DIY – How to make yogurt

Making yogurt from scratch is easy. Is it cost effective? That depends on if you have cheap milk near-by or just how expensive the yogurt you normally buy is. Is the taste going to be better from store-bought yogurt? That depends on if you have tasty natural (aka real yogurt) that is affordable nearby. We decided to begin making our own because we have very affordable milk right here on the farm and unfortunately Ecuador’s yogurt market includes only one real yogurt, which comes in only one flavor, is not cheap and of course is only available in a store 30 minutes away.

Okay, now that I have questioned you a little, I will tell you that making our own yogurt definitely made us feel a bit empowered. This empowerment comes from knowing exactly what goes into your yogurt and the ability to add your own choice of sweeteners and/or flavors, exactly to your taste.

Ingredients & Materials:
– Milk (the quantity depends on how much yogurt you want to make – 3 cups of milk in, 3 cups of yogurt out)
– Yogurt Cultures (this can be obtained from another yogurt that has “live cultures” any reasonably hippy-ish yogurt should do)
– Some way to “incubate” the fermenting yogurt at 110* F (43* C) for 7+ hours. We use a bit of resistive wire, but a more at-hand solution could involve an oven with a pilot light or maybe some kind of fire-proof box with a few big light bulbs.
– A pot big enough to hold all of the milk with a bit of room to spare
– Maybe a towel? (we use one to insulate the milk while incubating)
– A spoon
– A liquids thermometer (a meat-style thermometer will probably be okay also)


Pour the milk into your pot and let it heat up until 185* F  (85* C). Then turn off the heat and let the milk cool down to 110* F – (43* C). After your milk has reached the right temperature pour it into a container (with lid) of your choice – glass is probably the best material. Stir in a couple tablespoons of your store-bought yogurt and seal the container.

Now the tricky part begins, you need to find a way to keep your milk at that temperature for 7 hours. We solved the problem by getting a heating wire and wrapping the container with it. Then wrapping the whole thing with a bath towel and sticking it all in a large pot.

Solutions for the heating problem:

– Buy a commercial yogurt maker. If you want to do bigger batches then just simply take the heating cable out and do what we did, wrap it around the container with a towel.

– Wrap your container in a warm blanket and then in a down coat and leave it in the warmest part of your house – remembering to keep an eye on the temp.

– You could also place your mix in a cooler and add warm water until the desire temperature is achieved and change the water as often as needed so the temperature does not decrease.

– Another options is to keep your oven at that temp – but that is not very Eco-friendly.

When 7 hours has passed, take the yogurt out of the heater, open up the container and mix everything inside thoroughly. Now replace the lid and put the container in the fridge. It will be ready to eat in about 12 hours.

The texture can be easily changed, for it to be a more liquidy, mix thoroughly with an electrical mixer or by hand. If you would like a thicker consistency,  simply place the final product in some porous fabric and let the liquid drain until you have obtained the thickness wanted. If you let it drain all night, you will have Greek Yogurt. If you go for more than 12 hours, you will have a kind of light cream cheese substitute, called “labneh”.


Hacer yogurt de zero es fácil. ¿Es la opción mas economica? Bueno, eso depende de si tiene acceso a leche barata. ¿Va a saber mejor que el de la tienda? Depende de si tienes algún yogurt natural rico cerca. Nosotros decidimos hacer nuestro propio yogurt por dos razones, la primera porque en Ecuador las opciones de buenos yogurts naturales son bastante limitadas y porque tenemos acceso a leche barata en la hacienda.

Bueno, después de haber cuestionado un poco, le cuento que hacer yogurt es bastante fácil, especialmente cuando ya tiene todos los materiales.

