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One is to watch over your pot of milk warming on the stove, stirring occassionally and checking the temperature every few minutes until you get to 180 degrees F.  This takes a good half hour at least, at medium-low heat, and makes yogurt-making seem like a long and daunting task.011908 003

The other is to put the pot of milk on the stove, turn the heat to medium-low, then go check email, Facebook, blogs, etc. until you have a need to go into the kitchen.  Then gasp! realize you had milk heating on the stove, panic and quickly check its temperature.  See that it’s gotten to 200 degrees but isn’t scalded or boiling yet, and hope that the higher temperature doesn’t ruin the final result…Let the milk cool to the required 110 degrees, setting the timer to check on it in five minutes.  At that point it’s nowhere near cooled enough so go back to the computer, forgetting to re-set the timer, until you need to go back into the kitchen.  Oops!  Remember the cooling milk again and check its temp.  Lo and behold!  You’re in luck because it’s exactly 110 degrees.  Proceed to stir in your 1/2 cup of yogurt, stick the lid on the jar and put it in its warm place to incubate for eight hours.

I’m sure there are more than two ways, but those are the two I’ve tried.  This latest batch, done in method number two, seems a little more sour and curdled than usual, but it set up and with just a little more maple syrup than usual it should taste fine.

I have a yogurt-making tutorial on my older blog The Zahn Zone and if you just click here you’ll find out more about my method.

It’s lilac week here in Central Minnesota.  The scent is all over the air.  Almost every home in our neighborhood has lilac bushes.  Ahhh, spring…

a couple bouquets waiting to be moved into place around the house

a couple bouquets waiting to be moved into place around the house

Happy Memorial Day weekend!  We plan to do a lot of garden work this weekend–I’ll post photos when we’ve got something accomplished…

George and I are starting to freak out a little bit.  Our home is on our neighborhood’s “Historic Home Tour” in September, and there are so many projects left to do.  The house doesn’t have to be perfect to be on the home tour, but of course we want to get it all done and have it be as close to perfect as we can get!

The bath tub was the ugliest thing in our house when we bought it

The bath tub was the ugliest thing in our house when we bought it

I thought I’d go through some before and afters of what we’ve already done, just to feel better about how far we’ve already come in the five years we’ve been here.  This house was in the best shape of any of the three we’ve owned, but there are still a lot of cosmetic touches we needed to add.

New tub and surround, much nicer to relax in!

New tub and surround, much nicer to relax in!

George does most of the work on our house, although the tub was a plumber job.  It killed him to watch those guys do it, too.  He would’ve done a better job (and in even less time).

I also hated this sink and vanity, not to mention the bright white paint with this green tile

I also hated this sink and vanity, not to mention bright white paint with green tile

Since the tile is in good shape and both the floor and wall tiles match (for the most part), we wanted to work with it in choosing a new paint color and fixtures.  I don’t love the green, but it’s okay.  I’m happy with how this has turned out…we matched the paint to the tile for the sake of “calm”.

We did the walls and the trim in the same green as the tiles, and it does make for a restful, natural feeling for the room

We painted the walls and the trim in the same green as the tiles, and it does make for a restful, natural feeling for the room

I struggled over the shower curtain and window curtain.  Finally for the window I used an antique dresser scarf I had stashed away; it goes with the rustic print/frame over the toilet.  And for the shower I took the hemp shower curtain I’d been using for the liner (it didn’t work well as a liner–got too moldy), washed it up well and am now using it as the outside, decorative curtain.  I really like it!  It matches our towels and again, gives a natural, restful feeling.

The tile next to the tub surround is finally done, and the shower curtain dilemma solved.

The tile next to the tub surround is finally done, and the shower curtain dilemma solved. The window curtain is a lace-edged dresser scarf hung on two nails, and I hang a tiny quilt on the bottom half of the window in winter to keep out drafts.

This bathroom is the only one in our four-square, Craftsman style home.  It was too bright before, with the glaring white paint and fixtures in a north-facing room.  I think it turned out very well for the little money we spent.  We did spend about $4000 on the tub, surround and some major plumbing repairs, but other than that we spent less than $400 on the rest.

Many people who’ve read my Zahn Zone blog and seen my apron photo as the header have commented on the aprons.  Everyone loves the aprons.  I love the aprons.  I would call them a collection if I had more than–let me count…eight–of them, and if I were a collector, which I try not to be.  I only buy aprons that cost 50 cents or a quarter, which is a rare find these days and happens only at the occasional garage sale.  (I still kick myself, though, for years ago passing up boxes of old gingham aprons for a quarter apiece at the secondhand store in our former little town in Iowa.)

some of my apron "collection", covering an ugly basement wall

some of my apron "collection", only partially covering an ugly basement wall

Those old gingham aprons, with their carefully cross-stitched decorations on them, are my favorite.  For some reason the ones I find generally look new and unworn.  Were they ever actually used for their purpose?  Or did the ones that got used get so threadbare they were turned into rags and then thrown out?  Sometimes I think about these things, and about all the women who came before me, putting their spare time into making a pretty apron and then wearing it around their home.

But the main reason I like the aprons is that they remind me of my grandma.  I don’t actually remember Grandma wearing aprons, but they remind me of her because they remind me of home, and homemaking, and they give me that feeling of nostalgia for my childhood past.

Grandma’s house was just one block from ours and her home felt like my home.  Grandma (my mom’s mom, still alive and 90 years old) was a constant presence in my young life.  Since I had a deadbeat, non-existent dad and a mom who was emotionally distressed and obligated to work to support herself and two little kids, Grandma was my caregiver.

Now, Grandma was no Martha Stewart-type homemaker.  Her cooking was pretty adequate but she didn’t like to do it.  She didn’t sew (mom was the fabulous seamstress) or knit or cross-stitch.  Her home was nice in a cluttered, old-lady sort of way, nothing fancy.  And while Grandma likes pretty things, I wouldn’t say she had a sense of “style” as is the fashion today.

The thing is, though, at Grandma’s house, everyone felt welcomed.  There were always cookies in the cookie jar, whether store-bought or homemade, and coffee on at 3:00 every afternoon.  There was always a big smile and hello when someone came to visit.  And Grandma was always happy when I brought friends over to make forts in her basement or play ball in the vacant lot next store.

Me with my two Grandmas, my mom and my aunt Karen on Mother's Day

Me with my two Grandmas, my mom and my aunt Karen on Mother's Day

What this says to me, is that the most important part of homemaking isn’t the stuff a homemaker does (nor is it the stuff a homemaker has, like aprons, though those things are necessary and fun in their own way).  It’s not about being the perfect seamstress, or cook, or even the perfect hostess.  To me the homemaker is the one who is home.  Not all the time, but a lot of the time.  Home to welcome the kids.  Home to take care of the day-to-day things.  Home to visit with friends and neighbors and serve up the snacks.

My grandma was home.  A lot.  In fact, since she didn’t have a driver’s license she was almost always home when Grandpa wasn’t.  It was with Grandma that I baked cookies.  With Grandma we kids walked to the ice cream shop for treats.  It was Grandma who said my bedtime prayers with me so many nights.  I feel that my Grandma’s greatest gift to the world, and to me, was her constant, dependable presence at home.  The world sure doesn’t recognize that kind of gift much, but for my life it was essential.

And so here a post about my apron “collection” turns into a tribute to Grandma.  It’s long overdue.  She turned 90 last year, and I hope she knows how loved she is.

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