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Friday, July 29, 2016

It's been awhile. . . Again

Hi! I hope you've been well and enjoying a good spring and summer.

I just realized the last post I wrote was March 3, 2016. Even as my posting here on the blog slowed, I was more regularly posting on Instagram and less so on the Tinygami Facebook page. Then everything just seemed to grind to a halt. A couple of reasons why:

1. I've been really busy
2. I'm still searching for my blogging mojo

The busy part will be explained in future blog posts. Possible titles are listed below:

  • The 6000 mile road trip (Alternatively: I'm sorry I didn't tell you I was in town)
  • My Happy Place
  • ArtPrize 2016
  • Another tiny trailer gathering
  • I am down in the dirt
  • Solving the mystery of the German Apple Pancake (Recipe)
  • My reading list
  • Things are complicated in my head
  • Why is Mother Nature testing me?

The mojo part is a bit trickier. Things still happen on a fairly constant basis that I want to write about, but for some reason, I don't. One of the most striking things about the current non-blogging-me and the old consistent-blogger-me is that when things happen I've noticed I no longer have the desire to grab my camera and take a picture.

Like the other day when an injured woodchuck was sitting in a bush whose branches seemed so fragile it was almost like it was levitating. In the old days a floating woodchuck defying gravity would have been a for sure kind of Kodak moment. This time the urge just wasn't there. Though in my defense I was honestly more concerned with figuring out how to help it than to blog about it. That might be a good thing. In the end (despite my best efforts and a small fear of rabies) I didn't do either, help or photograph it. It either ran or painfully drug itself away (when I wasn't looking) before I could trap it to take it to a wildlife rehabilitation center I found online :(

For now I thought I'd write a post just to get me back on track. Perhaps I'll work my way down the list. Or, if you have strong feelings and curiosity about one of the aforementioned post titles, leave me a comment and I'll try to bump that one to the top if it you aren't already the most curious about the 6000 mile road trip.

And because I know people enjoy pictures. . . Here is a giant snapping turtle I photographed last summer that lives across the road from me. It was probably close to 20" in length. Why it was up on the grate I have no idea. While not nearly as magical as the floating woodchuck it was something you don't see every day. So, I did snap this picture just before it slid off and swam away. Here you go:


Thursday, March 3, 2016

Kintsugi Heart

Are you familiar with Kintsugi? It's a Japanese technique used to mend broken pottery. The belief is that when mended with gold the broken object becomes more beautiful and valuable than it was before. How can you not love that?

My miniature origami Kintsugi Heart on Instagram

There's even a song about kintsugi. I heard it performed by a woman (I'm sorry I don't recall who she was but she sang it beautifully) on Prairie Home Companion one quiet weekend. A Google search to learn more about it followed which is when I discovered Peter Mayer is the folk singer-songwriter who wrote and recorded the song. The video below was made by a fan and includes many images of kintsugi in case you've never seen it before.


Japanese Bowl

I’m like one of those Japanese bowls
That were made long ago
I have some cracks in me
They have been filled with gold

That’s what they used back then
When they had a bowl to mend
It did not hide the cracks
It made them shine instead

So now every old scar shows
From every time I broke
And anyone’s eyes can see
I’m not what I used to be

But in a collector’s mind
All of these jagged lines
Make me more beautiful
And worth a much higher price

I’m like one of those Japanese bowls
I was made long ago
I have some cracks you can see
See how they shine of gold

The concept of brokenness, healing, and scars that are to be appreciated with reverence instead of being ashamed of them all resonated incredibly deeply for me.

The brokenness is unavoidable. It's as much as part of life as birth and death.

The song stuck in my head for months. Then one day an idea came to me but it's taken until now to begin to bring it to fruition. At first I thought I would paint a heart, my heart, and add a gold fracture line for each time it has been broken and healed. Some cracks would be larger and longer than others. But the more I thought about it the more I realized I couldn't begin to remember exactly how many times my heart has broken not only for myself but for others as well (from people I know to people I read about online and in the news each day).

And so I did this instead and posted it on Instagram a couple of days ago...


