on herbs and cheese-making. It was put on by the same folks who did the canning class we took during summer 2008. So we drove out to a church in foot-high waters and sloshed into a church basement filled with people who like sophisticated cheese (and probably authentic living) a lot more than I do.

It's okay, I still like making things.

And Cody loves different cheeses.

And Cody loves me.

But he might have loved me a little bit less after everyone was called to say why they were taking the class and what their favorite cheese was. My answer was "American slices. In the cellophane. Like for grilled cheese sandwiches."

Groups like this always make me feel a little sheepish about not buying organic clothing made from Free Trade-certified hemp/being well-traveled/composting my poop/being adventurous/being That Couple Who is So Greener and Happier Than You.

I mean, we don't even wear Toms!

Whatever. Everyone was friendly, and the type of people who come to stuff like this are, above all, the type of people who want to learn how to make things.

So there we were.

After a few fun games about learning about herbs, we snacked on some crackers and cheese (what else?!) and gathered into groups.

Here is how you make cheese: You start out with raw milk. You can make it without raw milk, but then you have to add rennet. Rennet is naturally present in raw milk, but gets killed during the homogenization process.

Rennet is essential for curdling.

I said it: curdling.

Raw milk is not legally for sale for human consumption in Arkansas. I can only assume this milk was donated.

I have heard that you can buy it for pets or whatever, and then I guess no one can stop you from guzzling it down or making cheese.

But anyway, I teamed up with a couple who I will call Nancy and Drew because I forgot their real names.

We slowly stirred the pot of raw milk over a low flame. The milk is supposed to reach 80° or 90°. I forget which.* Basically, you take turns stirring the milk slowly.

You also have to add some kind of acid to start the curdling process. Nancy, Drew, and I (yes! I've always wanted to type that phrase!) wanted to be fancy and use lime juice. Here's Nancy squeezing some limes.

You can also use vinegar.

This is actually the intended result: curds!

You wait until things get even ..... curdier, and then you layer some cheese cloth into a sieve.

Most people would just put the sieve in the sink of their homes, but the sink was already crowded with dirty dishes. So we all had bowls at our tables and the sieve went in the bowl and the cheesecloth went in the sieve and then you pour in your curds and whey(!!!).

Some people took the whey home because of nutrients....or their own earthiness or something. Alas, I had left my whey jug at home. Nancy, Drew, and I just dumped it out.

Then you try to wring out as much whey as possible and let the cheese hang so that excess liquid can drain out.

I should mention (actually I should have mentioned it earlier) that we were making soft cheese. In theory, this stuff should have been hanging in its little cheesecloth bag thingy for about 6 hours, but this was a three-hour class in a church basement on a weeknight. Come on.

So we let that drain while we cleaned up a little and did some Q & A with the teachers, Jack and Rebbecca.

THEN: we seasoned the cheese.

So. Our pot was a little thin on the bottom, so the milk scorched a bit. We picked out some darker pieces and moved on. So the cheese was already a little flavored (as in, I tried it, and it was a lot like scrambled eggs in both taste and texture. Really).

Nancy, Drew, and I went for pepper (I think) and rosemary. And salt is a must.

Then we mushed it in with the fork. It was a little like when you use a pastry cutter.

Then we packed our cheese into containers and went home in the pouring rain. I think we let ours sit in the fridge for a day or two before Cody bought some crackers and took it all to work for lunch.

I don't remember what he and his group added to their cheese other than some kind of peppers.

He mixed my 'smokey' rosemary cheese with his spicy cheese and spread it on Triscuts and said it was a pretty good lunch.

And that! is the story of the time we took a cheese-making class.

* This is not a cheese-making tutorial. "Obviously!" you're thinking. This is just a story about a time I took a class on cheese-making. If you really want to make cheese there are enough recipes and Internet tutorials and library books on the subject for you to really go crazy with it if you want. You should look.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010



Remember when Kelly got married and I took pictures and declared it Kelly Week?

About that......

I realized (as I was driving home, no less) that I would be away from the Internet for most of the week.

And yesterday and today were filled with work.

And frankly, the only person who really needs to see the pictures is Kelly.

Because they're her pictures.

And I don't want to post a slew of her pictures without her blessing.