Ingredientes y Materiales:

  • Leche (la cantidad va a variar dependiendo en cuanto quieres hacer, el volumen bajara solo como un 5%)
  • Levadura de yogurt (esto puede conseguir de otro yogurt natural, en Ecuador el yogurt El Pino es la mejor opción)
  • Alguna forma de incubar el liquido a 43*C por 7 horas. Nosotros usamos un cable que se caliente hasta la temperatura deseada que sacamos de una maquina de hacer yogurt comercial. Una caja de madera con unos focos grandes puede servir o talvez un horno con luz interna.
  • Una olla del tamaño necesario para su cantidad de leche.
  • Un recipiente de vidrio para el yogurt
  • Talvez una toalla (nosotros usamos una mientras el yogurt se fermenta)
  • Un termómetro de líquidos (uno de carnes también funciona)
  • Una cuchara


Echar la leche a la olla y dejarla calentar hasta 85 *F. Cuando haya llegado a esta temperatura apagar la hornilla y dejar que la temperatura baje hasta 43 *F. Poner la leche en el recipiente deseado – mejor si es de vidrio – aumentar dos cucharadas de levadura de yogurt y cerrar el recipiente. Ahora viene la parte complicada, el liquido debe permanecer a esta temperatura por 7 horas. Nosotros compramos un cable que se calienta a la temperatura deseada y le envolvimos a nuestro recipiente en el, con una toalla y a todo le metimos a una olla.

Otras soluciones pueden ser:

Comprar una maquinita de hacer yogurt comercial – si quiere hacer porciones mas grandes puede sacar el cable y hacer lo que nosotros hacemos, envolver a la leche con el y una toalla.

Envolver el recipiente en una cobija caliente y una chompa o cobija de plumas y ponerlo en algún sitio caliente de la casa.

Poner el recipiente en un cooler con agua de la temperatura adecuada y estar chequeando cada dos horas que la temperatura siga igual, sino seguir aumentando agua caliente.

Dejar la leche en el horno prendido a la temperatura adecuada – claro que esto no es muy ecológico. Puede ser que la luz del horno le brinde a la mezcla suficiente calor una vez que la temperatura interna haya llegado a 43 *C.

Una vez que las siete horas hayan pasado, meta el yogurt a la refri y estará listo para consumir al otro dia. Si la consistencia no es la deseada se puede batir para hacerlo mas liquido o ponerlo en una tela porosa y dejar que el liquido salga. Si se deja toda la noche, el resultado es yogurt greco y si se deja mas de 12 horas tiene una especie de queso crema.



Home-made cappuccino – using only a French Press

This is a quick tutorial for those that love Cappuccinos, but don’t have a Cappuccino machine in the house or do have the machine, but don’t like the drink it produces or it’s broken. For this simple Cappuccino, all you need is a French Press, coffee and milk and a pan to heat the milk.

Based on that intro, you may be inclined to ignore the whole post and assume that you are better off just waiting for your next stop at a coffee shop. I felt the same way every time I saw this technique mentioned over the last years, but hear this – the Cappuccino I made this afternoon, on my first attempt, was the best I have had the pleasure of consuming since painstakingly making the “perfect cap” for myself as a coffee shop Barista in Beloit College 5 years ago.

A quick disclaimer, you will have better results if you can make the Espresso with by a stove-top Espresso maker, like the one shown in the photos below, rather than with the French Press (not really Espresso). These aluminum Espresso makers are infinitely cheaper than a full-blown, electric Cappuccino machine (10ish dollars) and should last for decades, rather than only a couple years.

What you’ll need:

  • Ground coffee.
    • 2 tablespoons for a single and 4 four a double.
    •  If making with a stove-top Espresso maker, use a very fine grind. If making a coffee concentrate (rather than real Espresso) with a French Press, use a very coarse (big-grained) grind.
  • Water for Espresso
    • 1/4 cup for a single or a bit more for a double.
  • Milk
    • Fill your coffee mug 1/3+ full of the cold milk to estimate. The frothing process should more than double the volume of the milk and you will need to fit the 1/4+ cup of Espresso as well.
  • A French Press of any size and make
  • (optional) A stove-top Espresso-maker


  • Brew up your Espresso. Either in the stove-top maker or as a strong and small coffee in a French Press. For reference 195* F is the theoretical optimal temp for this.
  • While the coffee is brewing, pour your milk into a thick-bottomed pan and heat up to around 155 degrees. If you don’t happen to have a liquids thermometer handy, a starting place is that 115* is right around when a liquid gets too hot to keep/dip your finger in. Don’t burn it!
  • If making the coffee/Espresso with your French Press, pour the coffee into your mug and quickly clean out the Press in preparation for the next step.
  • Pour the hot milk into the Press and plunge vigorously for 2-3 minutes. The milk should double or triple in volume.
  • Poor the frothed milk over the Espresso – making cool “cappuccino art” on the surface is you are feeling creative
  • Drink, enjoy and comment here with your results:)



Da magical tea!

