Monday, March 29, 2010

save your pennies weeks 2 and 3

 Just a quick update on our progress -

We spent money.

Not much - but we did. Kev spent a couple dollars on beer to bring to a friends (like 4 bucks) and we bought lunch at Wegmans when we did our grocery shopping (though we kept it under 15 dollars). Then I spent 100 dollars at Target. I got a huge thing of laundry detergent, giant tub of kitty litter, mouthwash, Easter stuff for the kids. So it wasn't frivolous spending, but it adds up quick! Oh, and Kevin renewed our Sirius for a year. I complained when he got it last year (pay for radio?!) and I complained this year, but the truth is I do like having it.

We haven't been hardcore about not spending, so I don't know how much of an experiment it really is - but it has definitely helped us pay attention to where our pennies go. I've been not going anywhere during lunch, so saving on gas. That helps. And no runs to Wegmans to indulge in lemon pepper shrimp on lunch. No coffee's while I'm running errands.

I did hit a thrift store twice, but bought nothing. Even though it meant walking away from some fabulous deals (I allowed myself at the beginning of the month if I found a storage trunk I would get it, nothing else). I even skipped the Rescue Missions half off sale last Saturday and the first rummage sale I've seen this season.

I think next month we're going to 'allowance' ourselves. Ten dollars each a week. So I can hit up a rummage sale, buy a bottle of wine or get lunch at Wegmans - or save it week to week to do whatever.

Like I said, we haven't been overly strict on spending, but we are making an effort to cut out those little things that add up.

Sunday, March 28, 2010

heavy things

I'm fat. In fact, for my height I'm borderline obese according to those fun and fancy charts.

me. I'm usually the one behind the camera, so there are few pictures of me, and even fewer full body ones, so this is what ya get! This was from Christmas this year.

I'm sick to death of thinking about my weight. I'm sick of talking about it. I'm sick of hearing it in my head and in my mouth.

But, I'm going to talk about it here - now, anyway.

Once upon a time I was skinny. I was skinny before I had my oldest child. I gained 70 pounds with him, lost it all and more. I was even skinnier after I had him.

And I know that was a fluke. I'm not built to be a size 0. I was, for a short period of time. But my body isn't made to be like that. I was raising a toddler, being a single mom, going to school full time and working almost full time and carrying around someone elses secret. It wasn't healthy thin. I looked and felt best between a size 4 and a 6.

I got pregnant with my youngest and gained 80 pounds. I didn't worry for a second - though I used to leave my awful, horrible doctors crying after they teased me about it. I walked a ton, I had quit smoking, I gained a lot with a previous pregnancy and lost it. I was not overly concerned. I was also young and invincible. And craved vanilla soft serve ice cream daily.

Man, if I only I knew then. I would have eaten way less ice cream. And changed doctors. I still hate that place. Hmph.

So, almost 7 years have gone by since my youngest was born. Since then I have bounced between a size 8 and 14.

I've smoked and quit and smoked and quit which doesn't help the weight bounce. I've been (for the most part) smoke free for 18 months now.

I used to mod a Love Your Belly group. I'm way into body acceptance. I really am. I wish I hadn't unintentionally deleted that group when I left myspace. There were so many beautiful thoughts and images and people in there.

But as much as I preach 'loving your belly' I have the hardest time doing it with myself. Even when I was itty bitty tiny, I used to pinch at the skin on my stomach and claim fat. :sigh: If only I knew what I had then.

I could go on about media and societal standards and blah blah blah. But I won't. Not because I don't think all that's true - it is.

But, I am also going on 30. I know all the rules of a healthy diet and healthy lifestyle. I can't say I'm brainwashed by unrealistic expectations of beauty. I don't think I am.

I just don't feel good in this skin. I haven't in 7 years. I've done the weight watchers. I've run. I've worked out with Jillian Micheals in my living room. I hike. I walk. I've done low fat, I've dabbled in low carb.

I think part of it is my job. After I had Colin I started working at a desk job. I sit 10-12 hours 4 days a week. Before, I was on my feet 6-10 hours a day.

Before, I lived off fast food, cigarettes and coffee. I was not healthy. Not even a little bit. I was sleep deprived and nutritionally deprived. But I was skinny! Hooray!

