Monday, December 16, 2013

College Scholarship Post

In the past, most forms of entertainment and information have been found through television or in physical media such as novels and periodicals. Today, however, there has been a strong shift to all of this information being found on the World Wide Web. I believe that this shift in consuming media over the internet has had both a positive and negative impact on my life as a student.

On the positive end, it has become very easy to acquire information for school papers and research projects. It is also very simple to find information on things that I want to learn how to do using the internet. For example, there was a time where I discovered an article online on how to write a video game using computer programming, and since then I have decided to become a computer scientist and program video games as a career. The access to media online has also made it easy to find information on things that are not working properly and how to fix them. Because almost any type of information, if not all of it, can be found on the internet, anything someone can be looking for is usually just a quick search in a search engine and it is found with ease.

However, there are negatives to everything being available on the internet. Because I do most of my work on my laptop, I have a tendency to surf the web and watch videos rather than actually do my work. When it comes to other pass times such as watching television or reading a book, it can be a lot easier to simply walk away from them because they are only a source of entertainment, where as a computer is both a tool for completing work and tasks as well as finding entertainment. A lot of the time when I am working on homework, I find it very easy to just simply switch windows to Facebook or YouTube and just start wasting time I could be spending working on the task at hand. Since a computer is much more versatile than other tools, especially with the internet, it is very easy to find ways that distract rather than complete tasks.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

How to Make Homemade Butter

So about three years ago, we undertook a family project that involved us giving up processed foods. For the most part we succeeded, and have even made strides in some areas. We now make all of our own jams and jellies, as well as freezing vegetables in bulk amounts at the peak of the season, such as carrots, beans, and corn. We also make all of our own bread. And what could go better on homemade bread than homemade butter? Not much!

In the pioneer times, those lucky enough to have a cow could routinely make their own butter with aid of a stonewashed churn and dash. Though the process was certainly laborious, the settlers must have considered thesmleves fortunate to be able to have such “luxuries” as butter on their cornbread or toast.

Even in these modern times, butter can be made relatively easily by pouring cream into a jar and shaking it repeatedly over 45 minutes to an hour. However, with modern times comes modern machinery, and with modern machinery comes a surprisingly simple way to make butter.

Please note, that while I make our butter in a stand mixer, handheld beaters can be used as well. Also, for best results, the cream should be at room temperature; ideally, it should have been out of the refrigerator for 12 hours.

It takes:
1 quart heavy whipping cream
3 Tablespoons plain yogurt

3 tablespoons yogurt + 1 quart buttermilk

Place cream and yogurt into bowl.

Turn on mixer or beat on medium speed until cream begins to thicken and form “soft peaks”.

Here the cream has been whipped until soft peaks have begun to form

Increase speed to high (or higher, if a stand mixer), and continue to beat cream until it resembles whipped cream. In fact, if the process was stopped now and 1/4 cup of sugar was added, the perfect pie topping would be found. 

Note: The speed can be set to high to begin with, but more cream will end up outside of the bowl, rather than in.

Whipped cream
 Continue at high speed until the cream is well beaten, distinctly yellow, and lumped together. At this point buttermilk should be seen to creep around the edges of the bowl. The "almost-butter" will resemble scrambled eggs or cottage cheese and be distinctly yellow.

Almost there...but not quite....
Slow down speed of mixer or beaters until butter begins to form one solid “lump” in the middle of the bowl. It is very important to keep an eye on the butter at this point, because otherwise the buttermilk, like the cream in the beginning, will redecorate the room you are using otherwise.

If using a stand mixer, raise the top and allow the butter to drip for a good 4-5 minutes.

Butter above buttermilk, dripping into the bowl
Scoop out the butter into a bowl big enough to hold it, and use a slotted spoon to catch the smaller lumps. Pour off the buttermilk into a jar and use the slotted spoon again to catch the smallest particles of butter; it is much easier if you do it after pouring it into a jar than from the bowl you used to make the butter.

