Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Guest Post: Last Week in Chicago and Onto Munich!

This post I'll recap my last week in Chicago and traveling to Munich.

I spend the first two days on a team of 3 for "business of brewing" simulation. We were Matt, Adam and Jay, so we called ourselves "JAM beers." This was intended to teach us the interactions of marketing, finance and inventory/wip. The format was sort of a workbook and board game to have a visualization and keep track of where all the money was sitting (investors, banks, wip, suppliers, etc). We had a lot of fun with it, but it what was pretty hard learning all the accounting lingo and several steps were counter-intuitively backwards and we kept putting money in the wrong columns. There were 6 rounds of investing in new lines and producing goods. We got 3rd place overall but were loads of money in debt. We were on the road to making money, we think if the game would have went 10 rounds we would have been in first place and could have sold for millions. LOL.

The next two days I was put on a different team of 5 and we were given our own "case study." Our case was a fictitious brewery in Germany that was in dire need of modernization and we wanted to invest in new kettle and energy saving technologies that would have good return on our purchase. To try to complicate our problem we were brewing Pilsner beers which in Germany means we cannot use technologies that would darken the beer color even though they might be more efficient. Lots of research and then we put together a presentation to give to the rest of the class on our recommendations. In short, we kept our kettle but upgraded the heating mechanisms and then put an energy capture system to preheat the next batch of wort going into the kettle. We ended up saving 43% of the energy compared to the old system. Money apparently was no factor.

Friday was presentations and then we were done for the week. Everybody was hoping to go first to get it over with, and when Keith handed us the speaking order we celebrated beforehand. We were first...yeah! Most of the presentations were really good, some more entertaining than others but a good exercise. (reminded me of my Kaizen days at Pella....I even introduced a decision matrix to the team to narrow down to our top choice)

After the presentations I went to Goose Island for my 15th beer, which means I got to pick out a free growler and have it filled. Unfortunately I didn't have enough time to consume it, so I sent it home with my wife, she will find some good stomachs to share it with.

On Thursday after we finished the presentation I caught the matinee for "Paul" starring Simon Pegg and Nick Frost (yes and Seth Rogen, but I was there for the British humor). The movie was your typical adolescent humor movie with moronic goons and everyday heros and a romantic relationship thrown in, because you have to when that's the movie formula. I didn't like the movie much, I guessed the plot, the surprise about an hour early and some of the supporting actors really sucked. Despite these things, I did laugh out loud a few times and I liked seeing Simon and Nick acting together again, that was worth it. I really don't want to own it, and that says a lot if you've seen my Simon Pegg collection. Sorry, for the sidebar....back to talking beer school.

I spent several nights with my buddy Dave from Boise. He and I were good acquaintances from day one (he is a Packers fan), but progressively he became my best friend at Siebel. We both figured that we wanted to try a lot of good food before we left town and what better way than with good company. So, we visited a Polish restaurant, the Hopleaf (again, and it was even better the 2nd time) as well as Rock Bottom and Haymarket Brewpub (again). His daughter flew out to meet him and she joined us twice as well. Dave is post-poning the European part of his tour until next fall, so we parted ways on Friday. (see pic walking home of Chicago River).  They were going to embark on a Wisconsin beer tour quick before taking the Amtrak home. So I gave him my favorite hot spots in New Glarus, Madison and Milwaukee for reference.

My wife headed out to get my stuff in Chicago early on Saturday and I decided to meet her (via Metra) on the west side of the burbs near Naperville and we met for lunch at the Two Brothers Tasting Room (next to Goose Island, Two Brothers is the biggest in IL and is 14 years old this month) I had a few of their beers ahead of time and was repeatedly impressed, even more so after visiting the brewery (see pic of actual oak fermentors). I was really impressed by their Imperial Stout and their Toasted Coconut Golden Ale called Pahoehoe. If I ever come out with a beer that has toasted coconut in it, remember that I came up with the idea independently, and on the same day. ;)