After a week of sleepless nights, yesterday Jax and I decided to try all the natural the remedies I had been taking throughout the week together. So thyme tea, honey, lime and “Tilo” (I think it is called Stinkwood in English) flower, all together, as one giant pot of tea. After drinking a bunch of this mix, I barely coughed last night and I was able to sleep the whole night! The pups woke me up at around 7:00am  to go outside. For the first time in a week, I feel rested, so I wanted to share the recipe with you.

  • 3 sprigs of fresh or dried Thyme leaves
  • One “clump” of fresh Tilo flowers
  • Honey to taste
  • Lots of lime
  • Boiling water

Building a small bread/pizza oven

Today, as we were working on the Masonary stove, Jax decided that while we were waiting for Fernando, the maestro, to lay the bricks we could build a temporary bread oven and make some bread for the work crew, their wives that often hang out embroidering and my brothers. My first thought was, no way! But he ignored my comments and proceeded to start his project. I went inside to keep helping the maestros, but they had lit a fire in the old kitchen “stove”/hole and unlike them, I could not breath inside the house. Side note: The first day the maestros were working in “La Casita”, they lit a fire and the house immediately filled with smoke, I asked them if they minded the smoke and they said that they grew up with a wood-burning stoves and that their houses were full of smoke most nights. – Note to self: research health consequences of breathing so much smoke, especially the effects on young children and newborns. Later on the day, Jax noticed them putting a variety of PLASTICS in the fire! – Second note to self: try to organize a campaign to stop the plastic burning practice.

Anyway, after the house was full of smoke my only option was helping Jax on his project, which turned out to be a great project, especially when my brothers arrived to help.

Instructions: For those of you who want to try it at home.

The first thing to know is that it is a mud oven and that it needs a roof or it might “melt” in the rain.

The first step is to gather clay-rich dirt and mix it with water. The ratio is probably 8 buckets of dirt to 1 1/2 of water – maybe. The goal is to obtain a dough-like consistency that you can form into a ball, drop it to the ground and its shape doesn’t “smush” more than half – aka no pancakes. After you have your mud, get some friends together and walk all over it for 5-10 minutes, let it sit, then maybe walk on it again for good measure.

The next step is to lay some sort of flat surface/foundation – it can be wood, concrete, whatever – it just needs to be sturdy and flat. Then lay floor of bricks on top of that. Next, form a steep-sided dome 16 inches tall with four more buckets of dirt (just dirt). After you have your dome, lay wet newspaper on top of it, until it is all covered.

Now you get to use the mud. Lay four-finger-wide clumps of mud in a circle around the dome. Keep adding layer after layer of these clumps, working your way up the dome sides. Here it is important to press down, rather than into the dome – as the supporting “form” can be easily misshapen. An easy way to do this is to put one hand on top of your clump of mud and the other as a “wall” to keep the mud from smushing out more than 4-fingers wide.

The next step – we have not done yet:

After letting your dome dry, for about 2-24 hours, you cut a door out (like a jack-o-lantern lid and start taking the inside dirt out from the inside. After the dome is clear of dirt and you’ve reached the newspaper, you light a small drying fire and voila! It may take a few small drying fires before you are ready for a real firing and a batch of bread.

Tomorrow, we will finish the oven and add the rest of the photos. In the next weeks, we will be building a permanent bread oven outside “La Casita”. Stay tuned.


DIY wine bottle glasses

After a late Friday night conversation and YouTube video marathon with my father, Fernando, step mom, Carolina, and Jax about bottle cutting, Jax, Caro and I woke up Saturday ready to try it out ourselves. We marched to the glass recycling bins at Zuleta and picked up 20 bottles, washed them and set up our own glass cutting station. After a number of tries, many broken bottles, a bit of frustration and lots of laughing, we were almost making perfect cuts. Below, I have included a quick tutorial for anyone interested in trying it out.