So yeah, a big part of the problem is I just don't move enough. I try. I'm walking in the mornings. I'm walking on my lunch. I pace the halls at work at night. I've been hiking the hill behind my house a few days a week.

But the bigger problem is I've grown to love food. I love growing it. I love going to the farmers market and selecting it. I love finding recipes and preparing food. And of course, I love eating food.

And I eat too much food. I was raised a member of the clean plate club, and to this day if there is food in front of me - I'll keep eating it. That's a hard habit to break.

Oh, and wine. I love wine. Lots of wine. That's not so good for the waist line either.

I was talking with The Husband about this the other day. (He's put on a few pounds of his own!) And he says at least it's a different kind of weight. It's a healthier weight than a fast food lifestyle weight. And I can see that.

But in the end it's still excess weight. And I still don't like it.

But damn, it's hard to lose.

Another thing I realized recently is that I am carb addict. I eat entirely way too many. I am not a fan of restricting carbs - but eating the correct amount is not restricting. Do you know what I packed for work today (a 12 hour shift)? This is actually embarrassing. Yogurt and frozen berries. A half a grapefruit and an orange. Leftover homemade pizza and bread sticks from last night (two of each), leftover spaghetti with a bacon and roasted red pepper sauce (from Evans night to cook).

I wanted to pack a couple slices of homemade bread and jam too - but I was looking -  and pizza, bread sticks and spaghetti? No wonder I can't lose weight, huh?

Now, I don't want to be a size 0 again. Not even a 4 (though I did keep one pair of 5's that I would love to get in again). I don't even know if I have a size in mind. I just want to feel good. I want to feel strong. I want to feel healthy. I want to feel comfortable in my own body.

But in the meantime, this is the body I have. And I want to like it. I want to love it. Loving my belly, my body doesn't mean I have to love being unhealthy. But it's not doing me any good to spend years of my life wishing it was another way.

Maybe I'm getting there. I gained 10 pounds in February (whiskey!), putting me up to (gawd, I can't believe I'm admitting this!) 160.5 pounds. I'm 5'3, so that's a lot of weight on a short frame.

That's close to my post pregnancy high of 172 when I quit smoking last year (my highest was exactly 200 when I gave birth). I don't even know how much I weighed at my thinnest. I never cared. I know I was about 130 as a size 7, so I always estimate about 115-120 at my smallest.

Anyway. So I'm fat. But I don't feel 160. I don't know if that's a good thing or a delusional thing. I don't feel thin - for sure. But I don't feel bad. Maybe it's the additional walking.

So, I don't know. I don't know what to do from here. Everything I've been doing isn't working. I do know when I switched to full fat foods in September I lost 10 pounds. I had spent the summer dieting and running and didn't lose an ounce - but once I stopped and switched to full fat I was melting off weight. So there's something.

I know what I want to do. My eating is healthy enough. Real foods, whole foods. I just eat too much. I know that. But I stink at tracking calories. Cause it's a pain in butt. Plus - who wants to spend their life tracking what they eat? I just want to enjoy what I eat. There has to be a balance. There has to be a way to lose weight (and not gain it back!) and eat real food! I mean it seems common sense, right? Drink less wine (no!) eat less food (wah!) less bread, more veggies (did you notice I didn't pack a single vegetable today?! I do have some green beans in the freezer at work though). It sounds easy. It should be easy. Eat less, move more. Why do we pay people for diet programs when it's common sense? I don't know. I just know it's never as easy as I think it will be.

Well, this is a whole long self indulgent post about nothing. I don't know how anyone reads this crap (but thanks, if you do!)

I don't know. Maybe it's like the Dear Friend letter. Like a thousand other things I've posted on here (some of which work, many of which don't!) - maybe just saying - just getting it out there, will help with change.

I mean, can I really make changes when I whisper my weight - when I don't even admit to my husband what the scale says?

Maybe I should just throw out my scale?

