[video] Better yogurt through Post-It notes

[watch “Better Yogurt Through Post-It Notes” on YouTube; 3:03 minutes]

Like last week’s video, this crazy little how-to is more about systems thinking, viewing things though the lens of friction reduction, than it is a nutty one-off hack about closing browser tabs or sticking Post-Its on things. Actually, when you really think about it, most of my videos are about that, excepting the spicy ones.1

In this case, my points are two-fold.

First, when you get stuck, stop and think (after briefly raging at the heavens or whatever): what stuck me, and what might prevent that from happening again aside from my own deep feelings of frustration and personal inadequacy.

Second, for tasks or processes you tend to repeat, in my case, making tub after tub of yogurt, look for ways to streamline up to, but stopping short of, the point of ridiculousness. In this case, it cost me zippo to write out two sticky notes at once.

I guess there’s a third point, as well: a system that’s working is fine. You don’t have to change it! And as I hinted at in Point the Second, you don’t want to go too nutty with the tweaking. Keep the goal in sight, and remember: forest, not trees.

As to all the yogurt-talk, here is a fine explanation of our delicious yogurt, including how-tos for making it in a yogurt-maker or (gas) oven. They spell it with an “h”, but it works just fine down here in Canada South.

And here’s that SCD page on my site, because I keep taking links off the front page in my decluttering rampages.

Now, back to bed!


1I owe what little I’ve been able to absorb and implement on systems thinking to my friend and client Sam Carpenter, who literally wrote the book on it. It’s an easy and useful read, and the stuff is applicable to any line of work or area of interest in the physical world: kind of like uber-hacking. I wrote a review which you can read here. I also highly recommend Sam’s newsletter (sign up via his website) and not just because I taught him everything he knows about making that particular system work better. (Insert winky emoticon here.)


  1. OMG Colleen, I can’t believe you make your own yogurt! I’ve tried several times and failed miserably. First the problem was my over. So I renovated my kitchen and got a new oven and still it doesn’t work. I can’t get the temperature right!

    What’s that contraption you’re using? Is that the “yoghurt-maker” referred to on the Canadian site? Where do you get that? Which one do you recommend?

    And the most important question: will it be as good as Trader Joe’s European Style (creamy)?

  2. Haha. You mean we’ve known each other all this time and I’ve somehow managed to keep it a secret?

    It’s a Yogourmet half-gallon yogurt maker. That link takes you to Lucy’s Kitchen Shop, where I bought it and where I get all my yogurt starter and other SCD food supplies.

    I haven’t tasted the European-style creamy, but yes, it makes amazing yogurt. Even with 2% milk, although I vastly prefer whole. (And if you want seriously out-of-this-world yogurt, try making it with half-and-half—insane!)

    I’m guessing the deliciousness of Greek and “European-style” yogurt (at least, in this country, where we’re using the same milk) has to do with fermentation time and possibly with dripping. The watery liquid that’s left over from the yogurt is where the sour taste is strongest; it’s also where most of the simple sugars that break down during the process end up.

    Elaine suggested that if we had problems digesting our yogurt (ironic, b/c the bacteria are the whole reasons we eat it), we drip it first. If you drip it a little, it gets a consistency like very thick pudding; if you keep dripping it, you end up with something like very tangy cream cheese, which you can either use in lieu of, as a spread, or use in baked goods, to keep them moist. I do my dripping with a jury-rigged Melitta filter in a funnel atop a parfait glass, but you can use anything fine enough to trap cow-mild solids.

    Oh—and if you think that the cow’s milk yogurt is good, wait ’til you make your own goat’s-milk yogurt “cheese.” INSANE.

  3. I signed up for Sam’s newsletters. Because if you recommend him it’s probably not hogwash. I think of you as my trusted broker for personal improvement blogs:).

  4. Oh, good! I should probably have warned that Sam is VERY opinionated and does not suffer fools gladly, which can occasionally make his output a bit…abrupt? Brisk? It’s not for everyone, let me say, and delicate souls particularly may not do well with Sam’s style.

    But hogwash, it is not!

  5. A little yogurt update for you, Colleen.

    I was about to buy the yogurt machine when a neighbor of mine said, “You don’t need a machine. My mother used to make it on the counter.” And I remembered how, when I was on Junior Year Abroad in Paris, the mother in the family I lived with made it on the radiator and it was sooooo good and looked so easy.

    Then another neighbor, the next day, said her friend’s mother (who is from India) makes it without a machine too and I just couldn’t bring myself to buy the machine. I had to try one more time.

    So last night, I focused and decided to try with a very small batch. 1 cup of milk and 1 tablespoon of starter yogurt. I got my thermometer out and followed the verbal instructions I had been given (which involved putting the almost-yogurt in the microwave overnight), crossed my fingers and went to bed.

    (Almost) nothing will make you/me jump out of bed at 5:30 more quickly than a desire to see if the yogurt took. And it did!

    So this weekend, I’ll be making a larger batch. Let’s see if I can replicate my findings. Cross your fingers.

  6. You can absolutely make it without the machine! I did my first batch in my oven, with just the pilot light. But because the requirements are so stringent with SCD (24 hours, ONLY particular kinds of starters, etc.) and because I was so physically compromised when I started making yogurt, I opted for the security of regular temperature.

    I can totally see how I would have gone all mad scientist/hacker on it had I been well and the yogurt more for fun than anything else.

    Then again, I am VERY impatient.

    I’m glad it worked for you. Thanks for reporting back!

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