DIY

Identity Crisis -of Sorts

It’s in those times, when you’re ready to do a full-on overhaul; because nothing you’ve done seems right, when you have to ask yourself the hard questions: “Who am I? …Do I even have a style?” It’s as if all the sudden, or actually maybe it’s been progressively happening for a while… anyway it is in this moment… that I admit I can’t stand the color of my kitchen!

Oh sure, like half of America, I’ve been watching Fixer Upper. And I’ve convinced myself that unless Chip and JoJo Gaines come and do a complete renovation; tear down walls, access all natural light and put up as much shiplap as we can find, my home will never be complete. Of course, without any real experience taking care of animals, I consider myself to be a farm girl. So naturally I have a tendency to think my home should resemble a farmhouse… But in reality I’m far more traditional (and my backyard is more pool than lawn). I do appreciate country decor; primitive, traditional and inspired by folk art. I really love English Cottage. I can be carried away by the contrasting elegant and rural touches of French Country… the idea of a beautiful chandelier with tear drop glass prisms over a rustic farm table. Swoon. I’ve been known to walk out of Pier I with curtains replicating fabrics straight out of Bombay. I love my traditional Irish plaid wool blanket we brought home from the Emerald Isle (it’s my favorite throw for the back of our rocker)! Maybe my “look” is considered eclectic? But I don’t want to be eclectic! What does that really mean anyway? Hodgepodge-esque? (Which is even more upsetting when you add in that on any given day I’m really inclined to feel like I live in a toy store!)

Thankfully, before I got too crazy, my mother talked me out of painting all of the refurbished brick in my living room around the fireplace. It seemed far less permanent to paint the walls a trendy light blue/gray. So in true DIY form I put down drop cloths and rolled out a color coating adjacent to the brick, and fortunately I only covered 1 and half walls before I came to my senses and realized I hated it. It’s sooo bad. Ugh! But I really like the black cast-iron-ish paint we put over the out-dated brass fireplace frame. And I love the darker stain I put on the mantle. Baby steps. Slowly I’m figuring it out, I’m thinking I am Country Cottage (it makes sense in my head)… and soon I will tackle that kitchen. 

Loving Lately ❤️

For those of you new to my blog, welcome! I love sharing family stories, recipes and random thoughts at large. Every Thursday I try to share something I appreciate, easy “how-tos”, food and products, etc. that I think others might enjoy too.

This week’s Loving Lately: My chalkboard

I was talking to my husband about how I wished I had one of those whimsical “Merry & Bright” signs that I’ve been seeing everywhere, when it dawned on me; I could make my own. Boy, have I gotten a lot of use out of this chalkboard! I use it to list the menu for dinner gatherings, personalize a “Happy Birthday _____” sign for a member of our family, and post inspirational sayings on any given day of the week. It was just what I wanted (in a representation kind of way), but even better because it was homemade.

…And how nice is it not to have one more thing to store? Priceless;)

Loving Lately ❤️

Loving Lately #1: Seasonal Parties – Harvest Celebration

Admittedly, I am not crafty. But I know people who are! My mother for example has an artistic flare that passed me right by. She gets inspired by her six grandchildren and makes every season come alive in fun and innovative ways. And although I may not come up with these ideas, I certainly appreciate them! How adorable are these little pumpkins? And better yet, they are delicious, because they are Rice Krispies Treats! I know what you are thinking. Do they have organic food coloring? Well I like India Tree’s natural food dyes. (But I’m not saying that’s what my mom did.)

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Our gathering took place at the family cabin, and at night for a little ambiance we lit a pumpkin style lantern. Originally made to light the way outside, the lanterns were made from repurposed hanging flower pots. The hollowed and carved pumpkins are set on a bed of colorful leaves and filled with a candle. Creatively my mother used paper bags and coffee filters for the bow! (People need to get creative in the woods.)

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For entertainment we the kids played rounds of tic-tac-toe. Who needs pencils and paper when you have pumpkins and sticks?

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Not really true to character she also made some pumpkin cake pops, covered in white chocolate and sprinkles. -That is to say carrying out a theme is all her style, but molded bakeware is more of my thing… So I’m pretty sure I’m rubbing off on her.

The party included good eats, and fun drinks too… which I’ll be sharing with you in the future. But for now I’ll leave you with this:

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Because even though they’re not organic, they are a Michigan company. And you know I have to make a plug for my Michigan companies. 😉

Sidenote: I’d like to give credit to the sites my mom uses for ideas which are partially hers and some variations of things she saw on the world wide web, so I will in-part simply credit the internet.