I wonder what I would feel like, if I didn't know how much I weighed? All the diet programs say that you should weigh yourself weekly. Some say daily. The research says doing that keeps weight from creeping back on. But I wonder if the scale doesn't keep some people down, concentrating on a number or goal instead of how they feel? Maybe I'll put the scale away for a month, and see what I come back to when I'm not working towards number?

ps - most of those images? Hilda - discovered her several years ago. Love her.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Dear Friend

Dear Friend,

I'm a coward. That's why I'm writing this here. Because I need to get it out there. I need the words to be said. But I can't say them to you. I don't know how to talk to you anymore. I'm pretty sure you don't read this and that's ok. Maybe just knowing that the words are out there, floating around will be enough for me. Or maybe it will give me the nerve to tell you, in person. This probably won't be short and sweet. You know me. You know how I ramble and over explain and repeat everything. You're the only one who never seemed annoyed at one time or another by it.

I think it's time we break up.

There, I said it.

Someone I respect said recently:

Friends come and go, they go in and out of your life. Sometimes you have friends from way back who are somehow a permanent fixture in your life--past and present. Maybe you never talk anymore or see each other, but they are always there, attached to you by gossamer love. Well, it feels delicate like that, yet it persists and persists and follows you everywhere you go. That friend pops into your head when you laugh about something only they would understand.

And all of that makes me think of you. But you know what hit me the hardest? Friends come and go. I had a friend from the time I was 5 until I was 15. I couldn't imagine life without her, and then one day she was gone. But it was painless. We still have occasional contact. Cards and things. I found her recently, she has two young children. She'll always be special to me. But I didn't mourn her going. I've had other friends come and go. You've come and gone and again and again. But it never felt raw or wrong. Not before. Now it does. Now I'm not content to let this friendship come and go.

I can't keep letting it go, I think. Or maybe I don't know how to let it go that last time. I don't know why. I think if we met today, we'd never be friends. I don't think we'd like each other very much.

We've grown so far apart it's hard to recognize you sometimes. But no matter how much we disagreed on really important things we still respected each other. I think I can pinpoint exactly when we started going in different directions, a long, long time ago. Or maybe not - maybe it just never mattered before. It never mattered that you turned so far right when I went left. We had a bond stronger than any of that.

You knew me. You knew everything. You were there for everything. For some of the most difficult moments in my life. I could always, always depend on you. You've seen me at my worst. And you still loved me. You still came around. You would tease me or laugh about some of my crazies. But you rarely judged me. You were the only person I could tell everything to. I thought I had other people like that in my life, but I was proven wrong.

Along the way though, that changed. I've been growing up. And I think you've been staying the same. Honestly, I just can't relate to you anymore. And it's been so long, that our past isn't strong enough to hold us up anymore. That was one thing we could always fall back on - our shared past. But over the last decade, we haven't been creating a new past to lean on over the next decade.

Gah. I don't know. Told you I would over analyze it. But you knew that.

As we've grown older we've gone from talking daily to weekly to monthly to 3 or 4 times a year. I've stopped calling you, because I'm tired of being ignored. I'm tired of feeling like I'm begging for your friendship. You say it's not just me, and I know that. I know the same thing is happening with your other friends. But I can't keep doing it.

It used to be that we could not see each other for a week, and more recently for several months, and things would pick right up where they left off. But not any more. Now it feels like work to be around you. It feels awkward and fake.

And for those reasons and a million more, I know I should let this friendship die. I know it's time.

But there's a part of me, a big part of me, that just can't. No one understands why. I don't understand why. Maybe I'm afraid no friend will really ever "get me" again. Not the way you did. They just won't know me. They weren't there for all those really hard years. They won't get all the old jokes. They don't know who I was before I was a mom. This me is all they know.

They didn't know me when I was young, and free and fun.

Before I became afraid of being home alone. Before I became dependent on being in a relationship, before I had children, before I worked full time, before I thought 10 pm was late at night, before I was (increasingly!) neurotic. They don't know the me that you knew. That you know.

Sometimes I don't know, or remember, that me anymore either. But, when I'm around you, I do.

I guess maybe part of the reason I'm so damn afraid to let you go, is because it's letting a huge part of myself go too.

And you know, I'd take it all back. All of this, every word. If only you were you again. If only you would come to me, as someone I recognize. I'd throw every word of this away and we'd sit and have a glass of wine and talk about our past.

