Monday, December 31, 2007


is now 3.5 years old. She is quite the little character. She looks so much like Tony, that we aren't all that surprised to hear stories of his behavior as a small child that remind us of her. She is, as Tony says, like a ping pong ball. She bounces from one activity to another, from one person to another, rarely pauses to look around, and rarely listens to instructions. We call her the "Ellie alarm" because she wakes up promptly at 6:30 every morning, and once she's awake she pesters everyone in the vicinity until they get up. The Ellie alarm has no snooze button.
Eleanor is also a talented artist and she produces many, many, projects each day. She looks to Sophia for inspiration, and it becomes more difficult all the time for us to tell her drawings from Sophie's. Sophie is nearly 7, by the way.

Here are some of Ellie's recent drawings:

(she even cut this girl out by herself)

(this is a squirrel)

Last night Ellie cut her finger somehow and it was obviously really bothering her. She was tired and whiney already, so it was quite a production. After a bit she came to me and said "Mom, I think I need Jesus to start all over and remake me."

Isn't she cute?

Merry Christmas

A few days late ;)

Saturday, December 22, 2007

A snowy day video

Here's more snowy fun, with Margaret and Blaise.

Dogs in the snow

It's snowing! We don't get much of this here in KS, so this is kinda fun, especially since it's so close to Christmas and we aren't traveling anywhere!

Thursday, December 20, 2007

What's under your table?

After seeing this comic, Margaret and I have observed the mess that Sophie and Ellie are making right now, and we feel that we might just have her beat. Here's what's under our kitchen table right now:

one eggshell,
a can of pinto beans (unopened),
a bendy pen,
half-finished friendship bracelet,
102 small bits of broken crayon,
5 or so colored pencils,
237 scraps of paper,
a pink sweater,
a basket,
a box,
a library book,
a toy ladel and soup pan,
3 ziploc bags,
a phone book,
a phone book cover,
kumihimo instruction book,
broken watercolor box,
swiffer broom,
tipped trash can,
parts of a purple silk flower,
big, wide, 84-year-old midwestern bear dog (aka Maggie),
10 broken pencils

That just about covers it. It helps to keep this in perspective if I point out that yesterday afternoon the table and floor were completely clean. Sigh.

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Cheese Making

Through the forums at Beer Advocate, I recently came across a fellow home brewer's blog and saw that his interests, like mine, extend to several types of fermentation (including sour Belgian and Belgian-style ales), so I thought a post on my cheese making experiments would be fun. I became interested in trying cheese making some time in 2006, but it wasn't until about May of this year that I talked Keri into letting me buy the ingredients to make it.

For the most part, cheese is made with milk, a starter culture, rennet (a coagulant). Several types of soft cheeses are made without rennet (fromage blanc, yogurt cheese, buttermilk cheese, mascarpone, cream cheese), and some cheeses use an acid in place of both rennet and the starter (panir, queso blanco, ricotta). However, these cheeses that do not use rennet (and soft cheeses in general) are typically meant to be eaten while fresh, and do not keep for more than a couple of weeks. In the most common varieties of cheese, the three ingredients of milk, starter culture, and rennet are used. Some cheese varieties that use these three ingredients also add additional mold and/or bacterial cultures as ripening agents.

I was most interested in mold and bacteria ripened cheeses. Being a reasonably experienced home brewer, and having made yogurt a couple of times, I figured I could begin my cheese making with a more "difficult" variety and have some hope of success. I was very pleased with the results.

As my textbook, I used Home Cheese Making by Rikki Carroll, proprietor of the New England Cheesemaking Supply. In my opinion, this is a good book for a beginner who is generally comfortable in the kitchen, and particularly someone with experience home brewing because many of the cleaning/sanitizing procedures will be familiar. After reading through most of the book, I decided on the Camembert, a white mold-ripened cheese, for my first try. Camembert is similar to Brie, but is ready to eat in 4-6 weeks instead of the 3-5 months required for Brie.

