Category Archives: Things that Interest me


The rain is really hampering my camper restoration project. I had to take a day off of work last week to get the top finished and back on the camper. Once I get it complete, I will post pictures showing the start to finish process.

I will say that I learned a lot about the inner workings of a popup camper. Bagging and labeling all the parts really helped in putting the top back together. The only hard part of the process is finding replacement parts. The camper is a 1986 model and finding trim parts is quite difficult. I still have not found replacement corner caps and will probably have to make those. Time to get some ABS and a heat gun!

Should have it completed by the end of next week. My deadline of memorial day still looms over me. Thanks to the popup portal ( ) for all the hints and published experience that made this project a little easier.


Camper water damage

Well, my camper sat unused all winter. When I opened it up, guess what I found? Water damage! A leak developed around the AC unit and damaged a lot of the roof and side rails.

I started repairs today thinking that I could do it with the roof still attached. Well, that proved to be impossible so tomorrow the roof comes off. I am hoping the weather will cooperate as I do not have a garage to do the repairs. Will post some pictures when I get it complete.

Also, I am trying out a blogging program called Drivel. Seems to be working fine but I will know when I post this. Stay tuned……

Homemade Yogurt

I posted a comment on Facebook a while back that I was making homemade yogurt.  I received many replies asking what recipe I used?  How did I make it?  Was it good?  So to answer all these questions,I thought I would describe my process here.

The recipe I use is a very basic and common one.  It can be found all over the internet so there is nothing new here.  First, you will need to collect your ingredients.  You need:

  • 4 Cups of Milk
  • 1/2 Cup Instant non-fat dry milk powder
  • 1/2 Cup Plain Yogurt (With live Cultures!)

OK.  Thats it!  I do want to mention here that the starter yogurt must be from either an earlier batch or store bought and has “Made with live cultures” on the label Other wise, you will just end up with soupy milk.

Made with Live Cultures

Look at the label!


Now for the process.  Personally, I have a yogurt maker.  If you do not have one, don’t worry.  Before I bought my yogurt maker, I made yogurt in a wide mouth thermos.  Once it was in the thermos, I wrapped it in towels and put it in a coleman cooler for 8 hours.  The trick here is to keep the mix at 80-100 degrees for 8 hours.

My Yogurt Maker

Best $3.95 I ever spent! (Found at a thrift store)

One thing that you want to keep in mind is to keep everything clean!  Always make sure to wash everything before starting the process.  Here is the equipment that I use:

  • Yogurt Maker or Thermos
  • Double Boiler
  • Measuring cups
  • Mixing Spoon / Wisk
  • Thermometer

OK.  The first thing we want to do is measure out the milk and pour it into the double boiler.

Milk...It does the body good!

Never heat it directly on the burner


Add the 1/2 Cup of powdered milk.  I can hear you already, “Yuk!”.  Well, believe it or not, this step makes the finished product creamier.  You don’t have to add it but you will be glad you did!

Adds creaminess to the mix!

Really, it makes the final product oh so good!

Now you want to heat the milk.  This is where a double boiler comes in to play.  It makes heating sauces and liquids very easy and safe.

Heat it up!

Heating using medium heat.

The next step is left out of a lot of recipes.  Like beer wort, I heat my “Yogurt wort” to 180 degrees.  This step ensures that you don’t have any of the bad yeast beasties spoil your hard work.  You can tell when it is getting close to that because a skin will start to form over the milk.  You don’t want to boil it!

180 Degrees!

Be Careful. Contents Hot! (Notice the oven mit!)

I know it is hard to see but the thermometer says 180 degrees.  Be careful during the heating process and stir often.  Steam escaping from the sides of the double boiler can burn you.  Use and oven mit or a clip on thermometer.

Now it is time to cool the milk.  Whats that you say?  Cool it?  Yes, the little beasties in the starter yogurt need a nice comfortable temperature to do their job.  (Just like brewing beer!)  I cool mine to 100 degrees.  This makes a nice climate for them and I haven’t had a batch go bad yet! (Knock on wood)  A rapid way to cool your mix is to set the pot in a sink of cold water.  Shouldn’t take longer than 5 minutes to be at temperature.