And I guess that's why I can't leave you. Even though every year I get more annoyed by this. Some days I'm so tired of it I convince myself that this is the day - I'm just going to let it go. And then I don't.

I could let it die, just fade away. That's what's happening. I know it would work. But it seems wrong to end it that way. I think our friendship deserves better then that. It deserves a formal goodbye. Or maybe just a see ya later. It deserves to be acknowledged though.


This is crazy. And you know that. And you would get it.



Monday, March 22, 2010

Reading, and why it sucks

Ok, it doesn't really suck. I love reading. And I'm not a book snob, I'll read pretty much anything I can get my hands on. I just love to read. When I was little, I'd easily read a book a day. After I had my oldest I went through several years that I didn't read nearly as much, there just didn't seem to be time with raising him and going to school and working and . . . anyway. Now that my kids are older I've been reading a lot again the last few years.

The problem with books, for me, is I get lost in them. I mean totally absorbed. Dinner will go uncooked, laundry unwashed, children unnoticed. If I read at work I get cranky when I need to stop and actually do my job. Books have always affected me for a time after. Sometimes only a few minutes - others for days or weeks. Not just affected me - but took me over. Like I couldn't shake the story or the characters. I'd still be so absorbed in the story long after I was done reading it. Like Poisonwood Bible. Or the worst - last year when I read Jodi Picoult's Nineteen Minutes. I hated the book the whole time I was reading it. It made me sick, it made me sad but I couldn't put it down. When I finally finished I was so upset I wanted it out of my house. I didn't want it anywhere around me. I couldn't shake that story for a long, long time. I've read touching/engrossing books by her before - but this one affected me in a completely different way. I haven't read anything by her since and it will probably be a long time before I do again.

I get in a fiction reading mood for a few months every year, mostly I read things like Radical Homemakers, Backyard Homesteading etc. . . how to sort of books. Or non-fiction like Animal Vegetable Miracle.

But, I've been in a mood for fiction, I've got a stack of them I'm working through. Last week I read The Future Homemakers of America. It was alright, but I didn't feel like I loved the characters. In someways that was good, because I wasn't that drawn into it. But then it's not a great book I guess, right?

Yesterday I started Maeve Binchy's Tara Road. I finished it today. I'm having a hard time shaking this one too. Not because it was traumatic or horrible. I was hoping for something a little on the lighter side and the front of this book claims "The heartwarming New York Times Bestseller". Well, I'll tell ya - it wasn't at all heartwarming. The whole book was heartbreak after heartbreak. And sure it was all pulled together, sort of, by the end - but not good enough. Like life I guess. But it bothers me. If you haven't read it I won't ruin it. I see a little of myself in it, and I don't know how I feel about that. Even though the book isn't at all heartwarming in my opinion and there is a reoccurring theme of betrayal and infidelity, it did somehow have me wanting to run home and curl up with my husband every time I opened it to read it.

I don't know why other peoples stories affect me so much. They do, terribly though. There's the obvious, like news stories and real life tragedies. Though I somehow feel that I am bothered more by them then most people. I've started censoring what news stories I watch, especially when it comes to child abuse/pain/suffering. I think it's disgusting how people's pain and tragedy and grief is thrown out there, on display for people to gawk at and it's all done in the name of news. Blah.

But I'm also strangely affected by fictional stories. I don't know why. I can't seem to take something in and let it go like most people.

I used to think I wanted to be a counselor. Then I realized I was in no way strong enough for that. So then I thought social worker - but in many ways that's "worse". So here I am, almost 30 answering phones for a living because I'm too weak to go and do something I'd be good at.


Some one recommend some light-heated, real heartwarming books to me so I can stop analyzing things and get back to enjoying Spring! :D

Sunday, March 21, 2010

ah, sweet spring!

