You Can Even Make Your Bunkmate Squeal

(or so say The Skunks, in their ska version of YMCA. Take that, Village People!)

I went back to the Y (my gym) yesterday, for the first time almost since I got pregnant - so, it's been almost a year. It felt really good, but my abs are voicing their disagreement with that today. Suck it up, muscles, it's time for you to get back in action. Except really, I didn't hardly do anything. I'm taking this all very easy. I've been doing some yoga, and going for walks, and did some gentle weight stuff. Won't be signing up for a triathlon anytime soon. But I'm glad to be reclaiming my body (although the boobs still belong to the baby, let's be clear about that!).

That's really all I have to say right now. Just felt like I broke through some invisible motivational seal (or maybe the Y had moved to Narnia, or Brigadoon, and no matter how often I intended to go, I never quite made it...) and wanted to announce it to the world. Hopefully this is not a fluke, and I'll be showing off my washboard abs before you know it! (As if. My 3-month old baby has more of a chance of that than I do.) (Which is ok, really, I never wanted the crazy muscly look) (But the Linda Hamilton Terminator Mom look, that's another story) (T2, that is) (did she have a six-pack? I just remember her arms being damn sexy, and her kicking some serious robot ass, which is a totally handy skill these days, no?)

Y! M! C! A!


Memories of Mordor

As I get my equilibrium back and am figuring out how to balance baby time and mama time, I am actually starting to get some things done. One long overdue project was to create a backup copy of the blog we kept while in New Zealand. It still exists online (on a site we can no longer sign in to), but we have no idea how long that will be true. Some theories of the internet would say forever, but we would be sad if it disappeared one day. I actually think we tried to keep copies on a jumpdrive or our laptop while we were writing the entries, but if so, they are in hiding, so I started over.

Reading snippets as I went was fun and perhaps a bit dangerous: I feel the stirring of the wanderlust beast within... and our little boy just got his passport in the mail, after a somewhat silly discussion from the folks at the post office (where they accepted the application) about his photo not being perfect because the background was wrinkly. Really? He's a baby. He looks like a baby. The photo looks like a baby. By the time he gets the passport, he'll look different. By the time we go anywhere, he'll look even more different. Anyway, it wasn't a problem, and the passport's here, and now we're dreaming again.

It's very exciting, actually, with a new design (and microchipped? well, our dog is, so why not our baby) incorporating pictures and quotes to make the patriotic heartstrings swell. Just flipping through it, I wanted to break into song. No Canadian flags sewn on our backpacks! And so much possibility in all those empty pages.

As for Mordor, 4 years ago (4! years!) we had just hiked the Tongariro Crossing, which is where they filmed Mordor and Mt. Doom, and then were headed off to wwoof some more. Should you be so inclined, you can read all about it via claireandmatt.com. I can't believe it's been that long...time really does go by fast when you get old. So who knows where we'll be 4 years from now? Frolicking through the French countryside? Basking on the beaches of the Bahamas? Munching our way through the markets of Morocco? (apparently, wherever it is will require alliteration...) Or Down Under, once again, caravanning across the Australian desert? I do have campervan envy for my neighbor's EuroVan... Hello world, here we come! Someday.


Fromage de Chevre

I'm getting my cheesemaking chops back in action! My neighbor gets a regular supply of fresh raw goat milk from a local farm, so we teamed up to make chevre. I had the starter culture and the instructions, thanks to the New England Cheesemaking Supply (they're the folks Barbara Kingsolver wrote about in Animal, Vegetable, Miracle). We weren't sure about using the unpasteurized milk - we figured it's probably fine since they drink it all the time - so we decided to experiment with two batches, the raw stuff and some storebought milk. Unfortunately, the only goat milk still on the shelves at the store was ultrapasteurized and low fat. Not ideal, but hey, we're flexible.

I almost hate to reveal how simple it is to make this kind of cheese, for fear of losing some of the sparkle, but it really is simple: heat the milk to 86 degrees, turn off heat, stir in culture, cover and ignore for about 12 hours or until it sets to a yogurt-like consistency. Ideally the room should be about 72 degrees. Then line a colander with butter muslin and gently transfer your cheese, hanging to drain for another 12 hours or until it's as thick as you want it. Eat, delighting in your creation!

The tricky thing for me about cheese, even one as simple as this, is that I am not good with scientific precision. When I cook, I often ignore measurements, or approximate them. This is more or less a cup, right? And I'm not really sure how much it matters - all the experts make a big deal of exact temperatures and times and equipment, but I usually end up messing it up somehow - and then it turns out delicious anyway, but it's hard to know what effect my haphazard ways have on the final product.

In this case each pot of milk got warmer than they should have, up to 90 or 95 even (milk gets to 86 fast!). The division of the starter culture - an envelope with about 3/4 teaspoon of powder in it - may not have been exact, so one may have had a bit more than the other. I'm not sure what the room temperature was - probably around 70, and fluctuating through the day. It set for about 10 or 11 hours, not 12. We didn't have two pieces of butter muslin so we folded over layers of a wide-mesh cheesecloth for the store milk. Um...that may have been it, for variables. Not such a good experiment, then, since we aren't sure why they came out differently. Oh, and most importantly, we forgot to taste the two milks first to compare them in that form!

But: delicious results. Totally different, both yummy. And so beautiful and pure and white. The whole raw milk came out more or less as I expected, recognizably chevre. The flavor seems a bit more sour than I associate with it, but only a bit. (and maybe that's because I don't usually eat it for breakfast) The storebought ultrapasteurized low fat milk came out very wet and creamy, sort of like a mix of yogurt and sour cream. But I happily savored spoonfuls of it early in the morning, and had to put it away before I ate it all.

As I said, no idea which variables caused the difference. Only one way to find out: try again! Soft cheese are great for their relatively instant gratification. One of these days I'll build a cheese press and make some hard cheeses, but it's that much harder to repeat experiments when you have to wait 6 months to taste. Now I just need to find someone local with sheep, or water buffalo...mmm....