If we live life well, if we not only feel the pain but learn from it and evolve because of it, we become like kintsugi. The scars of mended gold only add to the beauty of the broken pottery. My heart has been broken so many times, in so many ways, for so many years, by so many different people I've lost count of the shattered pieces. Yours too? But it has mended (again) and my creativity is surging. My emotional scars are why I practice gratitude, compassion, and patience. I'm feeling like someone I used to know #origami #origamiinmyhand #kintsugi #heart #emotions #growth #survivor #strength #healing #japanese #art #craft #mini"

If any of this makes sense to you I hope the next time your heart breaks instead of becoming bitter or cynical you'll think of kintsugi and you'll be able to take comfort in knowing that to suffer through pain and loss isn't for nothing. It's always an opportunity to learn more about acceptance and gratitude which both help to create balance in our lives. I definitely believe that while suffering loss is never enjoyable it has helped to make me a more strong, resilient, tenacious, appreciative, and empathetic person. I take comfort in knowing (once I'm able to come out the other side) there will always be a new and improved kintsugi version of me :)

Monday, February 22, 2016

Origami Update

Here's what been happening over on Tinygami's Instagram Feed: Rabbits and Bunny Boxes!

Sunday, February 14, 2016

Doublegami Valentine's Day Cranes


It's an origami heart, inside an origami crane.

A month ago I was looking at a piece of cellophane that had come wrapped around a Christmas gift. Before tossing it in the trash I cut a square out and tried folding an origami crane. It worked!

Immediately I wondered "What can I put inside the hollow that forms its body?" I don't think it took a full minute to realize with Valentine's Day just around the corner I would try to make heart filled origami cranes. This pair consists of 1" high cranes filled with 1/2" folded hearts.

I LOVE THEM! I'll be working with this concept even further. I have (what I think is) a great idea. Will keep you posted.

Until then celebrate love!

Thursday, February 4, 2016

How to sew a DIY trailer awning

From the moment I first laid eyes on an old school rope and pole awning I knew I had to have one for The Glampette, once she was designed and built :)

I looked at dozens of pictures online and realized there seems to be one woman who is the go-to person for custom awnings within the tiny and vintage travel trailer communities. Her name is Marti and her company is called Marti's Vintage Trailer Awnings.

But, if you have a heavy duty sewing machine, plenty of can-do spirit (basically more gumption than (even) know-how) you can also make your own awning just like I did!


I've actually made two awnings now. The fancy one is made of canvas and has a domed shape to it which will help to divert rain in inclement weather. It also gives me standing room beneath the awning and I added velcro along the edges so that I could hang mosquito net walls when bugs are a problem. Which can be surprisingly often! The mesh can be made of classic mosquito net or noseeum mesh which has even smaller holes to keep out the tiniest of blood-sucking insects.

BTW I think the first time I realized that making a teeny-tiny domed awning was within the realm of possibilities was when I saw this thread by member Doug Hodder on the Teardrops & Tiny Travel Trailers forum. If you're considering a tiny travel trailer the website is an endless resource of ideas, feedback, suggestions, tips, and future friends!


My other awning is a very simple, lightweight, sun/shade design made of an old printed cotton tablecloth that matched The Glampette's yellow fenders.

Let me begin by saying: I AM NOT A SEAMSTRESS! So even though I made a tutorial (and a successful awning or two) there are very possibly definitely things that could have been done in more efficient/professional ways. Also, I'd appreciate your help if you spot any errors in the tutorial. Please leave a comment or contact me so that I can fix or clarify them :)


This is how the awnings attach to the side of the trailer. It's called an awning rail (I ordered mine online from Vintage Trailer Supply) that consists of a single channel that your fabric covered rope or welting slides into to hold the awning in place.

Directly above the awning rail you'll notice a black rubber rain gutter that Fred had the foresight to add above my rear door to keep rain water from dripping straight down and into the trailer. It works VERY well.


The awning took a single day to make. Collecting all of the components took months. LOL

Here is an overview illustration of what the awning consists of (before adding the velcro).
  1. Outdoor canvas fabric
  2. Two fiberglass tent poles that I carefully and slowly trimmed down (with a tiny hacksaw) repeatedly to find the correct fit for the awning to dome properly
  3. Two grommets to drop over two metal tent poles to help secure the awning in place
  4. Rope or welting
  5. I used heavier duty outdoor thread to help prevent damage and wear from being exposed to inclement weather
  6. A heavy-duty sewing machine as I'd need to sew through multiple layers of canvas
  7. Four corner pockets for the fiberglass tent poles to fit into (they are held in place by tension)
  8. A fabric reinforced center with two pieces of velcro sewn into place to secure the tent poles where they cross over
  9. The awning is hemmed on three sides
  10. The fourth side is edged with the fabric covered rope to slide into the awning rail
PLEASE NOTE: The illustrations below are not all to scale. Certain details I've exaggerated simply to make it easier for you to see what is happening. I've also used different color fabrics for the corner pockets, awning, and velcro to make it easier to distinguish between them. In practice you will want to use matching-color fabric and components whenever possible.


