Sunday, April 27, 2008

Making yogurt

I realised that one way we generate a lot of waste is by eating so much yogurt. First I stopped buying those little six or twelve packs and just stuck to the kilo cartons but I'm not so sure there is any economy there as it still tends to get all eaten at one sitting!
I thought I'd give making yogurt a go. I had a look online and there were tons of people saying how easy, cheap and delicious making your own yogurt is. It's a fairly simple process, making it from scratch: you boil some milk (to kill any nasties in it) then let it cool to blood temp, add some starter culture (other yogurt), and then keep it at blood temp for 8 hours or so. Fiddly, but essentially simple, right? There is a contraption out there that is supposed to make yogurt making Easi (geddit?), and I managed to procure one of these from the Freecycle list (have I explained Freecycle before? you can list things you want to get rid of that are too much hassle to sell but too good to throw out. you can also ask for things - I asked for the Easi-Yo as I figured it was the sort of thing people would have sitting in the back of their cupboard).
First I tried to make yogurt from scratch as described above, using the Easi-You to maintain the temp as required. It didn't turn into yogurt. Fine, perhaps I didn't let the milk cool enough, or maybe the starter yogurt didn't actually have any live cultures, whatever. I tried again. Still no good.
Then I bought the sachets of yogurt starter from Easi-Yo. These are pretty foolproof - add water, shake, put in the contraption (basically a big thermos) with boiling water around. Easy, right? Well, I got yogurt. But it was sour. I snuck it into smoothies and things but there is no way you could eat it straight. I tried this a couple of times, always sour. Then I wised up and figured maybe there were some bad bugs living in the plastic container you make it in. So a good scrub, and soak in vinegar. In the meantime Nicole gave me a whole bunch of the starter sachets she had at home (yes, she's one of those with a EY sitting in the back of the cupboard!).
So these, I can't get to work either. One time I got something that was kind of like cottage cheese, another time I got essentially just a lot of greenish whey. At least they're not sour. The sachets are just out of date (early April?) but you wouldn't really think that would make a huge amount of difference, right? Sure it's live cultures in there, but they're freeze-dried or something. A couple of weeks isn't going to make much difference, surely.
I can't believe that I, master of following instructions and cooking stuff, can't even make yogurt! However, I will bravely soldier on. I won't let ten or so failed attempts stop me. One day, I will make my own yogurt, and it will be DELICIOUS!!

Oh my god, it's raining!

Thursday, April 24, 2008

A Day at the Zoo

Today we went to the zoo with a family we are friends with from school. The three children are the same ages as my oldest three, and in the same classes. Very convenient.
I was really motivated to get to the zoo these holidays after Sophie started asking a bunch of questions about how a zoo worked and it was clear she didn't remember at all the last time we visited (to be honest, I don't remember how long ago it was either). Sophie is very scared of animals though (will not let me put her down when we are at a house that has a cat, even if said cat is outside, for example) and she was a bit worried about all the animals that could be at a zoo. Of course a zoo without animals is really just a fancy garden, but she would have been happy with that, I suspect. The only animal she thought she would be happy to see was the hippo. I didn't have the heart to tell her they are actually extremely dangerous. She made me promise not to go anywhere near lions or tigers, even after we talked about cages and fences.
We had a lovely day though - the weather was perfect and all kids behaved extremely well. We didn't see all the animals, but we enjoy our visits there much more now we don't try and race around to see everything.

Sophie kept matchmaking every group of animals - 'look, there's the mummy and there's the baby. where's the sister?' and remained convinced the crocodiles were fake. Okay, they weren't moving, and they were 'silver, not green' so I can see why she thought that.
She was pretty happy to see the hippos early on in the day - they must have just cleaned out the tank and were just filling it up again, so the hippos weren't hidden underwater.

I got my first surprise when she didn't freak out at the siamangs, which were very noisy as usual. She had a great time watching them and laughing at the funny noises they made. I don't have any photos of the one that was hanging right out of the tree as far as it could reach to get as close to the humans as possible. Hannah was taking photos at that time and there are a lot of the lovely lush trees but none of the actual monkeys.

