Home Spa – DIY Style

Because I enjoy seeing just exactly how close I can come to giving myself an anxiety attack, I waited one week until Christmas to make my gifts for everyone. And in my brilliance, I decided to make not just one, but FOUR gifts per person for a home spa kit. …my friends better love me.

In my frenzy, I turned the kitchen in to what resembled an apothecary of sorts run by none other than the Tasmanian Devil – you know, the cartoon character that spins around and turns everything in to shambles and disarray. My very patient roommates did their best to turn a blind eye to the  disaster area that used to be the kitchen until I was finished. Not an easy thing to do.

With the exception of maybe one or two ingredients, everything I used to make my products was natural and organic. And I made them barefoot. With bell bottoms, flowers in my hair, and ‘groovy’ on the tip of my tongue the entire time. Jk. Mostly…

In each spa kit, I included: homemade lip balm, whipped body butter, bath salts, and a sugar scrub.

Peppermint/Rosemary Lip Dressing: For the lip balm, I used the same recipe and procedure as my Lip Dressing that I have made previously. For whatever reason, this batch turned out much better than the first. It yielded 38 tubes of chapstick, which means plenty left over for yours truly. Or you, if you’d like.

Orange Dreamsicle Sugar Scrub: Next, I made the sugar scrub. I found my inspiration for the scrub here. I liked that it had limited ingredients and was very easy to make….if you follow the directions right. Unlike I did. It essentially takes only two ingredients: sugar and almond oil. Pretty straightforward. About two cups of sugar to 1/4-1/3 cup of almond oil. Unless you misread the instructions and haphazardly use 1 1/3 cups of almond oil. Then it takes a WHOLE lotta sugar to make up the consistency. You want the mixture to be soft but not too oily. -I have never before used a sugar scrub and was constantly asking my roommates if my mixture looked or seemed right-

Sugar scrub ingredientsCombining almond oil with sugarSugar and almond oil mixture

If you want to stop there, you can! I can’t ever make anything easy, so I decided to add essential oils for scent and color for effect. I went with orange for the scent, because I figured it would be different and fun. I then divided the sugar into two bowls, one of which I dyed orange.

Plain and orange sugar scrub Orange Sugar Scrub

In small containers, I layered the colors. I gently padded down each layer with the bottom of a shot glass, because I’m innovative. The final product turned out a little something like this:

Orange Dreamsicle Sugar Scrub

Whipped Body Butter: The body butter was probably the most ‘labor-intensive’ process out of everything. That being said, it still wasn’t that hard. And I asked all of my giftees what scent they would like so that I could customize it for them. I found the original recipe for it here. I made a few small adjustments, but followed it for the most part. You essentially need 2 cups total of grease/oil, but I doubled the recipe. I used what I had: 2 cups shea butter, 1 cup coconut oil, 1 cup almond oil. I added the essential oils after for scent depending on what people wanted. I did not color/dye any of the lotion, but that is an option as well (just be cautious of staining skin….or don’t if that’s what you’re going after).

Shea butter, coconut oil, almond oil

Using a double boiler – or one you make yourself from a pot and a glass bowl, melt all the ingredients together, stirring constantly. Let it cool for a few minutes on the counter and then put in the refrigerator until it’s firm, but not solid. Mine took about 2.5 hours to cool.

Butter and oil on double burnerMelted butter and oils

Using a hand mixer, whip the body butter at a high speed for 10 to 15 minutes, or until fluffy. Add your essential oils for scent. Or, if you’re making several different scents, divide into separate containers and whip personalized oils in.

Whipping the Body ButterWhipping the Body ButterWhipped Body Butter

Spoon body butter into containers without packing down or spreading out. This keeps the ‘whipped’ illusion.

Whipped Body Butter

I kept one for myself, and let me tell you, it feels absolutely AMAZING. It’s a little heavy, so I put it on right before bed. The body butter is extremely nourishing and makes my skin very soft. I will definitely be making this bad boy again.

Aromatic Bath Salts: This was by far the easiest thing to make. I found several ‘recipes’ online, but ultimately went with my own. I combined 3 parts Epsom salt with 2 parts sea salt and 1 part baking soda. The baking soda is a skin softener. I added essential oils for scent – lavender and tea tree oil. Put everything into a big mixing bowl, and, well, mix! Like magic, you have aromatic bath salts. So easy, and people are SUPER impressed.

