Saturday, October 31, 2015

Crazy for Cappuccino

Weekends are for cappuccino - without a doubt. It's my little treat to myself on Saturday and Sunday mornings. And vacation days. Basically any morning I don't have to jump out of bed and run to the office. 

My sister came for a visit recently and I made her a cappuccino and she looked around my kitchen in confusion, wondering how I made it.....without an expensive cappuccino machine. 

So...I thought I'd share my little secret with you, my blogland friends!


I start with my Moka pot. Don't look too closely at it - I don't follow the instructions NOT to put it in the dishwasher and the metal has discolored. Oh well! If the discoloration bothers you, make sure you don't put your Moka pot in the dishwasher. If you are like me and don't like to hand wash dishes unless you absolutely have to.....go ahead and pop it in the dishwasher. It doesn't change the flavor or performance one bit.


Note: The 6 cup Moka pot is a big fat lie - this makes 2 cappuccinos total! If I'm alone, one of them goes into a mason jar for an iced cappuccino treat midweek. 

I also use a can of Illy Moka,  my milk warmer, and my fast froth. All total I spent about $55 for my equipment, as opposed to anywhere from $250+ for a cappuccino machine. The coffee is about $15 per can on Amazon, but a little cheaper if you buy 2 cans at a time. And since I only make this on the weekends, one can lasts me about a month. 

Ok, here we go. 


Unscrew the top of the Moka pot from the bottom and remove the coffee filter. 



Fill with cold water up to the level of the valve, shown on the front of the bottom of the Moka pot. 


Set the filter back into the base of the Moka Pot and loosely fill with coffee, Don't pack it in, but fill it to the rim, clean off any  mess around the rim and screw the top portion back on. 


Put your Moka pot on the burner with the flames reaching to the edge of the bottom of the pot, not coming up around the sides. 

At this point I usually feed the birds.....because it takes a few minutes to start brewing. 


The coffee will start bubbling up through the middle of the Moka Pot, and pooling in the upper portion of the pot. 

Now it's time to start warming the milk. I use organic fat free milk and it works perfectly for this. 


Fill the milk warmer about 1/3 full of cold milk and put on a low-med flame. Keep it stirred - nobody likes scorched milk! You want the milk hot but not boiling. 


Take your handy-dandy Fast Froth and place the whisk part into the hot milk. Turn it on and move it up and down in the hot milk to aerate the milk and produce a beautiful froth. I keep the pot tipped slightly to the side while doing this, which seems to help aerate the milk. 

Keep an eye on the Moka Pot - when the coffee stops bubbling up through the middle turn it off. 


I drink my coffee black during the week but my cappuccino? I like one teaspoon of organic raw cane sugar. I put the sugar in the bottom of the cup first, and then pour in hot milk from the milk warmer. Stir to dissolve the sugar. 


Now add half the coffee from the Moka pot. Stir again. 


Top off with foam from the milk warmer, spooned off the top of the hot milk. 


Add a sprinkle of cinnamon and tell everyone to leave you alone for a little while. 

Sit in  your favorite chair next to the fire, grab a magazine or your iPad or whatever makes you happy, and start your day off right. 

What's your weekend treat to yourself? 




Friday, October 30, 2015

Firewood Storage - Solved!

Remember way back when I wrote a post about my firewood storage quandary?  Well, I think I may have solved it!!

My sweetie thinks I'm nuts. That's no secret. 

He doesn't always understand the way my brain works. 

I like to think outside the box. Just because everyone says it is so....doesn't make it so. 

Sweetie wanted me to get one of those metal ring things that holds firewood. Like this. 

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But to me, this item serves absolutely no other purpose. It doesn't satisfy my need for items to do double duty. 

I have always lived in small homes. When you live in a small home every large item you own must be functional and if it does double duty? All the better. 

And I re-purpose things constantly. Just because the title says it's a dry sink, why can't it be a bar?

Right. So, I wanted to use a console for firewood storage. Yes, a console. Why not?

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I like the way the top of the piece is used for display. And it's a functional piece of furniture, not just a metal ring. And let's face it, this is a far more attractive way to store wood than the metal ring. 

Sorry, sweetie. 

I've been getting daily emails from Brad's Daily Deals - have you heard of them? 

What? No? Ok you have to sign up right now. No, wait until you finish reading this post. And leaving a comment. Then you can go sign up!

Anyway, Brad's Daily Deals had this bookcase tower at Kohl's as one of their daily deals. 