Roast Your Own

In the recent years of American coffee enlightenment, the flavor advantages of freshly roasted, freshly ground, and freshly brewed ‘Joe’ have become common household knowledge. Not only have we come to learn the difference between Arabica (the superior bean, even advertised to be sold at McDonald’s) and Robusta (the inferior) coffee beans, we are learning to appreciate the fruit behind the bean; the climate, soil and shade etc. its grown in, likened to grapes used for wine. Let’s be honest, whether you like them or not, Starbuck’s can be credited for opening the gates for many of the micro roasters we love today. And opening the eyes of many coffee drinkers, who didn’t grow up in cities like Seattle, that now know the difference between a crappy and a good cup of coffee. Because of local roasters and the variety available in most town grocery stores, we now refer to the names of coffee by the regions of origin, i.e. Kenya, Brazil, Hawaii (Kona), Jamaica (Blue Mountain), Guatemala, Columbia, etc. rather than Folger’s or Maxwell House. More importantly, the coffee craze has brought awareness to fair trade practices world-wide where farmers, harvesters and the like can receive more fair earnings for a hard day’s work (we still have a way to go).

What you may (or may not) know is that about half a century ago major coffee manufacturers added things from saw dust to brick dust to bulk up the quantity of product in their cans. True story, but that’s not what I was going to say. I was going to inform you that coffee in it’s green bean (un-roasted) form lasts a lot longer than when it’s brown and roasted, years even. Most retailer’s have gone the extra mile to equip their pre-packaged coffee bags with systems that let out the gases of roasted coffee beans without letting in oxygen, that will start to deteriorate the quality of the bean. Once you open it of course it’s only a matter of days, about 7-14, until your coffee will turn into dirt. Well not really, I’m exaggerating, but it might taste like it. You can freeze it, but I’ve actually heard experts say that if you plan on using it regularly that’s not the way to go either.

So what is a coffee lover to do? Roast your own.

Keep your green coffee beans in a clean dry container at room temp, (or a chic burlap sac) and roast in batches. People around the world do this many different ways. Some cook their beans on a stove top in a pan, others have made their own drums and rotating devices similar to a spit on a grill. You can bake them in the oven. One day I will own a professional grade roaster. In the meantime I use an air-popper, the kind used for popping corn. The air gets heated quickly and stays at a certain temperature (unlike doing it over an open flame). It is built to keep the kernels (or beans) in a constant state of motion for even heat distribution, much like a rotating drum. Depending on your roast, if you did find a bean that was really dark or extra light, you can remove it from your batch. I mean I’m not selling it commercially, it’s for my own personal use. And it’s as freshly ‘“roasted” as you can get! (Although I usually wait about 24 hours before I actually grind and brew it.)

Obviously there is an art to coffee roasting. Experts can go on for hours about the sound, smell and look of perfectly roasting the bean, depending on the type of bean, etc.; but I’m referring to home roasting. I don’t have a thermocouple or heat probe measuring the internal temperature of a coffee bean. I don’t roast low then turn up the heat, blah, blah, blah. But I do enjoy my coffee and especially doing things myself. The system is based on listening for 2 different “cracking” sounds. The “crackings” have to do with letting out moisture and gases. Also beans expand in size when roasted so keep in mind what looks like a normal brewing amount of green beans will be more when roasted.

It’s relatively easy. It’s about listening for the two cracks, and you will know if you are listening. Times aren’t exact, so I can’t tell you precisely when it will happen, but let’s say on average you will hear the first crack somewhere between 4-7 minutes, the second crack about a minute later. If you like a light roast remove the beans from heat shortly after the second crack (some people even do it before the second crack, but not the majority). If you like a medium roast, wait maybe another 30 seconds to a minute, and for a dark or espresso type roast maybe another minute yet (don’t burn ’em). The longer you let them “roast” the darker and shinier the beans will appear. It all happens rather fast after the second crack. And for a beginner I recommend getting the beans out sooner than later. It is also recommended that you do this in a well vented area, I place my popper on the stove top and keep the vent on. Some people I know like to do the whole process outside.

What is important to know is two things, one the beans have chaff, a paper-ish flake it gives off. (Which to be responsible, I should warn you is flammable, but I’ve never had a problem) Using my air popper I let the air blow into a kitchen strainer. Then I quickly dump it into the garbage and pour my beans into the same strainer and shake them fervently, while blowing on them. Because the second thing you need to know is that the beans will continue to cook, so you want them to cool quickly. Some people also use a fan, but I don’t want to clean chaff that’s blown all over the kitchen. I could see this if you are outside I guess.

It may sound like a lot, but it’s really not. Making biscuits could sound hard until you do it. Just remember this is for fun! Experiment with different beans and blends! Most people start keeping a chart of blends and roasting times, then you can remember what you enjoy the most. My favorite part is serving my husband and guests my own brew!

…Now if I only lived at a certain elevation on a location within a particular distance from the equator, I could actually grow my own!