DIY (upcycled) Wine Bottle Glasses:

Wine Bottles – should have parallel sides. ie, not be at all cone-shaped
Glass Cutter
Olive Oil – or similar (To lubcricate the glass cutter)
Two Vices
A piece of flat wood
A v-shaped surface or surface with a gap big enough to spin a bottle in – we used an small, wooden chair, with missing plank
Boiling Water – from a tea kettle
Cold Water – from the tap is fine
Sink or some sort of container to pour over
Wet/dry, fine-grain sandpaper
Optional: Dremel

1. Start by selecting the wine bottles you would like to cut. Remember it does not always work perfectly, especially when you start – so make sure you pick some you do not like as much for the begin.

2. Before attempting to cut your bottles, peeling the labels off is a must. Leaving some types of bottle in a tub with hot water helps, while with others, dry is easier. Some labels peal off really quickly, while others are a 10 min process. Try taking off some the labels from the bottles you have selected, if you are planning on making many glasses, then choosing a wine that has a label that is easy to peel will safe you tons of time.

3. While your bottles are soaking, you can set up your cutting station. Secure your glass cutter to the cutting surface with one of the vices. With the other vice, secure the piece of wood parallel to your cutter. The distance between the wood and cutter will be the height of your new glasses. Everything should be set up around the v-shaped surface, so that when the bottle is set in the v or gap, it contacts the cutter along the side and the piece of wood at the bottom.

4. After setting up the station and cleaning your bottles, you can start cutting. Place your bottle in its position and push lightly toward the cutter, turning it slowly. Make sure you do not go over the same part twice or go backwards. Just nice smooth motion. You should hear a fingernails-on-chalkboard sound.

5. Once you have a line around your bottle, go to the sink and pour boiling water on the cut while spinning the bottle. Then quickly move the cut part to cold water from the faucet – keep spinning the bottle. Then move back to the hot and back to the cold. Keep going back and forth, 20+ seconds per temperature. About 3/4 of the way through the process, the cut line will become white-colored and you will hear a bit of stress-cracking sounds. In general, our bottles went back and forth about 6 times – 3 cold, 3 hot – before breaking.

6. The next step it to sand the glass where it was cut and voila, ç’est fini!


For a more detailed information, watch the video below. WARNING, the guy talks a lot! We also took a couple video shots that we will post in the next day or two.


Making a whitebox or caja sin fin

My last few days have been spent taking photos of fruits, for a poster I have been working on for a site we are launching (all about that in about a week). Anyway, since I had to create the white box and learn how to use it, I thought I might as well share the knowledge.

How to make a white box or caja sin fin:

First you will need to gather you materials:

A large cardboard box
Sharpie or black marker
Exacto/utility knife
Tape – preferably packing tape
White tissue paper
Thick, large, white and matte piece of paper
Glass sheet and four small somethings to hold the glass up (I used shot glasses)
At least two (three better) lights/lamps with flexible or controllable heads
Three 60-100 watt, white-color light bulbs
A camera. Any will do, but manual settings and RAW quality will be helpful.
An object to photograph

Okay, once you have it all it is time to start. Begin by taping the back of the box with packing tape.

Then mark three sides of the box with your ruler and Sharpie. You are trying to get big holes in each side, but leave enough to have a structural border and attach the tissue paper. Aligning the ruler with the sides of the box and marking on the other side is the easiest way. Then follow your lines with your exacto knife, cutting three sides of the box.

After cutting the sides, cover them with tissue paper. It is important that you put the shiny part of the paper on the outside of the box. Remember that your tissue paper must not be too thick, so that light can come in, nor too thin because it needs to diffuse the light.

Now, you are almost done – building the box. Find your setting and surround your box with the lights. One on each side and an optional one coming from the top. Then lay your white matte piece of thick paper in the inside and tape it to the back, making sure there are not folds or shadows. Next, set up the four pieces of something that will hold up the piece of glass in a big square – one per corner. Lay the glass on top. Finally, set your tripod in front of the scene and set up your camera.