Cook the batch

Cooling in a sink of cold water. 3 to 5 minutes should do it!

After a few minutes, use your thermometer to check the temperature.  Remember to clean your thermometer after every temperature check.  (Remember that cleanliness statement above!)

The Magic 100 Degrees

Check the temperature with your thermometer

Now it is time to add your starter yogurt.  Starter yogurt can be from a previous batch that you made or bought from the store.  I normally just buy a small container because I usually have none of my homemade left.  Stir in the yogurt until it is mixed in and not lumpy.

Starter Yogurt

Mix it in and let the beasties get to work!

Once you have it all mixed in, transfer the mix to your yogurt maker or to your thermos.  If your using a thermos, you want to work quickly so you do not lose any of the heat!  If using a yogurt maker, make sure you preheat it.

Ready to Cook

Ready to go to work!

And now you wait.  Yogurt takes about 8 to 10 hours to process.  My particular yogurt maker makes it perfectly in 8 hours.  They even put a number dial on the top so you can remember when to take it out.  If the finished yogurt is too tart, try shortening the time.  I like mine with a little tartness but everyone has different tastes.


The transformation begins!

After 8 to 10 hours you should end up with a semi solid white mass also known as yogurt!  There may be some clear liquid on the top.  This is the Whey.  This is a by product of the process.  I normally just stir it back into the yogurt. (It is good for you!)

Finished Product

Yum! Off to the fridge with ya!

Once it is finished, put the yogurt in the refrigerator too cool.  It will thicken also.  After the yogurt has cooled, it is ready to eat.  I prefer to eat mine with a handful of granola but you can add whatever you like.

Hope you get some use out of this.  Maybe next time it won’t take me a year to enter a blog post.  Enjoy!

Pickling Peppers

With the last of my harvest picked, I thought I would try pickling instead of my usual freezing.  With a recipe from the internet and some of my Mother’s wisdom, I was off and running.  This was not my first adventure with “kitchen microbiology”.  I have successfully brewed beer and cooked my own yogurt.

First, you must start out with clean equipment!


Then, you must sterilize it!  We don’t want anything to ruin the flavor.  Keep your water at least 180 degrees but do not boil!


Then it was off to wash the last of my peppers and gather my ingredients.


With my jars sterilizing and my water bath warming, I sliced up my peppers and started cooking the brine.


Once the brine is boiling, it is time to pack the jars.  I used a canning funnel to fill them and then poured the boiling brine over them.  I used a butter knife to get all the air out and then tightened down the lid.


Once the lids were on, it was time for the water bath.  I did underestimate how many jars I was going to need.  I used my small pressure cooker for the first two jars.  My second batch I use a big stock pot.  Much easier!


After 10 minutes in the boiling water, it was time to take them out and let them cool.


I processed 3 batches total which, had I started with the big stock pot, would have only been two.  Here is a picture of my finished product.


I really learned a lot about the process and I am glad that I started small.  Next year I plan to pickle and can more now that I have the process down.  I see now why my Mother enjoys this and I am certain that I will be consulting her wisdom next year.

How does your garden grow?

It is spring time in the mid-atlantic states and that means time to plan and plant your garden.

I gave my brother a book for Christmas titled “All New Square Foot Gardening”.  I skimmed through the book to make sure it would be something that he would like and was so intrigued by the process that I went out and bought my own copy.

Being the procrastinating self that I am, I waited till the last minute to put in my garden.  Part of the square foot garden is to build boxes.  I already had a garden bed so I decided to use that.  Also, there is “Mel’s Mix” soil.  It consists of 1/3 compost, 1/3 peat moss, and 1/3 vermiculite.  Well, I had no problem with the compost and peat moss but I could not find the vermiculite locally.  I thought this was really strange because it is a natural resource of Virginia!  So I used “Jeff’s Mix” which is Mel’s mix without the vermiculite.   I will try harder next year!