Unwashed homemade butter 
 Now that the butter has been made, the second phase begins: washing the butter For this phase a wooden paddle in the form of a wooden spoon or large wooden spoon will be needed, along with a wooden cutting board. (I'm not sure why wood has to be used, but I didn't ever question it when I started and it’s worked just fine.)
Wooden spoon/paddle and wood cutting board

Scoop out a portion of the butter with the wooden spoon onto the cutting board. Turn a faucet to very cold and about ½ power. Using the wooden spoon, push down hard onto the butter and run the water over the butter. Fold the butter in half using the wooden spoon and repeat with the water. Do this until the water runs clear, then scrape off the butter onto waxed paper.

Push down hard with wooden spoon, forcing buttermilk out of butter...
...and rise away with cold water.
Repeat with remaining portions of butter.

Gather the waxed paper under the sections of washed butter and squeeze until the entire mass of butter forms a ball. Do this over the sink, as water and a thin amount of buttermilk will run out of the waxed paper. Transfer butter to a fresh sheet of waxed paper, wrap, and place in refrigerator to chill.

Voila! Butter and buttermilk – all homemade.

One quart cream + 3 Tablespoons yogurt = 1 pound butter + a little over 2 cups of buttermilk.

Homemade butter and buttermilk 
Note: Salt and other herbs can be added as desired. For salted butter, just sprinkle a pinch of kosher salt over the butter as you scrape and fold. Don’t be afraid to experiment – it may not turn out the way it was intended to, but homemade butter is usually “exotic” enough to most that they will try it no matter what.

Monday, March 4, 2013

Beekeeping Supplies are HERE!

Sorry everyone! I meant to do a blog post on Saturday, but had to wait to find the camera and take pictures of our new supplies!

With the recycling project due to get underway soon and the energy project suspended until the next billing cycle (which isn’t due for another couple of weeks), Saturday was spent on our family beekeeping project.  Even though Scoutmaster Chris spent last summer doing beehives with a family friend, this will be the first time that we are setting out on our own to do a hive; therefore, today required a road trip to a bee supplier.
We were most unhappy to find out that our former bee supplier, The Mill in Onsted, Michigan, had closed its doors only earlier this year, and would not be open to provide us or anyone else with any beekeeping supplies. We would have to find another supplier, and fast, or else this year would be over before a hive was even planned, let alone built. And, as you might have guessed, beekeeping shops are not exactly shops that are found on every corner.... or even one corner in the Detroit area.

Luckily, we were able to find a replacement supplier in Napoleon, Michigan, a small town south of Grass Lake along M-50. Napoleon Bee Supply, run by Mr. Steve Clark and his wife, carries everything that a beginning beekeeper or those aspiring to be could possibly want…and if they don’t have it on their shelves, they always know when it will be there or are happy to order it for anyone. One can even order their bees from them (which we did today as well). They stood by with infinite patience as we not only pulled just about everything needed for a beehive from their shelves, a surprisingly large amount for just one hive, but also tried on beekeeping gear until even I (not the easiest of customers to deal with) was satisfied.

As you can see from the pictures below, I wasn’t kidding – it takes a surprising amount of wood pieces to assemble one hive. More on the makeup of a beehive coming soon – and a special thanks to Steve Clark and his wife of Napoleon Bee Supply for having a store available that saved us from direct order and not being able to see our products before they arrived on our doorstep!

Though this was only our second visit to Napoleon Bee Supply, there is no doubt that it will not be our last – the bees are due in on May 4th, and at least one trip in between will be required as we figure out what we  missed this time. But that’s okay with us – a trip out to the beekeeping store is never a waste of time as we embark on this family project.

More on our family projects coming soon – and remember, we have only one lifetime, but so many projects to accomplish! 

Thursday, February 28, 2013

Okay, back for real this time!

Okay everyone, sorry about dropping off of the map like that, but we have a really good excuse.

It's called the stomach flu.

Whatever bug we caught swept through this house like a bug on a mission. Within three days we were all down with it, and it took a good few days for us to wipe it out. Believe me, it was trying its best to wipe us out!

