Friday, 29 January 2016

Home made freezer lables - find what you need easily!

Its the beginning of the year and I'm trying to have a sort out of things, clean and to organise the house - why I choose summer to this is due only to New Years coinciding with summer holidays and the time to do it. I'm sure sorting out the house is better done in Winter - but I digress!

I have an upright drawer freezer which I love much more than my wee chest freezer (that sadly went to the great icebox in the sky a year or so ago) but I have a small issue with it - I spend a lot of time looking for things, opening and closing drawers and cursing the people who put the ice cream away in a different drawer each time they get it out!

In a fit of organising last week - I decided to label the drawers and solve a few dilemmas at once!

Here's what I did...

I went to the freezer and did an inventory of what I store in my freezer - then used a computer to print labels out on a sheet of A4. I made doubles of things like bread and meat (and misc!)

I made two columns on the A4 portrait page and used a 48 point font. Have a play with it. Different fonts are different sizes I discovered!

Then I cut the page up with a pair of scissors into the words.

Then I used the wide clear tape that you can use on packing boxes and sandwiched the cut out word in between two pieces (sticky side in) and then cut the ends of the tape off to even it up - cheapskates laminating!

Then I simply used a piece of blu-tac to fix it to the freezer (after I rearranged it for once and for all!)
I wiped the drawers with a cloth to dry them before sticking the blu-tac on, and so far, each label has stayed there with no problems at all.

Its not the fanciest system in the world but I'm into simple at the moment and this is working a treat!

Something I didn't appreciate was that when the husband was putting away groceries for me he was packing it all into the top drawers as he is tall. This means anything he puts away is in the emptiest top drawers regardless of what it is and I simply have to hunt for it. Since I did this he has been following the instructions to the letter and gets a bit put out when the kids put the ice cream is in the wrong place!

It works a treat and save my sanity and me from getting cold feet while I search all the drawers to see where the mince went.

I can now open a drawer and have all the bread in one place, all the meat in one place - as for the ice cream - well , its a work in progress still!

Score card:
Green-ness: 5/5 for doing something that saves electricity! 
Frugal-ness: 5/5 for only costing  a sheet of A4 and a few bits of tape
Time cost: About 10 minutes
Skill level: Cutting and pasting - One of my favourite techniques!
Fun-ness: Much more fun than the frustration of searching the whole freezer each time you open it!

Friday, 22 January 2016

Telling mobile chargers apart!

In our house there are a couple of favoured charging points for phones - one inside and one outside on the patio where we spend a lot of time!

Occasionally some one will pinch a cord to download onto their computer or because they don't know what happened to their cord and its quicker to "borrow" one than to look for their own.

It drives me insane not to be able to charge my phone because I cant find the cord and so last week I decided that enough was enough and I was going to put an end to the cable "borrowing" for once and for all!

Here's what I did...

All I did was cut a piece of purple ribbon and tape it to the end of the charging cable where is goes into the charger.

And another around the end that goes into the phone... 

And since I was on a roll I popped some ribbon around a bread tag and attached it to the cord.
(This is also great for plug boards where you aren't sure what's attached to what cord)
I defy my family to tell me they didn't know that the cord they borrowed was mine now!
Sometimes the simplest solution is the one that works and makes life easy for everyone. I had considered marking the ends with a permanent marker but thought it wouldn't be quite as permanent once it had been handled a few times.
Since I did this, my cord has stayed happily in its place and I haven't had to wander about the house checking laptops and computers and wall pugs to see who has "borrowed" my cord this time and forgotten to return it. You could do different colours for each person or maybe different animals, shapes, flowers, numbers - the choice is endless! :) Have fun with it. I did mine to match my phone cover.
Let me know if you have tried this or how you have solved your wandering cord problem in your house in the comment section below!

Score card:
Green-ness: ?/5 Hmmm, don't know about being green - but I know its reduced my stress levels!
Frugal-ness: 5/5 A bit of ribbon, a bit of tape - cost was nothing really!
Time cost: About a minute!
Skill level: Cut and paste - my favourite!
Fun-ness: Fun to see people looking for their own walkabout cord instead of pinching mine!!

Thursday, 21 January 2016

Photo Friday - Movement!


Water sprays off our dog after a late afternoon swim one afternoon down at the dam!


 Contribution to Photo Friday. Click on the link and see what others have posted!

Friday, 15 January 2016

Green and Gold Nomia - Interesting Australian Native Bees!

While walking the dog down at the dam a few months ago I saw all these insects, that I thought were possibly bees, clambering all over a couple of stems of grass. I had nothing to capture images of this spectacle with me except my phone (and that couldn't focus on small insects on grasses that were waving in the wind!) so a week or so ago when I saw it again and had my camera on me, I took a few million photos and bought them home hoping to identify them.

I decided they were bees - they looked like a blue banded bee but different...

I ended up sending a few pictures to Nick at Australian Native Bees  and asking him what he
A. thought they were and
B. what he thought they were doing!

