Monday, April 25, 2011

First photo session.

I had my first photo session. My good friend (and neighbor) asked me to take her family's Easter pictures. I was a little nervous about doing it because I hadn't done anybody's family photos before, but I was up for the challenge. I am continually working on my photography skills and I knew I needed the practice. It was actually a really fun experience. And, of course, it helped that the family was great to work with. I wanted to share with you how the pictures turned out.

I still have lots to learn. I look at some of the professional photography blogs and wonder how the heck they get those amazing pictures, but I think (and hope) I am well on my way!

Friday, April 22, 2011

Maleah's 7th Birthday

(artwork by Daddy)

My baby girl turned seven (sigh). It's so hard to believe. She is slowly phasing out of the little girl stage and into, well, I don't know, just older. I can tell she's getting older in the way she responds to things I have been doing forever, like pinching her tushy. I guess when you are seven it is no longer cool for your mother to do this. I get the ol' "MOM!" And when I kiss on her incredibly soft, mushy cheeks for too long I get, "MOM, that's enough!" Why does this type of behavior have to start so early?!

For her seventh birthday we had a Flower Power birthday party. So girly!

We had flower sandwiches...

and we played Pin the Petal on the Flower...

and we painted flower pots and planted flower seeds in them.

The girls had so much fun. And I was grateful for the perfect weather.

Maleah was truly blessed with the many gifts she received. I was impressed by how thoughtful and "crafty" the gifts were.

And I gotta give props to my awesome son, Jarod, who put up with 11 little girls running around so that he could fulfill his mom's request to take pictures. Jarod, you're the best!

Happy Birthday, my sweet Maleah!

Monday, April 11, 2011

Making Homemade Yogurt

I bet most of you think that making homemade yogurt is too complicated or too time consuming to bother with, right? I know I did...until I tried. Had I known it was going to be this easy I would have done it a long time ago. The most time consuming part was pouring over recipes and blogs to find out exactly how to do it, and fortunately for you, I've already done that part.

There are numerous ways to make yogurt. You can purchase an inexpensive yogurt maker-which I didn't do because I don't want one more thing taking up space on my counters-or you can use your oven or you can use a plain ole stockpot, which is what I do. The key is you want to "incubate" your milk for a certain amount of time at just the right temperature. So here is what you will need:

-stockpot with lid
-quart jar
-heating pad

-3 Tbs. of yogurt from a previous batch you've made OR plain organic yogurt (to use as a starter)
-quart of milk (4 cups)

Got your stuff? Good, let's get started.

Lay the dishtowel on top of your counter and place the heating pad on top of it. Fill your stockpot 1/4 to 1/2 full with 110 degree tap water. Turn the heating pad on to medium or whatever setting that will keep your water at 110 degrees. Place stockpot on top of heating pad. Sorry, I didn't get a picture of the stockpot.

Pour your milk into a pan to heat it up. Now, here is where things will differ depending on if you are using raw milk or not. I am fortunate enough to get raw milk from a local farmer each week. If you don't know the benefits of raw milk check out this site This stuff is sooo much better for you than the pasteurized and homogenized milk you get at the store . A lot of people that are allergic or sensitive to regular pasteurized milk can drink raw milk with no problems. Anyway, back to making our yogurt. If you have the benefit of using raw milk than you will only heat it up to 110 degrees. This is very important because we don't want to kill the living and beneficial bacteria and food enzymes that are in it. If you are NOT using raw milk than you heat it up to 185 degrees and then cool it back down to 110 degrees. Now we need to add our 3 Tbs. of already prepared yogurt to our milk. In a separate small bowl, combine a tidge of the warmed milk (can't be hotter than 110 degrees) and the 3 Tbs. of yogurt. Mix together well and then add back in to the pan. Gently mix it in.

Take this mixture and pour it into your quart jar and place a lid on it. Put your jar into the water of your stockpot. Water should come up about 1/2 way of the jar. Place lid on the stockpot and then a towel over it to keep the warmth in. Now let it sit and incubate for 8-10 hours. Periodically check to see if water is staying at 110 degrees. You may need to adjust your heating pad accordingly. When time is up, take the jar and place in fridge for at least 8 hours to firm up. And you should have yogurt. YAY! Pretty easy, huh?

I will tell you that homemade yogurt is runnier than store bought because store bought uses thickeners such as pectin and gelatin. And if you are using raw milk it will be even runnier. But who cares? It still tastes yummy and is incredibly good for you. Speaking of taste, feel free to add in honey or fruit to your yogurt but only after it is prepared. Enjoy!