Now chose your object and start experimenting with the white balance, until the white of the background looks like the same white in the camera. Over exposing shots helps with this and with eliminating the background. After you have your shots, import them to Photoshop, where you can extract the white of the background and retain your object.

NOTE: If your object is white remember to use another color of background paper. The whole point of the background color is to create contrast so that you can separate the object from the background easier in Photoshop – and to reflect light and eliminate shadows.

Here are some of the results… after Photoshop off course.

My work in progress:


Create your own business cards – DIY

When Jax and I finally came to terms with the fact that we would need “business” cards when cruising, we decided we wanted to do something different than just order a bunch from a random company. We looked at having some made out of recycled paper, but the cost was too high for what they were. After eating cereal one morning, we realized that the cardboard of cereal boxes would make pretty classy business card material. So, that afternoon we started researching and found that a bunch of people were making stamps and stamping their own business cards in different materials. We thought the idea was pretty exciting and decided to go with it.

Below, we have included some simple steps and advice to make your own business cards.

The first step is to find a stamp maker, even before launching into the design. We shopped around Etsy, where there are a lot of potential providers. Jax and I only wanted the rubber part, because we wanted to mount it to a piece of wood and attach a vintage tile handle to it (which we have yet to find). After lots of looking around, we found “Modern Art Stamps“, a store based out of Costa Rica that only does the rubber part of stamps.

After looking at their requirements for custom designs, I started designing ours in Photoshop. The recommended dimensions were 900×600 pixels at 300 dpi (dots per square inch). To learn more about their specifications, follow the link unmounted rubber stamps.

Once we received the rubber, about a month after ordering, we started creating our own business cards.

First we disassembled the cardboard boxes and with a pencil and a ruler began drawing 9×5 cm (3.5 x 2 inch) rectangles and cut them.

To mount the rubber, grab the piece of lumber or whatever you want to mount your stamp to and cut it to the right dimensions – so that the whole rubber is inside. Then get some thick double sided tape and attach the rubber. We have heard that some people also use strong glues and stick the rubber to some foam and then to the surface. It is important that you have something soft between the hard surface and the rubber, that way you guarantee that the whole stamp will receive some ink when you ink it. After attaching the rubber, you are almost done, press the stamp in your ink pad and voila! Start stamping.

The first stamps might not be as good, so kept trying different pressures, until you get one that really works. We learned while doing Surkha’s cards, that if we pressed too hard on the left side, a waterfall-like effect would show next to the little sailboat. We also learned that Surkha’s font was too bold and we could not get it to ink completely, however we liked the effect in the end. Do kept it in mind when doing yours though.

After stamping all your business cards, grab a fine-tip pen and mend any words or details that you think your stamp has missed. Other than fixing the periods in both our email addresses, we did not have to correct anything else.

When we started our process, we had managed to collect, with very little effort, 5 cereal boxes and 5 smaller boxes of similar cardboard. After cutting these 10 sheets of cardboard into 9×10 cm (3.5 x 2 inch) rectangles, we obtained 180 blank business cards – it took us 2-3 hours to finish the process. We spent $34 on the stamp, $2.94 on the pens and $3.00 on the ink, a total of $39.94. When we had been looking at buying some recycled business cards, the common price we found among companies that seemed legitimately “sustainable”, was $90 – $150 for 200 cards. So, by doing our own we saved some money, this saving will only increase as we do more batches, where ink, pens and stamp do not have to be replaced. Our main goal was not to save money, but rather do what made most sense to us. We had extra cardboard and usable recycled material around, so paying a company to do something we could do ourselves and have fun did not make sense. As a traveling couple, having a stamp also means that we can create business cards on-the-go and not have to wait for the mail, which perfectly suits our lifestyle. Unsure of what was going to be the end result, we decided to go for it and I can say I am glad that we did.