I had the apartment mostly packed up except for the clothes that would be going in the luggage that my wife was bringing, so after lunch and beer tour/tastings we went back and packed it up into the Escape. We had 4 pieces of clothes left to pack when my landlord came in to get the keys and settle up. Afterwards we headed to Polish village and stopped by the little sausage shop, bakery and grocery. What fun! Nobody spoke English and the little old buschas kept talking cute gibberish to our daughters. Want herring? We have 12 flavors to choose from. Pre-made periogis in the frozen section? Why yes, only $2.95 for a dozen and many different fillings to choose from. Then we walked across the street to eat at Paul Zakopane Harnas. I felt bad because it was a Saturday night and there was only one couple of elderly Polish ladies in there. The menu was huge and cheap, if only I knew the proportions were as big as they were, I would have ordered a single potato pancake instead. We ordered two meals, an appetizer and two small side dishes for the girls, but it came with a bread basket and soup and salad and dessert. I think we barely ate half the food on the table and took the rest home. Would recommend the experience to anybody, but please consider sharing an entree.....no matter how hungry you are.

Erin and the girls dropped me off at O'Hare and my flight left Chicago at 9:50PM. Eight and a half hours later we were in rainy Munich and it was 1:30PM on Sunday. I only got 3 hours sleep on the plane, many didn't sleep at all, so we were tired. I forced myself to stay up until midnight to try to get on a normal sleep schedule and burst through the jet lag. I'm staying at Jaeger's Hostel (pics of my room and the lobby/bar) one block away from Hauptbaunhof (equivalent to Grand Central Station) so that is convenient. The hostel is a lot nicer than I was expecting as seen by the photo of my bathroom (I opted for a single the first week and several of us may room together next week). They have a small bar in the lobby with cheap beer and a vending machine with beer in it as well. It is perfectly accepted to walk down the street with a glass bottle of beer in hand so long as you aren't drunk or loud. Several of us walked 3 blocks down to Augusteiner's Brauhaus for food and beer, it seemed cheaper than Chicago, but I'm not very good at converting from Euro to Dollars in my head. I'm just going to think in Euro and forget the dollar for the next month.....much easier.

Monday was my first day at Doemens Institute of Brewing (part of our World Brewing Academy), but you'll have to wait until next week's blog for pictures and stories.



Monday, March 28, 2011

Enjoy this day!

What a great additive to an email I received today...!  What a great reminder!
Despite the fact that our lives are whirl-windish right now... I have things that I am bursting at the seams to talk about but I cannot yet... my youngest is "sick" with a cold and had a fever over the weekend and I am waiting for the call to come from daycare to pick her up... my oldest seems to be developing this same cold... my husband is gone for six weeks, and this time with no visits to be had... the weather is much colder than I would like... the house still hasn't sold...
Despite these things, there is not reason NOT to enjoy this day!  I'm taking one moment to relish the day... today is a day that we've been so blessed to still be on this earth, to have the opportunity to love others and do good and try to make a difference... despite the circumstances that would steer us otherwise in our lives.
I hope you enjoy this day too!
(Thanks, Rita, for the blessed note in your email today!)


Sunday, March 20, 2011

Guest Post: Birthday Weekend in Chicago!

Hi... Erin again!  Thanks for reading Adam's guest posts!  While he's also posting on his friend J. Wilson's blog, it's been special to post his journey here because this blog attempts to chronicle what's going on with our family.  There are big things afoot but nothing I can talk about yet... stay tuned!  I can say that it seems like we have some direction now, and while life is a whirlwind, we are all filled with peace.
Happy Birthday to my hub, who spent the weekend with his friends in 'Cago!  (The girls and I got to go last weekend to see the river turned green for St. Pat's day... fun!)
More regular blogging from Yours Truly will resume later this week... so hang in there!
One week left in Chicago and I still haven't figured out if I've hit all the places that I want to visit before I'm gone. 

This week we had a potpourri of instructors, some new some repeats.  Topics covered the engineering side of brewing: valves, pumps, controls, maintenance and troubleshooting, cooling, refrigerant and steam systems.  We all really enjoyed Gary Troop's enthusiastic teaching style when we showed us the ins and outs of steam systems.

