52 Projects is an adventure in discovery. Every week, for 52 weeks, do something. Something you’ve never done before. Something you’ve always wanted to do. Something that scares you. Something that inspires you. Something that inspires others. Something that tickles your fancy. Something that caught your eye. Something that just popped into your head. It can be big. It can be small. It can be whatever you want it to be. Find out how doing something can lead you to discover things about yourself, your world, your God. Then, come here on Sundays and share it with others. I'll write about mine here, you write about yours on your blog, then use the tool in my post to link to your something. Please feel free to jump in and participate anytime throughout the year!


Sunday, December 19, 2010

Making Paneer

A thousand apologies...I skipped a week of projects here. Tis the holiday season and my head has been wrapped around all the preparations. But I think this week's project makes up for my absence last week.

I have long been a fan of Indian cuisine. On Friday night, Breen and I went for some Indian food. Usually I order the Dal Makhal but recently I've become absolutely smitten with Paneer in curry sauce. Paneer is a type of Indian cheese which is usually served up in main dishes in the form of dense little cheese cubes. So I had the bright idea right then and there in the restaurant to make Paneer myself the next day.

It starts off with a half gallon of milk (I used whole milk) in a heavy bottom saucepan heated until it boils. After the milk boils a half cup of hot water and a quarter cup of lemon juice is added. This addition causes the milk to separate and solid curds are formed.

After the curds are formed, they get rinsed in a cheesecloth lined strainer.

When you squeeze as much water out as you possibly can, the dense ball of curds gets pressed down with something heavy for 2 hours.

After 2 hours you have a nice block of Paneer which is ready to be cut in to cubes and added to a favorite curry sauce.

That's it. It really is easy and delicious! Try it with a can of coconut milk simmered with curry and a nice handful of toasted almonds on top of some Basmati rice.


* 8 cups (half gallon) milk
* 1/4 cup lemon Juice


1. Mix lemon juice in half cup of hot water and put aside.
2. Boil the milk in a heavy bottomed pan over medium heat, stirring occasionally, making sure not to burn milk.
3. As the milk comes to a boil, add the lemon juice gradually and stir the milk gently. The curd will start separating from the whey, turn off the heat.
4. Once the milk fat has separated from the whey, drain the whey using a strainer line with cheesecloth, or muslin cloth.
5. Wrap the curds in a muslin cloth, rinse under cold water, and squeeze well. This process takes out the sourness from the lemon.
6. To take out the excess water, press the wrapped paneer under a heavy pan for about 1 hour.


If paneer will be used to make any dessert dish:

1. The most important part of making paneer for dessert is how much water to take out from the paneer.
2. To check if right amount of water is out of the paneer, take a little piece of paneer on your palm and rub with your fingers. After rubbing the paneer for about 15-20 seconds, you should be able to make a firm but smooth ball.
3. For making sweets, paneer can be refrigerated for 1 to 2 days.
4. Paneer from half-gallon milk will make about 15 to 20 rasgullas.
5. I suggest 2% milk for rasgullas, rasmalai, chamcham or any other dish in that category.
6. For sandaish, burfee or any other such dish use regular milk.

If paneer will be used for making main dishes:

1. Before Pressing the paneer knead it enough so paneer is not crumbly.
2. Press the paneer instead one hour, two hours making firmer.
3. Cut the paneer to desired shape. Paneer can be refrigerated for a few days or kept frozen for months.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Week 46: testing silicone bakeware and decorating ornaments

This week I decided to feature two projects. We're hitting the holiday season after all so why not throw in a little extra fun.

Project #1: Testing silicone bakeware

I've seen silicone bakeware for quite some time but never bothered to purchase any of it. I'm kind of an old school kitchen girl and just the word "silicone" drove me away. Maybe it's because I associate silicone with breast implants gone horribly wrong. But on Friday when I was shopping with my mother, we saw a brownie bite pan made out of silicone. I make brownies quite often for the kids and I liked the price of the pan at $4.99. My mother bought it for me as a little gift. So off I went to the grocery store for a box of brownie mix.