He said they were likely to be drones waiting for the mating flight of a queen in a nest somewhere - sort of a bee bucks party!

 He mailed me back a few hours later and said that a bee mate of his had identified them as Green and Gold Nomia's (Lipotriches Australica) - an Australian Native bee!

With both pieces of information I was able to search the net and find that even though I've only seen it twice, its a reasonably common occurrence.

From the Australian Museum website:
"Nomia bees live in urban areas, forests and woodlands, and heath. Most species nest in the ground and a number of females use the entrance and main shaft but dig their own tunnel off to the side.

During the day male Nomia bees forage for nectar but at night hundreds of them gather together, clinging onto grass stems. Nobody really knows why they do this but it is a behaviour that some other bees, including blue-banded bees, also show.

The behaviour of the females is slightly better understood. Up to three share a nest burrowed into the soil. They take turns guarding the entrance, blocking it with their face during the day and their abdomen at night. Inside the nest the Nomia bees make urn-shaped cells containing a disc of nectar and pollen and a single egg. Each nest may be reused by several generations."

  For some more Nomia photos and information have a look at Robert Ashdowns blog... and read his story about finding a similar wriggling mass of bees on some grass here in Brisbane - click on a few of the links, the macro photos of insects is worth the side trip at the bottom of the post!

Nomia's seem to be quite a common bee across the globe and all seem to exhibit this bachelor party behaviour I found referances to this on sites across the globe! I spotted them here in Brisbane, both times in the late afternoon and even though I've kept an eye out for them every time I've been in the area since, I haven't seen them again. There must be more to this behaviour than just a sleeping place - or maybe they find a new place to sleep each afternoon....!

This is the grass clump that they were on. There are plenty of them around of the same grass species but they were all on this clump. I could kid myself that this was the same clump I saw them on last time as well. If not it was certainly in this area.

If you have seen Nomia bees - leave comments and links in the comments section - Id love to see your Nomia boys partying hard!

Wednesday, 6 January 2016

Photo Friday - Winter colours

Winter Colours

Whilst here in the sub-tropics it doesn't get cold per say, its nice to sit by a fire on a winters evening and enjoy the ambience and maybe a tipple to keep my toes warm!


 Contribution to Photo Friday. Click on the link and see what others have posted!

Roasting, grinding and drinking your own home grown coffee beans!

I got a coffee tree for a birthday a few years ago and after letting it languish in a pot for too many moons, we moved it into the garden whereby it did decide to live and grew really well. I harvested the cherries, extracted the beans and got them to the "green bean" stage (link to this post here) From there, all I have to do is roast the beans, grind them and turn them into coffee - That's what this post is about!

Here's what I did...

I ended up doing all this at a café owned by a friend under the watchful eye of her Barista as I'm not a coffee drinker and don't have a clue how its all meant to end up! We decided to roast the beans on the stove top as it was easier to control and we could see (and photograph) and control every step of the way.

With the pot on a gas cook top set to a medium heat, we constantly stirred the beans to make sure we were getting an as even roast as possible.

It took a surprisingly long time for the beans to colour up. May be an hour all up - we chose not to hurry as there was such a small quantity of beans we would have nothing if we burnt them! When you hear the "crack" you have reached the stage of the lightest roasts. If you continue to roast through to a second "crack" you are in the dark stages of the roast and the bean flavour may be taken over by roast flavours - not a bad thing, just personal preference as to how you like your coffee!

After we had reached a roast we were happy with - which was by no means anything like the dark black colour of a commercial roast - we left them to cool. We were worried that we might burn them and felt a lighter roast would be better than burnt beans for our first attempt. (The above picture is at about the half way mark.)

"Roasting coffee transforms the chemical and physical properties of green coffee beans into roasted coffee products. The roasting process is what produces the characteristic flavor of coffee by causing the green coffee beans to change in taste. Unroasted beans contain similar if not higher levels of acids, protein, sugars, and caffeine as those that have been roasted, but lack the taste of roasted coffee beans due to the Maillard and other chemical reactions that occur during roasting." Wikipedia 2016

This is when I discovered that I hadn't got the husk off that I thought I had. This meant that there was a lot of fuzzy skin starting to float around in amongst the beans. The Barista, having never seen this before, decided it was a bad thing and he then sat and peeled every last bean for me in between making coffees for other people ( I was not so popular at this point... :(  )

So in the last post where I advocated that you might want to hull them or take off the skins (but I didn't) - turns out to be that its probably not really an optional step - and its very time consuming as I discovered!!

So now we had a much lighter roast, my Barista reckoned it was a "blond" or very light roast and it would have more caffeine in it than a darker roast. I found this great roasting chart on Wikipedia (below) along with other really good information for those who like this sort of information. Based on this chart I reckon mine is a Cinnamon or light roast.

