Thursday, May 31, 2012

Traveling to Work

{sunrise over Wisconsin}

It was a traveling day today ~ a flight back to the East Coast followed by an 8 hour drive! Grueling, but it was so great to make it home at the end of the day. Unfortunately I'll be up bright and early tomorrow for a meeting... where I may or may not be day dreaming about my weekend plans for the garden. During those two weeks away, two weeks full of rainy warm days, the garden took off. I have to get in there and pretend that I'm in control. 

Tuesday, May 29, 2012


We did our fair share of picnicking and relaxing over the holiday weekend.

It began with a day of eating and relaxing in China Camp State Park, which gets its rather funny name because the area was once a thriving Chinese shrimping village.

Unfortunately this is one of the parks slated to close due to California's budget crisis. C and I have visited China Camp a few times on our different visits to CA, and I was sad to hear about the decision close it. The park is right across the Bay from San Francisco and Oakland, making it an easy day-trip for a large population of people. Unfortunately {as you're probably aware}, there are many CA state parks on the chopping block, so who am I to say that this park is more important than another? Knowing how good a day or even a walk in nature is for a person's mind and spirit, it just leaves me with a pit in my stomach knowing that when the budget gets tight, we erode the resources that make our population strong. Fortunately a dedicated group of supporters, is working to raise the funds needed to keep China Camp open! Unfortunately this is only 1 of the 70 parks closing; if you would like to learn more about the campaign to keep CA's state parks open, click here.

Sunday we got a bit more active with our picnicking. We hiked up to the West Point Inn where we relaxed and ate the lunch we packed before hiking down to the German Club for beers and a serious game of Life.

Tonight I'm going to fly home and get serious about the rest of my {fun} summer plans. From tending the garden {I just ordered plants for our water gardens!} to working on the house and tackling some long-awaited sewing & painting projects. Summer's here!

Friday, May 25, 2012

Link On

We're out of the mountains and back at the coast.

Our little trip is almost over, and I'm excited to get home to the pup, the garden, and the house! I'm gearing up for a few small projects, just something to spruce up a nook here or there.

 How Rad{ish} is this card? I want to frame it and add it to the little photo/art collage I'm planning.

And then I'll hang up one of these lights. But which one?

 I just ordered some new covers for the butterfly chairs.

 Have you seen this photography project? I would love his photograph of a rhino's bottom for our wall. And I can't agree more with this statement of his : "It is folly to think that we can destroy one species and ecosystem after another and not affect humanity. When we save species, we’re actually saving ourselves."

Happy weekend*

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Quick Escape

We ran off to the mountains for a couple of days. There was still snow on the ground! The water was frigid, the skies blue, and the internet slow ~ just how it should be to encourage a bit of relaxation. And now we're complaining that our trip was too short, but it's back to the city for a bit of business and more fun before catching a plane east.

Monday, May 14, 2012

WIP {rocking chair}

Last fall, a farm up the street was having a yard sale and I scored this rocking chair for $1! Of course, it didn't come with a seat and was in serious need of a paint job, but still, it was just a dollar! So I finagled it into my trunk, brought it home and painted it that night, and then it sat on the porch all winter as I tried to come up with a seat solution. At first I thought I would treat the frame like a loom and weave something colorful around it. Then I thought I would keep it simple, put any old seat on it and make a fun wool cover using some of the army blankets that ware used as picnic blankets at our wedding. And then as spring's porch-sitting weather approached, I realized it was now or never, and I decided to go with belts.

I wanted to be selective, and use only old, worn leather belts, but no matter how many times I visited our local Good Will, I couldn't find enough. I thought this would be a quick and easy project, but I was so surprised at how hard it is to find the belts! So I decided to go with a collection of leather, cotton, and jute. Of course, there's a stray fake-leather belt in the mix right now, and that's why I'm considering this a work in progress ~ I'm going to keep searching, and as I find used leather belts, I'm going to add them to the chair and remove others. {and I'm not above begging ~ have any old leather belts you want to send my way?!}

But for now, it's good {and comfy!} enough to support a whole evening of porch sitting and knitting...

Wednesday, May 09, 2012

After the rain ~

I'm loosing the war against the dandelions, and have come to realize that I'm more successful at photographing their attack than keeping them out of the yard. C'est la vie.

