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Birthday Cheese!

So, for my birthday Tamara gave me a cheese making kit! It has everything you need to make mozzarella or ricotta, minus the milk. We tried it out, and it worked great!

We made mozzarella – and it was pretty easy. First you put citric acid in the milk and heat it up – but not too much – it is just barely warm.
heating milk

Then you add the rennett and let it sit for a while. It gets a texture like custard, sort of solid. You then cut this up and put it in a bowl, trying to separate it from the whey. You knead it, kind of like bread, and microwave it a little and it becomes stretchy like taffy!
kneading cheese

That is when it is done. You then mold it into a ball and put it in ice water to cool off. Pretty easy and fun!
taffy cheese

Then we made pizza! The dough is homemade in our fancy schmancy bread machine with spent grains from making beer, and whey from making the cheese. The basil is from our garden – and we made the mozzarella! It was super yummy! Here are pictures before and after baking.
unbaked pizza
baked pizza

4 months? 8 months!

If we keep doubling the time between updates each time, soon it will be infinitely long… Perhaps we shouldn’t go that route.

Of course, it’s been a busy 8 months – that’s how our lives go. And we seldom have our camera with us. We did more than knit, crochet, and climb; however, here’s a few things we did take pictures of:

Where did July, August, September, and October go?

Wow! It seems like you turn around, and you’ve missed 4 months of blog updates! Well, no time like the present for a new update! Perhaps most importantly, Gretchen’s leg is better – she’s well enough that she’s playing soccer again.

We’ve been busy. Very briefly, since the last update, we’ve:

Sorry there’s so few pictures of all the excitement – our camera is crapping out (sometimes the anniversary presents suggest themselves!). Also, we tend to get distracted with doing and seeing stuff, and don’t take enough pictures!

Oh yeah, we also did a lot of other stuff – Gretchen passed her Q exam (yay!), and I got a proposal for the NSF Graduate Fellowship put together and submitted, and we’ve both been busy with classes and research… And the dog is good, though we haven’t been practicing the obedience school stuff enough.

Busy times. No complaints, though! Next, we’re heading to Nashville for Thanksgiving with mom. Keep an eye out for another update in… a few months?

June finished with a bang

The weekend after we got home from the midwest, Jim answered the “bathroom in distress” Heavner signal (much like the bat-signal, but without the crime-fighting involved) and stopped in while en-route to a conference in Canada. Serendipitously, Betsey happened to be planning a visit with Kori, Heri, and the boys in Philadelphia, so they all drove out too!

Dad and I did some insulating under the house (hopefully the bathtub won’t freeze this winter!) and got some dura-rock up on the shower wall. We didn’t get to re-tiling, but made significant progress, so the finishing work shouldn’t be too bad when we get to it. In fact, we were so busy working that we didn’t take any pictures, so you’ll have to take my word for it.

Once everyone else arrived, we had weekend full of picknicking at Robert H. Treeman State Park, picking strawberries at Grisamore Farm, and generally having a good time together.

In fact, we were having such a good time (or at least this is my theory) that when it was time for Jim to fly out after Gretchen’s soccer game, she decided that heroic measures were needed to keep everyone in town, so she broke her leg.

Unfortunately, it didn’t work. Mom took dad to the airport while Heri and I took Gretch to the emergency room, and dad got out of town. Mom, Kori, Heri, and the boys left the next day, and Gretch and I were left alone with her new cast. Luckily, Gretch planned well enough that it isn’t a bad break (as far as breaks go), so she hopes to get into a walking cast in a couple weeks.

Heavners thumbnailGretch cast thumbnail

Mid-June = mid-west

In mid-June, we took a break from gardening and the bathroom wall hole to travel to the midwest for a memorial service for Gretchen’s Grandpa, who died this spring. We loaded the car with camping and puppy supplies, and headed west, stopping to camp at Geneva-on-the-lake and to spend a day and two nights visiting Christy, Aaron, and Cole in Chicago before getting to LaCrosse for a week with Gretchen’s family.