(Have you ever tried to do something without her blessing? I don't recommend it.)

Besides, there are close to 200 pictures. Some need to be edited to look pretty. Some just need to be ordered.

But they're all making me tired.

So, at the end of this day, I've decided to move Kelly Week to next week.

Do I contradict myself?
Very well then I contradict myself,
(I am large, I contain multitudes.)

I also contain a lot of caffeine and fresh produce and bits and pieces of poetry.

It's summertime. I have impulses. It's my blog and I'll celebrate who and what I want when I want.

Bear with me.

Tomorrow I may finally get around to telling you about that cheese-making class Cody and I took last September.

In more current news, I sent Kelly nearly 20 emails today.

And last night, I picked my first tomato of the season.

That's right: mine!

Cody and I weren't exactly competing.....but I still won.

In future news, I am going on a field trip tomorrow.

I hope your summer also contains rash decision making and produce and poetry. It's the perfect season for all three.

The End.

Monday, June 28, 2010

Kelly got married! And then I took pictures!

Kelly got married and it was beautiful and she was beautiful and the weekend was beautiful. Some of my pictures were even beautiful. (Thank goodness.)

I'd love to post more about it--and I probably will. I could just make this Kelly Week!--but at the moment I've completely forgotten how to upload pictures in chronological order.

Completely and totally.

So here are 3 of them:

Pre-wedding, pre-church.

A smarter person would have taken this out of the bag
and then taken a picture.
I am not that smart person.

And this is my dear friend putting on her veil.

I hope this is enough for you. We've got to pace ourselves, you and I. Tomorrow there will be more wedding goodness.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Wedding weekend plans

Jen and Kelly, spring 2007.
This was the first party Cody and I threw in our little apartment.

Hi there! I hope you have a beautiful weekend.

I'm looking forward to mine.

Really, really, really looking forward to it.

What am I doing, you ask? Not a lot.

Just hitting the farmer's market.

Taking a little trip in Jeff's new car.

Watching Kelly get married.

Crying and taking a few thousand pictures of the crying and the marrying.

I even went to Walgreens and finally copied all the pictures on my camera to disks.

It took 5 discs.

I discovered I have 1,700 pictures on my camera. I would have taken a picture of the computer screen in the store, but it was difficult with my memory card jammed in the little thingy.

I also discovered that if I were to order 4 X 6 prints of those 1,700 pictures, it would cost somewhere around $335.


And believe me, all those pictures took a long time to process.

I was scared for the computer.

I won't put it off so long next time.

(It just hit me: I took 1,700 pictures in almost exactly 6 months! This is not unsettling at all.)

So tonight I'll delete the pictures in my camera, charge my batteries, and buy some black and white film for my real camera in preparation for Kelly's big day.

This is a big deal.

I met Kelly on the second day of college orientation because her mom exclaimed, "Oh! You're homeschooled! Kelly was too!" and looked at us expectantly like we should immediately be fabulous friends.

We groaned a little. I mean, yay for meeting more homeschoolers.....the very people we were trying to escape when we went away to college in the first place. Sheesh.

By the end of the first week, we were fabulous friends.

For the record, I love her mom.

I think her mom loves me.

I know Kelly loves me.

And my family loves her.

And I love Kelly.

And I know the majority of our drive to the wedding (and back) will be spent discussing how much we love Kelly.

And how happy we want to her to be.

Sorry for the choppiness. My lunch break is nearly over and I have a blinding headache (I already took something and it's getting better) and I'm incapable of coherent thought, much less the eloquence this person and this event deserve.


A friend I've had my whole adult life.

A student with color-coded note cards.

A speaker who made me cry with pride when she delivered a presentation for her senior thesis on horror in American fiction.

A friend my family unanimously adores. I mean it. They care for her deeply and always have.

The girl both boys I ever dated liked or asked out before settling for me.

The nerd who is far more intimidating than I could ever hope to be.

The sweetheart who gave me I Am One of You Forever as a wedding gift.

My mind is a swirl of caffeine and love and happiness and hope and planning and nagging concerns about things we'll forget to bring and a thousand more memories that I don't have space to share here.

But mostly just...... Kelly.

And her happiness.

And love.

The love she's enjoying right now. The love we have for her. Just love.