Just as an FYI, any projects that we have going on at the time of sickness usually, if not totally, become suspended for reasons of health and safety. For example, though we meant to start our energy-saving project about 10 days ago, due to the flu issues it was thought wise to suspend it, both for our own sanity and the fact that the washer, dryer, and dishwasher worked triple overtime!

Therefore, the energy-saving project will have to wait until the next billing cycle, so look for it to start along about March 17th or 18th. In the meantime, our recycling project gets underway tomorrow, plus there will be little projects along the way to keep our curiosity active, alive, and well.

Remember, we have only one lifetime...but there are so many projects that can be done!

Friday, February 15, 2013

We're Baaaaaaack!

And we're back to kick off another year of family projects!

Suffice to say, 2012 was not all that memorable, at least not in the blogging universe of things.

We did have our family garden, but due to a lack of time and energy, not much was harvested from it, although some zucchinis deserved an honorable mention in July for becoming large enough to scare the neighbors...

My husband partnered with a family friend and learned the ins and outs of beekeeping, coming home with minimal stings (only three times out of the year!) and ten quarts of honey at the end of it...

But, other than that, we did not decide to do any family projects. It wasn't something that we meant to do, but the year just slipped past before we could do anything about it.

Things are about to change in 2013 - the family projects have been decided! We will be trying new things, and revisiting family favorites to give them another go.

A brief synopsis of the two new family projects for 2013 are:

1. Beekeeping: Scoutmaster Chris thoroughly enjoyed his experience beekeeping last year, and thus we have decided to make this a family project this year. We will have one hive. The bees have already been ordered and will be delivered in May. The guidelines and details on this family project will be coming soon!
Start Date: February 2, 2013
Run Time: Year-long

2. Recycling: Yes, I know, we should be doing this one already. Obviously, we have not been. Considering as we are concerned about the environmental issues that plague our lives and times,  though far from being what I consider "eco-actvists" (none of us is in shape or really interested in waving signs), it's almost surprising that we have not been recycling all along. However, we will make a go of it for this year. Guidelines and details, like the project above, will be forthcoming soon!
Start Date: March 1
Run Time: Year-long

We will also revisit our original family project of energy saving. Back to it and better then before, new guidelines have been fleshed out at family meetings and decided upon.
Start Date: February 18, 2013
Run Time: One billing cycle (28-32 days), possibly longer

So there you have it, folks! The 2013 Family Projects (at least the longest-running and decided upon ones) have been announced!

More projects will, of course, take place out of the course of the year, whether out of personal curiosity, desire to change, or just to see what happens. Remember, we've only got one lifetime, but there are so many projects that can be done!

Thanks for reading, everyone!

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Projects That Will Never Happen.

Since we're all having so much fun with the current family project of energy saving, I thought I'd post a bit about projects that will probably never been seen in the household. Whether we decide on our own what the next family project will be, or post a poll and have others decide for us, these choices will decidedly not be on the menu.

This one is not even up for discussion. While we admire vegetarians and even vegans, the simple truth is that (with apologies to vegetarian activists) we eat meat. We even like to eat meat. While the projects are supposed to be at least somewhat of a challenge to us, I would place bets that my husband can’t go a day without some form of meat in his diet, and unfortunately, I agree. To be fair (and before vegans begin waving vegetables in protest), I have tried to be a vegetarian. I made it three days. I also made myself thoroughly sick. So, unfortunately, I will not be repeating the experiment.

Alcoholic Beverages
Okay, again, I’m not knocking those that enjoy a glass of wine with dinner or a beer after a day of working out in the yard. I’m not even trying to tramp on the people that like to enjoy a drink with a sports game. But we don’t drink alcohol. At all…now or, I would imagine, ever. Now, ignoring the fact that this has continued to shock those that meet us and those that have known us for years, allow me to say that we’re not trying to get another amendment for a nationwide Prohibition pushed through. We aren’t temperance workers, and we don’t run around protesting the sales of alcohol, liquor, or even those ready-made margarita mixes in the frozen section of the grocey store. We just enjoy non-alcoholic beverages like Coke or Mountain Dew more. So, a project involving alcoholic beverages, either drinking them or abstaining from them, wouldn’t make much sense for us.