I know I've been very quiet here the last week. We've been so very busy at home!

planning gardens

It was one of those March days when the sun shines hot and the wind blows cold:  when it is summer in the light, and winter in the shade.  ~Charles Dickens


It's spring fever.  That is what the name of it is.  And when you've got it, you want - oh, you don't quite know what it is you do want, but it just fairly makes your heart ache, you want it so!  ~Mark Twain


If you've never been thrilled to the very edges of your soul by a flower in spring bloom, maybe your soul has never been in bloom.  ~Terri Guillemets

making and enjoying music

The seasons are what a symphony ought to be:  four perfect movements in harmony with each other.  ~Arthur Rubenstein


We enjoyed near 70 (and very unseasonal!) weather the last several days. The winds are turning again this week leading us back to the normal March chill, but oh - how we enjoyed the reprieve!

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

making ricotta

I tried making ricotta last Friday. It was interesting. Not a whole lot different from making mozzarella. You heat it to 195. And I couldn't figure out where all my curds went at first. With mozzarella the curds form on the top of the whey. With ricotta they sink to the bottom.

I followed the instructions from my New England Cheese Making Kit

I ended up hanging the ricotta  a little over an hour because I was making dough and sauce and mozzarella too.

I think that was too long, it was a little dry. I'll probably try it once or twice more - but so far I wasn't too impressed.

I'll keep you updated on the progress!

So far, I'm loving the mozzarella!

(that looks gross, it's not - promise!)

Sunday, March 14, 2010

save your pennies - week one

Progress: so far so good.

We did have a couple of "extras" last week, One was kitty's vet appointment - 100 dollars and I knew about in advance. She needed to go in a cat carrier, which we didn't have. I borrowed one from my mom but it was too small, so I spent 35 dollars on a cat carrier. Which annoys me because she'll probably never use it again.

I checked my credit card (that we just paid down) to schedule another payment, and they lowered our credit limit by 3000 dollars. Leaving us just 100 dollars away from maxing out again. Are they trying to get us to overdraw? How do they just lower it 3000 dollars after I make a 3000 dollar payment? Jerk faces. I was looking forward to having a significant amount of 'free' money on there in case of car emergencies since both of our cars are such high miles right now and we just sunk a ton of cash into repairs for them. I paid down the card (so I could keep up with it without the killer interest) but also so I had a little safety net. Then they went and took it. Oh well. Prevents us from getting in over our heads again I guess.

I made both ricotta and mozzarella this weekend (more on that later) The ricotta was - eh. I'll give it another shot but I wasn't too impressed. I don't think it's really saving us any pennies, it's equaling out to about the same as store bought but I'm having fun doing it. Although last week on pizza night (we did calzones) I made everything from scratch and then had a teeny-weeny nervous breakdown because my husband wasn't going to stay and eat with us. It shouldn't take 6 hours to make pizza - but it does when you make everything from scratch. And as much as I love cooking, I was feeling very stupid for spending 6 hours making something that no one cared that much about. They would have been just as happy if I had ordered in.

So, I think what I'm going to do is take a little time here and there and make and freeze things. I have 3 jars of pizza sauce in the freezer now from a huge batch this past weekend. I'm going to make some more this week to freeze too. I'm also going to try freezing some dough after the first rise. And the cheese making book says the cheese freezes just fine - so maybe I'll put a couple batches of mozzarella in the freezer too. That way I still get everything from scratch without 6 hours of cooking every Friday for what's supposed to be a simple meal. I mean, that's just insane. Who does that? And then throws a big hissy fit about it later? Geez. Crazy women, that's who.

I've got to find balance. :sigh:

Anyway. Back to the topic. Saving pennies. It hasn't been too painful so far. I don't think we'll end up ever seeing "extra" though, because we do have a few planned expenses this month (kitty this week, car repair payment next - oh and more car repairs - fun!)

On to week two!!

Thursday, March 11, 2010


The weather has been beautiful (and so needed!) and we've been spending a lot of time just enjoying it, while it lasts! I've been walking 2-3 hours a day. For an hour when the kids get on the bus in the am, just continuing to explore where we live now. Walking for another hour on my lunch break, exploring the University neighborhoods (since we aren't spending money!) and usually about an hour in the evening at work, just pacing the halls reading a book when it's slow.

Today was 65. Unbelievable. I know we could still get a snow storm again, and we probably will. But I'm just enjoying the now.

 Evans hair - all chopped off this week!