You know, the greatest of these things we think about a lot.

So I'm looking forward to celebrating that.

I hope you have a good weekend, too. I hope it has a lot of love.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Authors and crafts

True story: last night I was in Barnes & Noble and I saw Kevin Brockmeier and all I did was freak out and grab people and hiss "Kevin Brockmeier is in here just browsing books like he's normal!" and feel flushed and excited.

I mean, I always think he should be living in some house that a hobbit would like, making lists and writing out books in longhand as he sits at a workbench. Like Santa Claus.

Yes. Like Santa Claus, I think authors should work any time they're not doing interviews or giving talks or showing up to book signings. They should endlessly toil away at amazing projects that will turn into fascinating works of art that I will read.

I never liked seeing Santa out in public either.

But for Kevin Brockmeier to just be out and about with a friend, browsing the sale tables.....the mind reels.

This morning, I told Laine about that amazing encounter and she asked why I didn't take a picture of him from a sneaky distance.

Then I realized I did have my camera with me last night.

Then my world crumbled a little bit.

I am so sorry to let you readers down!

I let myself down!

And to think, I pride myself on being so creepy and stalkerish ("pride" may not be the word I'm looking for......yes, it is) and it would have taken under 10 seconds to stealthily take a picture of one of my favorite authors ever.

And I didn't.

I hope you can forgive me.

I hope I can forgive myself.

To make this day of mourning and despair and shame somewhat better, let me tell you about a blog I started following this morning.

Anna Maria Horner.

I read an interview with her on purl bee because that's where I find all kinds of great things, and then I went to her blog and then I knew I absolutely had to try to make this tunic dress thing.

Oh, and she has 6 kids.

Oh, and she uses bright colors.

Oh, and one time she was on TV with Martha Stewart.

Oh, and she designs fabric.

I spent more time than I want to admit just looking through pretty pictures and struggling valiantly against drooling all over myself.

I lost that struggle.

I hope you can forgive me for not being creepy about Kevin Brockmeier to the best of my abilities, and that you enjoy these links.

Now, if you'll excuse me, I'm going to eat lunch and fantasize about making quilts.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Monday, June 21, 2010

Actual Father's Day post

So. I realized the last post was more like a weekend recap than a proper Father's Day post and there were some things I had thought of to put in a Father's Day post, so here we are.

Two posts in one day! You're welcome.

  • wears glasses or contacts
  • likes babies
  • is the only man allowed to address me with terms of endearment like "sweetie" or (jokingly....I think) "little lady"
  • is pretty good at fixing things
  • has not gotten fat or grown a beard because Mom told him he couldn't back before they got married
  • has gray hair
  • knows how to shear sheep
  • still won't let us say the s-word (the phrase used when you rudely tell someone to be quiet.)
  • has my initials
  • has way too many opinions about shoes
  • talks to Levi almost daily
  • likes NASCAR
  • is really good at grilling things
  • once heroically kept skinny teenagers from flying off a windy mountaintop
  • takes Sara to Oaklawn
  • seems like a very good father-in-law
  • pays for dinner
  • makes a great pot of coffee
  • took me to the feed store last weekend and bought me a Mt. Dew and it was a great time
  • gave Laine all his tanning genes and shafted the rest of us
  • sends me picture texts
  • pushes my glasses higher up my nose when they start to slide down. If he wasn't one of my parents, that would be weird
  • is not one of those men who has an opinion on his wife's hair length/color/style. I strongly dislike those men. Are you fixing that hair and living with it on your head every day? No? Then shush
  • always thinks Mom's hair looks good
  • once told teenage me, "You know, I'm glad you don't wear a lot of makeup or get too fixed up." and as a fifteen-year-old who just. didn't. fix. up., it was nice to hear
  • polished up Mom's old boots for me to wear
  • is 6'
  • ties a killer sash
  • was an Eagle Scout
  • really likes pecan sandies with coffee
  • enjoys a good Cher CD every now and then
  • introduced me to the joys of napping through sporting events
  • can really work a caulking gun
  • is a good painter
  • basically, is just very handy
  • basically, is also just my very favorite Dad

Father's Day weekend extravaganza

So. My weekend pretty much revolved around this snazzy dresser:

Due to some misinterpretations and scheduling conflicts, we wound up celebrating Father's Day 2 days in a row. Dad was a stand-up guy and did not object. Granted, he's not usually one to turn down meals and bowling and fun times.