Aromatic Bath SaltsAromatic Bath Salts

 

If you have the time, you can make labels for everything. I was pretty pressed, so I simply included a note with the gift explaining what each jar contained. The entire gift-making process was more enjoyable than I thought it would be, and everything turned out better than I thought it would. There were a few hiccups along the way, but with me that’s pretty inevitable.

Home Spa Kit

Last year, I crocheted everyone infinity scarves. This year, home spa kits.

Next year….gift certificates. 😉

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‘Tis The Season (Of Gifting)

I LOVE giving people gifts. I’ve always prided myself as a pretty creative gifter. Maybe that’s because I pay attention to people more than most others do….well that sounds a little creepy.

Last year, I crocheted 7 infinity scarves for my close friends and family, each tailored with their favorite color. This allowed me to watch horribly-entertaining shows on Netflix for hours on end. And I wanted to set fire to all of my yarn only a few times! Success. (Minus the fact that one of my good friends turned out to be allergic to the baby alpaca yarn I made her scarf with and ended up with a lovely red rash around her neck…sorry, Laura) To make all of these, I started back in October.

This year, 4 days until Christmas, and I haven’t even started my gift-making-extravaganza yet.

I’m so screwed. :/

For the next few days, I will be feverishly working on gift baskets, which will include homemade chapstick, whipped body butter, relaxing bath salts and invigorating sugar scrubs.

I have very few of the ingredients I need for all of this, so additionally I will have to brave the psycho-crazy-last-minute shoppers. And I will be one of them.

There are a few gifts that I have completed so far, however.

This year, I decided to let the gift keep on giving even after Christmas: potted paperwhite lilies that will bloom (hopefully) sometime in January.

It was very easy to do, and fairly cheap for as many as I made. All you need are paperwhite lily bulbs, potting soil and a flower pot really. If you want to fancy-it-up you can wrap the pots with ribbon, or even decorate them. You can also top the potting soil with decorative shells or beads of different colors.

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I put 3 bulbs to a flower pot. You can do less, or more if the pots are bigger. I wrapped the flower pots with ribbon and included some fun shells and beads on top of the soil. Instead of decorating the pots, I’m going to write the names of the people I’m giving them to on the pot with chalk. The chalk will eventually come off, or can be washed off, and they can reuse the pot for flowers in the summer if they wish.

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The lilies need watered about every 3 days. Unfortunately, they will only bloom once. (Which is actually fine with me. I’m surprised I haven’t killed all of them off already.)

Although I thought this was a fun idea, one remark I got was: ‘You made a gift for someone to finish doing all the work on…’ Ya, well, I figured they needed a new hobby as well. I’m thoughtful like that dammit.

Another gift idea I had involves booze. ….no one is shocked….

One of my roommates is really in to beer. She loves everything about it, especially trying new ones. So, in a bout of cleverness, I decided to give her the 12 Beers of Christmas.

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I bought 12 different singles and wrapped each of them with white paper, writing the number order in which to drink the beers. One a day for 12 days, with the last one to be opened Christmas Eve. Each one I bought was a special seasonal, and no two were from the same brewery, including the bomber I bought for Day 12. I finished off each one with a festive ribbon, which I successfully curled without ruining it. And then I wrote a poem to accompany them.

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Go me.

As for the rest of my brilliant Christmas gift ideas….well, they may turn out to be New Year gifts instead. What better way to ring in the New Year than with a present?! Maybe that was my plan all along.

Playing With Needles

So. I’ve been a slacker. A big one. BUT that’s not to say I haven’t been doing anything. In fact, for the past 4 weeks I have been learning a skill that will take me far in life. It has been tough, grueling, and time-consuming. Many will attempt, but few will find the will power to carry on and succeed. With the help of lessons and a guru, I have been able to create a piece of art with my newly attained talent.

Watch out, world! I’m learning to knit!

