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Thrifty mom

When I was little my dad had cattle, well a couple of milk cows and some bulls. Mom made all kinds of milk products, and I helped her sell milk before going to school, and after school my brother and I helped make cheese, cream, etc.

Today I took a trip back to my childhood : I made cheese, although I don't have cheese molds:

Queso fresco (fresh cheese) is creamy and delicious! I don't have all the equipment my mom had but I made do! Instead of a mill I used a food processor, and Tupperware instead of molds! 

I also made panela, which basically salted curd then compacted by draining all the whey and is shaped by the basket it drains on, a chiquihuite


A byproduct of cheese making is whey. By boiling it 

... You get ricotta ...
Once you've drained the cooked whey...


Too bad I buy a little milk, only 5 quarts every other day. You need a substantial amount of whey to get more than the couple of spoonfuls you get with my 5 quarts. We used to boil the whey of 10 gallons of milk and got about a pound or two of ricotta . 

Still, it was great making cheese for my family! My girls love fresh cheese!

Yummy juice!

Hello peeps! How are you doing?

With school about to start in little over a week comes the excitement of a new year: new classmates, new things to learn, new teacher, brand new notebooks, pencils and coloring pencils! 

And also comes the time when my kiddos can't snack as often as they want. 

The routine during the school year is pretty much the same, they get up, get dressed, have a light breakfast and off to school! Classes start at 7:30 am and they have their lunch break at 10:30.

But this year I want to stop giving them chocolate milk and a biscuit at home. They always want to play during their break so they sometimes don't finish their lunches (I send them lunch because the options at school are not what I would like them to eat on a daily basis) 

So I've dusted off my Turmix juicer! And I've been trying out different combos. So far, they like these:

- Carrot + beet
- Apple + beet
- Apple + celery

And today I tried a new one for an afternoon refreshment: Apple + ginger

And it's so delicious!!!! 
 (My little archaeologist insisted on her latest finds sharing the picture) 

I was afraid it would be too overwhelming so I watered it down and added ice and oh my! It's delicious! No sugar added, the zap of ginger makes it really refreshing! Some ice and we are ready to brave the hot Mexican summer! 

I've just bought a Nutribullet from Amazon because I hate all the fiber staying in the juicer (my potted plants are getting it though) and I'm supposed to get it within the forth night, and I'm so excited to try new recipes! So if you own one, which combos do you like?

(Digging is a really hard job! My little scientist gets very very thirsty!)

Stitching back

There's something to be said about the act of sticking a needle with thread to a fabric and pulling it out again.

You could be mending a shirt.
You could be attaching a button
You could be expressing your creativity...

You could be mending a favourite shirt or jeans and being creative about it:
(My niece's torn jeans)

(My little girl' torn shirt. Each bug and flower used to be a tear. My washing machine chomped on her clothes and my girl loves pink so this is one of her favourite shirts)

But now and then, the act of pulling a needle with thread is so much more. It doesn't just join two pieces of cloth, or just "makes pretty". It kind of reaches through time and joins YOU with the ones who came before you and are long gone. 

Did you know I'm Catholic? Well I am, and so were the women in my family before me. 

But there's more. One of my great great grandmothers on my my Mom's side used to get up way before the crack of dawn  to clean her home, cook, and tend to her chickens and cow all before 6 am so her husband could take his breakfast before he left for work and then she was free to do whatever she wanted till lunch came and she had to cook again. What did she do till noon?

She sewed. And embroidered. And (this is so amazing to me) she made bobbin lace. 

She also made her own mantillas, embroidering a very delicate net. This wonderful woman didn't have any daughters, she had several sons and when one of them (my great grandfather) had one son and three daughters (one of them my grandma) you'd think she could have taught them. No such luck. The girls were not really interested. It wasn't until my mother came along that she found an eager and willing student. Mom, being the eldest of twelve brothers and sisters learned at a young age to sew clothes for her siblings and to embroider. And to make mantillas to wear to church. Unfortunately by then my great great grandma was a bit too old and did not make lace anymore so my mom didn't get to learn that. Plus sewing for eleven kids ranging in age from 6 months to 20 years old (herself) didn't leave that much free time, specially if you work full time as well. 