No. Just…no.

For those that contemplate murder when their morning cup of coffee is taken away or for some reason put out of reach, I’m right there with you. While we don’t drink a lot of coffee in the house (again, that pesky Coke tastes better to us), we do enjoy iced tea, hot tea, and the occasional cup of coffee and hot chocolate, especially in the winter. This, as usual, does not include the amount of soda that we swill down without even looking at the caffeine listing on the label. Therefore, telling us to go without caffeine of any kind during a project just won’t’ happen. As with the vegetarianism, the challenge is there, but the results are just so not worth it.

No Electronics
Well…while I can probably stand to live without electronics for a certain amount of time, it would be rather counter-productive to have a blog during it, wouldn’t you think?

Hand-washing the clothes
Seriously, has anyone ever tried this? I have – not by choice. When you grow up in a house that’s over 100 years old, the pipes have the uncanny knack of freezing solid in winter for days on end. If you want clean clothes, in that case, you have to wash them by hand. Try it sometime with even half a load of what fits into a conventional top-loading washer, and you’ll soon understand why we won’t do it. The manual strength and energy required in even washing and wringing out a regular shirt, never mind a pair of pants or jeans is enormous, and frankly, I don’t have it. So this project just won’t happen. Ever.

Ditching the car for public transport
This one, again, would be counter-productive, as my husband’s place of business is within a community that does not allow use of the Detroit metro-area suburban SMART bus system. Very few communities have ordinances against it, but this one does, and requires those taking it to disembark just outside of the city limits and use a city-owned mode of transportation. It not only costs more money in addition to the already purchased SMART bus fares, but does not run on a schedule that would have him home anytime between dusk and dawn. The other available factors are that the bus stop to get him on the correct line is almost at his place of work, as well as if we both chose to take the bus, we’d have to park the car somewhere in a common lot, leaving us to wonder if we shouldn’t just hang a sign on the car that says “looting, pillaging, and plundering welcome”.  As for our offspring, he already takes public transportation to school, both ways, and the bus stop is a convenient 6 miles from the house. So, while we’re doing our part, doing anything more would cost us more than what we’re already doing. Does that last sentence make any sense to anyone, I wonder?

While we appreciate any and all suggestions for future projects, either short term or long term, as I said before, these aren't even up for a discussion, suggestion, or polite discourse. They won't be, or ever. Enough said.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

One Week Later...

Well, I'd love to tell you that everything has changed in the week since I posted.

But that would be a lie, so I won't.

Suffice to say, life got busy in a hurry (again). Our son started back to school, which is great for the curent family project of energy conservation around the house, as we don't have a gaming system going at all during the day, or a television. I should also point out that it's bad for any hope of emissions conservation that we have ever had, as we have to drive him to and from school, as there is not a transportation system for his chosen place of education. Don't get me wrong, I'm not complaining, but the gas and car emissions (and the gas budget) has not seen much conservation all of last week.

I also wish I could tell you that, due to him being back in school, everything has been used less, but that would be another lie. Monday and Tuesday were spent putting in so much canning and cleaning time that the stove almost started to whimper when I would walk near it. I suppose I shouldn't put much stock in the gas portion of our energy bill being lower next month!

Friday, and Saturday were spent helping out at a garage sale, so there really wasn't anyone here during the day. We did turn the thermostat up to 78 when the air conditioner was on, which to be honest, wasn't that much this past week, as the weather has rarely been unbearable except for a few hours in the afternoons. So, all told, it's been a pretty enjoyable (but busy) week, with so much going on I'm not sure I've even really stopped to catch my breath yet.

Hopefully with the holiday weekend behind us, things will slow down - but I doubt it :)