I bought my Mom and I knitting classes for Christmas and we’ve been on the journey to become knitting fiends! We’ve been going to Your Daily Fiber, where Ivy, our instructor, has been incessantly patient with us. After 4 weeks, and many many MANY mistakes -and an impressive vocabulary of colorful words directed at the yarn and knitting needles-, I have finished my first project. My new work of art will be displayed for all to see…on my head. I made a beanie! Colorado has been so accommodating during this time by providing cold temperatures and several Spring snowstorms so that I might be able to actually wear it before we reach scorching Summer temps -in which case I will STILL wear it.

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AND it’s bright orange, which makes it that much better.

Diving into the knitting world, you have to learn not only a new language with your hands -how to hold the needles, what to do with the yarn, how to determine when you’ve dropped a stitch, how to refrain from giving your project the middle finger-, but also a new vocabulary. Purl, knit, turn, block, finish, sock stitch, rib, cast on, etc. I’m slowly catching on to these and am able to sometimes use them correctly so I don’t sound quite as moronic to our knitting instructor -who is amazing by the way…and did I mention very patient?-.

I don’t know how to read patterns yet, so I just did what Ivy told me, which worked out pretty well for the most part. For this project, and for my particular stitches, I cast on 80, knit 1 purl 1 for 2 inches, knit in the round for 6 inches, knit 8 stitch 2 together for 1 row, knit one row, knit 7 stitch 2 together for one row, knit one row, knit 6 stitch 2 together for one row, knit one row….all the way down. Finish by sewing the top stitches together and bringing them through the top of the hat (I know what I’m trying to say, but not really sure how to say it. Obviously.). Sew in your yarn tails.

If that made any sense to you, you are a knitting professional, because I just re-read it and it looks like gibberish.

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For my first project, I think it turned out pretty well. Because I’m still very new to this, I think I’m going to sign up for more classes so that I can learn to read a pattern, and hopefully learn to fix mistakes myself without completely crumbling and having a mild panic attack every time I drop a stitch.

Although Summer is fast-approaching, you will be able to pick me out of a crowd. I’ll be the one in a tank top, shorts, sandals, and a bright orange beanie.

And maybe socks, if I make those next.

Project suggestions are welcome! I’ve already been encouraged to try my hand at knitted underwear…..

 

Lip Dressing

Most people know that Colorado is the epitome of a dry climate. Sure, it’s pretty, has a lot to offer, and is mostly the best place ever -I may be slightly biased-, but it also feels like there are tiny minions all over your body, sticking microscopic straws into your pores and sucking out whatever moisture that you may have previously had feebly clinging for life, leaving you skin to rival that of a cracked, dry desert floor. Pretty, huh. We-or at least I- go through copious amounts of lotion here to counter the moisture-sucking minion attacks.

You think that’s bad, not only do the minions drain the water from your skin, but your lips take a beating as well. Not only to they attack with their moisture-depriving straws, they then run over them with mini sandpapers for that added sexy chapped effect. Hail all chap sticks! I’m never caught without mine and usually have at least 2 on my person: pockets, purse, car. I might be slightly addicted. I am in love with a particular peppermint beeswax one that is extremely popular…but it can also be expensive, especially with the frequency that I tend to lose mine -I’m convinced the minions ban together for ‘mission impossibles’ to steal and destroy them-. I’m fairly certain I keep them in business just by myself. So, being the creative person that I’m-not-really-but-pretend-really-hard-to-be-and-am-trying-to-convince-others, I decided to make my own.

The recipe I used was inspired by this blog, but I plan to change mine up a little in the future.

The materials: chap stick tubes (or you can use containers), shea butter, coconut oil, beeswax, lanolin, and whatever oils you’d like to ‘flavor’ it. For my first batch, I used peppermint and rosemary. I also have lavender, almond, orange, and tea tree oil for future chap stick endeavors. The recipe I went off of said it makes about 40 tubes of chap stick. Mine only made about 30. That should last me for at least 2 months or so… I found all my materials on Amazon.

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Melt 2oz of beeswax in a pot on the stove on low heat.

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Measure out 3oz of coconut oil, 3/4oz shea butter, and 1/4oz lanolin. Some people don’t like lanolin, which I suppose is ok, so just make sure to use additional everything else to make up for it if you opt to leave it out. You want about 4oz of liquid total. You want to have twice as much oil as you do beeswax, so feel free to experiment away!

Add everything else in to the melted beeswax to melt down as well.