Well, she did find the time to embroider these: 


This one is one of the big ones! Just look! 

And look at this one! 


And this one is one of my favorites: 

And it's as big as the others. 

So I asked her to teach me, and she's guiding me through the process. I'm making a child sized one, just as big as a hankie, and I've made many mistakes but it's not easy to pick out stitches in net! It's very fragile! 



The stitches are wonky and I can only work about half an hour a day but you know what? 

It's so much more than just a needle pulling thread. It's having the women of my family before me sitting with me in spirit, it's a needle and thread joining me with them in every stitch, and each stitch is a prayer of thanks for them, and a prayer for my daughters who will wear them 


And a few hours later...

Ephemeral beauty, but they never fail to make me smile... Thank you, Lord!


It's rain season!

And on the first days of it, our good God gives us a plethora of beautiful things, humble things, to remind us of Him. Thank you, Lord!


Being a kid

Did you want something when you  were a kid, something you never got but also never outgrew? Not something you needed or some first necesity (I'm well aware I had a very full and happy childhood and I was one of those fortunate kids with a loving family, responsible and amorous parents who did their best to provide and educate) but rather something you liked. And I'm not refering to something super superfluous like a huge TV or anything like that? If you know what I mean, what did you yearn for?

I have two big brothers, and I loved hanging out with them. Still, me and my little brother looked up to the second oldest because he was so smart and fun and always made time for us (the eldest was dating by that time so he never hung out with us). Toño (BB2) had these super cool tennis shoes, they were red and high top. I used to think they were the coolest thing ever since cassete tapes (it was the 80's after all) and I wanted a pair for myself so.very.badly. But this was Mexico, I was 8 and you couldn't get them in my size here. So, no Converse for me.

I went to high school, then college and I could have gotten them maybe but for the fact that they were not cool, thus shoe stores here didn't carry them. Drat the 90's.

And after Y2K, way after, I was married and then we had two babies (God bless their little hearts!) And money was better used buying diapers and such.

Yesterday I went to buy a pair of sandals. The weather is hot here, and they are almost  mandatory if you don't want your toesies to boil! And lo and behold! At the shoe store. A wall. Chock full of tennis. Half of which were (can you guess?) Converse! I got my sandals and was getting ready to leave, and my husband's cousin (who works at the shoe store) saw me looking at them so she forcefully sat me down and got me a selection of them to try on. She was laughing at watching me giggling like a kid, and convinced me to take a pair home.

I'm so happy I got them! I do feel like a kid! And looking at my feet now (I'm wearing them) makes me smile. It some times takes a not so big thing to bring a smile to your adult self, from your childhood yearning! That same brother, Toño, got his wife a childhood dream of hers: a doll with hair. She only had plastic, hairless dolls -you know the kind, with plastic swirls in their head instead of hair - so  for their fourth Christmas he asked me to help him choose a doll for her. He got her the doll with the longest hair we could find, a Geli doll (similar to the American Girl dolls) and got it under the tree. When she unwrapped it, she started crying, and she didn't let go of the doll all day long. She  finally had ( at 36) her doll with hair.


Rural life

My nephews, nieces and daughters enjoying a bit of fun feeding the stock! I'm glad we live in such a small town that they can experience this. They won't milk the cows like I used to, but they can have a relaxing afternoon in the fields..


Incredibly proud!

My girls asked me to teach them how to embroider. They chose a simple shape, a heart and arrow. Lil' J (who is four years old) is doing hers in pink, and Big J (5 years old) wanted hers in blue! I wish you could hear their giggles. I think Big J will not like it as much as Lil' J since she's much more for sports, but I could be wrong!

