Cheap Date: Roller Skating and Milkshakes

David and I enjoyed a great time with friends on Tuesday night, at the Rollerskating Rink in Pensacola. We carpooled with a vanful of our friends and neighbors down to the rink. Tuesdays were $2.50 admission and $2 skate rentals, and we used a buy one, get one free admission coupon from the rink’s website. After renting blades and skates and splitting an Arby’s chocolate shake afterwards, we spent $10 for a few hours of fun with friends, some romantic hand-holding, and really great exercise. (The exercise justified the chocolate shake afterwards.)

File this idea away in your cheap date files and start looking for a good rink near you!

When Crafting Meets Well-Loved Books . . .

. . . then happy hours are spent with pens and paint and glue and inspiring raw materials: an old leather wallet box, a brown paper notebook from Staples, a mug and a horse plucked off the Goodwill shelf, a shirt from the Bargain Box, and of course multiple old copies of “The Fellowship of the Ring.” Music from “The Lord of the Rings: The Rarities Archive” is playing on iTunes and pages of notes and designs are piled around me.  And getting notes sent through Etsy from folks who love their purchases and love Middle Earth too is just piling happiness on happiness for me.

All new items are available to purchase from the shop.

Homemade Flavored Sugars

It’s hard to beat homemade gifts of the delicious variety! These sweet little jars make a pretty package for infused sugars—one orange and the other vanilla. Simply mix 3/4 cup of sugar with the grated rind of one orange or half of the scraped seeds of a vanilla bean. (Get your vanilla beans in bulk on Amazon or eBay!) Then go to town with hot drinks, crumb toppings, and more for an extra-strong shot of flavor!

Jolly Good Book

Oh, for a booke and a shadie nooke,
Eyther in doore or out;
With the grene leaves whispering overhead
Or the street cryes all about;
Where I maie reade all at my ease,
Both of the newe and olde;
For a jollie goode booke whereon to looke
Is better to me than golde.
W. R. Inge

Homemade Vanilla Extract

Yes, you do see a pattern here with these recent blog posts! It’s been so fun for me to try making things that before I thought you could only buy from a container at the grocery store. 🙂 Here’s a few shots of the “finished” product (although I’m waiting a few months for it to cure) and here’s the recipe I followed. I did stick to it (surprise, surprise!) besides doubling the recipe. I used vodka, not rum. Tip: for those of you have never bought vodka before and think you can get it from Publix, apparently you can’t. You have to go to the liquor store (is there are reputable liquor store in Crestview?). I drove up to this seedy place and, not seeing any other cars in the parking lot, parked, entered, made a beeline for the vodka, bought the cheapest bottle for the size that I could find, and left. That was my excitement for the day.

One Good Turn Deserves Another

Homemade yogurt calls for homemade frozen yogurt. Here’s the recipe below. I found it online and will note my modifications. Sooooo good.

Fresh Strawberry Frozen Yogurt

1 1/3 cups fresh strawberries

2/3 cup sugar

2 tbsp vodka (optional)

2 1/2 cups Greek-style yogurt (approx 500g)

1/2 tsp cream of tartar

2 large egg whites, room temperature
Clean berries and trim off tops. In the bowl of a food processor, puree strawberries, sugar and vodka (optional) until mixture is very smooth.
In a large bowl, whisk berry mixture into greek yogurt (you may strain plain yogurt for about 5 minutes with a fine sieve or cheesecloth if you cannot find greek yogurt in your area to achieve a similar consistency).
In a medium bowl, beat egg whites and cream of tartar until eggs reach soft peaks. Fold into strawberry yogurt mixture. Pour everything into an ice cream maker and mix according to manufacturers’ directions. When yogurt has set up, you can serve it immediately or store it in a freezer-safe container, if you are not going to eat it right away. Serves 6-8

My notes: Increase strawberries to 2 cups, decrease sugar to 1/3–1/2 cup, used 2 cups homemade vanilla yogurt and 1/2 cup Greek yogurt, skipped the cream of tarter, beat egg whites a little stiffer. I did a double batch in my four-quart icecream maker with no problem. I think this is a winner!

Cultivate hope.

My pastor’s sermon this past Sunday emphasized the duty to pursue hope, the same way we’d practice and pursue patience and self-control. I’d not thought of it that way before. Hope is something to cultivate and nurture, that we may “set our hope fully on the grace that will be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 1:13). This means to set our hope perfectly, unchangeably, without doubt and despondency. As my pastor put it, “the cultivation, or fortification, of our hope is essential to living joyful and victorious lives as Christians.”

This message is very timely for right now. Sometimes, as I wait for the adoption to go through, my hope wanes and I wonder if our family will EVER start to grow. So I made two wallpapers based on the sermon and recent interaction with some friends of mine from Massachusetts. I want to have the reminders of hope in front of me while I’m at the computer. Original flikr credit for the first image goes to Pink Sherbet Photography. The second I found here. You can download the full-size images here and here.

Oh-So-Good Homemade Vanilla Yogurt

Sometimes I get these urges to get in touch with my inner pioneer woman. Yesterday was one of those days. After a second trip to the strawberry fields, having put up another large amount of strawberries, inspiration struck to make homemade yogurt. I never thought making yogurt could be so easy. I made it in a crockpot! Discovering this recipe was like the day I was ten years old and found out that you can make cake from scratch. Suddenly the box mix was losing its luster.

As usual, I could not stick to the yogurt recipe I found online and made a number of changes. But the results were amazing and I was really, really happy with the way it turned out. Not too tangy, not too sweet . . . it tasted very much like the Stoneyfield vanilla yogurt I used as a starter.

Here’s the recipe for Crockpot Yogurt that I followed, and here are the changes I made:

I used one half gallon Smart Balance Low-Fat milk, whisking in 6 Tbsp Nido (whole powdered milk). (The reason I used Smart Balance milk is that the other week it was on sale 2/$5 and I had 10 $2 off coupons. For 50 cents a pop, I wanted to experiment.) About 4.5 hours after starting the yogurt, I whisked in 1 cup whole milk Stonyfield Farms vanilla yogurt, 1/2 cup sugar, 2 tsp vanilla extract, a tsp of unflavored Knox unflavored gelatin, and 1/4 of a vanilla bean, scraped. (I would add more vanilla bean next time, maybe the scrapings of a half bean.)

I started this recipe at 5:30 last evening and at 6:15 this morning, it was done.

I’m planning on straining part of this recipe to make Greek-style yogurt and also trying to make frozen strawberry yogurt from it. Um, um, good.

I encourage you to try this today! It is so much cheaper and just as tasty as the expensive organic yogurt in the store. I used the Nido and vanilla bean because that’s what I had on hand, but you don’t have to use it. You should experiment and see what you can do with what’s on hand—true pioneer woman style!