Add in essential oils. I did about twice the amount of peppermint oil as rosemary oil. I did about 30ish drops peppermint oil and 15ish drops of rosemary oil. I’m excited to experiment with my other oils soon!

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After it’s all melted, and the flavor is right for you, pour into chap stick tubes or containers. If you use tubes, pour carefully (it comes out fast); you’ll probably have a few casualties — it doesn’t take much for them to tip over. The melty chap stick mixture is super fun to clean up off of counter tops and stoves.

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Let it cool and solidify.

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If you want to be extra pretend crafty, like me, you can create labels to put on your chap stick tubes. I decided on the name “Lip Dressing” for my chap sticks -note creative flair- because it’s fun, and, well, I was eating a salad at the time so the idea just kind of came to me.

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And thus, Peppermint Lip Dressing was born! TA-DA!

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Don’t act like you’re not impressed…

Becoming a Southern Belle?

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I’ve been to South America and South Asia (Indonesia), but before last August (2012), I had never been to the South in North America. That changed when I started dating a Southerner from Louisiana. Born and raised in Colorado, I’m not a huge fan of humidity, and neither is my curly hair, which becomes ridiculously unruly and unmanageable the closer to sea level I get. I’d never had any reason to go until then. It rains more than any place I’ve seen. Colorado is lucky to get a few thunderstorms a year – this is an almost daily occurrence down there. Yep, it’s definitely different.

A Southern Belle is something I’ll never be, but I’ve definitely learned my share of skills and had some crazy experiences down there. A few things I’ve learned and learned how to do:

*A new language. That’s right, the South has it’s own language. They are efficient people – they take one big breath and say everything they have to say in one sentence very long word without breaking in between. Often, they will shorten words so as not to use up energy with those extra syllables. Then, they will stare at you until you respond, whether or not you understood anything that came out of their mouth. Nod. A lot.

IMG_0198IMG_0199*Crawfish season is revered, and you best get your order in asap or watch out for rowdy people throwin ‘bows for the last pound. There is a crawfish hierarchy that is established among restaurants as to whose is the best – this is dictated through a drawn-out conversation by crawfish consumers between juciy bites discussing the seasoning of these ones to so-and-so’s down the street. Yet, they all get eaten all the same. Oh, and size does matter.

*Coke is soda is water. Any sort of bubbly soda is stored and stocked in houses and establishments like they’re preparing for a world-wide shortage. The only thing they’re missing is for it to come out of their faucets. Everything is called Coke – it’s just a matter of what kind of Coke you’d like.

*Some places are dark and dirty, while others resemble an extraordinary oasis. I’ve been on one plantation there, Houmas House, and it is one of the prettiest places I’ve seen. Also, some of the houses we’ve driven by are incredible. Quite a contrast between those and the poverty of New Orleans. They all have one thing in common, though, the culture of the people. The culture is tangible and hard not to get caught up in. It’s a mixture of feelings: old and new, music and art, cajun, french, american, wealth and poverty, history and the present.

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Houmas

House

Plantation

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*The food is phenomenal, plentiful, and very filling.

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And yet we eat, and eat, and eat some more!

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Other things I learned in Louisiana:

IMG_0203How to shoot a gun

 

 

 

 

How squirrell tastes (I didn’t think I’d actually hit the little guy)

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How to wedge, throw, and trim my very first pot

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How to make apple butter

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I’ve also been deep-sea fishing, hurricane drinking, regular fishing, insect identifying, frog leg eating, orange picking, running from slugs (irrational fear), walking down Bourbon Street and the French Quarter, sipping cafe au lait and eating beignets from Cafe Du Monde. Although it’s very different from home and almost like another world, it’s a fun place to visit and I’m excited to see what the next trip has in store for me.

I’ll just be a Colorado girl in a Southern Belle world.

Cocoa almond surprise

I like chocolate just  as much as the next person. If you don’t like chocolate, we clearly butt heads. In my efforts to try relatively healthy foods, I recently stumbled across cocoa-covered almonds. Fan-freaking-tastic! So, naturally, I’m pretty sure I ate about a pound of them, if not more.

Healthy Me = 0, Food Demons = 1.

