Thursday, February 28, 2013

Coffee Roasting at Home (and other embarrassments)

When I made my way to the kitchen this morning, I discovered what I already knew from yesterday.  I am out of my favorite French Roast coffee.  Very nearly out of my favorite "Cinnabon" creamer (so very bad for me, but so very delicious), too.  What to do, what to do?  I'm having such a difficult time with my first-of-the-month-and-no-more paychecks...I am constantly reminded of something my grandmother used to say: "There's too much month at the end of the money".  Yep.  Very true, Grandma.  No French Roast coffee beans until tomorrow.

I remembered the bag of generic almost-beige coffee beans I bought awhile ago...I like to pour the beans into a tall glass container, then insert a taller vanilla-scented candle; it smells heavenly while the candle is burning.  But I would never DREAM of actually grinding and brewing those almost-beige coffee beans; by the time I put in the creamer, I might as well just have a cup of hot sweetened milk.  However, who's to say that only a certified barista can roast beans?  I can probably roast beans.  It's worth a try, right? 

So I found those almost-beige coffee beans, and poured some of them into a heavy baking pan:
Yes, I know the picture is blurry.  This was pre-caffeine, remember?  (Or should I have had the camera on the macro setting?)  I set the oven for 350 degrees, and inserted the pan.  An hour later, I stirred the beans.  I saw progress, I really did.  Another hour later, I stirred the beans again.  More progress...but not enough.  Screw this, I said to myself...and I set the oven for 450 degrees.  Within 15 minutes, while stirring my significantly darker beans, one of the several fire alarms in my apartment began to scream, and a robotic voice announced that there was a "fire".  This process repeated itself every few seconds.  And apparently there is a notification system, since while I was fanning the air under the alarm, the office called to see if my apartment really was on fire.  That's nice, right?  Really, very comforting.
After stirring the coffee beans every 15 minutes, and having to deal with the same process with the fire alarm, I decided they were plenty dark, and removed them from the oven, which really did upset the fire alarm.  I had no idea that coffee beans would give off some sort of essence (there was no smoke) that is toxic to smoke/fire alarms.
However, here's the result of my experiment:
I could hardly wait for them to cool so I could grind them up and have my coffee!  And although I had to monkey around with milk and cinnamon and sugar to eke out the pitiful amount of Cinnabon creamer, I am very satisfied with my cup of coffee.  Even though it is after 3:00 p.m.  Better late than never.


Monday, February 18, 2013

Bead Soup Partner!

My Bead Soup Blog Party partner for this year is Brenda Sigafoos...and let me tell you, Brenda is an amazing lady.  Brenda is a true multi-tasker: she's a mom of three, whose kids are all high achievers; she creates beautiful jewelry and in fact designs for the Cousin Corporation; and she teaches wire wrapping to people like me...people who love to make beautiful things, and who never want to stop learning new skills.

I know that Brenda and I are going to be friends; we've already shared a bit about our lives (past and present), and have discovered that we have more in common than a love of creating jewelry.

I was blown away by some of Brenda's lovely creations, like this:

And these:

Is she amazing, or what?  Let me give you the answer: she is amazing!  I hope the soup I send to Brenda in Minnesota is something that she will like, and can use to make something as pretty as the pieces I've seen so far. 

Many, many thanks to our hostess, Lori Anderson, who has a knack for teaming her "cooks"! 

Friday, February 1, 2013

Renewed Interests

I always find the last weeks of January to be a bit of a downer...the excitement of the holidays has passed, along with the thrill of making resolutions for a better life.  Instead, it's just the reality of daily life, and the realization that (once again) the list of resolutions has been conveniently put aside! 

I've turned to thoughts of pleasurable activities of the past, and I'm wondering why I ever stopped doing those things that gave me so much pleasure.  I have new things that fill my creative tank with joy, but there are many hours in each day, and I've been finding that full retirement is not as exciting and fulfilling as I'd hoped.  I do make jewelry, but not for myself.  I don't go to the office every day, so there's no need.  And I have been very busy crocheting (at night, while watching previous episodes of "Boardwalk Empire"...where have I BEEN?'s riveting!) and making artist trading cards. 

After Christmas, while putting away the ornaments and holiday decorations, my sweet son-in-law took pictures of the Christmas stockings I cross-stitched for my daughter (in 1992) and my granddaughter (in 2005), and he e-mailed the pictures to me.  I've been looking at those pictures and wondering why I ever put aside my many hours of stitching joy! 

Now I can't wait to get started again...I certainly have plenty of wips (works in progress) from months and years ago.  Isn't it funny how the brain works?  This productive pursuit feels new to me again!  Here, take a look at the stockings...they come out every year to hang on the mantle, and are very much loved by the ladies they were made for.
These are old patterns, from the now-defunct "Cross Stitch and Country Crafts" magazine.  Every year they offered a pattern for a different Christmas stocking.  The patterns are very involved, extremely detailed, and loaded with fractional stitches.  But the result is so, so lovely.  I didn't realize that I'd used even-weave fabric with more stitches to the inch for Lisa's's quite a bit smaller than Emma's stocking.  (I don't think Emma minds...)  Back in the day, I also made needlepoint Christmas stockings for my two boys, and they are still in use today. 
I think I might spend this evening with a needle in my hand!