Today I’m debuting a new weekly series, “Photo Finish,” where I’ll share some pictures of my week that might not fit anywhere else. I’m going to slightly cheat this time by starting off with a few from my visit last week to Crater Lake.
As a teenager I had been to Crater Lake, but Steven never had, so last week we went for our wedding anniversary. If you’ve never heard of Crater Lake, it’s a pretty amazing place. It’s in south-central Oregon, about five hours from us, but it’s only accessible for about four months every summer because it gets so much snow. In fact we drove by plenty of snowbanks that haven’t melted yet, and couldn’t resist stopping by one to have a snowball fight. From looking at it, you might think that the lake was created by a meteor hitting the earth, but a mountain actually erupted and collapsed about 7,700 years ago.
We took a boat ride out to the island in the middle of the lake (Wizard Island), which is actually another volcano that rose up out of the crater left by the first one. After climbing to the top, we had snacks inside that collapsed cinder cone you can see at the top.
The incredibly blue water might look perfect for swimming, but it’s all snow melt, and very deep, so the temperature is only about 45 degrees. Steven braved the cold and jumped in. I was a wimp, and didn’t (though now I wish I had). Don’t worry, there was no danger of hitting bottom here, since it’s 200 feet deep in this spot. Which is nothing compared to the maximum depth of 2000 feet in other parts of the lake.
After we got home it was back to house projects and normal life. A while back I think I mentioned that we painted our office and built shelves, but I haven’t shared photos yet because I’ve been trying to figure out how to style up the shelves so they’re not just entirely covered with books and movies. Here’s an early attempt. This is only about a third of the shelves–they’re huge and take up the whole width of a wall. We built them from reclaimed wood and pipe flanges, and I’m so happy with how they turned out.
It’s a family tradition to make raspberry jam every summer, and this week I helped my mom with a couple of batches. I couldn’t resist breaking open a jar to make sure it meets our quality standards–it’s sooo good.
My parents are fostering two orphan barn kittens, so jam-making was interspersed with kitten-cuddling. This is Quinn, who’s only about 3 weeks old. He’s super tiny and scrawny, and has a funny little purr to match, but my mom is fattening him right up. Isn’t he sweet?
Those are the highlights of my week. We have lots of friends visiting town this weekend, so it should be a fun one. Hope yours is great, too!
Today I had plans to do a completely different project, but it didn’t work out because I was missing some key components (story of my life). Anyway, while I was unsuccessfully trying to find the supplies, I came across this cool spiked chain that I’d been meaning to use for some jewelry. So I decided to make a necklace and earrings, instead. And they turned out pretty cool, so I guess I can’t really complain about my original idea being a failure. You win some, you lose some, right? But you guys win this one because now I’ll show you how to make your own spiked necklace and earrings.
There’s a Portlandia skit about how you can pickle nearly anything, which is a gentle ribbing of this city’s general propensity for DIY. Just because you can pickle something doesn’t mean you should, and the same goes for a lot of DIY endeavors. But when it’s this easy, I think you can (and should!) try making your own cheese. Author Claudia Lucero, who just happens to be a Portlander, is definitely a believer in DIY cheese, and has written One Hour Cheese, which is a great guide to making your own simple cheeses in an hour or less.
For the purposes of One Hour Cheese, I would probably be classified as an intermediate cheesemaker. A beginner would be someone who has never made any of her own cheese before, but I’ve made batches of queso fresco and paneer. Have no fear, though, this book assumes you have no cheesemaking experience and walks you through the steps with plenty of descriptions and photos, lots of encouragement, and even a few recipes for how to consume your cheese once you’ve made it. If you’ve never made any cheese before, you’ll probably be surprised at how easy it can be.
To give you an idea of the difficulty, the recipes are classified as “easy,” “easier,” and “easiest.” I tried three types of cheese, one classified as easy (“Fromage Facile”), and two that were easier (“Smoky Cheater,” and “Favorite Melty Mozzarella”). My favorite was definitely the mozzarella, simply because of the three, it’s the type of cheese that I consume the most. Unless they’re for a specific recipe, I don’t buy very many soft cheeses like the one that resulted from the fromage facile recipe, but I knew just what to do with the mozzarella. I sliced up some ciabatta bread, brushed it with a little olive oil, and layered mozzarella on top of fresh tomato slices and torn basil leaves. A few minutes under a broiler, and I had a delicious melty snack.
As you can see, I even got a little bit fancy with my mozzarella and braided it up. That’s one of the coolest aspects of this book: It demystifies the cheesemaking process to the point where you can experiment with different shapes, textures, and flavors of cheese. I’m really looking forward to trying more of the recipes, and whipping up my own cheeses whenever I have an hour to spare. If you’ve ever thought that it might be fun to be able to make your own cheese, I highly recommend that you give the recipes in this book a try.