My friend Dave from class used to own a Tiki bar and he taught me some of the history of this unique American but South Pacific-inspired culture.  This Tiki movement was born in California in the 1950's.  On Monday I convinced him to take me to Trader Vic's here in Chicago which has been around for 50 years, although it closed for a decade and reopened.  It was cool to hear from Dave what parts of the restaurant were authentic and weren't appropriate.  You could get some Pacific food and the classic tropical drinks like Mai Tais and Zombies.  The place was also adorned with a lot of 50 year old chainsaw Tiki statues and bamboo furniture.  This pic shows me talking on my cell in the lounge.

On Tuesday we had our last styles tasting which were all Belgians (we were joking that since A-B is now owned by a Belgian firm isn't it technically considered a Belgian beer now? LOL)  I was trying to find a good time to share my 100th batch of beer (120 min IPA clone from Dogfish Head) with my classmates, so I asked Lynn and Keith if they would let me tack it on the end of the tasting.  We reviewed it as a class and I didn't even get my butt handed to me.  Most everyone was impressed on how difficult it is to make a highly drinkable beer at 17%, so I felt pretty good from that, but they also pointed out some minor flaws that I couldn't see on my own.

On Thursday we had our last spiked-flaws tasting that covered packaging defects like oxidation, forced aging and infections.  Afterwards we had our tasting quiz (which wasn't for credit, just for experience).  We were given 7 Budweisers and we had to discern which were controls and which were spiked, and with what each was spiked.  They wouldn't tell us which or how many were controls.  Even though these were spiked with 3 times the flavor thresholds, I had a hard time picking out which each compound was on my own (afterwards it was obvious).  Only one person got a perfect score and I ended getting 4 of 7 correct, which was the class average.  We found out that 2 people in our class are diacetyl "blind" and this is the reason that people taste in panels and not individually normally, but a really fun exercise and now I'm really inspired to take my BJCP exam
Randy Mosher came in on Friday to give a lecture on beer and food pairings.  He said the Brazilians call this "harmonizations" and I really like that phrase better too. "Pairing" implies there is only one best choice where as "harmonizes" implies there could be many different matches. (in music, you'll play a note or chord that works, but sometimes you'll play a "wrong" note that actually harmonizes better)  I can't remember all of them but these stood out: IPA and blue cheese, smoked porter and smoked aged Gouda, toffee and Brother Thelonious and a hoppy red rye with carrot cake.  I actually didn't like the red rye by itself but it tasted great with the cake. This pic shows Randy prepping the tables with food and beer.

We had four guys that graduated from the concise course on Friday and won't be joining us in Germany, so we had a little ceremony for them and it got loud and obnoxious.  Since it was their last night out and it was my birthday we decided to take the party to Revolution Brewing.  See pic of us waiting 1.5 hours for a table (we didn't mind, we had beer in our hands).  Mark and Roger from Pella joined us after supper and we hit 2 more places for a great birthday pubcrawl.

On Saturday I put together a pubcrawl based on my experiences in Chicago for my Pella homebrew club which 5 guys made it out for.  Chris also invited some friends and there were plenty of significant others around too.  We started the pub crawl with 3 people it grew to 7 and atone point 12 people and down to 8 and back up to 10 at the end of the night.  We started at Goose Island and had lunch at Piece Brewery, a 1/2 liter at Hofbrau Uberstein, a flight and pretzel at Haymarket Brewpub, an expensive beer at the Publican (see pic with the big ballroom lights!), 3 rounds at the Map Room (every body's favorite) and we decided to forgo the Hopleaf because it was getting late for supper and it was REALLY out of the way.  So we walked around and eventually decided to go back to Goose Island Clybourn for a 10PM supper and drinks.  All of us pretty much hit a wall at midnight and we called it a night.  I slept good.

This coming week we have group projects on the business side of things and some case studies that we need to present to each other on Friday.  My plane also leaves this coming Saturday for Munich so I don't know when I'll be updating the blog next, I do know that I'll have plenty of content to so.


