I want to capture the flavour of our summer holiday so far. It’s been busy, but relaxing. We started with a camping trip, and the beach, experienced a couple nights of overnight camp (and for Kevin and me, experienced only having two children around–it was quieter, but the workload was not noticeably different, except that the younger ones missed the entertainment of the older ones). I enjoyed doing a long drive with the kids, and could imagine attempting something like that again–destination as yet unknown. Though it does go against my no-driving summer. Confession: We have done extremely poorly with that plan. Drove to camp, to beach, to camp, to home, to camp, all the while enjoying the air conditioning. For our Friday outing, we walked, but it’s not a huge accomplishment–the movie theatre is uptown. We saw Shrek Forever After, which was more entertaining than I anticipated–and the kids were awesome the entire time. Five kids, one parent, and no bathroom breaks, spilled drinks, or even excessive whining. Thank heavens, because I’d had a writing morning, and I am finding the transition between writing and parenting particularly challenging; translation: Mama’s been grumpy.
I’ve decided to blog rather than nap during quiet time this afternoon. Is this wise? Well, I was out with friends till midnight last night, and dragged myself out of bed to make last-minute school lunches this morning, and I hung today’s laundry while it was actually raining (spitting, more accurately), so I’m not sure wisdom is the word of the day. But getting ‘er done is. (Um, that phrase just insisted it had to be used). So, I made it through the morning with two exuberant children and nothing that a cup of coffee couldn’t fix, the big kids left with delicious nutritious meals in their backpacks, and the sun is now shining. This speaks to the luck of whim and of deliberately not making detailed plans.
So, I know that many of you are already making your own yogurt (and a big thank you to all who have offered tips and instructions!), but for those of you who aren’t, or who are curious to try, I am here to tell you: It is easy! I’ve been making four litres of milk into yogurt (four litres of milk equals four litres of yogurt). This lasts our family about a week and a half. We eat the yogurt for breakfast; we eat it in place of sour cream on beans and rice, etc.; and I’ve been combining it with strawberries to make above-average popsicles.
What you’ll need: whole-fat milk; yogurt starter; cooking pot; candy thermometer; insulated container; jars with lids.
Directions: In a large pot, gently bring four litres of whole-fat milk to a simmer (or try a litre if you’re experimenting and nervous about potentially spoiling that much milk). Heat the milk to 180 degrees F, stirring occasionally to spread the heat, and to make sure nothing is sticking to the bottom. This takes some time, and I have not rushed it yet; and have had good results. For consistent results, I recommend using a candy thermometer affixed to the side of the pot. Meanwhile, “sterilize” several quart canning jars by pouring boiling water into them and letting them sit for a few minutes (I realize this does not actually sterilize them, but it’s as strict as I get in my kitchen; if you do something else, please let me know). The boiling water can be re-used: when you’re done sterilizing the jars, pour the hot water into a large plastic jug (or other container), and place the jug into an insulated cooler (which in this instance will be a heater).
When the milk has reached 180 degrees F, remove it from the stove, and cool. This goes faster if you set the pot into a sinkful of cold water. When the temperature has dropped to 110 degrees F (or more precisely is below 120 degrees, but above 90), stir in the bacterial starter. Translation: stir in some fairly fresh yogurt. You can freeze yogurt in ice cube trays for this purpose. I’ve erred on the side of more is better. I put in about 1/4 cup per litre, or even slightly more.
The Home Creamery is a good reference book on making all things milk-related, and it recommends 1/4 cup of starter per quart of milk.
Now, pour the prepared milk into jars leaving some space at the top, add lids, and place into the warm innards of the heated-up cooler. Don’t lift the lid for seven or eight hours. In the wintertime, you may need to check that the water is hot and the temperature approximately 90 degrees F; right now, not so much.
What you’ll get: And when you do finally peek, it will look like a little miracle has taken place right here in your own kitchen. Yogurt! Firm, sweet, tangy, creamy yogurt.
It is easy to keep making something that tastes this good, and is as good or better than anything I can buy (my homemade bread falls into this category, too). On the other hand, it is rather less easy to keep making things that are less popular with the children (and with us) than storebought. So, I must confess that I’ve shelved a Green Dream or two, and have not made crackers since the first batch, which seemed to wane in popularity after a day or two; and we bought graham crackers for our firepit cook-out; and I haven’t pursued making pasta or cheese or …. you name it. Much food continues to come into our house packaged in plastic bags and cardboard boxes. SIGH.
