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Archive for the ‘hobbies’ Category

It’s difficult but the destashing/decluttering continues and progress is being made.  Yesterday, after waffling a bit about the handspun yarn I had, I emailed the middle school art teacher to find out if she wanted it.  She was thrilled to have it so I grabbed the box that was stacked behind my chair and went digging in the closet to find two more. Hey, what are all those notebooks in the closet?  Log books from my soap making days.  I kept the most recent one (probably the most refined recipes) and tossed the rest in the trash on my way out the door to take the yarn to school.  I was not going to allow any time for second guessing!  It felt really good.

Today I went through 3 boxes of of fiber and yarn and posted them for sale on a Yahoo group for buying and trading fiber related stuff.  I did have to stop and fondle a particularly soft batch of wool and silk mix, but then reminded myself that I really don’t enjoy spinning anymore.

The piles are getting shorter and I am happy.  Just packed up a book I sold online – out of print and the lady is thrilled to find it and I am thrilled to send it off where it can be loved:).

Time to go work on dinner.  I bought a pork loin on sale and need to go turn it into the correct shape for pork stir fry.

Best,

Lynn

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Yesterday I posted my grand plans for “a box a day….”  Seemed so simple, so straight-forward, and it is, but it does require a bit of an attitude adjustment.  Yesterday I tackled box #1, which held a bunch of framed pictures in 1980’s style frames, which seem a little garish now, along with things like patches from grade school summer camp, prints I had bought on vacation over the years intending to frame, and a big file with every piece of paper associated with my study abroad trip in college.

Pretty easy to go through really – study abroad papers trashed, pictures taken out of frames and frames designated for Goodwill.  I struggled a little with the prints, but realized that if they weren’t on my walls 20 years after purchase, they weren’t likely to go there anytime soon and don’t really fit my decorating style now anyway, so into Goodwill they go.  The patches were also a struggle, but I really have no use for them.  If I ever get around to scrapbooking my 1970’s era photos, they COULD go in the scrap book, but would make them lumpy so I am just going to let them go.

Today I moved on to the next box.  A box filled with handspun yarn from my days of spinning.  There are at least a half dozen boxes just like this one.  I really wasn’t an expert spinner and spun small varieties of stuff, so I really can’t sell it, but i am so through with fiber arts.  Now I am struggling where to donate it – I am not sure it is something that works for Goodwill.

I read an article recently describing several of the ways people think when they are trying to declutter.  One personality is the “perfectionist” – the person who has to find the optimum way to get rid of the thing, whether it’s to get the best price for it, give it to the right charity, or dispose of it in the most green way.  THAT IS SO ME!  It can be paralyzing.  I think I am going to email the middle school art teacher and ask if she has a use for the yarn.

Since I felt I hadn’t “dealt” with the yarn,  I went through a box of craft books and listed them for sale on a craft group.  If they don’t sell, off to the library, except the one that is out of print and likely to be worth a good $40-50.

So, I am making progress but it is a little hard going.  Let me know how you are doing.

Best regards,

Lynn Zentner

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Many years ago I somehow stumbled upon instructions for roasting your own coffee beans at home and decided to give it a try.  I just checked my logbook (yes, logbook – I am an engineer after all – I keep track of EVERYTHING) and I roasted my first beans in April 2003, so that means I have now been roasting my own coffee for six years!

When I first started, I did not want to invest too much in equipment, so for the most part I made do with things I already had.  The final product was so good that I have been roasting my own beans ever since and have not changed my procedure much at all.  Even if I wanted to stop, my husband would not be happy, since he is quite attached to home roasted beans now as well.