Adam "Basscat" Draeger

Saturday, March 19, 2011


It's not often that I can get Raven to hold still long enough to put pig tails in her hair, but this last week (or the week before that?) while she was eating breakfast, I went to town.  We are trying to keep from cutting her bangs but to do so, she needs some sort of hair implement each day.  I don't know about you, but I think she's pretty cute!

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Guest Post: Another Week at Siebel and a Weekend with Family

This is Erin... my apologies for this being so late this week... I've been whelmed with other things and I wanted to do this "nicely" with the pictures and whatnot... maybe next week!  Enjoy reading!

Another quick week in Chicago and it's not showing signs of slowing for my last two weeks left in town.  We didn't have any tastings in class, but I made up for it by having a sampler of beers at three brewpubs in town and we had a tour of the Goose Island packaging brewery as well.

I knew that Goose Island had a separate facility for its bottles and kegs but I didn't realize it's size.  A 70 barrel brewhouse that cranks out ~9 batches a day and fills fermenters that are 5 times the size of a batch.   We were bussed to the brewery and split into three groups for the tour.  No tour is a true tour unless you have a beer in your hand, so we headed up on the brewhouse brewdeck to grab a pint and begin the tour.  It was neat to be able to recognize 99% of the equipment without being told what it was (depth filter and centrifuge for instance were easy to pick out).

This week we had Gary (ex maintenance manager from Miller) and Michael (instructor at Doeman's in Munich) for the whole week.  They piggy-backed topics that covered: Packaging (bottles, cans and kegs), filling, pasteurization, cleaning techniques, returnable bottle washers, valves, detergent components, etc.  Even though it makes a crappy beer storage container, we covered PET bottles.  This was a fascinating topic for me, but after learning the ins-and-outs...I won't be using PET for my beer someday.  I'm sort of surprised that even soda can get away with it for how much CO2 can transfer thru the walls.

So the three new places I checked out were Rock Bottom, Haymarket and Moonshine

Rock Bottom used to have a brewer by the name of Pete Crowley, but he left to form Haymarket Brewpub.  RB was quite big at three stories and several rooms per floor.  They also had live solo guitarists the night was there. (in series, not simultaneously).  The first guy's name was Brian and he didn't suck.  Played a lot of Jack Johnson and Dave Matthews but sounded and acted a lot like John Mayer.  He even pulled out a Radiohead and Paul Simon song (see attached).  Oh, the beers....yeah, that's why I went there.  All good, but nothing quite spectacular...not sure I'd have another for the price.

Haymarket brewpub is really new, like it opened a few weeks before I got to Chicago.  They had 10 of their beers on tap and 12 guest taps.  This didn't stop them from putting in 32 taps in the front and 16 in the back (duplicates of the 22 I mentioned), I think the reasons are basically the wow factor, and it helps when the place is busy.  I tried six beers and my favorites were the pilsner and the imperial IPA made with citra hops.  They had about 4 IPA's and 3 Belgian styles, so they are definitely catering to the current American craft beer scene's tastes.   Nothing I had was flawed, so they know what they are doing.  The prices were a bit high, but I think they know what they are doing.  Pete Crowley's name has been dropped many times since I have been in Chicago and I suppose there is some celebrity factor going on as well.  My bartender said he completed the master brewer program from Siebel last fall and is still working his way up the ranks for his chance to brew.  Good luck Dave.

I'm actually writing this as I sip away at the Moonshine brewpub sampler.  I hope nobody is reading over my shoulder,....the beer isn't all that great.  Drinkable, and not really bad, per se, but I've brewed better.  I'm tempted to try something to eat though as everybody here seems to be having a good time and the atmosphere is pretty cool.  Wood and stone floor, glass garage doors on one wall, a lower and upper bar, lots of chalkboards and b&w artwork on the walls.   Atmosphere=9, beer=2.  If I could get Piece Brewpub's beer and this place's atmosphere together we'd finally have a great one between the two.