The basic setup required is a two gallon stock pot, a larger pot or sink filled with hot water, a good thermometer (electronic thermometers are highly recommended for accuracy and ease of monitoring) and a timer, and the cheese ingredients. Later, some means of draining the curds is required, which for camembert style cheese means food-grade polypropylene molds (forms), reed mats to facilitate draining, and small cutting boards. Although optional, a glass of tasty beer is as highly recommended as the electronic thermometer.

The process is simple. The milk is warmed in a hot water bath to raise the temperature to 90 deg F. The Flora Danica starter is added, stirred in, then the milk is left undisturbed for 90 minutes (holding the temp at 90 deg F). After 90 minutes at 90 deg F, the rennet is added to some water to ensure even distribution when it is added to the culturing milk (similar to the reason you add cornstarch to water before adding it into a sauce to thicken). The milk is stirred with an up and down motion to ensure that the fat is evenly mixed in, otherwise it won't set up with the rennet and will be poured off with the whey and the cheese will not have the appropriate fat content, flavor, and texture.

After 60 minutes at 90 deg F, the cultured milk should be set into curd, giving a "clean break" when a knife or clean finger is inserted. Unfortunately, I neglected to get a photo of curd cutting, but it's a neat process that is used to drain the whey out of the curds. The texture is similar to a soft/medium tofu. During the ripening time, the milk has acidified and the acidification affects curd formation. Timing is important so that the curd does not become too firm and rubbery.

After the curd is cut into 1/2" cubes, it is allowed to continue to ripen in the whey for 15 minutes, during which time there is a noticeable change in the firmness of the curd. It really is a fascinating process to observe and feel (with well washed and sanitized hands). Once the curd is cut and resting, the polypropylene molds and matts can be sanitized in boiling water, and the "sandwich" assembly can be started.

First the cutting board, then the reed matt, then the mold. The batch size I used required two molds, but I placed them next to each other on the same matt and cutting board. The curd is then ladled into the molds, the sandwich is completed by placing another matt on top of the molds, then the cutting board on top of that. The completed assembly looks like the picture at the left. Keep in mind that the curd has already drained quite a bit, as it starts near the top of the polypropylene mold.

Neat, isn't it? This assembly is carefully flipped over once an hour for the next 5 hours. I let mine sit overnight after they had been flipped 5 times. By morning, after the molds were pulled off, the cheeses were well formed, the curds knit well together, which is important if you want your cheese to stay together.

After this, the cheeses are lightly sprinkled with cheese salt or another non-iodized salt, on all sides and left to sit for 10 minutes. The salt will inhibit unwanted bacterial growth, and create a hospitable environment for the crucial ingredient--Pennicilium candidum, a freeze dried white mold, rehydrated with dechlorinated water in a spray bottle the evening before, and now ready to be sprayed on the cheese.

The cheese is then placed on a matt to facilitate further loss of moisture, in an environment that can sustain 45 deg F and 95% relative humidity. Since our refrigerator can't be set that high and would dry out the cheese if left uncovered, we just had to make due by keeping the cheese in a sealable container big enough for the two rounds of cheese and still have some airspace for the cheese and starter bacteria to respirate and for the white mold to develop on the outside of the cheese, all of which means that the cheese changes from tangy, spongy curd into delicious, aromatic, molten camembert.

After about 18 days, the cheese had developed most of the white mold which does the majority of the ripening of the cheese, working from the outside to the middle. Because of the cooler than desireable temps, the cheese took a couple weeks longer than anticipated. When I have the means to do so, I will modify a refrigerator with a thermostat override, available for about $70, which will allow me to keep it at the proper 45 deg F. Also, the pan I used for the refrigerator the first time was metal, which rusted quickly. For later attempts, I used plastic containers.

Still, the result was delicious (no pictures unfortunately). Not a cheese for those who have issues with gooey textured cheese, but for those who are not off-put by such things, it was a very respectable first attempt. The photos of the cooktop and the formation of curds and the curds in the forms and in the state the morning after are ACTUALLY from my second attempt at cheese making, this time a French Munster style cheese, which is ripened by Brevibacterium linens (a reddish colored and stinky bacteria) rather than Pennicillium candidum, but the process is nearly identical right up until the P. candidum is added.

Good night.

