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Monday, November 21, 2011

Homemade Butter. Just like the Pilgrims?

Well, maybe not *just* like the pilgrims did it, but homemade butter nonetheless.

Our school has a tradition in each grade.  My son is in 1st grade this year and the big tradition for them is the Thanksgiving celebration and feast.  During the party portion of the day, also known as the whole first half of the day, the kids are split into small groups and they rotate from station to station.  These stations include teepee stories, snacks, bracelet making, necklace making (of the macaroni variety), bows and arrows (as we pray against any impalements) and finally butter making.

Which is where I come in.  Because, you know, I’m an expert on making butter.

Or not.

Regardless, it was certainly fun.  And exhausting.

But more about that later.

You may be wondering how on earth one might make homemade butter.  Well guess what… we’re just going to subtitle this post here today as “Butter Making 101” and I’ll try to give you a lesson.

Start with clean baby food jars.  I know that the lids aren’t on these, but you need the lids.

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Fill them about half way up with heavy cream.

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You may add a little salt if desired.  Then tightly screw on the lid.

When you are doing 46 of these for your son’s entire first grade at school, it will look something like this:

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And finally, begin to shake.

Your child will start out very excited to be on this journey of making his or her own butter.  They will smile and giggle as they shake. 

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Your child might even break out into song.  Like:

“Shake – Shake - Shake!

Shake – Shake - Shake!

Shake your butter!

Shake your butter!” 

Or:

“You know you make me want to shake! 

Kick my heels up and shake!

Throw my hands up and shake!

Throw my head back and shake!”

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Things will be all nice and rosy until about two minutes later and the children all of the sudden wilt into little moaning whining puddles that used to resemble happy children as they complain and ask, “Is it done YET?”

That’s where your big strapping arms come in. 

Yeah, I know.

So as you shake, at first you clearly hear the liquid sloshing around.  Keep shaking.  Then you hear less and less and the jar is completely white and you can’t see a thing in there. Keep shaking. Then all of the sudden, you will clearly be able to see in the jar and it will look like a single mushy mass. Keep shaking just a little more. Then that single mushy mass will separate and become a butter ball and buttermilk.

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Now before I began this project today, someone told me to keep the cream cold and that it would work better if the cream was cold.  These kids and the adults helping to chaperone them (okay, more the adults than the kids if I’m honest) shook these little jars for 10-13 minutes.

A different someone during the day said that they thought it would work better if the cream were more at room temperature.  So that got me to wondering.  And I did a very scientific experiment. 

I left a jar out on our countertop for a little while (that’s a very specific and scientific measurement of time, right there).  Then set the timer as my daughter shook it up.  It took her 3 minutes flat.

I think I’d be going with closer to room temperature if I ever did this again.  Because after two and a half hours of shaking cream into butter for a bunch of soft 1st graders who couldn’t shake their jars more than 1 1/2 minutes, my arms were killing me.  I mean, who needs a Shake Weight when there’s baby food jar butter to be made?

I left the school, went home, immediately took some Advil, put huge ice packs on my arms and began looking into cryotherapy

(As of this writing, it is in the evening of the same day and I have warned my husband that I do not intend to lift a single thing tomorrow.)

Let me give you just a little piece of advice.  If your son’s first grade teacher asks you to be in charge of the butter making station for the Thanksgiving celebration, just politely say no.  Your arms will thank you for it later.

In all seriousness, it was a blast and I really enjoyed getting to impart a little bit of food science to them as I tried to describe the butter making process on a 1st grade level.

If you have some cream and a small jar around, I suggest trying this with your child some time.  They might just appreciate that butter that they use on their toast or corn on the cob just a little more if they know how it’s made.

 

Monday, November 14, 2011

Dining Room Facelift

If you haven’t heard, we recently remodeled our kitchen.   In doing so, it also meant that the eating area/dining room got a face-lift as well. 

This is what it looked like before:

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100_9125That design on the wall? It’s not wallpaper.  That’s stenciled and painted on.  Nice, huh?

Along with the kitchen, it: got new tile, lost the wainscot, lost the “popcorn” ceiling texture (thank you, Jesus), received new texture on the walls and ceiling and got a fresh coat of paint on everything. 

Once once all of that was done, it was time to add some decorative touches.  I created a computer desk and school work nook for the kids and added some wall decoration.  But there was still something terribly missing.  The windows were naked. 

Knowing that I would never find anything suitable that I could just purchase and hang, because I never do, I began to look for fabric and a pattern to make some kind of a valance.  For the fabric, I knew I wanted something with a good amount of black to echo the black in the cabinets around the new range.  It also needed to have colors that would blend with both the cobalt blue that I have as an accent in my kitchen but also with the curtains in the living room.  As for a pattern, I knew I wanted something fairly simple because I’m just not into a bunch of fussy valance kind of stuff. 

Surprisingly, I found the fabric and pattern that I wanted pretty easily.  Now I just needed a good long weekend and some money.  I came into both around the time of my birthday. So, after my mom helped me figure out how much fabric I needed, I locked myself in the craft room and got to work.

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The whole thing probably took longer than it should have because there was so much good October baseball to watch on TV while I was trying to work.

Now, the valance is done and everything is where it should be, for the most part, our dinning room is much more pleasant to look at.

The walls are nice and clean without a busy pattern. 

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The kids have a computer desk and their own magnetic wipe boards that is positioned in the corner beside the refrigerator.  Out of the way, but still in view of everyone for our own peace of mind.

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The wall decorations are hung and so is the valance.

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The only thing that I still want to do is to have the table and chairs sanded down and re-stained black. I think it would look really nice against the light colored floor and would really help tie the kitchen and dining spaces together nicely.

Overall, I am really pleased with how it all turned out and it looks so much better in person.  My lighting for these pictures was horrible.  Hey… maybe you should come over some time and see for yourself.

I’ll put some coffee on and some cookies in the oven.