Jeff's Mix

Jeff's Mix

An interesting note about compost.  The book suggest that you use 3 to 5 different kinds of compost because the make up is different by manufacturer.  Mixing them gives you a better compost.  I could only find 3 different kinds so I am hoping for the best.

Blocking the Weeds!

Blocking the Weeds!

I use weed block fabric to cut down on the weeds.  It seems like I have an over abundance of them and they find there way into my garden in no time.  I used this 2 years ago and it really helped so I was hooked.  The pavers are for walking on and holding down the fabric.

My Garden

My Garden

Here is my garden all complete.  This year I am growing Tomatoes, Bell Peppers, Jalapeno Peppers, Green Beans, and Beets.  I also threw in some marigolds.  I read somewhere that they emit a scent that destructive bugs do not like.  Plus it brightens the place up a little till the veggies get big and tall.

Well, I will post more when things start to grow.

Welcome to Earth day 2009!

39 years ago some people got together to protest
environmental issues.  What an impact they had!

Growing up in Maine, the environment was always a topic of conversation.  There were many battles between conservationist and industry.  I believe they have achieved a good balance. 

This morning started with a rain shower.  I guess Mother Earth was cleansing the area for the day.  It amazes me that, as much crap as we throw at her, she just keeps on churning along.  I believe that nature has time on her side.  No matter what we do, she will bounce back eventually.  This process was happening billions of
years before man and no doubt that it will be happening billions of years after we parish of the face of the planet.  I hate to sound morbid but it is the cycle of life.

I started the day driving my SUV to work vice the “Rocket” (My 3 cylinder 1993 Ford Festiva)  Which was not too green on my part.  The Rocket is my commuter car that gets 40 mpg and proves that you don’t need to fit in with the “Starbuck/Mac/Prius” types to do your part. 

There were a lot of jokes that floated around the office about the Rocket until Gas reached $4.00 a gallon.  I had hopes that there would be new designs in drive trains and alternative fuels would become main stream but as gasoline prices tumbled, so did the excitement of alternative energy.  We have hybrids in the market but I think hybrids are a lot of hype and marketing (I am still wondering what we are going to do with all those batteries!).

I challenge everyone to do something for the environment today.  Whether it is cleaning up a wetlands area or just promoting awareness among your coworkers.  Don’t just sit there, do something!

Love her!  One Planet, All People!
(Borrowed from the Earthworks T-Shirt that I am wearing today) 

Tour De Cure 2009!

Team Madison participated in the Hampton Roads Tour de Cure 2009 this Saturday.  We had 3 riders and raised $1248.00 for Diabetes Research!

My 2 Daughters rode the 10 mile family fun ride and I did the 100 mile century ride.  This was my first century ride and did I ever learn a lot!  My bike was too heavily loaded and I did not start training early enough.  The guy at the bike shop was right when he told me there was a big difference between the 30 miles I did last year and the 100 I did this year.  My time was 10 hours!  I crossed the finish line 1 hour after the course was closed.

The hardest part of the route was the 20 miles between rest stop 3 and the half way point.  I seriously started to doubt that I would actually finish.  I kept pushing on and was making all the minimum times to stay on the 100 mile course.  On the last leg, a SAG motorcycle pulled up next to me.  I was expecting them to tell me that I had to stop but all he asked was my rider number and them proceeded on.

My bike was outfitted with a 2 meter twin lead J-pole antenna.  It was good to listen to the hams over the entire course.  I would stop and talk with them at the rest stops.  I also had an Etrex Legend GPS unit on the handle bar to make sure that I stayed on the course.  Next year I don’t think I will carry the tires, tubes (well, maybe the tubes), and all the tools that I had.  I could have totally dissassembled the bike with what I had onboard.  I was ready for any emergency.  I guess I just over engineered the process. 

My GPS unit when dead about 5 miles from the finish.  I did have some fresh batteries but at that point I knew I was close to the finish and did not want to stop.  I was hoping that they had at least kept the signs up.  I almost missed the second to the last turn because there were no signs but I saw the paint on the road and made the turn.

All in all it was a good day.  I am looking forward to next year and hoping our team will be bigger and we can raise more money.  I really appreciate the support we received and look forward to continuing that next year.