This is an overview of the pattern for the grommet corners. Below you can see each step laid out separately. They are not to scale. I made them of equal sizes to allow for close-up detail views.


My hems are 3/4" so I needed a seam allowance of 1.5" for my awning. The overview above allows you to press and pin your hems into place so it's easier to slip in the finished corner pockets once they're ready.


A photo of the corner pocket at work! You can see where the tent pole slides into the reinforced fabric pocket. The velcro (hooks) attached to the awning is tan while the velcro (loops) attached to the mesh is black.


TENT POLE POCKETS
  1. Begin with a rectangle and fold the corners towards the center to create a triangle
  2. Fold the triangle in half to create a smaller triangle that consists of four layers of fabric
  3. Close up detail of how to position the triangle before stitching together
  4. Stitch pattern. Do not make the tent pole pockets too narrow (side to side). You will want/need some extra room to allow for easier insertion of the tent poles.



Here are close ups of how to add the tent pole pockets to the awning.

STEP 1

  • Lay the corner pocket just within the seam allowances
  • Be sure to reinforce the two marked seams with thread that matches your canvas sewing the pocket directly to the awning fabric.
  • The third side I left unattached and found it worked just fine.



4. Refold hem over the tent pole corner pocket.


5. Stitch along the hem to secure the corner pocket in place.


6. I added the added the additional reinforced stitching (shown in green) to help reinforce the contact point with the end of the tent pole as this is where the most pressure will be applied from the poles pushing against the fabric.


7. I will make a separate tutorial in the future regarding the bug walls but for now here's a quick overview of how I sewed 1.5" velcro (hook side) to the underside of the awning over the hem.


On the mesh side I sewed the corresponding velcro loops so when the mesh is in storage it doesn't get caught and snagged on the velcro hooks.


8. Next I used an X-acto knife to remove the layers of fabric and velcro for the grommet. I bought the largest ones I could find but they have turned out to not be heavy duty enough so I will have to find some with longer shafts that can go through 7 layers of (thin) canvas and one layer of velcro.


9. With finished grommet in place.


10. Here is a close up photo of the actual grommet. See how it's bending along the right side? Eventually it will pop off.

The next time I set it up I'll take the time to make a tutorial that shows how the grommets, tent poles, guy lines, and stakes work to help stabilize the awning.


11. A close up of the actual center reinforced fabric and velcro used to secure the tent poles where they cross over. The square of fabric is four layers thick.


Rope and Pole Casing

Here are close up photos of the front and back of the rope side of the awning. It is constructed differently than the grommet end. I had to notch the fabric to be able to encase the rope within the fabric to slide into the awning rail.

Because I didn't have any rope on hand but did have some fabric trim I used it which is why there is an additional edge to the cord. The other awning I made was with a single length of rope I got at my local hardware store. Definitely test the tension before sewing your awning. If your rope isn't thick enough you can add more layers of fabric until it is.


1. Measure the width of your cord x4 to determine how much fabric you'll need to create the casing then double the measurement as shown above. My canvas was very thin so I needed four layers to make it thick enough to fit the rail snugly.

Fold in half.

I didn't finish the cut edge at all because I needed it to remain thing enough to fit into the awning rail. I was thinking I should get some kind of glue that stops fraying but decided it isn't necessary simply because I use the awning so infrequently.


2. Now lay your rope against the lower upper half of the folded over casing (just above the half-way mark) and fold again as pictured above.


3. Now that your rope is encased in the fabric use a zipper foot and stitch as close to the rope as possible. The nice thing about double folding the fabric is now the edge above the rope is a folded edge and not raw edges so I didn't have to do any additional sewing to finish it.


This is what the finished section should look like. Except I would leave additional cord coming off each side. On windy days your awning can blow through the rail if it's not a tight enough fit. I've found taking that extra bit of cording allows me to draw it back under the rail and I can pin it in place with a straight pin to help better secure the awning when needed.


I hope this tutorial is helpful to you! I wish it was better but I am not a seamstress so most of what I did was to try something, then try it again, and again until I got each step just right. If you have any sewing background at all I'm sure you'll put together something much more polished in probably less than half the time it took me to make mine!