The memorial service was planned to coincide with a gathering in the town of Spring Grove, MN called “homecoming”, a once-a-decade all-classes invited reuinion for everyone connected to the Spring Grove high school. Gretchen and I got to sit with the class of 1941 for dinner, and really had a good time chatting and learning about that time.

After the memorial service (which was an amazing jazz celebration with Gretchen’s grandpa’s band playing), the family went to the park and took some pictures together. As you can see from the thumbnail, we gave Tom the camera to take some pictures while we posed with the group… 🙂

Gretch’s uncle Russ was super nice and let Maddy stay at his house, and we got to play a game of golf with Tom, Judy, Bill, Lee, Lori, and Christopher. Gretchen’s grandma and mom threw a great party/reuinion in the community room at her grandma’s apartment complex, and we generally had a fantastic few days before heading home for more work.

Watson self-portrait thumbnial

June started with projects…

We began the month by making some seating for the yard. We decided to make Plank Chairs, following the instructions at Instructables .

That wasn’t enough, though, so we also made a square-foot garden, as described in the book Square Foot Gardening.

The beginning-of-the-month projects weren’t all fun and games. I decided to see why the soap dish in the shower was so lose. One thing led to another, and before I knew it, I had pulled off about 20 or 30 tiles to discover the extent of the water damage…. We didn’t have time to fix it, so just put up a second shower curtain in the shower (against the wall) and let it be. Not before Gretchen got the great picture of me just as I dropped 3 tiles, though!

As always, the thumbnails take you to more pictures!

Plank Chair thumbnailBen watering thumbnailBen tile drop thumbnail

Ithaca Festival 2007

We experienced our first ever Ithaca Festival. It was GREAT! Apparently, it’s an annual tradition that after all the college kids leave town for the summer, the town has a party with booths set up downtown and a parade to celebrate its continued survival (or at least, that’s what I guess the party is for).

To be in the parade, all you have to do is form a group and sign up in advance. So the Ithaca Festival contains such fine traditions as the Montessori Marching Band, Volvo Ballet, the Compost Worm, three or four different unicycle clubs, about a half a dozen dog groups, the Breastfeeding alliance, and all sorts of other folks. Gretchen and I were impressed that after all the people signed up to be in the parade there was anyone left to watch it!

This year, a downpour started about halfway through the parade, so there was the to-be-expected mayhem of a few thousand (tens of thousand?) people who are soaked but trying not to be running to their cars and trying to get out of the downtown area of Ithaca. Great fun… we totally live in a town full of hippies 🙂

Unicycles at the Ithaca Festival

Best in Show?

Maddy had her puppy obedience school graduation on Sunday 5/20. Here’s some pictures, including a video of her “heel” test. There’s also some pictures of her very fashionable Victorian Collar – she was spayed on Monday the 14th (a point of poor planning on our part, but she didn’t seem bothered by the stitches during graduation!)

Obedience School - graduation day!

… and no, she didn’t win Best in Show, but she did get a certificate of completion!

Catching up…

Other than mowing the lawn, our only gardening activity last fall was planting 100 tulip bulbs. They ALL came up AND bloomed! With this kind of positive encouragement, we’ve been doing a lot more gardening this spring already, and have plans for more.. The first thumbnail takes you to more tulip pictures.

Also, last weekend was the Maryland Sheep and Wool Festival outside of Baltimore. Kori, mom, and Gretchen were excited to see the wool, I was excited about seeing the sheep dog demos, and everyone was excited for a reunion, so we drove down. Check the thumbnail for some sweet nephew boogie action!

Tulips! Taariq

It’s May already? April catchup…

Maddy keeps getting bigger, and we keep documenting with pics. Click the thumbnail below for such excitement as: Ben in Maddy’s crate! Maddy helping Ben work on the router! Videos and Pictures of Maddy playing with Lexi! And much, much more!

Ben and Maddy at the Plantations

p.s. (from Gretchen)
Ben’s not in the crate because he was bad… he is making it bigger inside for Maddy because she is getting so BIG! Also, Lexi is Maddy’s buddy whose owner is Gretchen’s officemate Liz. They love to play together. Lexi might look like a big scary rotweiller/pit bull mix, but she is the one of the sweetest dogs ever.