Monday, March 8, 2010

save your pennies month

On March 1st, The Husband and I made a spur of the moment decision to not spend anything for a month.

Then we failed miserably the first day. Mostly me.

So we started anew Sunday, March 7th. From now until April 4th, we're not spending money.

Ok, that's not entirely true. We're spending some money. Like rent. And student loans and electric. The standards. Also, I already had a vet appointment to have kitty fixed. And we're still making payments to our mechanic.

But, those are kind of necessaries. At least right now.

Food is also something we're still spending on. I know, it sounds like we're spending more than not! But only grocery type food. Not prepared food. Not my increasingly common trips to Wegmans on my lunch break for some salad, soup or Chinese food (usually Chinese food - oh, how I love thee, lemon pepper shrimp!)

We've gotten a little lazy in some of our habits and as a result money is being piddled away all over the place. Plus, I just keep buying too much crap (thrift store junkie here) and I want to RID the house of crap this month. So.

Even with grocery shopping, I plan on scaling back - though it's in our ok to spend money on list. I'd like to pare down the pantry a bit - make room for spring and summer goods. Same with the freezer. Finish up last years berries and chickens so it can be restocked fresh in the coming months.

So. No extra's - not-a-one - for the next 4 weeks. It shouldn't be too painful, it'll just take some readjusting.

Anyway, my hope is to report back here with some progress and updates. How we do, if we save any money. But we all know my track record with things like that!

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Grandmother Breadsticks

Note: I noticed today, that some of my pictures were a little mixed up on a couple posts. The worst one I found also happens to be one that I reference and link people to often, Grandmother Bread

None of the pictures were where they belonged, and I think I messed something up with computer albums and Picasa. Unfortunately, they are also somehow missing from my camera - I've deleted the pictures on that post until they can be properly replaced. So if you happen to notice anything else askew in the pictures, please drop me a line. You can find my e-mail under the contact me tab at the top of the page. Thanks!

I've been making these breadsticks for about 3 weeks now, and they are sooooo delicious. My youngest devours them!

I use the grandmother bread recipe to make our pizza dough each week. The recipe equals enough for two fluffy doughs and a batch of bread sticks (if you want thinner pizza dough you could easily get three dough rounds and two batches of bread sticks)

After the first rise of the dough, I punch it down and cut of a bit for the breadsticks. I divide the rest in two for my pizza. The bread sticks I just round (slightly flattened) and let go through the second rise (about an hour) I flatten the top again slightly and use a bread knife to cut about 8 pieces. 

Then, I just pour a little melted garlic and butter over the top, sprinkle some Parmesan cheese and cook at 450 for about 7-8 minutes. So simple, so delicious!


Wednesday, March 3, 2010

letting go

I never knew until that moment how bad it could hurt to lose something you never really had.  ~ The Wonder Years

 Have you ever had to let go of a dream? Of hope? Of part of your life?

For several years, there's a dream I've been working towards. A hope. A light at the end. And I realized yesterday, like a punch in the gut, that it's not going to happen. Probably not ever, and definitely not how I dreamed it to be. 

I know, that I have to accept it. I know that I have to let go. But it feels like it changes everything. It feels like it spits on the last 5 years of my life and it turns the visions of my future - of my life - into fog. 

How do you let go of something that never existed outside of your mind? How do you mourn for something that never was? There is no closure. There's nothing to bury. It just disappears into the air, like it never was.

They say that time heals everything. You know, somewhere along the line the tears are mended, the broken pieces are taped back together. But what about a hole, a void, something that was never broken because it never existed? Can time fill up that emptiness? 

I suppose you move on the best you can. I suppose you fill the hole the best you can - with love and family and with all the blessings you already have. 

I suppose you can bury a dream. Write it down on your best paper. Wrap it up in your best fabrics. Place it in a beautiful box and bury it under your favorite tree. Go ahead and mourn for it- for you did love it. Visit it maybe, when you need to. But know that it's gone. 

image at anna loves

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

making cranberry vodka

In late summer we made sour cherry vodka. I had a bunch of cranberries sitting in the freezer and decided to try a twist on the cherry vodka.