I mixed up brownies as usual this morning. I then followed the directions on the packaging for the brownie bite pan and washed it well before using. With silicone, you still put it on a baking sheet when baking. I filled up each little brownie compartment, set the oven at 350 and baked them for about 28 minutes. Success.

Once the pan was COMPLETELY cool, the little brownies popped out pretty easily.

To be honest, I'm still on the fence about silicone bakeware. Usually when my brownies are baking, the kitchen is filled with the scent of warm chocolate. With the silicone, the usual smell was mixed in with a faint smell of burning rubber. Maybe by the time I'm 90 and my hair is falling out, I'll find out that silicone was not meant to cook with. But for now, I'll take my chances and finish the batch of brownies.

Project #2: decorating ornaments

I'm pretty sentimental when it comes to Christmas tree ornaments. I continue to hang every ornament that my kids ever made. Very few are store bought and most were gifts or handmade at some point or another. When I was standing at the check out line at Joanne Fabrics on Friday, I spotted a shelf with clear glass ball ornaments on clearance for $1.99. Six large globes for $1.99; how could I refuse?

So this morning I took out my paint pens and some colored tissue paper and went to town. I pulled the little tops off of each one and filled them with some shredded tissue paper. The painting part was easy.

Remember those Adirondack Inks that I used on white tiles many projects ago? I decided to apply drops of ink to the glass. I like the effect.
Reminds me of stained glass.

Next weekend we will pick out a tree and I can hang these ornaments.

What did you do this week?

Monday, November 29, 2010

Week 45: repairing an old camera

Before I get to my project, I need to say that I'm walking a walk of shame for my recent lackadaisical approach to 52 Projects. I'd like to come up with some magnificent excuse but suffice to say, life happens sometimes when you're making plans. So I can only strive to do better. My goal for this coming week's project (week 46) is to have it completed and posted by Sunday morning. No excuses. Now on to this week's project...

How do I even begin to adequately explain this week's project? It is another joint effort between Breen and me. As you know from last week's project, we've taken a liking to old duaflex cameras. Actually, it's more like a crack addiction. We are now the proud owners of 4 duaflex and 1 brownie hawkeye cameras, of which 3 have arrived.

Here's the challenge of buying old cameras on line: You don't always know the condition of the lens. There are two schools of thought here. Some people like the look of the picture with some dust and debris and others like a totally clean image. I like a little dust on my images. But when I received cameras 2 and 3, there were brown stains on the lens and it was gross. It's typical to get an old camera with dust on the lens and inside of it because, after all, its been sitting in someones basement for 50 years. We now had a decision to make. Do we live with the gross brown stains on our images or do we take apart the cameras and clean the lens? Of course you already know that two project oriented people would choose to take them apart.

On Saturday night, Breen took camera number two apart. There are tutorials on line but it is a fairly straightforward process of taking out six tiny little screws.

Once we had all the pieces in front of us, we realized that the offensive stains were on the piece of mirror inside the camera. To further complicate the issue, the stains had creeped in to the back of the mirror and were incapable of being cleaned off.

Now we had three more options in front of us:

1. Play mad scientists and mix up a concoction to re-silver the little piece of mirror.

2. Go to a glass/mirror shop and have them cut us a few pieces.

3. Find a piece of mirror and cut it ourselves.

Option #1 was way too complicated for a few pieces of small mirror. Option #2 seemed really good but how would our inquisitive minds learn about cutting mirror if we paid someone else to do it for us? So off we went Sunday morning to buy a cheap hand mirror and a glass cutter.

Breen got to work removing the mirror from the plastic frame. By the time the mirror was free it was in several pieces. Breen managed to salvage a piece of it. The actual cutting was initially a pain in the ass. The Youtube video made it look so easy. Although it was challenging, Breen says that the next camera mirror he has to cut will be much easier.

After replacing the old discolored mirror, Breen cleaned the other lens and put the camera back together again.