I'm such a proud momma hen!


Stovetop cookies

Lately my family has been asking me to cook these cookies. These are traditional in México, and I don't know if it's easy to get hold of "natas" where you live, but if you can get them you should really try them, and think of your friend in México while you enjoy them with tea, coffee or a tall glass of cold milk!

You will need

1 cup of natas *, cold but not frozen
1/2 cup of sugar, brown preferably. This is the usual ammount, but I've noticed it can take less, so I taste as I go and when it's just a bit sweeter than say condensed milk I stop adding sugar. Again, it's up to you and your sweet tooth.
1 to 2 lbs flour. It depends on how fresh or moist your natas are and the amount of sugar you used. More sugar = more flour needed.

Optional (I always add this)

1 T vanilla concentrate
1 T ground cinnamon


Special equipment needed:

- a tortilla press or a rolling pin
- a plastic bag or two pieces of waxed paper

- a mixing bowl
- a flat pan
( a crêpe pan is perfect, but you can use any shallow pan that,allows you to flip the cookies without burning yourself with the pan edge in the process.
- a spoon to mix the first ingredients. Or a spatula, or whatever you prefer. Even a whisk, although it will be harder to clean. I like using a wood spatula, but whatever rocks your boat! You could always use  a stand alone mixer, from start to finish, but I love mixing my batches by hand so I can get a feeling of the texture.
- cooling racks

I'm gonna have a cup of tea while you gather all the ingredients...

Ready?

Ok, in a bowl cream the sugar and natas. No matter what you use, the mix starts to get fluffy and creamy. Now is the time to add cinnamon and vanilla.

Start adding the flour. As you mix it will be increasingly harder to mix with the spatula, by now you can start kneading by hand.

Mix enough flour so it does not longer stick to the sides of the bowl. Let it rest for about five minutes. In this time, get your cooling racks out and your pan hot. You will be using medium heat, and a LOT of patience,

Now, if you have ever made corn tortillas, the next steps will be a breeze! I have a very heavy wood press, but if you have a metal one, it's good too!  open two sides of your plastic bag with a knife so you have a large rectangle. Pinch a bit of the cookie dough to make a 1 inch ball, and place on one side of the rectangle, fold the other half over it and close the press.


Sort of like this. Now, there are TWO things that are crucial to this cookies. The first is that you must make the cookies VERY VERY thin. They will spring back a bit while cooking, but do your best to make them as thin as you can. (see the image above? aim for about half as thick)

If you don't have a tortilla press:

Place a one inch ball over a piece of waxed paper , cover with another piece of waxed paper (you can do this with the plastic bag, and it is very easy). Then roll it so you get a round cookie form, again, very  very thin.

Did I tell you it has to be VERY thin?. Oh, well it must be.

Now carefully peel the cookie from both pieces of plastic or waxed paper. Place carefully on the hot pan  and let it cook (it will change from shiny to matte) and turn it over. It will take some time for it to cook, since you don't want to singe it. THIS is the second very important thing. It MUST cook over medium fire, slowly. You may need to turn it once and again. If it starts to brown just lightly, it is ok. Since it takes long to cook, I suggest placing three or four cookies at the time.


Now place the cookie on the cooling rack. At this point it is sort of like a wafer, so you can shape it. You can place it inside muffin metal cups so you get a cookie cup for  icecream or you can bend it over the rolling pin and have a half crescent shape, or even fold it like a fortune cookie! me, I like them flat.




I know it doesn't look like much, but trust me, these cookies are delicious!

Let me know if you make them!


*You might know the natas as milk skin. It is formed when you boil fresh milk. If you have fresh milk, as in freshly milked from a cow oposite to pasteurized milk from the supermarket, once you boil it and let it cool, the nata is a thick layer that forms right at the surface. It is creamy, but it is very different from cream, which is extracted from raw milk.
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