So, early Saturday evening, we went bowling and ate dinner at Cactus Jack's because that's one of Dad's favorite restaurants. We had a great time, and I didn't take any pictures.

But I do want you to know that after that dinner I decided Robert would be my favorite brother-in-law after he dipped a straw wrapper in cheese dip and ate it.

Another reason to really enjoy Robert:

He forgot to bring socks for bowling. So Laine was a nice wife and shared her socks with him.

He made it work.

These are Robert and Chad's intense game faces. Chad gets pretty serious about bowling.
Chad, Robert, and Cody bowled in one lane.
Dad, Laine, and I bowled in another.

Mom and Sara sat out the bowling. Mom is a very good cheerleader, and Sara promised her physical therapist/BFF Andrew (really, they go way back) that she wouldn't try anything.

Here are some pictures of us bowling fabulously.

Oh, and here's where Dad beat everyone in the second game:

Then we went to Cactus Jack's and had some Starbucks for dessert. Here are Sara and Cody have an awesome time at Barnes.

And this is a fantastic picture of a bunch of creeps disliking having their picture made. I think I'll have it blown up and frame it for my living room wall. This is a great in-law shot.
This one's a little happier. I like that.

This is Laine's bookmark. Chad was fascinated by the holographic running horses and was incredibly disappointed when he found out she bought the last one. You can see him staring jealously in the background.
Since Sara and Chad were only celebrating the Saturday portion of Father's Day weekend, they gave him his present and card Saturday night. This is Dad's new pocket knife:
Apparently his old one is old and dull and caused him to be the subject of ridicule and mockery. Seriously. And then Chad wrote in Dad's card, "I hope this knife will work well and people will not make fun of you."

Pocket knives are serious business.

Dad was excited.
He was also excited because Sara made him a handmade card. He loves homemade cards. Sara's was very apt:

(Laine and Robert didn't make a card!)


On Sunday, we went to church!

Laine and Joanna color-coordinated.

Actually, so did I! Mom took this nice picture.

Then we took the party to Mom and Dad's. Here is Laine's card next to mine.

Here is Dad getting ready to take more pictures with Laine and me.

We're so good looking and fun!

I had Laine take this picture of me because it's the first time the family has seen me in a not-baggy outfit in ...... a while. I have a hard time finding clothes that fit, and I'm going to be honest: this dress is a size 0 and there's extra room in the bust.
Then we changed clothes and ate butter for lunch.

Just kidding! We only melted down 2 and a half sticks of butter. Then Cody fried zucchini in olive oil and Dad grilled a roast. Then we had 3 kinds of dessert.

Then we were miserable.

Then we had a dominoes tournament that was much more fun than it looked.

(I don't know. I don't want to know. I'm not going to try to find out what is happening in this picture.)

Mom and Mo napped. I'm not allowed to post pictures of Mom napping, but here's Mo.
Grandmother read a murder mystery.
Robert took a nap during the dominoes game and woke up refreshed and ready to drive back to his house. See how excited he is?!
Some of us were a little more tired. Notice how Cody is asleep on the couch and there is nowhere for Laine to sit.
Laine and Robert packed up and left.

After a little more visiting, Cody and I left.

It was a great party weekend. Laine gave Dad a CD he already had, so he said she could go back to listening to it (it was the new Michael Buble, if you're curious) because she's been listening to it for the past few days. She'll find him another gift.

My gift is in the mail and should arrive by Friday.

I don't know what Levi got Dad, or when Dad will get that present. But I do know when it does happen, it will make our presents look puny (Levi tends to find cool NASCAR things).

I hope Dad enjoyed his weekend.

Because we like Dad. He really is the best. He taught us important things like how to iron creases and shine shoes. And that fourteen-year-old boys are wicked and evil and we should avoid them forever. And how to judge cuts of meat. Or raise show chickens.

Among other important things.

Like the time he taught me to whittle, and use leverage in manual labor projects! (I wear zeroes, okay? I use leverage every day.)

So to Dad: Happy (belated Internet) Father's Day! I love you!

And, for the record:

He won the domino tournament.