Sunday, June 30, 2013

Iced coffee..........

One of my favorite treats of summer is a homemade iced coffee. I pretty much follow the Pioneer Woman's recipe here with a few tweaks.

First off, I use two big bowls or, as I did yesterday, two of my biggest stock pots (you know, the kind you whip up a big ole batch of soup in). Divide a bag of ground coffee (any kind, you choose - this time around I used a decaf vanilla hazelnut and it's sooo good!) into the two containers, relatively evenly (don't stress about it being perfect). Cover with cold water - you can use Pioneer Woman's ratio in the link or just fill the pan most of the way with cold water. Stir well to get it all mixed up. Then, just leave it overnight.

The next day, you start the straining process. This takes a bit of time and is a labor of love, but it's SO worth it. I used a big gallon-sized cheap plastic pitcher I have lying around and a fine mesh strainer. Instead of cheesecloth, a la PW, I use plain old paper towels. They are cheap and easy and I don't usually have cheesecloth lying around. However, the first time I made this, I DID buy cheesecloth and the results were not as good as using paper towels (some grounds got through!). I start by stirring it all up (the grounds will have settled on the bottom), then scooping up the cold-brewed coffee with a 2-cup glass Pyrex measuring pitcher and pouring it through a paper towel-lined mesh strainer. I can usually get about 4 cups through one paper towel before it becomes too laden with grounds. I just gather it up, push it down to squeeze out all the liquid, and then toss it, lining the mesh strainer with a clean paper towel. Repeat until all the liquid is collected.

When it gets down to the "dregs" I usually just tip the whole pan into the strainer, stopping just before the really thick grounds go in. Warning - if you use the whole bag of coffee, as I did, you will end up with about 3 1/2 to 4 gallons of cold-brewed coffee so make sure you have enough containers to store it in! You may not want to make a whole bag at once, but in our family, we all like this treat, so we can get through it before it goes bad. It does keep for weeks in the fridge - as PW said - about 3 weeks to a month.

Once you've collected all the cold-brewed coffee, you're ready to make your treat! Fill a glass with ice (we like to use "cold cups" from Starbucks or elsewhere - the kind with a lid and a sturdy plastic straw). Fill your glass about 3/4 full (or a little more) with cold coffee. Add about 3 tsp sugar (or artificial sweetener, or syrups of your choice to taste), and then fill the rest of the way with half 'n' half (you can go anywhere from a splash to 1/4 cup depending on how much you like it). I've also done this with regular old milk when I'm out of half 'n' half and it's still delicious. You can also cut the calories this way! Stir and enjoy. It's so refreshing and yummy!

You could tweak this by adding flavored syrups or some chocolate syrup to make it more like a mocha (don't add sugar if using syrups). You can also used crushed ice or blend the whole concoction after mixing to make a frappe type beverage. You could add whipped cream! You could add ice cream! If you can dream it, you can do it!

Sorry, got carried away.

Enjoy your delicious iced coffee beverage while the sun shines! And don't throw away the used grounds - they are great for your plants in maintaining the acidity of the soil. Just throw 'em on top of your potted plants or in the garden and water to dissolve. Recycling! Yay! Now you can sit back and sip your delicious coffee while patting yourself on the back for being "green."

Monday, June 24, 2013

Exercising on vacation..........

Vacation is the perfect time to exercise! You have all this extra, unscheduled time just waiting to be filled by cardio, plus you're in a new location that is just begging to be explored.

Except, not.

I'm spending six (!) days in Boise with my family (and my youngest and only son) and I smartly packed a pair of Lucy yoga capris and a sports bra, plus three t-shirts. I figured I could get my cardio on at least three of the six days, and if (perchance) my sports bra or capris got too sweaty "glowy", I could give 'em a quick rinse in the sink and hang them to dry in the sun, awaiting my next sweat session.

Except, not.

Because, somehow, I've been way too busy eating Nutty Bars and napping to work in a little exercise. I mean, it's a lovely walking neighborhood, it really is. A morning stroll would be just the thing. But what if a rabid dog chased me? Or I got lost? Or there wasn't a coffee stand within walking distance? Turns out, there is, so all I really need is a walking companion.