As I was gorging myself on almonds, I thought to myself: ‘I’m pretty sure anybody with a brain could make these.’ Any time I have a thought like this, I should really have a red flag pop out of my forehead with sirens blaring warning the kitchen police to come haul me away.

But I don’t, so here we go with another brilliant endeavor.

Cocoa-covered Almonds.

Not only are these relatively healthy, they are gluten-free, dairy-free, soy-free, and vegan. Score.

They have minimal ingredients which fit seamlessly with my kitchen requirements, and, of course, and super yummy. Double score.

All you need are raw almonds, agave nectar, unsweetened cocoa powder, and salt.

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Cocoa-covered almond ingredients

Here is the recipe that I used.

The recipe calls for 2 cups of almonds to start, however, since I’m pretty sure that would last me a whole half hour or so, I decided to double the batch.

Turn the oven on to 350ºF. The first step is to blend the agave nectar with salt on medium heat. I used ½ cup agave nectar and 2 pinches of salt -whoever came up with this whole ‘pinch’ measurement clearly didn’t have people like me in mind. Not only are my hands the size of a middle-schooler, my kitchen skills aren’t particularly solid; I prefer exact measurements.- The mixture started to bubble and that’s when I figured it was ready.

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Agave nectar & salt

Toss in 4 cups of raw almonds (for the doubled recipe) and stir until the almonds are completely coated.

Agave-covered almonds. Yum!

Agave-covered almonds. Yum!

Spread the agave almonds on a cookie sheet with wax paper. Put the almonds in the oven for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally so they don’t burn.

Agave almonds on cookie sheet

Agave almonds on cookie sheet

My Mom wanted to help!

My Mom wanted to help!

Put 3 tbsp of the cocoa powder in a large ziplock bag – you’re going to put the almonds in there and shake it all up.

Easy, right?

JUST KIDDING!!!

I know all of this sounds very simple, but it turned out to be a little harder than I thought. When you pull the almonds out of the oven, they start to cool very fast which makes them stick to everything! I started putting the almonds into the ziplock with the cocoa powder. Conveniently, the ziplock started to melt through because the almonds were extremely hot. I quickly dumped everything in to a plastic bowl and tried my best to get the remaining almonds off the cookie sheet, off the counter, and off of my fingers.

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Melted Ziplock

Cocoa almonds in bowl

Cocoa almonds in bowl

I put a lid on the bowl and shook them up in the cocoa powder. They looked very slimy, unappetizing, and not exactly covered or ‘dusted’ with the cocoa powder. So I added more.

Bam! It worked! They turned out looking somewhat like I’d hoped! I spread them on another cookie sheet to cool.

Cocoa almonds on cookie sheet to cool.

Cocoa almonds on cookie sheet to cool.

What I didn’t realize is that the wax paper from the first cookie sheet also melted and came off in little bits either on the almonds or somewhere else. I’m not really sure. It also made it stick to the cookie sheet itself and became impossible to peel off.

Melted wax paper. Yikes!

Melted wax paper. Yikes!

What was supposed to be an easy project turned in to:

Cocoa-covered-wax-paper-surprise almonds!

Yep, I’ll eat them anyway.

Getting cultured: Take 2

Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results. — Albert Einstein

Well, there you have it. According to Mr. Einstein, I’m a crazy person. I like to think that I’m a crazy person with high standards, though, which just goes to show that if you believe in it enough, do zero additional research, and try the exact same method…..you’re certifiably psychotic.

