A Tale of Two Yogurts: Part 1

Making your own soy milk, and both standard and soy yogurts

I want to talk about three things in this little article. These are all things that have been known about by lots of people, but not by most people, and generally not all found in the same place. I’ll start by telling you how milk yogurt is made by me at least; and I’m lazy and like to do as little work as possible. In part 2 I’ll tell you how to make soy yogurt, and the milk it’s made from.

Moo Yogurt (Or Baa)

Ingredients needed
Thermos bottle
(vacuum flask) as wide a mouth as you can find

Milk, cow or goat, preferably not that low-fat stuff.

Powdered milk if you wish a thicker yogurt.

A yogurt starter
(just plain unflavored, not vanilla yogurt from the store. I usually use Greek culture because I admire Socrates.)

Procedure:

pour a pint or more of milk into a sauce pan, place over low heat. Stirr frequently till it heats to about body temperature. If you have a thermometer, 95 F or 35 C is good, but you can use your sense of touch to test that it’s not really not nor cold. Think tepid bathtub, or baby bottle.

When desired temperature has been achieved, fill your thermos with hot water from the tap to preheat.

Stir a couple of table spoons of your starter yogurt into your warm milk. This is harder to do than one expects. A bit of spoon work is wanted.

Now pour the water out of the thermos and the milk and yogurt mixture in. Screw the lid on tightly. I like to wrap the thermos in a bath towel for further insulation. Put it on a counter or in some other warm place and leave it alone! Overnight or even 24 hours if you wish. If you live in a cold climate, you can set it on top of the water heater or on top of your fridge. Let it sit overnight.

(Note If you want thicker yogurt, a few tablespoons of powdered milk can be stirred into the whole milk prior to heating.)

That should be all. By morning, the yogurt should be a smooth, fairly solid mass.
You need no special thermostatic yogurt maker or mail order starters. Slice in a peach or throw in some raspberries and you’ll have something just as good and a lot cheaper than those syrupy 5-ounce tubs they sell in the store.

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This was a guest post by Glynda Shaw. over at Creative Fancy.  She’s an author and alternative energy expert who also does a lot of homebrewing, creative cooking, building, and homesteading related projects.

Introduction to Sumi Painting

Japanese ink painting is an ancient, yet truly enjoyable art form that creates a striking, often monochromatic style. Some consider it a Chinese art, however these paintings are very highly esteemed in both countries.

It trains you to paint bravely, being careful and fluid at the same time. It shows you how to go with the flow and not look back.

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Sumi ink stone

Some people use colors in their sumi paintings, even gold paint, but I currently don’t. At it’s essential core, this kind of painting is about deep black ink, a natural-bristle bamboo handled brush, and some nice paper.

One of the really cool things about sumi painting is that although you can buy liquid ink in a bottle, you can also grind your own. Ink sticks are generally made with pine soot and natural glue. You rub them against the ink stone, with a little water, to make your ink. There’s something very grounding about watching the ink form in your stone.

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Sumi Brushes

Ink stones aren’t too expensive, neither are brushes, and you only need one or two to start. Paper can be pricy but there are cheap options, so this is an easy thing to try. If you decide to stick with it, you can get better materials.

When you are getting started with sumi, it helps to try making different strokes – the direction your brush moves in, combined with the pressure you use, determines what your mark will be. Sometimes you need to plan ahead with your marks, because you have no way of erasing, but if you hesitate you will put down too much paint. It’s good to practice by trying to copy a simple painting, to see how to make the lines and marks.

Sumi ink can also be thinned out to make washes, like watercolor. If you use the proper kind of paper, Japanese Washi, it will preserve all the fine details you have made and the ink won’t spread too much, nor sit on the surface.

There are, of course, online tutorials, videos, and books to teach you this art, or you can play around and see what you can make on your own. Sumi can even be a form of moving meditation. A common exercise is to breathe deeply and see how perfect a circle you can draw with a single stroke.

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I’ve barely scratched the surface here but I hope you can see what endless vistas can be explored.  If you’d like to try too, click on the images to see where to get the supplies.

 

(featured picture by Pixabay, art materials from DickBlick.com)

The Magic of Detail

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A small detail from one of my paintings

 

Whether we’re talking about a story, an article, a painting, or a drawing, the devil really is in the details. Get them wrong and you have a flop. Get them right and you’ve made something great.

Research is really important to make sure you get those details right. Just how should the knight’s sword gleam? What does a rose smell like, exactly? How does a Great Dane generally behave? What are some of the normal brands of potato chip bought in the East Coast?

Details, and how you portray them, are everything. If you’re writing about an object, the reader should know what it looks like. They need to know the color, make an model of the car the protagonist sees. The scent of the forest as the heroin walks into it. How the fur of the wolf feels as the hero tentatively strokes its ruff.

In a picture, little details can really make it come alive. Say you paint a mountain scene. It’s pretty, but what’s going on? Add a bird, and there’s life. Add a boat and a mysterious head in the high mountain caldera-lake, and you have a story. What creatures populate your woods? Who walks through your cities? What do they wear? How do they live? In a portrait, what favorite piece of jewelry, what sly look of the eye, will the viewer see?