CJ is only pretending he wants to nurse, come night-time. What he wants is to get himself cuddled into my arms. He will then say, “Mama, I gonna tell you something!” (He pronounces something like some-sing.) And then he launches into elaborate made-up stories told at high volume, about little lions and little moths and sometimes Master Yoda makes an appearance. Books are thrown off of shelves. Little moths are “grumpy.” Little lions drink chocolate milk and are happy. Milk is spilled and Mama cleans it up and she says “thank you!” (Would that this were so).
Tonight, when I laid him in his crib (and he’s still up there, wide awake and protesting loudly), I said, “Goodnight, bub.” This sent him into paroxysms of hilarity. “I not bub, I CJ!” Just repeating the word “bub” had him in tears. The world is funny. Things sound funny.
Tonight’s yoga class was killer. There was something in that room–anxiety, fear, something like that. It was really hot. And I was tired. And there were lots of people there, including some who were trying out hot yoga for the first time. A lot of people were suffering through the class, and it was easy to read on everyone’s faces and in their postures, including my own. But my problem was my mind. It just would not settle. I did not believe that I could manage, and over and over again I had to pull myself back to remembering that, yes, I could, and I have many times before. Toward the end, we all settled, somewhat, as the instructor found us a pose that brought us some peace with the inner turmoil. I recognized what I was feeling: I had been telling myself that I was feeling sadness, but I noticed that I was enjoying what I was feeling too much for that. Aha! I was feeling self-pity. Ugh. Do I ever hate self-pity. And there I was, wallowing around in it, making excuses. Now, this isn’t to discount the legitimacy of experiencing sadness. But there must be some way to experience it that isn’t indulgent. Self-indulgent. What is the point at which enjoying an emotion is a cue that it’s become not healthy? Aren’t some emotions there to be enjoyed?
I haven’t had quite as much energy recently. I wonder whether it’s more mental or physical. I’m not sure. But it is now nearly 10pm: all four children are still awake; AppleApple is weeping because she can’t find her Pooh Bear (just found him–phew!); Fooey is trying to sleep on a blanket on the floor because she’s a cat; the dishes are completely undone; I need to pack a picnic for the whole family for a “special people picnic” in honour of Fooey tomorrow; I feel the need to blog (talk about self-indulgent!); we have to take a snack for AppleApple’s soccer team tomorrow night, and have nothing suitable on hand; and we have no coffee in the house!!!! No coffee! Now that’s an emergency. I just sent Kevin on a quick run (in the truck; eco-confession) to the nearest grocery store, which is open till 10. There. Happy ranting.
Back to the dishes.
This week, I did something I haven’t done before. I removed two blog posts. They were public for about 24 hours, and then I took them down. I’m still not sure whether it was the right decision.
Thinking about why I like blogging–because I do–and have come up with a very rudimentary hunch that there’s something mysteriously satisfying about publishing immediately upon typing, and imagining the connection between these words and another set of eyes. Today, I had no internet. This wasn’t a self-driven retreat from the Evil Distractions of the Internet, oh no; a cable in our house went on the fritz, and it was more like being forced into a chastity belt. No email. (There is the phone, you might point out). No internet radio. (There is, um, actual radio). No Facebook. (That might be a good thing actually, as I’ve recently noticed myself updating my status imaginarily at regular silent intervals throughout the day, such as, “Obscure Canlit Mama would like to know why her baby is so impressively wide awake at 6am,” or, “Obscure Canlit Mama has just escaped the library with a small shred of her parental dignity intact,” or, “Obscure Canlit Mama is frying bacon at mid-day. Don’t ask. Or, do.” You can see how addictive this becomes. Where was I?)
Right. No internet–therefore, no blog. No blog. No mundane moment grabbed and translated into words and chucked into the mess that is Blogland. I’m only just beginning to get a sense of what Blogland looks like. It’s crowded in here. Downright claustrophobic. There don’t seem to be filters, just personal taste, and the taste of one’s friends and fellow bloggers. There’s some really good writing out there, and amazing photographs, and recipes; but it feels overwhelming, like being at a trade show in a mosh pit with everyone shouting and screaming and you’re just sort of turning to the next person over and going, uh, what are you here for? And that person doesn’t really know, and then it occurs to you–neither do you.