Wishing you happy sewing and travels!



If you'd like to learn more about The Glampette check out this blog post and tv interview where she made her first (well, and only) studio appearance.

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

A Health PSA: My sedation-free colonoscopy

I am now part of the 1%. No, not the ridiculously rich 1%, I am now part of the 1% of Americans who voluntarily choose to have a sedation-free colonoscopy procedure. Why would I? My main reason was to avoid unnecessary medications but there are numerous other benefits as well.

If I had to describe my experience in a single word it would be: Hilarious

Why am I describing it? Because early detection can prevent you from developing colorectal (aka colon) cancer and increases your odds of survival if found early if you already have it. So, I wrote this post in the hope of making the procedure ok to talk about so that some of you who may be fearful or embarrassed about scheduling an appointment will realize the exam itself is really not a big deal and you'll feel comfortable enough to make the call.


I'll start at the beginning. One of the first things I did just before I turned 50 last year was to call my doctor and ask about scheduling a colonoscopy. It's always stuck in my mind as something you're supposed do when you hit the big 5-0. LOL the few friends I mentioned it to thought I was crazy to call and request one rather than wait for a doctor to tell me it was time.

Over the years I've eaten more than my fair share of gastrointestinal-healthy foods. All of those breakfasts of brown rice, barley, or farro porridge, dark leafy greens, pickled Japanese plums, and pickled radish were both because I think they're equally delicious and healthy meals.

The cabbage, kale, Brussels sprouts, brown rice, beans, and random vegetables many people have made fun of me for eating for years...  It was time to find out if all of my efforts to eat conscientiously were about to pay off!


The Bowel Prep:

I guess I was so excited to have my first colonoscopy I got confused and started my bowel prep a day early by accident. LOL. What the what? Who does that? Me! Fred pointed it out when he realized it (he knew the dates because he was my designated driver) but it was too late. I made the executive decision to stop the prep (I'd only taken some laxatives) and continue with the prep solution the next day on schedule, which meant not eating for 2 days instead of the required 24 hours. This paid off in the end when my Gastroenterologist complimented my prep as one of he best he'd ever seen. It gave my surgical team a great laugh when I told them what had happened.

Because I want you to have a positive experience here are some prep-tips nobody else may tell you about but I will:
  1. You can avoid a lot of soreness by the end of the prep if you follow just this one piece of advice: Do yourself a favor and get a package of baby wipes. Natural ones with no unnecessary chemicals or perfumes because this isn't the time to discover you have an allergic reaction to them. Trust me, you do not want to use toilet paper. Also, blotting is recommended over back and forth wiping motions.
  2. If you live alone and don't mind smelling up the bathroom (hallway, eek gads maybe your whole house or apartment) go for it! If you don't live alone and are worried about embarrassing odors that may be unleashed during your prep try this: Before using your toilet add 2-3 drops of essential oil into the toilet bowl EVERY SINGLE TIME before you use it (any scent will do or buy some Poo-Pourri). It will create a film over the top of the water that holds all odors beneath it. I learned this trick on the Crunchy Betty website.
  3. I brought my camping air mattress out of The Glampette and put it in the bathroom along with a pillow and blanket. It was easier than making a mad dash to the bathroom for the first two hours of the first 1/2 of the prep. When you have to go it's not like a normal bowel movement. You don't think to yourself "Oh, I need to go to the bathroom, after I finish whatever it is I'm doing." No! During a prep it's more like your colon suddenly yells at you: "YOU ARE GOING TO GO TO THE BATHROOM IN LESS THAN 5 SECONDS (and it will take less than 8 seconds to empty the entire contents of your bowel)!
  4. Mix your prep solution (adding in the lemon flavor packet) at least one hour before you have to begin drinking it then put in your refrigerator because it tastes better cold.
  5. If possible place a short stool beside the toilet and put your feet up while your relieve yourself. To sit upright is (surprisingly) an unnatural angle for our bodies to efficiently poop! The Squatty Potty website explains why in depth.
I made this illustration to show you what a colon looks like!