Psychosis works for me. Suits me, in fact. However, instead of proving the rule this time, I am the exception.

~~~~~~~~I MADE YOGURT!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!~~~~~~~~

For real. Edible, too! I’m actually going to go ahead and toot my own horn: It was absolutely delicious!

Because my first attempt was such a disaster, it took me a while to muster up the desire to try it a second time. Then again, Rome wasn’t built in a day. -yogurt, Rome…whatever-

When something goes wrong the first time, typically you assess and adjust the process for any subsequent trials. I say typically, because I didn’t. Too much effort. Wait, that’s a lie: I did not put towels on the stove for charring purposes this time. Yay me. I did look at additional yogurt-making recipes, the majority of which called for either powdered milk, yogurt cultures, whole milk and whole fat yogurt, or yogurt machines. Fabulous. Couldn’t find powdered milk -it was probably right in front of me at the store; I obviously don’t do well in grocery stores-; didn’t want to use yogurt cultures since I felt it was pointless because yogurt cultures are in the yogurt you add to the mixture already; wanted a reduced-fat yogurt — I don’t buy whole fat yogurt or milk at the store in the first place, so why would I make it that way? –; and I clearly do not own a yougrt-making machine.

Back to square one. So what did I do? The same damn thing I did the first time…with slight adjustments. I bought fat-free yogurt, 2% milk (last time I used skim – I don’t recommend that), and just talked nice to it. I had everything at my fingertips. When I decided to give it another go, I re-created my double-boiler, got out my trusty thermometer, and was ready to face the yogurt fates. -OH, I decided I didn’t learn my lesson the first time and bought another half gallon of milk to make another unnecessary half gallon of yogurt for this one person. I amaze myself at my intelligence sometimes-

Step 1: create double boiler

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Double boiler

Step 2: pour milk into pot
………….Step 2: pour milk into pot

This gets slightly complicated when the top shelf of your refrigerator has decided to imitate the Arctic and make one giant ice cube out of your milk. -insert background laughter from the yogurt fates here- I’m off to a spectacular start. Step 1 has now turned in to: thaw your giant ice cube of milk any way you can – this may take a good half hour or so. Probably longer.

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Well, that was fun.

After your milk cube is thawed, pour into the top pot and bring up to 180°F for minimum a half hour, stirring frequently. During this process, I did notice that my milk frothed quite a bit more than the skim milk for the first attempt.

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After about a half hour, cool down the milk to approximately 110°F, stirring occasionally. I did this with an ice bath in my sink. You can do it by leaving it on your counter, it will just take much longer, and goodness knows (and my family, and my friends, and my boyfriend) that I am not a patient person.

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Ice bath to 110F

Add 1 to 3 tablespoons of yogurt (yes, you use yogurt to make yogurt) to your cooled milk. I used FAGE Total 0% for mine. Stir this in well to your milk.

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Add yogurt to cooled milk

Now, you have sour, hot, yogurt milk. Congrats! Think of it as your yogurt embryo. This little guy needs some TLC, and a warm, quiet place to incubate for 7+ hours. You want to keep it between 100°F and 110°F during this time. The site I originally got the recipe off of suggests a heating pad. Uh, don’t try to get super creative and invent your own if you don’t have one. It won’t work. Trust me. This time, instead of putting it on top of the oven, I decided to put it in the oven! ………I can hear your negative thoughts you cynics. Ok, ok, I deserve them. I did not turn the oven on. Instead, I put a lid on my yogurt embryo mixture, wrapped it in towels, and put the bottom of the double boiler (the pot that had the boiling water in it) next to it in the oven. I heated up more water in a tea kettle and added that to it as well. I checked on the temperature every now and then and added more hot water only once.

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The oven ‘incubator’

I intended to pull it out of the oven at 7 hours. But I went to dinner with a friend and lost track of time. I got home when it had been sitting there for at least 9 hours if not longer. Knowing me, and my relationship with the yogurt fates, I was figuratively crossing every limb, fiber, and hair strand I had that this would not be my downfall again. I pulled out the pot, unwrapped it from the towels and lifted the lid to reveal:

Yogurt.

WOO HOO!!!

WOO HOO!!!

I did it! It worked! I couldn’t believe it. It looked like yogurt, and even kind of smelled like yogurt. I was giddy with pleasure and the satisfaction that the yogurt fates and I had become friends come to an understanding. I put it in containers to refrigerate over night -NOT on the top shelf of my fridge-. The real testament would come the next morning with the first sample.

Morning comes. I’m excited and slightly nervous to try it, considering it was something I made. From scratch. In the kitchen. And you just never know how that’s going to turn out. –If it works out, you ideally never have to buy yogurt again; you can use a few tablespoons from your homemade yogurt in the milk to make a new batch.- It was actually, surprisingly very good. Not as tart as I’m used to, but I was ok with that. The consistency was perfect, maybe a little less solid (is that the right word?), but definitely not runny.

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Homemade Yogurt

HECK. YES.

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So good even Klondike wants some 🙂

I’ll just go ahead and give myself a pat on the back for that one.