Friday, May 24, 2013


My BFF announced herself at a superbowl party, maybe six years ago. We'd spent a fair bit of time together as friends-of-friends, acquaintances grown closer, and at the beginning of what we both hoped was a real friendship. I am ever grateful to her for recognizing it as the friendship it has now become.

We could be really good friends. BFFs. Shouted over shots, beers and Todd-nado, who was yelling GET SOME!!!! in my ear.

My heart lit up. Sometimes you say things over drinks that are exaggerated, overly enthusiastic. This time, we recognized and declared a truth. We could be really good friends. BFFs. 

From that moment in Queens Pub, Erin is family. I've adopted her parents, her childhood dogs, her in-laws, as an extension of my own familial tree. And our friendship has made me a better person, a better friend. I am so lucky to have this amazing woman in my life. She is incredible. Beautiful and loyal and smart. Funny as hell.

Erin drove home to Michigan from Washington, D.C. (three times) to take care of me when I was pregnant and right after I had my baby. She's cleaned the dirtiest rooms in my house. She snuck in and did the dishes and cleaned the stove grates when I was so pregnant I couldn't do dishes for more than a few minutes at time. She called me on hogging my pregnancy and helped me figure out how to confide in her, how to ask for help.

She's teased me out of my most childish moods. She's held my crying daughter. She cleaned up the upstairs bedroom, transforming it from the cat's lair to a nursery.

She's loved me through my most insecure, stubborn and reticent moments, when I am hardest to love.

She has helped me see the friendships all around me. The whole GR crew has become family because Erin has helped me understand all that love. I have new bravery to respond, reciprocate. On my own, I would have told myself that there was nothing special there. Convinced myself that those friendships were acquaintances, people who were being nice to me because they were good people, not because they truly saw something in me. I would have let myself be too busy with work and the insignificant details of life to commit to those friendships. I would have invented obstacles to keep these friends from getting too close, just in case they didn't REALLY like me and they were just being polite.

This would have been a huge loss. And frankly, just plain stupid. Good god, my insecurity must be maddening to the people who love me.

BFF, thank you for recognizing and declaring our friendship. Thank you for sticking with me when I get my priorities messed up. Thank you for loving me and Kevin the way you do. Thank you for taking care of me. Thank you for being you. An incredible and strong woman, a loving mamma and wife, a loyal, honest and true friend. I love you. For realsies. Forever. No matter what.


PS, your sunglasses are on my microwave, and I found a tiara on top of the vitamins.

PPS, the nursery is SPARKLING in the sunlight. Thank you so much for cleaning it up.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Novice cheesemaker

My cheesemaking journey began simply, turning milk from Hilhof Dairy into yogurt and kefir. I knew, even then, that I wanted to wander down the dairying path. Here is my first experiment with something that resembles cheese (read: requires setting a curd, cutting it, and cooking and rinsing).

Cottage cheese
Adapted from/inspired by recipes from Ricki Carroll and Mother Earth News


  • Stainless steel pot big enough to hold all the ingredients. You want one that has a lid that fits.
  • Thermometer. It's awesome if it's the kind that can clip on to your pot. Mine does not, and I survive.
  • Glass/pyrex measuring cup
  • 10-inch kitchen knife
Make sure everything is clean when you start. I didn't sterilize, but if you have trouble with contamination, that'd be one thing to try.


  • 1/2 gallon skim milk (thanks to Hilhof Dairy)
  • 1/4 cup cultured buttermilk (the kind you buy in the store)

The milk I buy is pasteurized (but not ultrapasteurized). If you start with raw milk, everybody says it's best to pasteurize it so that you are starting with a bacterial culture that you pick (from the buttermilk). That's between you and your buttermilk. 

Step 1: Setting the curd

  • Bring milk to room temperature by heating or just by sitting out in a pan while you get distracted by other chores. You're aiming for about 75 degrees. 
  • I let the buttermilk sit out for a bit too, to bring it up to room temperature.
  • Stir the buttermilk into the pot of skim milk. Cover, and place in a warm spot (70-75 degrees).
  • Let it sit for 16 hours (at least), probably closer to 24. You want it to resemble custard.

Note: For weekday cheesery, I do this at 7 or 8 p.m., so that when I get home from work the next day, I can check it first thing. If it needs a few more hours, I am still ok to finish the cheese before bed. On weekends, or in my daydream farm life, I'd do it at 9 or 10 in the morning.

Tomorrow evening, I'll move on to step 2...

Step 2: Cutting the curd

Step 3: Cooking/heating to separate

Step 4: Draining and washing