My No-sedation Request:

Spoiler Alert: The next images you'll see in this post are two small photographs of my actual colon taken by the doctor during my procedure. IMO i
t's not gross unless you think the inside of a squeaky clean pink vacuum hose is gross. Plus they were approved by my Mom and Auntie as "ok" to show the world when I ran this post by them first. LOL They're my official content censors. I included the pictures because I think it's important to demystify the process. I did't know what my colon looked like or was shaped like until after my procedure. The illustration above shows the outside, but the photos show the interior view. 

I'd called the doctor's nurse a few days prior to discuss the sedative given during the procedure because I've always had adverse reactions to narcotics (and lots of other medications in general). During the discussion she mentioned I didn't have to have pain meds or sedation if I didn't want them. . . What?????? No sedation? I liked the sound of that simply because I don't like putting chemicals in my body unless absolutely necessary. I know some of you are thinking there is no moment when medications are necessary than moments like this! LOL

After spending time on Google and talking to my procedure team I learned:

  • Most of Europe and some countries in Asia don't offer any sedation for colonoscopies.
  • There are two categories of people in the U.S. who typically decline sedation being those who have struggled with addiction and anesthesiologists.
  • Also, that only 1% of Americans choose non-sedated colonoscopies, possibly because most don't realize non-sedated is even an option.
  • From what I can tell (after reading pages and pages of articles online, here are just a few: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6) is that most hospitals use conscious sedation but some are moving towards deep sedation using propofol which carries increased risks. I didn't like the sound of that. Hmmmm. I'd seen Katie Couric have her procedure on tv years ago. It couldn't be that bad could it?

I broke the news of my no pain meds/sedation decision upon my arrival. Everyone seemed quite shocked (like eyes got big and jaws dropped). They said it was very unusual for anyone to ask for no sedation or pain meds. I assured them I have a very high tolerance to pain by reciting a partial resume of injuries I've suffered through over the years. Though I did agree to an IV in the back of my hand so if I changed my mind they could immediately administer sedation and I'd be out in two minutes.

If you choose a non-sedated procedure be prepared to pass gas as needed. Your doctor is going to pump you up with air or water. If air is used (as in my case) to try to hold it all in will cause unnecessary pain. I had almost no discomfort because my doctor used less air than normal, enough to inflate my bowel for viewing but not as much as he would normally have done had I been sedated. On the plus side I will point out that if your bowel is empty the gas has no odor to it whatsoever so nothing to be embarrassed about in that department. What little I did pass made no sound at all.

My Dr. was also snapping photos as he moved though each section of my colon. After it was over he gave me a a printed sheet of 8 photos. It was like I went to a colon photobooth and had the pictures to prove it :D When I asked Fred to scan them for me for my blog he looked at me like I had a third eyeball growing out of my forehead. As I recall he said "Aw come on. . . You've got to be kidding!" I tried to explain to him the post would be like a healthcare PSA to encourage people to not be afraid of the procedure but he just shook his head and walked away. LOL It took months to get him to do it for me!

So here you go, these are two pictures of my colon. I don't know, to me they aren't really anything other than interesting. I had no idea that I had a body part that looked like the inside of my mom's old Hoover vacuum hose. So, as the procedure was taking place I happily chatted away with the team and watched my innards on the tv monitor. My doctor asked if I worked in the medical field. I'm not sure if that was because I was so relaxed or because I knew more than the average bear about what was going on. I replied "No, I just read Google a lot."


Was it Painful?

Do be prepared for some discomfort. The small amount I felt was mostly around a level 3 (on a scale of 1 least and 10 most). I felt a little discomfort around each turn and on the final fourth turn my discomfort level shot up to a 5-6 for all of about 3-5 seconds. If you've ever had food poisoning, the flu, or menstrual cramps they are usually a 10 and last for hours or days. So this? It was incredibly easy to endure.

• As I laid on my side it literally took less than a second for the scope to be placed. There was no uncomfortable stretching or pain of any kind. Zero. Zilch.
• The first turn going in wasn't so bad.
• Neither was the second turn.
• The third? I felt what can only be described as something foreign to my body pushing against me. I gasped out loud and proclaimed "I've never been pregnant but this must be what it feels like when a baby kicks inside you!" Which made everyone on my team LOL.
• The fourth turn was definitely the most uncomfortable. It lasted several seconds and then the Dr. said "That's it!" Everyone seemed quite pleased and a bit excited that I'd made it though with no sedation. At that point my reply was that it felt like the scope was near my left arm pit. I then realized I'd tensed up during that last turn. As soon as I relaxed the arm pit discomfort went away. LOL
• There was no pain at all on as the doctor began to retract the scope and the show started on the monitor. There was quite a bit of yellow liquid (excess stomach acid) but he said that was just fine. It suctioned out quickly and easily revealing a perfect viewing environment. That was when My Dr. complimented me on having done such a good bowel prep.
• There were a few seconds of discomfort at each turn when the colonoscope was withdrawn. Most were barely significant. The notable exception was the last turn out but then it was all done and the surgical team made me feel like a colonoscopy rock star!