This weekend my brother Brian and sister-in-law Shannon came to visit with my family in Chicago.  It was planned this weekend since Chicago celebrates St. Paddy's Day this weekend by turning the river GREEN.  Not the normal dull green that it is year round, but a bright leprechaun green by adding food-grade dye and stirring it up with boats.  This picture is from Sunday, one day later.  I wish I had a picture of the crowds....they were massive and all dressed like they were ready to get drunk.

After seeing the river turn green, we walked all the way to the Shedd Aquarium for a day filled with all things aquatic.  Fortunately my wife pre-paid for tickets and we got to skip the 2 hour line and head to will-call (which still took 1/2 hour).  My brother Brian has always been a bug and slimy critter guy and for the last few years has been keeping a coral reef tank as well as being an officer in their reefer club.  The girls loved everything and after a little reluctance from Raven to approach the first tank, she was banging on them with her hands in no time.  Brian took me on a private tour of the reef section and was telling me which coral was real and fake (I couldn't tell) and all the mistakes that staff had made when labeling them with their photos.  He also was criticizing them for having "beginner" coral when they were real and alive.   I had to laugh and asked my brother, so is this like when a person drinks a "budweiser" and thinks they are drinking heavy beer?  lol.

Brian and Shannon left and the family and I headed to Mirabell for some authentic German food and beer.  The owner is a pure bred German and was practically giddy when he saw our two girls.  He went into the other room and got his own 13 month year old daughter to show us.   What a proud papa!  We had excellent service and the food was really great too.  Since it was daylight savings we called it a night and on Sunday we finished the weekend by having beer and pizza at Piece Brewery.  I still love the food and beer despite the poor craic.

No more tours planned until Germany (see map attached of our planned 2 week tour schedule), but fortunately we have another styles tasting this week.  Until next beer...Prost!


Adam "Basscat" Draeger

Monday, March 7, 2011

Guest Post: A MONTH!

Wow, a month already!  The first week was like a month, and the last few weeks are really going much faster.  Lots of stuff happened this week and I'll just shortly touch on them.

We learned mostly about filtration, quality, bacterial infections, and how to guard against these nemesi (or in the case of Russian River and Lost Abbey....embrace them).  After shadowing Peace Tree, visiting Three Floyds, and being taught by John from Bell's (all three breweries do not filter their beers), it is hard to understand the need for craft brewers to filter their beer.  But, we have to remember that Siebel has been in business for over 120 years supporting brewers from mostly "big beer" backgrounds and for A-B, Miller, Coors, and German brewers like Paulner, Spaten, and Ayinger, it is unfathomable to think of selling unfiltered beers.   So, I studied and understand the content and reasons for doing it, but in a local brewery or a brewpub setting, I don't see myself embracing it.   Clarifying agents and whirlpool seem to do a pretty good job with cold conditioning for what Americans seem to be looking for in a craft beer.  I can see bigger places like New Glarus filtering their beers.

Learning about the bacteria and wild yeast contaminents was sort of fun.  I've had some beers with off flavors and never really knew what or why, I can see the importance in doing full CIP and extensive sanitatation, esp for beers that will be in bottles and on the shelf for a while.  We learned about lactobacilli, pediococcus, megaspherea, pectinatis, brettamyces, and even some strains of sacchromyces that aren't good for brewers like sacchromyces diastaticus.  Many others as well and what they look like, how they behave, what conditions they like, what off-flavors they produce (Megaspherea produces a "vomit-like" aroma), and physical imperfections they make like haze or ropiness.

On Tuesday we had the opportunity to taste some of these off-flavors like diacetyl (buttered popcorn), ethyl acetate (nail polish/solvent), acetic acid (sour/vinegar), 4-Vinyl Guaiacol (clove), and iso-amyl acetate(banana or circus peanuts).
What is really interesting is the fact that they give these to us at 3 times the flavor threshold for these particular chemicals and they were still very subtle to me.  The diacetyl tasted about 1/3 what I remember from the flavor of my first lager and the beers at the Lion's Head Pub in Chicago.  My lager had diacetyl due fermentation temperatures whereas the Lion's Head tap lines are probably just dirty and have a variety of bacteria that are causing their off-flavors. Prime example of knowing all the causes for some of these off-flavors so somebody can troubleshoot their origins. 