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$60.00. Can you believe it? I actually ordered two. I mean, come on, you can always use another bookcase somewhere. I figured if it was really awful I would use it in the shed for flower pots and such. 

Except it wasn't awful at all - I actually really liked it! And it's super sturdy! I used one in my lower level for all my yoga and workout stuff....which, by the way, isn't getting enough use. But that's another story for another day. 

The second bookcase tower I tried out in different spots upstairs until I finally had the brainstorm that it might just do the trick for firewood storage. 

I loaded it up and prayed the shelves would be strong enough to hold the wood. I figured worst case scenario I'm out $60. 

And I waited. And I used up the wood. And I loaded it up again. And it still didn't collapse in a heap. It's been emptied and loaded quite a few times at this point. 

So I think we're good! I have firewood storage that is not only attractive but also holds a lamp and some of my plants. And can easily be re-purposed elsewhere if I decide to go a different route with the firewood storage. 


I took these photos the other night during a monster rain storm. It was so cozy inside with the fire going and the rain pouring down and the wind whipping everything around outside. I was completely and utterly content. Isn't that the best feeling?


And my little firewood tower in the corner is just perfect!! It holds three big loads of wood, which is about all I can get my daughter to bring in at a time anyway (you know, at 24 years old every tiny chore is such a huge deal, right? Whatever. Don't get me started.) 


My new fireplace insert is so energy efficient - I absolutely love it. At night when I'm going to bed I put in about 4 good size pieces of wood - it keeps going all night long. I wake up to a toasty warm house. 

The great thing about that is I won't go through near as much wood as I did in my last home - which was a rental - the wood stove in that house just inhaled wood! It was so drafty and old - both the stove and the house! Yes, it was better than not having a wood stove at all....but just barely. 

The new insert I bought for this home is a wonderful investment and will pay for itself in no time. Remember the insert that was here when I bought the house?  Yeah, it had to go. No doubt. 


The firewood tower tucks in so nicely into the corner. I have a little round antique wooden box next to it on the floor that holds fatwood (a natural fire starter) and a larger antique wooden picnic basket that holds kindling and/or fatwood, along with gloves, a lighter, etc. The basket next to the hearth is full of puppy toys. Yup, and there's another full basket of puppy toys downstairs. Spoiled, much? 


My little Monkey likes it - what do you think?


Thursday, October 29, 2015

Bear Butts and Bare Trees

I saw my bear the other night. More specifically, I saw his butt. His bear butt. His bare bear butt. His big bare bear butt. He was heading across the road into the apple orchard a few properties down from mine. I'm thinking from the....ahem....deposits he left in my driveway that he eats a LOT of apples. 

Anyway. 

His butt is not the only thing that's bare around here. It poured out of the heavens all night last night along with very heavy winds - the combination took down most of the leaves that were still clinging on to the trees. 

This morning the sun was shining beautifully and it was weirdly warm. I let my fire die for the day so I can clean out the fireplace. Tonight it will be in the 30's. Very strange weather. 


I grabbed my camera to take a few photos of the bare trees around my property to share with all of you. 


I have a view of the mountains from three sides of my house now. No complaints there!


Most of the undergrowth died with the recent frosts - I can see way off into the woods now. Which is great for spotting a bear. Not that I want to spot a bear....


Remember how this tree looked just recently?  Well the leaves are just about completely gone now. And the pile of leaves that was underneath it? Also gone. I came home Monday and found my sweetie sitting in a pile of sweat and leaves. He spent his afternoon blowing them onto a tarp and dragging them into the woods. He's such a honey. I might just have to keep him!


My resident deer loves to hang out behind this shed. In the spring I think she had a fawn bedded down in there - she would let me get fairly close to her but then would hiss at me. I never had a deer hiss at me before! It was a little frightening, not gonna lie. 


There are lots of leaves left to take care of back here. When they are done coming down they will be mulched into the lawn so they can break down to feed the lawn. Eco-fertilizer. 


Any pots that had any sort of a flower still blooming are now gathered around my garden cottage. Many pots were dumped and stored inside and there was some more work done around the foundation this week, again by my sweetie (see - a keeper!) but that's a post for another day. Making progress on the fall cleanup, bit by bit!


I can see right into the horses' paddock now. I think they may have been in their little barn this morning - the paddock was a giant mud puddle after all the rains. 


The front trees are just about done also - which means a better view of the mountain but also a view of the road. And the folks driving by can see my house now, if they bother to look for it. 

The sunshine is gone now and the rain has returned with a vengeance. 