I won't know how it turns out for another 4 weeks or so, but here's what's going on so far:

Take 2 cups of cranberries, mix with 1 cup of sugar. Put in sauce pan and add about 1/4 cup of water. Simmer until berries start to soften and sugar starts to dissolve.

Scoop into mason jar, fill with vodka and shake. Then store in a cool dark place. Shake every day or so for the first week.


In 4 weeks you should have  delicious cranberry vodka!

edited 1/4/12 : This vodka seems to taste best 4-6 months after making. It was still very bitter after 4 weeks.

Monday, March 1, 2010

adventures in cheese making: mozzarella

I read Animal, Vegetable, Miracle about 2 years ago, and in the book Barbara Kingsolver discusses making cheese at home. Never before had it occurred to me that was possible. Not only did she say it was possible, but she said it wasn't hard. What? How? Really?

For two years I've wanted to order the 30 minute mozzarella kit from New England Cheese Supply. The cost isn't obscene. 60 dollars, but it was enough for me to look at it, and then not buy it several times a year.

A few weeks ago, I finally did. This past weekend was Round One in Adventures in Cheese making:

I followed the 30 minute mozzarella recipe

I've had a killer head cold all weekend and can barely taste a thing so I can't fairly report on taste, but my youngest (my oldest wasn't home this weekend) had several helpings of the pizza we made with it. He loved it.

First, find some local milk. Or at least some milk that is NOT ultra pasteurized. It won't work. For those locally, Wegmans organic milk is not ultra pasteurized. The only people selling milk at the market now are the Fingerlakes Farm people. In the spring and summer, I'll probably try it using milk from Wake Robin Farm - if you're on facebook check out their fan page. How could I not want to buy from this farm?!

Anyway. So you've got the milk.

And if you bought the 30 minute mozzarella kit, you also have everything else you need to make cheese. Oh, except a stainless steel pot. Get yourself one of those. I used Kevins giant beer stainless pot. It's huge but worked fine.

Dissolve 1/4 tab rennet into 1/4 cup cool water, set aside.

Dissolve 1.5 tsp citric acid into 1 cup cool water and add to the milk in your stainless steel pot. Heat your milk while stirring to 90 degrees using a dairy thermometer (its included in the kit).

Remove the pot from the burner and add the dissolved rennet. Cover with a lid and let sit for 5 minutes. Check the curd, it should be starting to firm/set and will be the texture of custard. If it's not ready, let sit another 5-10 minutes. I let mine go another 6-7 minutes. When curd is set and separate from whey, cut into small cubes.

Place the pot back on stove and heat to 105, stirring slowly. This will only take a minute or two. Take off the burner and continue stirring slowly until cheese begins to firm and connect. About 2-5 minutes.

Here, I dumped the whey through a cheesecloth in a colander over a bowl. The website shows taking the curds out with a slotted spoon. Yeah, that makes more sense actually, so do that. Once the curd is separated from the whey (the leftover liquid) drain off the curd as best as you can without pushing into the curd, you don't want to dry it, just drain it.

You're going to have a ton of whey. I froze it for later use. I just have to find uses! I know you can use it in breads and it's supposedly good for a treat for kitties. I'll post some whey recipes at some point, I'm sure.

Microwave for about 1 minute, drain. Knead and reheat for about 30 seconds. Repeat until curd is 135 degrees (the temperature it needs to be to stretch properly).

Then stretch, stretch stretch. I probably should have stretched more, but it still formed nicely.

Now you can form it and make it pretty (mine is more deformed than pretty - I need practice!!) - then plunge in ice water to hold the shape and stop it from getting grainy.

Ta-da! You have mozzarella! Now eat it. Nom. Or wrap it in plastic wrap for up to two weeks. I wrapped ours to use on pizzas that night. I also found if I put it in the freezer for a few minutes, it shredded better for pizza.

I don't have pictures of the mozzarella. Ok, I do, but it looks like mozzarella crap. So here's a picture of it cooked up and melted on homemade pizza instead

I plan on sticking with mozzarella for several weeks, before moving on to some of the other tempting recipes in the book. I'll be keeping you updated!

Edited to fix all of the typos I spotted. I need to proof read more. I'm going to blame it on my cold, k?