Sunday, October 21, 2007


We just got home from church, and I saw something move out of the corner of my eye as I was reaching over to close the garage door.

I'm pretty sure this is a black widow, and I don't want to get close enough to it to squash it...if only I had something I could spray to kill it.


UPDATE: Because Tony is out of town, Grandpa Jake came over and killed the spider for us. I'm relieved but I still get goosebumps when I think about it. I hope there aren't any more lurking about!

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Catching up...

Hello! I have not posted our breakfasts for Friday and Saturday. We didn't really eat breakfast Friday. We spent the early hours making an unexciting (but delicious!) pasta salad for lunch. We went on a field trip to C-Arrow Stables and went on an hour long trail ride on horses! It was very fun!

Today (Saturday) we ate spiced up leftovers including eggs. I (margaret) have swimming lessons every saturday at the YMCA, so we didn't have much time. I am making bread at the moment, so I will update in a bit with the pics.

Our friend Jesse on her loaned horse Whiskey and myself (in the stripes) on my loaned horse Taco.

A photo of the new playroom

Can you find the baby?

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Idiopathic vestibular disease

This is what our old dog Maggie has, we think. She had this a few weeks ago and it was very alarming, she was stumbling everywhere and very ill, but she improved within 48 hours. Last week she had a relapse, and although she's doing better she looks just like the dog in the linked article, with her head at a sort of permanent tilt. It's kind of cute, really, it fits her personality. She has always been a bit aloof and somewhat confused-looking...when she was a younger dog we always referred to her as the Doubtful Guest because she bore a resemblance to this Edward Gorey character.

It's difficult watching her age, she's a good old girl.

Scone #2: Coffecake Scones- A floury concoction

Pun intended. I forgot if I put in 1 1/4 cup flour or 2 1/4 cups flour as intended. The dough was very sticky. So I gradually added tablespoon after tablespoon of flour until you could handle it. I just should have added 1 cup. It was very good! It spread a few inches... But I think that is ok. I made a flower on it with cranberries. It kind of cracked on the dry crumble topping. I was running out of butter! It called for half a stick (in the topping recipe), but I had to use two tablespoons :). Oh well!

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Scones #1:Buttermilk Scone

Today, I have made a Buttermilk Scone with raisins. I didn't have any currants, so I used raisins instead. Doesn't it look happy?

Thursday, October 4, 2007

Anna update

Anna started crawling's a video I took this afternoon to prove it:

Isn't she cute?

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Funny kids

Something funny Eleanor said the other day when Margaret was looking for her bra and asked if anyone had seen it:
"Yes, first it was on the countertop, then it was on the sofa, and now it's lost...Did that help?"

Something funny Sophia told me this morning as we were on our way out the door to go to gymnastics:
"I have pretend cheese in my pocket."
She later explained that the pretend cheese was for the pretend mice that she was bringing along.


Thursday, September 20, 2007

Change is Good

I decided to change the blog template in hopes of renewing interest in it. Hopefully I can get the other contributors to contribute, and get myself motivated to post more often.

Here's what we've been doing. We've been on quite a few field trips the past week, here are the girls at our local Great Plains Nature Center.

We've been busy navigating our switch from Windows back to Mac, and learning about what's changed since we were here last.

Also, we've spent a considerable amount of time here (for fun), and here (learning all kinds of cool stuff about Mesopotamia).

I must go now and stop Anna from eating paper (her new favorite food).

I also want to add a request that those who read this post a comment, we really love the feedback!

Sunday, September 9, 2007

We're back!

After a brief hiatus due to the crash and burn of our computer's hard drive, we're back online. Yes, this afternoon we purchased the coolest of the cool things we've ever purchased: this.

We're busy playing with it right now...more blogging later. :)

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Margaret's Locks of Love haircut

Wow! Today, Mom cut my hair for Locks of Love.
It was soo scary!! Who knew letting go of some hair would be so.... life changing? Here I am before the cut :(
This is after we hacked it off... You can see it is a little uneven on the right side (hee hee)
This is after we evened it out! Isn't it cute?