Here is a shot before the cleaning of the lens:

Here is a shot after new mirror was cut and the lens were cleaned:

Here is a shot taken with camera #3 when I took it out of the box. This camera hasn't been taken apart yet but you can see just how much dirt and dust settles inside of these old cameras after decades:

I'm still a fan of a little dust and dirt on the mirror. I'm not quite sure that I love the total clarity of the repaired camera. Still, it was a great project for us to learn how things work by taking it apart. The glass cutter was inexpensive at $4.99. The camera is a lot of fun to play with and is relatively inexpensive as well. If you decide to give TTV photography a try, there are lots of duaflex cameras for sale on Ebay. I wouldn't spend more than $10 for one. You may also luck out and find one in person at a thrift store or yard sale. And that's even better because you can look through the viewfinder and get a sense of the quality of the lens before you buy it.

What did you do this week?

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Weeks 43 and 44

It's hard to believe that I skipped my post for last week. I'm not quite sure what happened. The week just slipped away and I was not here last Sunday or Monday. I was doing an apron show. Which brings me to last week's project (week 43); the apron show.

Week 43: The Apron Show.

Sure I've done a few shows in the past but never for aprons. I spent weeks putting together some fabulous one of a kind aprons. Short ones. Long ones. Half ones. Full ones. In two days, only one sold. It was a very disappointing experience to say the least. My show was held at a synagogue near my house. The crowd (mostly the members of the temple) flocked to the mass produced items. They loved the over sized (and over priced) handbags, the scarves made in China and machine knit texting gloves. Unfortunately they did not respond well to my handmade goodness. But I will move forward. I've got a wonderful product. I just didn't have the right crowd. I learned some great lessons there.

1. How to display aprons in a very crowded and tight space.
2. Research the venue more before committing to it.
3. Never give up; rejection is just fuel to try harder.
4. High maintenance women don't wear aprons :)

Week 44: Through the Viewfinder Photography (TTV)

Let me just say that this is the week I've been waiting for. This is the project that gave me a shot of adrenaline for the 52 Projects. Let me give you a little background.

A few weeks ago my dear friend Kristine told me about a TTV workshop she was taking in San Francisco with a fellow blogger/artist. At first I wasn't sure what she was talking about. TTV photography is the technique of using your digital camera to take a picture through the lens of a vintage camera like a Kodak Duaflex that has the viewfinder on the top of the camera. I had seen lots of those dreamy style Polaroid photos and always figured they were taken by old school photographers with a passion for film. I was so intrigued that I started to look for my very own Duaflex.

I found one on Ebay and won the auction. I paid for it immediately and waited like a love sick teenager at the front door for the post man to deliver her a love letter. I waited. And I waited. And I waited some more. Nearly two weeks had passed and my beloved little Duaflex never arrived. I was heartbroken but not deterred. When I got a refund from the seller, I bid on another camera that evening and won it. This time I made sure to ask the seller for a tracking number and it arrived three days later.

Now the thing about TTV photography is that you have to build a "contraption" to filter out all the light between the vintage viewfinder and the lens of your digital camera. This is when I became a deer in the headlight. I'm a highly visual/hands on learner and there was no way in Hell that I was going to build this contraption. So I casually asked Breen to research contraptions if he had a little time. Oh my God. The man was all over the project like white on rice. The inner engineer came out of him like I've never seen before. I haven't seen him so immersed and excited about a project since we made the Manhattan skyline and Statue of Liberty from driftwood we found near Ground Zero. My partner in crime was back and I was thrilled.

We went to the store and bought some foam core. Breen got to work. Observation: there is a whole lot of man love for duct tape.

The first one turned out like this:

Of course I say "the first one" because Breen hated the Ghetto look of it. So back we went to the art store for new materials and Breen finally constructed a new contraption with a professional sleek look and an adjustable top.

Here's the top view. Obviously the hole is where you put your digital camera lens.

So off we went to play. Here are some of my favorites that we took. And the best part? Breen was so loving the photography that he came home last night and bought himself a Duaflex. Now we can spend hours together getting lost in the world of TTV.

What did you do this week?