Moving Slowly

The semester ended last week, so we're taking it slowly over here ~ enjoying our first week of summer vacation {really just a more relaxed summer work schedule} before we head out on a few adventures. This spring rain has the garden exploding, so we sent Sarah out to smell the flowers for us. Yes, the blooms are bigger than her noggin:: We'll be back, maybe tomorrow, or maybe the next day with some more lazy updates.

Friday, May 04, 2012


A few years ago, C and I really got into thinking about and coming up with new year's resolutions. I may have even mentioned a few here and there on the blog. Nothing big, just fun hobbies or skills would would like to learn or improve upon {becoming a better violin & ukulele player, perfecting new dishes in the kitchen, etc}. It's silly but nice to set these fun goals and see our life become a little bit richer. Well, funny thing is two weeks ago Calder pulled up the "2012 resolutions" document on his phone and we noticed that we've made very little progress this year. Of course, traveling to Thailand for a cooking class is a serious commitment towards improving my Thai cooking abilities, but I have yet to put together a curry since I've been back. So, after laughing at our lack of commitment to this year's resolutions, we added a new section to the document where we would list our unexpected new skills; the things we happened to learn or spend some time exploring that we didn't even think about on January 1st. So far we've added one item to the list :: coffee roasting. Flossie gave us a primer on Easter Sunday and since then we've been going at it like gang busters.

It's surprisingly simple to roast your own coffee, but the fun begins when you start to think about the wide variety of bean and roast combinations. Flossie gave us a "starter set" of beans to get us going, some from Indonesia, India, and Costa Rica, and both caffeinated and decaf. Her favorite {and ours as it turns out} was the Costa Rican Tarrazu. Once you have your beans, you can start to think about how roasted you want them to be. The beans will have their own distinct flavors depending upon where and how they were grown. By roasting the beans, you begin to override those flavors with the flavor of the bean's sugars that begin to caramelize and the "roast" flavor. Depending upon your bean and the level of roasting, in some cases you can produce chocolaty or nutty flavors, other times it can just taste burned. With very light roasts, a lot of the bean's natural flavor remains, but by the time you get to a French or Double Roast, you loose all of the bean's natural flavor.

The photos below provide a snapshot of our first big roast. Begin by gathering your supplies :: the green beans, a popcorn maker, a large bowl, and a trusty assistant {Ca$h is standing in for Calder at the moment}.

A few supply notes :: You can order your beans online, which is what we planned on doing, but then we stopped by our local roaster and found that he would sell us beans at wholesale price {about $6/lb!}. Having this local source is great while we're still experimenting ~ we can stop by and pick up a few pounds of a few different varieties, and then do some taste tests.

As for the equipment, you read that correctly ~ we're using your basic popcorn popper. BUT as our wise teacher explained, you have to get a popper that has a solid metal cup for the popping, as opposed to one with a screen in the bottom. The beans produce a lot of dried chaff as they're roasting, which could get caught in the screens and catch fire. With the solid bottom, the chaff just flies up and out of the popper. Between the chaff flying around, the smoke, and the carbon dioxide that's released while roasting, this is an activity that should only be done outdoors.

To begin roasting, you just have to add your green beans to the popper and turn it on.

As the beans begin to roast, you'll notice a few things. First, and most obvious, they will begin to darken. Second, they will expand in size, for this reason you don't want to fill your popper to the top {this would also cause problems with even roasting}. Third, you'll eventually begin to hear a popping sound. This is called the "crack", beans have two cracking stages, and these are temperature dependent. With our beans and popper, we found that the first crack occurred somewhere around the 3-4 minute mark, and the second crack occurred around 8 minutes.The timing of the crack is temperature dependent, so your roasting times will vary depending upon the outside temperature, how windy it is, and whether or not you keep the lid on your popper.

C and I tend to favor a darker roast, so we began to experiment with longer roast times. This first batch we roasted beyond the second crack {about 10 minutes}. It would be considered a double or French roast. It was our darkest roast yet, and after a taste test, we realized that this was too dark for our liking. We prefer the full {also called Viennese} roast that occurs towards the end of the second crack.

Green coffee beans can be stored for years and still maintain a high level of quality, roasted beans, on the other hand are at their highest quality for just a few days to weeks after they've been roasted. So we'll be out on the deck again this weekend roasting the beans for next week! And thanks again for the lesson, Flossie ~ you created a couple of roasting monsters.