Locks of Love is a non-profit organization that makes wigs for kids that have lost hair from Cancer and so on. I have been meaning to do this for a while, but you have to have at least ten inches and I wanted some hair to grow. :)
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Thursday, August 16, 2007

Crazy morning

I made a video of our usual morning chaos. It was amplified a bit this week due to the festive atmosphere that not going back-to-school creates around our house this time of year. This was not staged, by the way, the kids were playing with the dogs and I got the camera out to capture it!

Exciting things are happening at the Jacobses...

We just haven't taken the time to blog about them!
For starters, the playroom is up and running (I don't have any pictures, you'll just have to take my word for it.)
Margaret, who has been wanting an electric guitar for some time, saved up enough babysitting money to buy one at last and now has a new guitar and amp (once again, no pictures, I'm trying to persuade her to let me make a video of her playing it.)
Sophia got a great new haircut and is mostly happy with it. I'm very happy with it because she looks super cute and her very curly hair is much easier to detangle when it's not so long.

I don't have any news about Ellie, but she's doing well and behaving like a crazy 3 year old.

Anna is now sitting on her own and putting lots of random stuff in her mouth.

Here's a happy picture of the four girls:

Monday, July 23, 2007

The Monday After

We finished reading the Deathly Hallows yesterday, I enjoyed it immensely, and I think we all feel better knowing what became of Harry! This morning it's back to life as usual after several weeks of crazy. We re-arranged the bedrooms so that the girls now have a "dormitory" where they will all sleep and a "playroom" where they can spread out and do their thing. We have before and during pictures, but no after pictures yet because the work is still in progress. We also spent a nice week at Grandpa Jim and Grandma Jo's house where we visited with Aunt Lena and Baby Katherine.

This morning Sophie and Ellie had a snack outside on the grassy knoll.

And Ellie made this picture of Harry Potter (in the center), and his friends Ron (on the left) and Hermione (on the right, wearing her "time stopper" around her neck.) The squares at the bottom are the steps, according to Ellie, I think this is a scene from The Prisoner of Azkaban movie. I thought it was remarkable for a just barely 3-year-old.

Here I go to try and clean up the house!
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Saturday, July 21, 2007

We have it.

The Deathly Hallows is here. We attended a book release party at Borders last night, that was really late and crowded and loud, but I think we had fun. Margaret dressed as Luna Lovegood and Sophie and Ellie went as Winky and Dobby. Anna went as the cute, sleepy baby in the sling, and Tony and I were very convincingly dressed as Muggles.

Winky and Dobby attracted so much attention that everywhere we went people were exclaiming about the cute little house elves, and asking if they could have their picture taken with them. One girl tried to give Dobby a sock, but Winky and Dobby were getting pretty tired and cranky and wishing everyone would leave them alone, so they wouldn't accept the clothes.

Most importantly, though, we have the book in our hot little hands and Margaret and I are reading it in turns. We'll post more about our recent adventures in a few days when we've reached the end!

Monday, July 2, 2007

Saturday, June 30, 2007

This and That, a post with several pictures and few words

A half-finished soaker (this is the cherry red yarn I mentioned in the diaper post) :

Ellie's cute and nutritious lunch:

Sophie's missing two front teeth (now she knows what she wants for Christmas!):

Anna "hanging out" in the kitchen :):
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Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Cute Food!

Today, we discovered the world of Bento boxes. It is so much fun! Bento boxes are small boxes with several compartments or tiers (boxes stacked on top of each other). You can get them in tons of colors with little characters on them. Oh, and the food is even cooler. People will take rice and vegetables and make cute animals and flowers... The pictures above are examples of Bento. The top one is an image from a Japanese Bento blog called Crazy Beautiful Bento. The next is an Americanized version of a Bento lunch. We spent a long time (most of the day in fact) looking at all of the blogs, and tryed making our own. We made rice balls and put cucumber and squash cut in flower shapes on the balls. It wasn't as cool as the other ones.... But it was yummy and fun to make. Here is a picture of what we came up with:

Eleanor is three!

Eleanor's birthday was Monday, but due to the yucky cold we're all passing around I didn't get this up until today. Happy Birthday, Ellie, we love you so much!

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Friday, June 15, 2007

We caught the smile!

Just can't get enough of that cute baby!

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