First things first.  You need a good supplier for your green coffee beans.   There are many purveyors of green coffee beans on the internet, but the following site is the one I use and trust.  I would not dream of ordering from anyone else.  They are quite reputable.  Service is fast and the product is excellent.   I have no ties to them other than as a satisfied customer.

http://www.sweetmarias.com/

They have roasting instructions on their site, but I have worked out my own method.  I preheat my oven to 500 degrees (Fahrenheit) for at least 10 minutes.  My new electric oven takes more like 20 minutes to hit temperature, so make sure you know how long your oven takes to preheat.  It is important that the oven be fully heated before the beans go in – you want them to roast, not bake.

Meanwhile, I have a pizza SCREEN where I spread the beans.  It has to be an actual screen, with the biggest holes you can find that are still small enough so the beans don’t fall through.  I wouldn’t use a perforated pizza pan – I don’t think it is open enough on the bottom to get even roasting on the bottom side.   I have a scoop that holds about 1-2 T. of beans and I had been using 12-15 scoops per batch, but recently have experimented with increasing that amount.  It just depends on your oven and other factors.  Experiment!

The beans should be spread mostly in a single layer to brown evenly.  In my oven, I roast for about 10-12 minutes.  You may have to adjust based on the conditions in your kitchen.  Try not to check on them too much though.  You really want to maintain an even and steady heat in the oven.  Plus opening the oven can release a lot of smoke.

If you have a decent range hood, it will probably pull most of it out, but our hood is over the cook top and doesn’t really pull much smoke out of the main kitchen area.  It is likely that you will set off your smoke detectors.  You can stand on a chair and fan smoke away from the detector, but that gets old rather fast.   After a couple years of putting up with the smoke, my genius (I say that with no sarcasm – it was a brilliant idea) husband finally thought to cover the smoke detector with a Tupperware bowl while we are roasting.  It also works when you run the self cleaning feature on the oven, which also sets off our smoke alarm.  Our first floor alarm is in a hallway, so we use a piece of wood wedged between the opposite wall and the bowl to hold it up.  For safety, please take it down as soon as the smoke from roasting clears.  We leave the step stool in the hallway to remind us.

The beans will be done when they are about the color of dark chocolate, with a slight oily sheen.   You will hear them start to pop as they begin to roast.  There are roasting terms of “first crack” and “second crack” that can help you determine roast levels, but I mostly use the popping to tell me that roasting has started and do most of my evaluation by eye.   Different beans are recommended to different roast levels and the Sweet Maria’s site gives a good explanation of all those roast levels.

Roasting will result in some light feathery “chaff” being loosened from the beans and you have to get that off somehow.  I take my beans from the oven straight outside.  Then I take two colanders and toss the beans back and forth between them (Gently!).  This serves to loosen the chaff and cool the beans.  Works great on a breezy cool day, but anytime is fine, it just takes a little longer if there is no wind.  I let them sit out in the colander until cool, then store in a jar until ready to grind.

Sweet Maria’s does sell some countertop roasters that also probably work well and would be simple to use.  When I started roasting a few years ago, they were a bit on the pricey side and had some design flaws, according to other users on a roasting list I was reading at the time.  Hopefully by now the bugs have been worked out, but I would research them a bit before buying.  There are also techniques using modified hot air poppers, heat guns, etc., but I find my oven roasting method to be cheap, easy, and not much different than cooking and I don’t have to store a lot of extra equipment.

As to coffee varieties, Sweet Maria’s puts together some nice “sampler” packs of green beans.  I usually get one of those anytime I order just for a little variety, though as a rule, I favor Indonesian beans.  Indonesian beans seem to me to have the richest, fullest flavor.  South American beans are lighter and maybe a bit more acidic.  African beans I do not have a feel for.  I know they make a nice blend with Indonesian beans but not sure on the characteristics.  To be honest, I can only notice a difference between regional beans, not all the specific varieties they sell.  I have been happy with the taste of everything I’ve roasted from Sweet Maria’s and usually buy one large sampler pack plus about 8 pounds of other varieties that sound interesting.  That keeps me in coffee for almost a year.

I hope you found this information helpful.  Please post a comment or drop a note if you would like more information.

Best Regards,

Lynn

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