Oh tumbled, jumbled metaphor. This is why I like Blogland. I can make a real hash of words in here, and not sweat it. When I’m writing a story everything has to fit, I have to be ruthless. I actually think that writing a good story bears no relationship to the metaphor commonly attached: that it’s like birthing a baby, or that the art is the artist’s baby. Pity that baby. Coolly reshaped to fit the parent’s vision, then frozen into position for eternity. But the blog feels more like a real baby. It comes out whole, there’s not a lot of editing, and it grows and changes–every day, or every post, forever replacing what was with what is, and is, and is, this permanent present. Which is pretty much exactly like parenthood. Maybe that’s why so many parents seem drawn to Blogland. We’re already living this, day-by-day, this sweet mundanity, these moments that feel so vital while amidst them, only to disappear, buried by routine; we’re already attuned to the bittersweet pull of time. How quickly a blog entry feels stale–that’s one of its peculiarities. Whereas a story can be read over and over again. I’m not saying old blog entries can’t be read again, and enjoyed (though perhaps mainly by the blogger herself); just that a large part of the pleasure is the immediacy, the realization that what you’re reading actually just happened, and the desire to check in again soon to see what will happen next. Even if nothing much really ever does.
File this entry under Big Thoughts. A favourite late-night-oughtta-be-in-bed-category.
Oh, let’s do one more thing, something new. Confession of the Day: This morning, I convinced Fooey to sit in front of a computer in the children’s section of the library, and signed in on it using her card (adults are not allowed), solely for the purpose of checking my email account. The good news is, I hadn’t missed any important messages.
Deep breath. Confession. I just drove the kids to school. Okay, and worse. It made my morning so much easier. Baby CJ slept in, so I didn’t rush to wake him and feed him and change him so he could endure a half hour in the stroller. I just let him sleep. Popped him, pajamas and all, into the car seat. The big kids are big enough that I don’t need to walk them to the school doors and see them inside. I just hopped out and helped them cross the street, and kissed them goodbye (not Albus; he’s too big for kisses–in public, at least). Then we drove home. It was still early. No one was cranky and complaining about being stuck in the stroller.
Oh dear. It was so darn luxurious that I’m actually glad we only have one vehicle so that I will be forced to keep walking the kids to school in the morning (afternoons are different–it actually seems easier to walk than to join the crowd of vehicles being irresponsibly driven and parked on the snowy sidestreets surrounding the school). I wonder why I feel better about my life when I’m doing things the hard way, and guilty when I’m taking shortcuts. Balance, balance. It’s a kind of comfort to know there’s never perfect equilibrium, and therefore always something more to strive for.
Here are my excuses for carbon-burning this morning. One, Kevin is in Ottawa and I am all on my own today, and seeking ways to make the day that much more survivable. Two, CJ was up most of the night, off and on, with a terrible croupy cough, and wide awake at 5am for a good hour. He needed that extra sleep. Three. Umm, apparently I don’t have a third excuse. I wanted to drink my cup of coffee while it was still hot? I wanted a few extra minutes to Blog? In any case, we have a pile-up of other errands to run this morning, all within walking distance (long walks, but nevertheless) … and I’m considering, maybe, just this once … driving. (Something tells me that “just this once” could become my winter phrase, as long as a vehicle is available to me. Slippery, slippery slopes.)
On another subject: boy are we partied out. We had such a blast with Apple-Apple’s butterfly birthday on Sunday, and another good family party last night; but there’s been enough cake eaten and enough thoughtfully chosen gifts opened and enough candles whooshed out to thoroughly mark the (truly significant) occasion. Six years old. From precocious baby who walked early and talked early (how fascinating to hear what was on the mind of a 14-month-old; she looked up while nursing one afternoon and said, “Daughter”), to determined toddler, insisting on potty-training herself at 20 months, through the process of learning to be a kind and helpful big sister (not easy!), to becoming a schoolgirl and revelling in her independence, in learning, and in being a helpful and thoughtful group participant. My equal parts serious and silly child. My French-language-delighting, yearning-to-play-piano-and-learn-to-knit, Little-House-loving-girl. Six years old.