75 degrees green coffee.png

22 °C (72 °F) Green Beans
Green coffee as it arrives at the dock. They can be stored for approximately 12-18 months in a climate controlled environment before quality loss is noticeable.
330 degrees drying coffee.png

165 °C (329 °F) Drying Phase
During the drying phase the beans are undergoing an endothermic process until their moisture content is evaporated, signifying first crack.
Light roast
385 degrees cinnamon roast coffee.png

196 °C (385 °F) Cinnamon Roast
A very light roast level which is immediately at first crack. Sweetness is underdeveloped, with prominent toasted grain, grassy flavors, and sharp acidity prominent.
400 degrees new england roast coffee.png

205 °C (401 °F) Light Roast
Moderate light brown, but still mottled in appearance. A preferred roast for some specialty roasters, highlights origin characteristics as well as complex acidity.
Medium roast
410 degrees american roast coffee.png

210 °C (410 °F) American Roast
Medium light brown, developed during first crack. Acidity is slightly muted, but origin character is still preserved.
425 degrees city roast coffee.png

219 °C (426 °F) City Roast
Medium brown, common for most specialty coffee. Good for tasting origin character, although roast character is noticeable.
Dark roast
440 degrees full city roast coffee.png

225 °C (437 °F) Full City Roast
Medium dark brown with occasional oil sheen, roast character is prominent. At the beginning of second crack.
450 degrees vienna roast coffee.png

230 °C (446 °F) Vienna Roast
Moderate dark brown with light surface oil, more bittersweet, caramel flavor, acidity muted. In the middle of second crack. Any origin characteristics have become eclipsed by roast at this level.
460 degrees french roast coffee.png

240 °C (464 °F) French Roast
Dark brown, shiny with oil, burnt undertones, acidity diminished. At the end of second crack. Roast character is dominant, none of the inherent aroma or flavors of the coffee remain.[7]
470 degrees italian roast coffee.png

245 °C (473 °F) Italian Roast
Nearly black and shiny, burnt tones become more distinct, acidity nearly eliminated, thin body.[8]

After the roasting - the next step is the grinding. I'm lucky that I know some one who owns a café and was happy for me to hijack her barista and equipment for a few hours in the afternoon... If you are not so lucky, make friends with a small café owner who loves their coffee and ask them how they would feel about using their grinder to put a batch of your coffee through. If that's not an option for you, I'm guessing there is plenty of grinders available in the retail world (or even in your own cupboard if you are a coffee gourmand already!)

We emptied out the grinder of the usual Aussie grown café coffee and popped in my paltry bean quantity.  Then we hit the grind button and, presto! out came my freshly ground coffee!!!

Great fun! - Now we needed to make a cup of coffee from it and this is where its good to have an expert (and all that fancy equipment!)

So there it is - about to go into the machine. Its much, much lighter than a commercial roast and looks totally different.

Here is comes! The first brewing of my first coffee crop!

It held the crema well and made a light brew, as expected.
The coffee drinkers all had a sip and decreed it quite good, light but good (did I detect a note of surprise??) I wasn't so chuffed, but then I'm not a coffee drinker so that wasn't a surprise!

Once it was mixed in with some frothed milk (and a lot of sugar) I enjoyed my very own home grown, hand picked, home processed, café roasted and ground cup of coffee flavoured warm sweet milk to the amusement of the "real coffee" drinkers! (I'm so never gonna make a good barista!)

There turned out to be about 150gm of ground coffee after all that hard work and so I have packaged it into a tin and sent it to the one person in the world who will appreciate all that hard work and dedication - My Mother! Happy Birthday Mom!!

 After all that work, I fully intend to do all this again next season and learn from the lessons of this year. I will work on the hulling step after I have dried the beans and I think I'll go for a darker roast next time just to see what that's like. Its probably not going to make any difference to the fact I don't like the bitterness of coffee but as long as that tree is producing I can bombard my poor long suffering mother with tins of home made coffee for years to come!

The roasting can be easily done at home in a thick bottomed frying pan or roasting dish in the oven. I also heard about using a popcorn machine but haven't tried it!

If you don't have a grinder you will need to buy one or chat up the local café staff to get it ground, after that you keep it air tight and in the fridge until you use it as per normal coffee.

So far it seems as if coffee processing is open to a lot of experimentation. I have read about putting butter and sugar on the beans before roasting them for additional flavour, you can add spices to coffee after its ground to make flavoured coffee (eg cinnamon, cloves, cardamom) and I have since discovered there are special coffee flavourings you can add to the ground coffee make more exotic concoctions like Mocha, vanilla or hazelnut coffees. I'm beginning to think the sky is the limit in the coffee world!

Let me know what you think!

Score card:
Green-ness: 5/5 for knowing exactly where your coffee is coming from
Frugal-ness: 5/5 for growing your own food! Once you have paid for the tree, it really just your labour...
Time cost: 1 year to grow the cherries, 1/2 an hour to pick, 3-4 days to process, 1 hour to roast, 10 seconds to grind, 30 seconds to brew, 15 minutes to drink - ahh... time well spent!
Skill level: Fairly basic - I think a love of coffee would help though!
Fun-ness: Really quite a lot of fun to see how much work goes into a single cup of coffee!!
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