Tuesday evening I visited the Pumping Station One which is a hackerspace in Chicago.  They were featured in MAKE magazine and are a good bunch of a guys and gals that like electronics, crafts, and do-it-yourself like stuff (imagine Big Bang Theory meets Tim "the tool man" Taylor).  Anywho...I brought some of my Ichabod IPA (with homegrown Cascade dryhops) for sharing and it was imbibed quited quickly.

Thursday I studied at Goose Island Clybourn because I heard the Chicago Beer Society was holding a meeting there that night.  Randy Mosher spoke about his beer traveling experiences this last summer and brought candy, sugar, chocolate, and beer to share from the experiences as well.  

I also bumped into Mark and Tom from class and we studied together for an hour.  This picture shows our "flash cards" that most of the students make up for themselves for studying.  I haven't really had the need to since I have all the questions/answers in my notebook, but the flash cards are definitely a more social way to study in a pub.

Friday we had my toughest quiz yet, I still probably did well, but I was stumped on several questions because I was studying "next" to the answers instead of what they were looking for.  After the quiz we had a module on taste panels followed by an interactive demonstration.  In a triangle test you are given 3 unlabeled beers and 2 are the same and 1 is different and you are instructed to find the odd one out.  This isn't as easy telling Guinness from Harp, these beers were "close."  After we had time to sample our tin-foil-covered beer bottles, we voted.  This is an exercise to prove there is a difference or if statistically we were just "guessing."  Beer A had 16 votes, beer B had 11 votes and beer C had 14 votes.  This means that "statistically" the beers that we tasted were identical.  I voted for 'A' because I could smell it had less of acetaldehyde aroma and it was bit drier in mouthfeel, but darn close.   'A' was Budlite, and the other two were "Budweiser."  It was cool that guessed it correctly, but also shocking to find out from the instructor that even a panel of professional brewers has a hard time telling these two beers apart.

After lunch we had our German beer style tasting (with a Czech and Austrian beer thrown in). 

We also had an afternoon field trip to Metropolitan Brewery, which is a 15 barrel brewery that has been open for about 3 years on the north side.  Doug, who is also a Siebel grad, his wife, and other business partner gave us samples and answered "big boy" questions for us wanna-be brewers.  Afterwards some of us walked a couple blocks down the street to the Hop Leaf, which is a beer bar and restaurant with a pretty good menu (beer and food).  I tried a Belgian trippel and the beef cheeks (I've always heard this was a tender cut of meat and so I seized the opportunity to try them....and good they were)

Earlier in the day on Friday, Erin at 10AM I had a text saying that she found plane tickets to DC from O'Hare for $139/ea (for reasons to be revealed later... just looking!).  So we got to the airport at 8PMish and were in DC that night at Midnight.  Since Erin has already been out to this region many times, this trip was really to see if it would be good for our family and if the beer scene could support another brewer.  So we visited a few brewpubs in the area including: Hops, Port City Brewing, (2) Capital City's, Mad Fox, Ruddy Duck, & Rock Bottom.  These were all in the DC metro area except for Ruddy Duck which was across the bridge from Lexington Park.  This brewpub was my favorite of the places we visited due to the atmosphere and the excellent beer (their award-winning Marzen was worthy [think Oktoberfest for you non-beer geeks]).  We also stumbled upon a Dogfish Head Alehouse....but quickly realized they didn't brew here and just served their beers.  We later found out from our waiter that this place has to buy their DFH beers from a distributor just like the other bars in the area.  Sort of a tied house, but not related in anyway to DFH except that they have licensed the name, logo, etc.  The food and beer prices were actually quite reasonable (compared to Chicago) and the atmosphere was still wicked cool.  The place was really busy and probably made a good business decision, especially after the Discovery Channel's Brewmasters cable show and all the publicity advertising it produced.