Remember to include these things and watch your viewers, or readers, love you.

Daydream your way to happiness

via Daily Prompt: Pretend

Remember when you were young, and you pretended that you were someone else?  When I was little, sometimes I’d be a bus driver, sometimes a pilot, sometimes a doctor, sometimes a vet, sometimes a detective.

Just as  kittens stalk leaves and toys as imaginary mice, we mold our young brains by pretending.  Fortunately, it’s not entirely that deadly serious, or otherwise I’d be trying for a career as an elevator or trolley car!  However, we can shape our thinking by pretending.

As adults, many of us forget this.  We live our lives, rooted in the ordinary routine.  We might forget to stop and wonder what things would be like if we were other people, or acted in different ways.  We miss out on a rich buffet of possibilities.  Later, we see an opportunity and say “why didn’t I see that coming?  Why couldn’t I have taken advantage of that and live my dreams?”

We can get around this by pretending.

Taking a few moments to let your mind fly free, and imagine every detail about how things might be if circumstances were different can prepare you if things really do change.  Some might do this to roleplaying games, others through guided meditation, but daydreaming can be done most places, in just a few minutes, with no special equipment or partners. It’s also a form of meditation if you allow it to be.

If you take a moment and just wonder, pretend, it might open up doors to opportunity you never saw.  Who would you be if you could be anyone, do anything?  What would that feel like?  Is there something you can do right now that is more along those lines, instead of your mundane everyday?

Let’s pretend.

Contentment

Everybody wants contentment.  They want that quiet, calm feeling that everything is okay.  They want to have enough to get by, they want the right electronics, nice clothes, a good place to live, the right partner, the right job.  Many think those things are the way to contentment.

A person will never find contentment unless they first embody it.  Contentment comes from within.  You can be perfectly content if you are destitute, even if you aren’t sure where your next meal is coming from, if you have mastered yourself and are a source of your own contentment.  You can be happy with absolutely anything if you’ve learned this.

A common thought is that if you are content, you will never try for anything more.  Not so!  People often use this as a reason not to try for internally motivated contentment.  I know I’ve done that.  Being content with what you have still leaves plenty of room for improvement, while at the same time giving you a safe, calm internal place to work from.

How is that done?

Mindfulness meditation is very good for this.  If you take a small pleasant experience, such as drinking a cup of tea, taking a walk, or looking up into  a sunny sky, fill yourself with the whole sensation.  Notice everything pleasant about it.  The true key is, you can do this with ANYTHING.  That knowledge is true contentment.

Mental Quests as well as Physical

via Photo Challenge: Quest

 

For me, quests have always been twofold.  Mental, and physical.  My cover photo represents my quest for images, for seeing deeper, for finding new things to write about.  This picture, below, is of the biggest prickly pear cactus I’ve ever seen – and I found it in a back alley of my neighborhood!

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There are other quests in life.  The quest for health, the quest for fitness, the quest for wholeness.

When I was young, my quests often happened on a TV screen.  I loved playing a game called Ultima: Quest of the Avatar. Conceived by Richard Garriott, it was innovative for its time. I played the version made for Nintendo. In a way it was like a really primitive version of Fable – in the free-roaming world of Britannia, you could complete your goals in whatever order you liked. Your choices directly affected your chances at success. As in life, this game allowed you to cheat – at a penalty – but ultimately you could only succeed by following the rules laid out in the game.

Britannia was a great place to adventure, full of dusty castles and ancient keeps, deep forests and wide oceans, with several cities and towns and eight dank dungeons. There was even a hot-air balloon you could control with Wind spells!

I may have mentioned before that I wrote an ebook about this game. I’m revisiting the subject because it’s been rather relevant to me of late. I really liked Ultima because it provided a very solid system of morality, neglecting nothing, and yet it wasn’t religious at all. There were no gods mentioned, no worship.

There were shrines and meditation was mentioned, as was magic, but no one made themselves subservient to anyone. The player might check how they were doing with Hawkwind the Sage, but otherwise they didn’t compare themselves to anyone else – they strove only to beat their own personal best.

Honesty, Courage, Compassion, Sacrifice, Honor, Spirituality, and Humility were the Eight Virtues. There was a system of colors, and different in game tasks that improved each of those virtues. There was also a network of dungeons to travel through in your Quest, as well as different cities and towns to discover.

One theme that I truly enjoyed was the idea that you, the player, were transported into that world – that once you mastered the Virtues you might carry them into your own life and be a hero there as well. A theme of the game was “the Quest of the Avatar is Forever.” Even now that I’ve been spoiled by awesome graphics and epic storylines, I still occasionally pine for that game.

One of the themes that I found most valuable is the idea that Virtue is something only achieved after hard work and long practice. There are no magic pills or instant philosophies. The journey is the adventure. At the end the final boss battle is a fight with a dark form… of yourself. If that isn’t a great philosophy for life, I don’t know what is! What was the reward after Quest’s end? Gold? Gems? Fame? Only a book… but one that contained ultimate knowledge. I can’t imagine a better treasure.

If you want to read more, check out my books page.