Except, not.

My son, who would be my most logical walking buddy, has morphed into a true-blue teenager the past few weeks and spends an inordinate amount of time sleeping, followed by lying in bed looking at his iPad, followed by rising at the crack of noon and consuming massive quantities of food. This rigorous schedule does not allow much time for a brisk morning walk. No worries, though! We can always take that walk in the evening.

Except, not.

Because we're busy watching outdoor performances of Shakespeare, or going through McDonald's drive-thrus at late hours, purchasing mocha frappes and speaking in foreign accents. Or lying around, bloated and immobile after consuming copious amounts of baked beans and macaroni salad. Not a problem, though! We can always work a little excursion into our schedule that involves walking!

Except, not.

Unless you count running through Dollar Tree, Winco, Cash & Carry, Cost Plus and Tai Pan Trading company in record time before a party for which you are procuring items (and purchasing dark-chocolate Loaker wafers at Cost Plus and consuming the whole bag in two days). I mean, that's exercise.....sort of.

Except, not.

All is not lost, though! I think I broke a sweat twice setting up and taking down party items. So, there's that. Now, I just have to stop eating Fancy Cakes, Krispy Kreme donuts and homemade ice cream and eat nothing but fruits and veggies for the next two days to make up for my indiscretions and restore my health.

Except, not.

Starbucks run, anyone?

Monday, June 3, 2013

Cleaning, 101..........

My kids are pretty intelligent. Really, they are very bright kids. Except when it comes to cleaning. And picking up after themselves. And doing what needs to be done. And seeing those things.

The parenting gurus even have a name for it: executive functioning. Which is psyche-speak for "learning how to get along in life without running to your mother."

So, I'm really trying to teach this executive functioning, but I fear it may be too late. Even though I, like most moms, fostered the art of toy picking-up, plate putting-in-the-sink, toothpaste wiping-up-off-the-sink, etc. nothing seems to have stuck.

Case #1, a few days ago:
Me (reading from chore list): You need to sweep the hardwoods.
Child (actually, adult. But I'm not naming names): *Sigh* Do we even have a broom?
Me (incredulous): YES, we have a broom. The same broom we've always had. Stored in the same place it's always been! For the 13 years we've lived in this house!
Child-Adult: That's a crappy broom.
Me: It's just fine. And anyway, I'd prefer you use the stick vacuum.
Child-Adult: It's broken.
Me: What? Since when is it broken?
Child-Adult (shows me stick vac): See? It's broken.
(Dust bin from stick vac is unattached. It clicks in and removes for cleaning)
Me: Oh. My. God. Are you serious? You have obviously never used this vacuum because it just clicks right in here....(clicks dust bin).
Child-Adult: *Sigh* Well, it doesn't work very well.
(Well, not without the dust bin, no.)

Case #2, yesterday:
Me: What are you doing?
Almost-Adult (again, not naming names): What?
Me: Why are you sitting there with your clean clothes on the bed, NOT folding them, and looking at your iPad?
Almost-Adult: I, I, ....I have a system. Just....don't nag me!
Me: What? FOLD the clothes while you're waiting for the other ones to wash and dry!
Almost-Adult: I'm waiting for them all to be done so I can just fold them all at once.
Me (incredulous): That is the dumbest thing I've ever heard!! You have all this time RIGHT NOW to be folding and putting away your clothes!
Almost-Adult: Don't take out your frustrations on me! (Shuts door)
Me (opens door): I need to monitor your progress.
Almost-Adult: *makes unidentifiable sound - a growl?*

Case #3, tonight:
Teenage boy (no names!) "cleaning room" upstairs.
Me: Hears harmonica music.

I'm telling you, it's a lost cause. I know one day they will have their own houses. I can't wait to leave dirty dishes in THEIR sinks. Or wad up my dirty socks and stuff them in the corner. Or put candy wrappers under their coffee table. Or use the last of the toilet paper and leave the roll high and dry.

Oh, I have big plans!