So are we moving to Colorado or Maryland? I don't know yet.  Given a choice between the two areas, Colorado is still a better 'beer' fit, but considering the opportunities for a systems engineer that works on aircraft systems, like my wife, this area is the Silicon Valley equivalent.  We've been discussing it a lot and are trying to stay open to all these opportunities that are presented to us....it seems surreal that with an accepted job offer we might be uprooting our family to the far east or semi-far west.

Until the next update, Prost!
Adam "Basscat" Draeger

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Greek Yogurt

A few months ago I developed a taste for Greek yogurt.  I love the creamy texture and plain Greek yogurt with a hint of honey is very tasty.
You may recall that last winter we made yogurt at the beginning of our cheese making journey (which was put on hold because we need a cheese press which the making of was put on hold to finish the canoe).  While I remembered making the yogurt, we didn't necessarily make the yogurt to use it as yogurt but in order to use it in cheeses.
During a few Facebook discussions over the last few weeks, I decided I needed to try my hand at it again, because my love of Greek yogurt (specifically, Fage) was becoming expensive.  I could easily eat $15 worth of yogurt a week but was limiting myself to $10 of yogurt a week.  That's still a lot of yogurt.  So, after some discussion with friends, I pulled out our old yogurt recipe and made up a batch of yogurt.
It turned out well enough and for the cost of a gallon of milk and "starter" yogurt, I made two container's worth of Greek yogurt.  (So, that was ~$4.50 for $10 worth of product.)  However, I felt that the process was more time-consuming than I was willing to put effort into simply because I have limited time for extra curricular, and let's face it, it's hard to keep scalded milk from suddenly becoming boiling milk when you have a couple of small ones wanting attention.  So, I did a bit more research online and came across this recipe for yogurt made in a crockpot.  Umm, what could be more excellent?

So, yesterday I whipped out my new gallon of milk (whoops, Adam drank some off the top over the weekend!) and my "starter" - which came from my last batch of yogurt, so essentially that was free.  Following the recipe, but going rogue by using almost a full gallon of milk as opposed to the half gallon in the recipe, I poured it into my crockpot and went to town.  I let it go for four hours on low and then wrapped it in towels for two.  I occasionally checked the temperature to make sure that my milk wasn't going above "scalding".  It wasn't.  Sweet!  Then right before bed I added the starter... and when I woke up this morning, voila, YOGURT! 
I created a makeshift strainer with light-weight (flour sack) kitchen towel in my big strainer and poured the yogurt in.  I left it out until about 4:00 pm and then transferred the strainer to sit over a bowl (instead of just in my sink) and stuck it in the fridge.  Last time, I "forgot" about the yogurt like this for three days... no big deal.  I think tomorrow I will check it to see how it's doing... tonight I drained off the whey that was already in the bowl so that my yogurt wasn't sitting in its whey.
When I think it is ready, I will put it in the food processor to froth it up a bit, and if I think it's TOO creamy, I'll add a small amount of whey back in.  Then, into the containers it goes and back in the fridge for me to delight in whenever I feel like it.  (Note: When I began my straining earlier today, I took a cup of yogurt out and put it in a container to use it as my "starter" for my next batch.)
Now that I've got a "starter" going, which I know will still be active for a week, if not longer, my yogurt is only costing the price of a gallon of milk - ~$2.80 (Hyvee brand, Skim).  Sweet.  That's $10 worth of yogurt for ~$3... I figure that will save me ~$30 a month which is nice considering how skinny our budget is right, even the groceries.

