Friday, October 30, 2009

Cheese kit arrives!

For my birthday I asked for Leener's Delux Cheesemaking Kit. It arrived this week! Thanks Dad and Barb! It includes everything to make the following cheese: Mozzarella, Ricotta, Yogurt Cream Cheese, Lemon Cheese Spread, Neufchatel, Queso Blanco, Large Curd Cottage Cheese, Queso Fresco, Farmhouse Cheddar, Monterey Jack, Yellow Colby, Traditional Cheddar. All I have to do is add milk and follow the directions in the booklet.

They start us out with Mozzarella. Here I have set out the five things needed to mix in the milk to make the mozzarella. Incidentally, in the background is some sauerkraut I made.

Heating the milk. The instruction booklet is on the counter.

The cheese has separated into curds and whey.
After draining the whey, which will be used to make ricotta, I am to microwave the curds and knead them with a spoon.

After microwaving and kneading a somewhat miraculous transformation happens and I am suddenly holding mozzarella cheese.

Which I formed into balls and a bigger piece. It was delicious.

If you don't want to go whole hog for the deluxe cheese kit, you can purchase just a mozzarella/ricotta cheese kit. They are both very easy and fast cheeses to make. If you like mozzarella cheese, I highly recommend it.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Henry IV part II

(A.K.A. We love the Northwest Classical Theater Company.)

During the summer we read Henry IV part I and watched a performance in the park which we greatly enjoyed. The Northwest Classical Theater Company was performing Henry IV part II, which led to our next selection.

The reading aloud part wasn't so great. Matt's review was: "Lame! This is the Back to the Future II of Shakespeare: lots of random, scattered events that no one really cares about and then! The ending!" My review was: "Good god, but this was boring."

So, not the most fun. The performance, however was incredibly fun. The NWCTC performs in the ShoeBox Theater which is aptly named. The director greeted us at the door and took our tickets, he also played three roles in the play. "Back stage" is actually in the lobby of the theater, and as we waited to use the bathroom, we could hear the actors chatting. The front area is cozy, with booths and Shakespeare quotes painted on the bricks. Looking up, you can see costumes hanging from a rack near the ceiling and props suspended above in big bundles. Oh, how I wish I had brought my camera.

The theater is tiny; if the whole area is the shoebox, the theater part takes up the ball of the foot and the toes. By walking to your seats, you pass through the stage. There are about 40 seats on risers and seating is general admission. Once seated, I could see that more props were stored under gray sheets inside the theater.

NWCTC's web site says this: "
The NWCTC is dedicated to performing great plays by great writers (primarily Shakespeare but including Chekhov, Shaw, Ibsen, and others) placing the emphasis on text and authorial intention rather than directorial conception. By cutting back on stage pyrotechnics and limiting our use of set and costume, we focus the attention on the word and story that we try to tell. Our company motto is “Content over Concept!”"

Indeed, the costumes were basic: mostly the men wore various suits and ties and the women simple dresses. Though I know some people think all Shakespeare should be costumed in the century the play is set in, I don't mind modern settings. I'm there for the acting and the story.

What ever "sacrifices" that have been made with costumes and staging (and I found these charming, not subtracting) the acting is what made this play pop. Matt observed that the ensemble feeling between the NWCTC company--many of whom we saw this summer in Henry IV part I--really makes the play fun to watch. We were both happy to see Butch Flowers as Harry and I was particularly happy to see again Tom Walton as Poins.

(Side note. During our reading of the play I became upset during the first act upon the news of Hotspur's death. Matt wanted to know why. "Wasn't he the cute one this summer?" I asked. Matt reminded me that that was Poins, not Hotspur and then chuckled. When I accused him of making fun of me, he pointed out that I was upset because I was worried about a character just because I liked the actor playing him in one performance. But see! If Poins had been killed, I might not have seen Tom Walton as Poins again.)

You know old story told again in various forms of the farmer saying, "Let's put on a play!" Spending an evening with the NWCTC in the ShoeBox theater, I got the feeling that a bunch of really good actors got together and said, "Let's put on some plays!" This was the happy result.

I think the following quote, which they have posted in their lobby sums up what makes them so great:
"Actors are some of the most driven, courageous people on the face of the Earth. They deal with more day-to-day rejection in one year than most people do in a lifetime. Every day, actors face the financial challenge of living a freelance lifestyle, the disrespect of people who think they should get "real jobs," and their own fear that they'll never work again. Every day they have to ignore the possibility that the vision to which they have dedicated their lives is a pipe dream. With every passing year, many of them watch as the other people their age achieve the predictable milestones of normal life - the cars, the family, the house, the nest egg."

"But they stay true to their dream, in spite of sacrifices. Why? Because actors are willing to give their entire lives to a moment - to that line, that laugh, that gesture or that interpretation that will stir the audience's soul. Actors are beings who have tasted life's nectar in that crystal moment when they poured out their creative spirit and touched another person's heart. In that instant, they are as close to magic, God and perfection as anyone could ever be. And in their own hearts, they know that to dedicate oneself to that moment is worth a thousand lifetimes."
--David Ackert

We've decided to follow NWCTC and our next reading will be Twelfth Night, performance to be seen in December or January.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Pumpkin Carving Party

For years I've been thinking of having a birthday party where people come over and we carve pumpkins. But for years things keep getting in the way. Not this year. We invited our friends, gave a pumpkin to the first five people to RSVP, put a tarp down in the living room (which the cat did not like AT ALL) and started gutting.
Matt eschews carving for a more artsy appearance. Notice he is wearing rain gear to keep the pumpkin off of him.

Heidi and Kevin get to work.

Aunt Carol & Aunt Pat

Mom plots her plan of attack.

Ameena, Burt & Jeff

Matt's finished product. He took a lot of pictures of the details.

Here you can see old razor blades, feathers from a rejected cat toy and the sauerkraut he used as eyebrows.

Here are more razor blades and salt capsules from his marathon days.

Here are the pen arms.

And yet another closeup of the razor blades.

And the artist posing with his creation.

Kevin (who we learned doesn't really like Halloween) poses with his cat pumpkin.

Burt and his creation.

Kelly arrived late, but wasted no time in carving.

Kevin holding both of his carvings.

Heidi had a great free-form creation.

Which she posed well with.

Midway through the party, Matt carved "bs" into one side of a pumpkin and "ty" into another side. He got all giggly and he and Jeff stole another pumpkin and retreated into the bedroom. They were both full of chuckles when they came out, but refused to say what they had been doing. However, the evidence was on the camera.

Jeff making a new word with my Aunt Carol's "boo" pumpkin. Note that Matt was so amused by this, he didn't even get Jeff's head in the picture.

Matt making a new word also. (Note that Jeff can properly frame the picture.)


Ameena and her creation.

Aunt Pat and her creation.

Aunt Carol made a mummy.

Jeff's carving.

Note that there are no pictures of my creations. They were good too. After the party was over, we were both exhausted. All that creative effort really sapped our energy.

Long Island Cheese!

Not really cheese, but actually the kind of winter squash we successfully grew. They are huge! That one on the left doesn't even fit properly into the sink for washing. Huge!

Would I prefer more winter squashes, but smaller? Yes I would. But you go to war with the winter squash you have, not the one you would ideally want.

Saturday, October 3, 2009


It took a long long time to ripen, but I sat down today with a half of a cantaloupe that we grew ourselves. It was delicious.