Like I said, weird weather. 

What's it like in your neck of the woods? 

Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Off Grid Living

I don't watch a ton of TV, even though I have a giant TV in my living room.  I could very easily go from May until October without ever turning it on.

But lately I find myself drawn to a new show, Unplugged Nation.  Have you seen it? The premise is that folks that are interested in living off the grid will view three homes and live in one of them for 4 days to test out the lifestyle. They then need to make a decision on whether or not they will buy the home. 

Not that 4 days is even remotely enough time to make that call, in my opinion, but this is how the show goes. 

Anyway, I have been catching up on past episodes and I go to bed thinking about how I can live a little more off the grid. Not necessarily off the grid entirely but perhaps a little less reliant on the power companies and such. 

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I think many people have the idea in their head that off grid or sustainable lifestyles involve living in a tiny rustic cabin in the middle of the woods with no indoor plumbing or electricity. That's not true in the least. Although if that's what your ideal is, go for it!

The homes on Unplugged Nation are anything but. They are large, beautiful, updated homes....that just happen to have the  elements necessary for off-grid living. 

What's required for off grid living?

1. Land - for a vegetable garden. And possibly livestock. Hey, I have that! Check!

I already have a fenced vegetable garden in place and could certainly put in a chicken coop if I make that decision. I have kept chickens in the past and I loved having the fresh eggs daily. Currently I get fresh eggs from one of my co-workers who keeps chickens, but I'm considering getting chickens again. I'm a little nervous with the bears and other wildlife around here, though. 

I don't know if I would ever keep any other livestock as I would seriously have a tough time killing them for food. However, I do buy most of my meat at the farmers' market in the summer and fall months and stock the freezer for the winter - the meat comes from organic, grass fed chickens, pigs and cows from local farms. 

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2. Shelter - I'm all set there!

3. A water source - I have that also! 

My home has a well that provides fresh spring water so I am off the town water supply. And no, I don't have to go out and pump buckets of water and bring them into the house....the well is hooked up to a water pump that sends the water right to my faucets. I'm off the town sewer as well, since my home has a septic system.  

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4. A source of renewable energy such as solar panels or wind energy - unfortunately I don't have that in place....yet. 

But I'm considering it! My home sits up on a hill and gets tons of sunshine - I'm going to have to look further into solar panels to see if they make sense for me. I do have a generator for when the power goes out but that's for emergencies only. 

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5. Source of Heat - Yup, we're good there also! 

Off grid sources of heat include fuel oil, propane and firewood. My home uses all three!


I have two cords of wood in my garage right now and burn wood as my primary source of heat. 

It seems I'm not that far away from living off-grid. Hey, who knew? Not bad for a former city girl!

I'm not ready to give up my satellite dish or phone and internet service just yet....and I still rely on the electric company for my electric. But I'm definitely on the right path!

What are your thoughts on off-grid living? Do you think it's something you could get used to?



Monday, October 26, 2015

Monday Funday....Says Who?

Monday morning rolls around far too soon! It seems it was just Friday and I'm doing the happy dance all over the place and then.......

Monday. Uggghhh. 


Monday is a two-cup-of-coffee morning. 

It was a busy weekend. They always seem to be, don't they?

Saturday morning my daughter and I headed off for the local farmers' market - the last one of the season, which is so very sad!!


My little pack mule does a great job following me around with the eco-totes full of goodies!! It was a cold, cold morning and the vendors were all happy to pack up and go to their warm cozy homes at the end of the market. 

Saturday afternoon was spent at the office and then off to the supermarket, picking up those items I couldn't get at the farmers' market. 

Sunday we were in the car most of the day, travelling two hours south to visit my sweetie's parents and then back up the mountain again. It's always so wonderful to see them....I wish they lived closer so we could spend more time together!


The foliage was beautiful on our drive - it was amazing to see the difference in foliage as we traveled South. 

But now it's Monday. And I didn't get a single thing done around my house this weekend!

The leaves are piled up on the deck and don't even talk to me about the leaves in the garden! 


This was a week ago. Most of the leaves on that tree are now also on the ground. Yikes. 

There are a bunch of flowerpots with dead plants in them from the first big frost. 

The perennials need to be cut back. 

I still haven't frozen the herbs I harvested last weekend. 

The house needs a good deep clean. 

And I need a clone. 

Do you ever feel really overwhelmed? Like there aren't enough hours in the day?

How do you handle it? What works for you?





