Saturday, March 31, 2012

Mama's Boy

Last week I flew to the Midwest for a little pre-field season vacation. While in Michigan, we met up with Tim, Jill, and their darling little boy. During an after lunch stroll, I grabbed a few snapshots of the little man and his mama. 

 The picture below is my favorite, I just wish Hoodie McHooderson and his gang were not in the background. 

And don't you worry, the little guy is equally adorable with his papa, I just don't have photographic evidence.

Friday, March 30, 2012

Friendly Friday: Chainsaw Art

One of my co-workers, Mike, paints old chainsaw bars and crosscut saws as a hobby. I commissioned a saw for the boyfriend, since he used to lead a chainsaw crew. With a little brainstorming, Mike and I came up with the concept of a vista over Lake Tahoe. I think he did a spectacular job.

The boyfriend loves it too. 

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

DIY Yogurt

I grew up on home made yogurt, but (no offense, Mom) our home made yogurt was never my favorite . Since then I was relatively ambivalent towards the food in general until I discovered Greek style yogurt. The health benefits of Greek yogurt have been extolled far and wide, so I won't go into it here. Greek yogurt had me at the creamy texture and only improved when I tried honey yogurt (I eat it like ice cream). 

The high cost of Greek yogurt, plus my love of all things home made, led me to give home made yogurt a second chance. This method is a combination of several I discovered online. Do some research and figure out what works for you. And don't be intimidated, all you need is about an hour of time, 2 tablespoons of plain yogurt, and 2 quarts of milk. 

I started out with a make shift double boiler and a candy thermometer. 

You don't need anything fancy, just a thermometer that goes up to 180 degrees.   

Fill the bottom pot of the double boiler halfway with water. Put it on the stove and bring it to a boil. Since you have to boil the water anyway, you might as well sterilize your utensils. Put a 2 quart oven safe container and metal spoon directly in the water. Turn the inside pot of the double boiler upside down on top of the pot. The steam will sterilize your yogurt making gear and help ensure a creamy, tasty product by minimizing sources of contamination.

Once the water has boiled, remove your newly sterile equipment and turn the inside of your double boiler right side up. Pour 2 quarts of milk into your pot (I actually use powdered milk: 2 1/4 cups of powder to 2 quarts, a larger ratio for higher fat content).

Bring the milk above 180 degrees. It is not a big deal if you go above 180, but you must hit 180 to denature the milk proteins and prime them for yogurt culturing. 

Meanwhile, bring 2 tablespoons of plain non-fat yogurt to room temperature. For best results, buy a yogurt starter with active cultures and no pectin. Yogurt with pectin will result in a slightly slimy texture for your first few yogurt batches. 

When your milk reaches 180 degrees, take it off the heat and let it cool to 110 degrees. 110 is the ideal incubation temperature for yogurt bacteria, so you do not want the milk temperature to dip below 110. The rate of cooling doesn't matter, but for expediency I typically surround the pot of milk with ice packs. 

Pour the milk into your oven safe bowl, mix in your yogurt starter. I also like to add another 1/2 cup of milk powder for extra creaminess, but that is a personal preference. 

Cover the bowl with tin foil and incubate yogurt mixture at 110 degrees for 8-12 hours.  I use the pilot light in my gas oven to maintain the temperature, but according to my internet research any of the following will work:

1) A crockpot, filled with water, on low.
2) Make the yogurt in a thermos.
3) Place the bowl in your hot water heater closet.
4) Use an electric blanket

Try not to disturb the yogurt while it is incubating. After 8 hours (ish) it will have solidified. 

You could call it a day there, but I like to strain it for an hour for a more Greek style texture. 

With the exception of one mishap that resulted in ricotta cheese (hello happy accident!), I have been very pleased with the texture and taste of my yogurt making endeavors. Overall, it is very little hands on time and it is much cheaper than buying Greek yogurt. I set aside a couple of tablespoons of each batch to act as the starter for the next batch.  Or share some of your yogurt and start a trend akin to Amish friendship bread.

Good luck!

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Sunday, March 18, 2012

Thursday, March 15, 2012


I've been working on my crochet rug. I have big plans for it, but then I realized this was happening. 


If you need me, I'll be unraveling. Literally.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

La la la Lampshade!

Sometimes you just need a quick project with satisfying results. My dorm room-era lamp was the perfect project for such a craving. I started out with this:


It isn’t awful, but if I had not inherited it, the lamp would certainly not be my first choice. Enter 25 cent lampshade, 2 paper grocery bags, and some wooden clothespins.


You have to love a quick upcycle on a, quarter. How about you? Any small projects that make a big difference?

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Which way is North?

Now I will always know the answer to that question…at least when I am at home. Because I have a giant North arrow for a coat rack!


I design maps as part of my job, and the cardinal rule of map making is to never produce a map without a) a scale bar and b) a north arrow.  I thought I ought to bring some of my GIS nerd home and own it.

I cut the arrow out of plywood (left over from the coffee table disaster), and painted it. The hooks are original door knobs from the house. They were very rusted, so I spray painted them with the ever-lovin’ oil rubbed bronze. They are glued in with the left over epoxy from my coffee table attempt #1.


