Sewing Room Commitment

Back when (WAY back when) I was an active longarm quilter, so many times I heard fellow quilters who were struggling to use their longarms. It wasn’t they couldn’t . . they just didn’t have the mojo to do it!  You know . . that’s where I am with quilting. Advice given to those folks by me and others was always the same . . commit to a certain amount of time each day or each week and you’ll often find that you don’t want to stop once you start. So . . that’s the advice I’m giving myself and the commitment I’m making.

Unless there’s a really, really good reason why I can’t do it . . I will spend one hour each day in the sewing room!

By 2:00 p.m. today (when I finish this post), I will have the iron hot and the sewing machine running! I’m accountable to YOU . . to report what I’ve accomplished each day. There’s no plan, except to accomplish *something* each day in here.

Design Wall

Design Wall

This is what my design wall looks like right this minute. Let’s see what I can do before heading back home!  Wish me luck!  :)

Solar Update

It’s been exactly three months since we had our solar panels installed. We’re quite pleased with their performance. The funny thing is  . . before we got the solar panels, I would have sworn that every single day here was hot and sunny and now that I’m watching our power being generated on top of our roof, I’m surprised at how many cloudy or partly cloudy days we have. Even a mildly overcast day results in a decrease in power production. Thankfully, we relied on various calculators that took into account the number of “sun hours” we have here so our system is producing exactly what we had hoped.

At the same time our solar panels were installed, our area became deregulated which meant the provided we had been using no longer could be used as our “REP” (retail electric provider). You may remember the problems we had because there were only three REPS who would do net metering (buy our excess power). The first two, who had better deals, said they would do it but in the end, said “Oh, you’re in the newly deregulated area. We can’t do this there yet.” So, we ended up with our third and final REP, TXU, and actually, I think we’re better off with them. For some crazy reason, they pay us more per kWh than we’re paying them for the kWh we buy from them. Weird but I’m not questioning it. Here, we pay about .0625 per kWh only or the power. By the time the line charges and other fees are added in, we’re paying close to .30 per kWh, which is outrageous. TXU pays us .075 per kWh for what we send back and there are no line charges (so far) on what goes back.

Then . . there’s our “TED” which stands or something about transmission and distribution. They’re who I refer to as the “line carrier” because they own the lines and we pay them so we can use their lines but we have no choice in our TED.  You may remember that they came out and approved our system, told us to turn it on, then when the meter reader came out and saw the meter spinning backwards, he summoned someone to come pull our meter because they thought we were pirating electricity. Somehow, the fact that our system had been approved for solar had not been “transmitted” to the folks who read the meter. We got that all straightened out. Thank goodness I was home and stopped them from pulling our meter!

And, here we are three months into our solar production and the TED called yesterday and said “We think we’ve figured out how to report your usage!” YAY!  Three months! I guess it could have been four or more!

Apparently it isn’t as simple as picking up the phone, calling the REP and saying “The Laquidaras used “X”  kWh and sent back “Y” kWh.  It has to go through ERCOT (Electric Reliability Council of Texas) and it has to be in a certain format or . . I don’t even know but I do hope it’s all figured out. I will say that the folks at our TED have been extremely nice, and very sorry for the hassle, including the electric meter incident.

Usage

Usage

In three months, we’ve purchased 2624 kWh. Last year, during this same period, we used a bit over 5,000 kWh, which means we used about 56 kWh per day last year. We’ve added a third freezer and other than that, I don’t know that we should be using any more power than we did last year.

Sent Back

Sent Back

During this same period, we’ve sent back 2413 kWh. We’ve used about 200 kWh more than we’ve produced and I knew that would happen in July through September because we run two central air conditioners and 1 stand alone a/c. I think if we were running just one central a/c or mini splits, one at a time, we would be able to stay within the power we produce. Also, if we had been “banking” kWh since January, we would have built up enough that we wouldn’t run over, but since the system was only started in May, we didn’t get enough credits to stay within our production range. Our contract with TXU says we have to be a “net user”, meaning that we have to use more than we send back, on an annual basis. I don’t think that’s going to happen and I’m not real sure what will happen with that but we’ll see. 

A lot of words, a lot of calculations in my head but in the end, on an annual basis, we’re going to be sending back more kWh than we’re using and I can’t wait til battery technology, or some storage technology, exists so that we can go completely off grid. For now, we can’t but if we could figure out how to cut back our usage at night (air conditioner), we’d be pretty much operating off our own power.