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Friday, October 23, 2015

One Room Tour - My Dining Room

Ok, so I  might be a little obsessed with my dining room.  The sun shines in at a certain time in the  mornings and the curtains glow and the crystal sparkles and the wood glows and it just makes me smile. I look into the room while I'm making my coffee in the morning and it just feels like I'm exactly where I am supposed to be. You know that feeling?  If you don't,  I truly hope someday you do....

My morning view from the coffee maker
The light is changing - the leaves are falling rapidly, many of the trees are already bare, and we're heading into that thinner winter light. 


I don't care, I'll take it. I think this house gets more sun than any of the other homes I've lived in. I'm absolutely crazy about the sunshine in my new home. And pretty much my new home in general. 


My dining room isn't trendy by any stretch of the imagination. I don't have a big farmhouse table with skirted chairs or a painted hutch or white china. That's a gorgeous look but I tend to go more for a country feel with color and warmth and plants galore. 

I bought the table with the house because I loved it so much and thought it really suits the space. There are 2 leaves in it right now but when they come out it's a perfect little round table for 4. The antique chairs came with the table and 3 of them had to go out for repairs - the cane on the seats was destroyed.  I can fit 8 around the table comfortably, which works very well for dinner parties. 


My china cabinet came from Craigslist last year, before I even moved into my new home. Back in those long months when I was waiting for the closing. Long, long months. I paid $125 for this piece, delivered to my house and carried inside. I love the old look of it and it's just the right size for this little corner. I keep my crystal and wine/cocktail glasses in this piece, with napkins and placemats in the drawer. There wasn't enough room for my tablecloths, so they are in the basket under the hutch. And some are in the linen closet. Yup, I might have a few too many tablecloths. Oops. 


The basket came from Pottery Barn and of course I bought it on sale with a coupon. I refuse to pay full price! Refuse, I tell you!!


I bought a set of casters and attached them to the bottom of the basket simply using zip ties. Then my sweetie cut a piece of wood to set into the bottom of the basket to make it a little stronger - those linens can be a little heavy! 


In the other corner is my bar. We like to entertain and it's nice to be able to offer people their choice of cocktail when they arrive. This little bar is actually a dry sink that I bought at a yard sale about 15 years ago for $40. I just gave it a good cleaning and have loved it in each of my homes since. Underneath I keep cocktail mixers, soft drinks, straws, ice bucket, shakers, etc. In the drawers are taper candles to the left and after-dinner chocolates to the right - except that I may or may not have eaten them all. I'm not saying. 


The picture above is a daily reminder of an item on my bucket list - for my next big birthday I want to travel to Paris with my two beautiful daughters. They need to start saving!


All my infused alcohols are set out on the bar ready for sampling. Who will be my first taste tester? Any volunteers?


In between the china hutch and the bar is this little bench that used to be right inside the entry of my rental house. I placed it here a few months ago for lack of a better spot for it and I found I really like it there! I can sit on it and look out the window, almost like a window seat. And it can also serve as extra seating at the table if we are really trying to cram more people in. 


Oh, and the little Monkey has decided it's hers. She likes to watch the world outside and then settle in for a snooze. 



You can see how the dining room relates to the kitchen - it's an open space, perfect for entertaining. When I'm cooking people can sit at the counter and be right there with me for a chat. I love it. 


I can be at the stove cooking and still part of the gathering. As you know, everyone always loves to gather in the kitchen! 

I bought small scale stools for this counter so that they took up less space in the dining room but also so the backs didn't protrude too far over the counter top for passing dishes from one space into the other. 

Smart, eh? I told you. I had tons of time to think and plan. It took 5 long months to close on this house. I thought I was going to lose my mind. 

Anyway. 


This is looking back towards the dining room. One big happy space. Well, not that big. but compared to NYC apartment kitchens? Ginormous!! Perfect size for me. 


In the other corner I have my little wine cabinet. Most of my wine is stored in the lower level now  but I keep a few bottles up here. This little corner is just perfect for the wine cabinet. And of course every wine cabinet has to have a red sequin sparkly high heeled pump to hold your current bottle, right?

Of course. Duh. 


From that corner looking into the dining room there's a view of the mountains out the window. And tomatoes everywhere....ripening slowly. Remember the giant harvest? Yeah. We're going to be eating lots of meals with tomatoes....and celery. Hey, nothing wrong with that!!



So now you got the whole tour. What do you think? 

Doesn't have to be "trendy" to be awesome. Go with your heart. If you love it, it will show. 

I'm in love. 


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