I love that it rounds out the entry way, is fully functional, and yet is artistic all at the same time.

Friday, March 9, 2012

Friendly Friday: The Sum of the Parts

Happy Friday! I am thrilled to feature this storage idea from my friend Tim. Tim love bicycles, building bicycles, riding bicycles, and apparently, organizing his garage with bicycle parts. I think it’s a genius idea.





Thanks Tim! Remember these days?


Tuesday, March 6, 2012

A Gathering of Thoughts


If your daily life seems poor, do not blame it; blame yourself, tell yourself that you are not poet enough to call forth its riches, for to the creator there is no poverty and no indifferent place. (Renee Rilke)

This quote has benevolently presided over my Life in the Desert blog for 2.5 years now, but today I needed Rilke’s words to be here with me, in this moment, in this Monday, March 6, 2012.  Those glimpses of unexpected art are bursts of joy in ordinary life that make the day extraordinary.

I have never been a prolific journal keeper. I have probably completely filled less than two journals in my lifetime. However, in daily art, I mark my life—its joys, imperfections, failures, and beauty. I am told that this is the hallmark of those who fall into the Enneagram 4 category, which I do. 

I grew up in East Africa. Yet if you ask me about my experiences there, I struggle. Most of what I hold dear to me about those years are impressions—often linked to food.

It is as if the five senses are a more effective mechanism of story telling and processing my life than words ever will be. Images, the quality of a touch, distinct smells, specific foods, music all evoke vivid memories when words fall flat. Perhaps this is why the artistic documentation of the everyday is so meaningful to me. This is how I will convey my memories in years to come. This blog provides the perfect avenue for documenting the art within and around me. Thank you for joining me.

What about you? How do you document and disseminate your story?

"I was here...I was hungry. I was defeated. I was happy. I was sad. I had an idea and I had a good purpose and that is why I made works of art." (Felix Gonzalez-Torres)

Monday, March 5, 2012

Whole Wheat Pumpkin Gnocchi

The pumpkin proliferation continues around here as I am embracing an initiative I call “Minimalist March”. Essentially, I am not going to buy any groceries or craft supplies this month, but instead use up what I have lying around the house. The only exception is that I will allow myself to buy fresh produce. A girl has to eat her fruits and veggies!

In this spirit of minimalist March, I finally cut open my last pumpkin and decided to try out gnocchi-making. Here’s the recipe:

1.5 cups of pumpkin puree (or 1 15 oz. can)
~3 cups of whole wheat flour
1/2 teaspoon of salt
dash of black pepper, cinnamon, nutmeg, and cloves

Combine all of these ingredients. Keep adding flour until the dough is no longer sticky.  Once you can easily mold the dough, divide it into six balls. 
Fill a pot half full of water and put it on to boil. Meanwhile, roll each ball into 1/2 inch snakes (for lack of a better word) and then cut the snake into 1/2 inch pieces.  You can do test pieces and estimate longer or shorter if you would like.

Once the water is boiling, throw the gnocchi pieces into the water. When they come up to float they are finished. Fish the gnocchi out.

The recipe makes about 4 servings. I froze the extra uncooked gnochii on a cutting board and stored them in container in the freezer until my next gnocchi craving.

I then sautéed the gnocchi with onions, garlic, and some arugula pesto left over from the summer. Served with homemade ricotta and jalapeno garnish, it was quite the tasty meal!


Friday, March 2, 2012

Stationary Dabbles

Last summer I had the opportunity to take a paper making class. If you ever get such an opportunity, seize it. Paper making is like yoga, except more relaxing. I loved it. And bonus, it left me with a stash of home made recycled paper.  When recent events called for a few thank you gifts, I turned to my paper supply and some inspiration from Alex and Lauren.  I made two sets of animal silhouette stationary. Fitting for two biology professors, don’t you think?



And seriously, go check out Alex and Lauren. I glean a fair amount of awesomeness by association from those two.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

March Madness

Well, its time for the Sarah-Do March style. First, however, lets take a peak at February:

Yoghurt--Success! Will blog soon

Coat rack Finished, just writing up the post
Wall art I painted a frame? Does that count? 
Crochet rug Gifted at the wedding! I took some pictures, but there is a Friendly Friday in the works, so I won't steal Jill's thunder.
Dining room chairs to match the dining room table My frenemy sanding is complete, still in the priming stage, however 

Read at Least 2 of These:
 FAIL. I am half way through The End of Vandalism, but boyfriends and craft projects hold more appeal than reading, these days. 
The End of Vandalism
Life Among the Paiutes
Hunger Games
Water for Elephants
We Were the Mulvaneys
The Perks of Being a Wallflower

For March:

Anything and everything with black beans. I have a 25 pound bag of beans, and I am not afraid to use it.

Dining room chairs
Update 1 bookcase
Finish all lampshade projects
Complete projects rather than start new ones

The End of Vandalism
The Perks of Being a Wallflower