 

Homemade Yogurt

One of the things about blogging for many years is that you can always go back and see how you did things several years ago. Here are some older posts I did about making yogurt:

We eat a whole lot of yogurt around here. I had to laugh the other day when many of my friends on Facebook were telling me I should be eating yogurt! There are several storebought brands that we like.

Noosa Yoghurt

Noosa Yoghurt

 

One that I love is Noosa, and our local Kroger carries three flavors of it and it’s expensive. When it’s on sale, it’s sometimes $2/container but most of the time, it’s closer to $3.50/container.

We also like the Simply Truth Yogurt, though I always end up with more plain yogurt left over after all the “jelly” is gone because I love sweet stuff!

Simple Truth Yogurt

Simple Truth Yogurt

The cost of homemade yogurt, including the cost of milk, Maple syrup that I use for sweetener and jam or fresh fruit added when served, comes to about 70¢ per cup!

If you’ve never made yogurt at home, you’re not going to believe how easy this is!

Here’s all you need:

Ingredients/Tools

Ingredients/Tools

You will need milk (discussed below), a starter (discussed below), a sweetener if desired and containers for storing your homemade yogurt. You will also need a thermometer of some sort. An inexpensive candy thermometer will do the trick, and a method of incubating the yogurt. Incubation methods you may want to use:

  • Oven – Turn your oven on the lowest setting and let it reach about 115º. Turn it off and store the yogurt in the warm oven. You may want to re-heat the oven a few times during the incubation period to keep the correct temp.
  • Crockpot - There’s a link above for using the crockpot.
  • Thermos – Pour the warm yogurt into the Thermos and it should stay at about 115º for long enough for the incubation to occur.
  • Ice Chest/Cooler – This is my favorite method currently. Pour a little hot water into the bottom of an ice chest to bring the temp to 110 – 115º, place a small rack in there to keep the yogurt out of the hot water, place the jars/containers of yogurt on the rack and let the yogurt incubate there.
Yogurt in Cooler

Yogurt in Cooler

Step #1:

Start with however much whole milk (NOT ultra high temperature pasteurized!) you want to use. Generally, I get a little over 1 cup of yogurt per 1 cup of milk used because of the starter added back each time.  You can use whole milk or 2% milk, both of which will produce a fairly creamy, thicker yogurt. You can also use skim milk but you’re going to get a less creamy, not so thick yogurt.

Use the freshest milk available. I would avoid using milk that has a real close expiration date.

Step #2:

Using a stainless or other heavy duty pan, pour the milk into the pan. Attach the thermometer to the side of the pan, making sure it doesn’t touch the pan. Heat the milk, stirring to keep a film from forming on top of the milk, til the temp reaches between 180º and 200º. I like to get my milk to 190º and hold it there for about 10 minutes. This higher temp and holding time seems to reduce a bit of the liquid and makes for a thicker yogurt.

Step #3:

Allow the milk to cool down to 110º. This can be done by simply walking away from it for a while or placing the pan in an ice water bath. If placing the plan in ice water, be sure your pan is safe and will not crack or warp when going from hot to ice cold. Also, the milk cools down very quickly using this method so do not walk away.

Step #4:

Once the 110º temp has been reached, stir in your starter. For 8 cups of milk, stir in about 1/2 cup of plain, non-sweetened yogurt. Once you’ve made your own, you can save out some of that to be your starter but for the first time, purchase plain, unsweetened yogurt. Gently whisking the starter into the milk til it is all blended. At this point, add any sweeteners you may desire. I add about 1/2 cup of maple syrup.

Step #5:

Now it is time to incubate and the incubation period should be from about 5 – 10 hours. The longer the incubation period, the thicker the yogurt and the taste becomes a bit more tart. 

Once the yogurt has done it’s incubation time, transfer to the fridge and allow to cool completely before serving.

Yogurt with Blueberries

Yogurt with Blueberries

Here’s a bowl of homemade yogurt with a little blueberry jam and fresh blueberries!

If you prefer Greek type yogurt, it’s all about the same except  you straight the yogurt to remove the liquid and make a denser/dryer yogurt. This is the strainer I like to use for Greek  yogurt.