Homebuilt rudder & centerboard for Alcort Sailfish Sailboat (part 2/3)

(Part 1 of this quick series described researching and preparing for this project. It is available here: Homebuilt rudder & centerboard for Alcort Sailfish Sailboat (part 1/3) )

Building the rudder, centerboard and tiller

The actual build process for these three parts was actually pretty straightforward. We traced our cardboard cutouts onto 3/4 inch plywood added about a 1/4 inch all around (for the bevel), beveled the edges with a electric planer, refined the edges with a handheld sander (medium grit paper), hand sanded with finer grit, drilled a hole in the rudder for the tiller attachment and gave each piece two coats of clear polyurethane over two days. Easypeazy. We used some scrap Oak for the tiller. The longer (closer to the rudder) piece is about 2.5 feet and the shorter extension is another 1.5. These got sanded all around also, had their ends rounded off with a vertical reciprocating sander and got a couple layers of polyurethane also.

The hardware was a bit trickier. Metal just isn’t quite as easy to work with when all is said and done. I’ll let the below photos do the explaining. I can say that the tools used were:

  • Small Hobart wire-feed arc welder
  • Angle grinder with cutoff and grinding wheels
  • Machinist vice
  • Assorted pliers, vice-grips, small hammers, screw drivers and other miscellanea

Metal-working photos


Homebuilt rudder & centerboard for Alcort Sailfish Sailboat (part 1/3)

Caye and I just put the finishing touches on a quick DIY rudder, tiller, centerboard and all related hardware for our Alcort Sailfish sailboat. For a quick overview of the boat and how it came into our possession, see Introducing Papaya, our Alcort Sailfish.

The research, design and build process was spread over three partial days in mid-June. I am including the key bits in detail in three short posts. Caye also posted a number of the nicer photos from the project: photo links If anyone is looking for more guidance, just leave a comment here and we can work through some solutions together.


Apparently the Alcort Sailfish never gained the wild popularity of her younger sister, the Sunfish and as such only saw a limited number of production hulls (300ish I believe), before being discontinued in the late 60s. This combined with the fact that 90% of Google results for Sailfish + (insert part name here) just turn up Sunfish parts (aka “sailfish rudder” turns up TONS of nice/cheap “sunfish rudders” for sale) – which anyone who has tried knows, are frustratingly close to fitting the Alcort Sailfish, but not quite. So, long story short, there isn’t a whole lot in the wide world of web to help out the curious backyard boat repair person.
Our main research goal for the project was simply determining the form and dimensions for the rudder and centerboard (I was more than willing to improvise on wood selection and creating the metal hardware with some scrap metal, a machinist vise and our little Hobart wire feed welder). The dimensional data that ended up helping us most was found on, a website full of beautiful boat parts, hand crafted by John Owens in Troup, Texas. The product photo of his beautiful Sailfish rudder was a sufficiently accurate profile to the extent that we were able to load it into Photoshop and create a nice outline. Next step was to print the newly made outline and trace it onto some transparent plastic (recycled packaging) with market, hook up the old overhead projector (salvaged from Beloit College dumpsters) and trace the design onto cardboard at scale. The target dimensions were also taken from Jon’s site: 8.75″ x 24.5″ x 3/4.
You may have noticed that the centerboard hasn’t gotten much love at this point. First off, we simply didn’t find any dimensions around the net. Secondly, we didn’t find any great profile shots, which in the end meant that we just didn’t have enough data to justify the Photoshop + transparency paper + projector + cardboard technique. Instead we went for the old classic, eyeballing. Our eyeballing was based on a similar photo to the one at left. Looks like the centerboard is about a third again as long as the rudder, right? Yep, we thought so too. So 34 inches was our magic length for the centerboard. 3/4″ plywood was used again, as it fit nicely in the hull’s centerboard “slot”. We measured the slot’s width as well and it came in at about… not actually sure about this one, Caye threw away the used envelope I was taking notes on (twice) :-/ I’ll go measure that again tomorrow. To get the shape, we drew out a rectangle with the the aforementioned dimensions and sketched in the shape while looking at a few Googled photos. Tadaa!

(Next up, tracing, cutting, painting and more… “Homebuilt rudder & centerboard for Alcort Sailfish Sailboat- (part 2/3)”