How Things Are In Pella

"I know you can be overwhelmed, and you can be underwhelmed, but can you ever just be whelmed?"
(That line is from one of my favorite movies, '10 Things I Hate About You', a remake of the classic Shakespeare play "The Taming of the Shrew," set in a modern day high school.  It has Julia Stiles and Heath Ledger, both actors I enjoy, and honestly the only romantic comedy in which Julia Stiles is able to pull off an actual "connection" with her paramour… don't get me started on her other poor choices in romantic comedies.)
I haven't blogged much since Adam left for school, and for that I am sorry.  Our lives have been pretty rote, other than the few splashes of color that Adam has mentioned in his blogs, thus alleviating me of finding the energy to write about them.
The above quote pretty well describes life.  I'm not necessarily overwhelmed, I'm definitely not underwhelmed, but the word "busy" doesn't really seem to fit either, so we'll just say that I am whelmed.
First I'll start by saying that things are going well.  It hasn't been a picnic being a full-time worker bee and single mother for the last three-and-a-half weeks, but it hasn't been as hard as I could have imagined in my moments of sheer panic leading up to Adam's departure.
The first week Adam was gone, both girls came down with a bad cold and fever, and that flowed into the following week.  Working a lot of nights and juggling back-up daycare allowed for me to care for them and also work the number of hours I needed to, and miraculously I didn't end up with the cold/fever that the girls had.  And, thankfully, Miss Amy's daughter was well enough by the 18th so that I was able to go and visit Adam in Chicago for the weekend.
This last week was our first "normal" week in that no one was sick and we had a regular routine.  We're wont to go to the library in the evenings a couple of nights a week, Wednesday seems to have become our regular Video Chat with Daddy night, and the girls have been awesome about bedtime and morning time and pretty much they are awesome all of the time.
This last weekend Adam came home so that I could attend my annual quilt retreat… I think Chrissy was supposed to talk to Adam about making sure I could come back each year for it once we move.

Also, I have been attending a Parenting with Love & Logic class on Tuesdays at noon/lunchtime so that I can spend some time with adults.  Also, who doesn't love free pizza?

Due to our daycare/work schedule, I don't have a lot of "down time" or time to myself other than these couple of weekend jaunts which have been a Godsend.  Most evenings after the girls go to bed, I head back to work.  I won't be one of those bloggers who writes about her job and then gets fired, but I will say this - I officially hate working at night.  Mainly because I have NO time to do anything for myself unless I carve it into my evening, which means I end up staying up way too late and then I have a hard time getting up in the morning.  I have been occasionally able to crawl out of bed before the kids to get in a workout, and that does wonders for my mood and gives me lots of energy – even if it doesn't fall under the "fun" category!  However, after having a taste this last weekend, I cannot tell you how much I have missed my sewing and knitting the last almost-four weeks.
Some days I wonder if today will be the day that Adam being gone causes the girls to go utterly insane on me, headed towards a place from which only he can retrieve them.  However, so far they have stayed pretty stable.  Julia tends to be the more vocal one of the two about Adam being gone and often talks about whether Adam is coming home soon, asks if we can talk to him on the 'puter, and reaffirms that things around the house are Daddy's.  Each night as we come home from daycare, we pull up to the house and she says, "Julia's house?" "Yes." "Raven's house?" "Yes." "Mommy's house?" "Yes." "Daddy's house?" "Yes." "Daddy's truck?" "Yes." "Daddy's truck is BLUE!"  (You might be tickled to know that the garage is simply "Daddy's garage."  Apparently she knows that Mommy has no ownership there.  Ha!)
Otherwise, there are other things in our lives going on that I can't talk about here, but suffice to know that this still feels like the right path for us.  I've had my moments where I've felt as though I could utterly fall apart, but I have good friends who support me and remind me of why we're doing this, what our goals are, and how important it is to Listen and Heed.  (Thank you, dear friends!)




 ps.  I wrote this post before picking the girls up from daycare and just picked them up and am home again.  Julia said to me, as we were leaving daycare, "We go pick up daddy?" I replied, "No, Daddy is in Chicago."  She asks, "Why?" (She's a little late, but she finally asks "why" about EVERYTHING.)  I said, "Daddy is in school."  "Oh, school," she says, "I know school.  Daddy does puzzles?  And shares?"  My response to that, "Why yes, Daddy HAS been doing puzzles."  HA HA HA!  I laughed the rest of the way home!