Sophie happily walked through the rainforest exhibit spotting different birds. I commented to Sonia that she must have not realised that there weren't actually any barriers between us and the birds.

We were totally astounded when we made it to the children's zoo and Sophie happily patted rabbits, chicks and a quokka. She loved the quokka, although I didn't get a photo of that.

And, yes, in the photo following you can see my totally animal-paranoid daughter standing right up next to a kangaroo and patting it with both hands! Amazing. Next to her is Hannah, and in the foreground Toby.

We made it to the lions, which are in quite an open enclosure, and she was even happy to hang out watching them for a while. I think she finally realised they couldn't actually get out!
The tigers were harder to find - they have built these gorgeous plant-filled enclosures where you are slightly elevated above the ground, but of course it's ridiculously hard to find the actual animals. Bring back the days of a lone tiger pacing back and forth in a barren cage, I say. At least you can actually see them! But we did catch a glimpse of the one tiger's stripy back way back behind the trees if we ducked down and looked under the railing. And in the other enclosure you could see some movement way back at the back of the enclosure behind the trees which was presumably the tiger.

Photo: Ryan and Mitchell ham it up in the rainforest walk.

Photo: My biggest baby all worn out in the pram.

One cool but gross thing we saw was the ghost bats in the nocturnal house eating. They were eating chicks, hanging upside down, holding the chicks around the necks and eating their brains out through their beaks. Actually the nocturnal house was the only place Sophie got spooked. It was dark and there were lots of kids running around, so it's understandable.

And a funny - Sophie kept asking the keepers if we could buy the animals. Fortunately she wasn't too ambitious with this, her favourites were the guinea pigs and rabbits.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

Double century

This weekend, two 100's. The second was filling my car with petrol and having it total $100.77. What?! That is just wrong.
But the first was way more exciting - I rode my first 100k ride on the bike. Actually it was more like 120k in the end, but I set out to do 100. It was a beautiful day and I headed out well. I rode my standard path into the city, through DSTO and then back streets, to avoid Main North Road, then I headed down the linear trail along the Torrens, then along the beach to Semaphore (where I bumped into Dianne, walking down Semaphore Road), then back through Port Adelaide to home. And because I'm a geek, hopefully the map I made will work. I had two punctures, the first times ever I've had a puncture I've had to fix on the road (the other couple of times have been slow leaks I haven't noticed until later). I was out on the bike for about 7 hours, but my computer told me I spent 5.5 hours actually riding (I also stopped for some lunch). I averaged around the 22km/hr mark which I was very happy with. The roads are almost all flat, but there was a headwind coming home, which made the last 30 or so km slower going.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Hannah is five

Hannah's birthday, and as always at our house, a party-alooza. On her actual birthday we had dinner at the Bluegums with Paul (essentially overpriced pub fare) and an icecream cake later at his house. The following week (when I'd finally got my act together) she had her party. She chose bowling, which turned out to be lots of fun. Dad and one of the other dads stayed and helped out, leaving mum and I and another mum free to sit back and chat. Much fun and sugar was had by all (the best party ever, again, apparently). And her cake was well received. Well, actually not really, it was a caramel mudcake whale, not high on kids yum list apparently. But Hannah and I liked it and that's the main thing really.

The other photo here is of Hannah's class presenting assembly, which was very exciting. She also got to go out the front for everyone to sing happy birthday. There is a little video here too, of her speaking into the microphone at assembly.

A 'How To' for less junk

I'm really impressed with myself lately for the amount of rubbish I've been able to reduce. I put my green bin out tonight - for the first time in NINE weeks! That's right, me and four children took nine whole weeks to fill up a little bitty green bin. And these are not your standard big green bins, ours are only 120L little things.
And my recycle bin is not going out this week either. This is a bigger 240L bin that goes out every other week, but it's only half full. And that's after two children's birthdays as well.
I wanted to post a neat post from Colin at No Impact Man. This is his list of 42 ways to reduce your rubbish. I do quite a bit of it and aim to do more. I really need to start buying many more things in bulk.