The Results:

Right there in the procedure room I was told I have the colon of a 20 year old and there wasn't anything I need to be concerned about. Later I found out I can wait a decade before my next check-up.

Post Procedure:

After, I was whisked back to the same waiting room I started in. I got to skip the recovery room since I wasn't sedated. One of the nurses who checked me in came by and gave me an inquisitive look from the doorway. I nodded yes (to let her know I made it through with no meds), and she gave me a big smile and thumbs up.

The nurse attending me told me I could leave as soon as I passed gas. LOL


Aside from getting to watch the entire procedure while it's happening (which was pretty cool), saving some money by not using anesthesia, and being able to leave sooner, another great benefit of going sedation-free was I could eat immediately after the procedure was done. Having not eaten in almost 48 hours I was starving and had brought a bag of cheese puffs with me to eat on the way home :)


Also, while the prep is necessary for viewing during your procedure it is hard on your body clearing out probably most of your healthy gut biota (aka microbiome). To help it recover quickly it's good to eat fermented foods (like yogurt, miso, tempeh, sauerkraut, or kimchi), bananas, and fresh cruciferous vegetables like kale and broccoli, blueberries, and beans.

All in all it wasn't bad. Turned out I didn't even need to have Fred go with me. Since I wasn't sedated I could have driven myself home.

I know no-sedation isn't for everyone. We all have different pain thresholds and if you have other gastrointestinal conditions that are already painful I'm pretty sure non-sedated wouldn't be advisable. But for some of us it is not only possible but really not a big deal at all to go without pain meds or sedation. I'm sure you'll know what's right for you. Just please, if you're over 50 and haven't had one yet, I hope you'll consider scheduling your first colonoscopy. It could literally save your life and maybe even give you a few good laughs along the way.



Disclaimer:

This post is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Please seek advice from your physician or other qualified health professionals with any questions you may have regarding colonoscopy or any medical condition(s). This is simply my personal experience that I wanted to share with you to encourage others to be pro-active about their health.

Sunday, January 24, 2016

#WinterCarProblems

The day I attended the artist's reception for the ArtPrize: Second Glance gallery exhibit Fred (being the nice guy he is and because he wasn't going with me) offered to scrape all of the ice and snow off my car since I was all dressed up. Aw. Ok. Thanks, I said. I finished getting ready then went out. As I approached the car he didn't even break it to me gently, he just said straight up: "Your door handle broke off." Um, ok. What could I say? He said he didn't even pull on it that hard but the door had frozen to the frame, again. In his defense the fact that moving to MI, parking in the driveway all winter, and that the plastic door handle is 22 years old may have had something to do with it.


LOL the thing that was really funny (to me) about it was a lady at ArtPrize last fall gave me her advice to avoid having my doors freeze to the car frame: "Don't make any appointments before noon in the wintertime, that way they'll be thawed out by the time you need to leave" she said. Well, this was at 1:00 PM. So much for free advice no matter how well intended :D

Now I'll have to find a new door handle, and have it painted. Or not. Turns out I can open the door, it's just really tricky. Which would be good if anyone ever tried to car-jack me through my driver's side door. No way would they have time to figure out how to get in before I floor it and leave them in the dust. Or slush. Not that there are a whole lot of car-jackings around here so maybe I should just get it fixed.

I tagged this image on Instagram earlier today with: #winter #michigan #midwest #ugh #oops #uhoh #carproblems #iced #badnews #broken #thisneverhappenedincalifornia

Ah, the joys of a Midwest winter :D

Friday, January 22, 2016

I love coffee... Finally!

By now most of you know that I do my best to consume a balanced diet meaning I eat very healthy things. . . And some very unhealthy things :) It's definitely a balancing act. At most I try to consume only one sugary thing a day. Before it was ice cream, a little bit each night but then I saw a news article early last year that said drinking 5 cups of coffee a day had a lot of health benefits. Since then I've traded in my ice cream for a smidge of chocolate sauce in my cafe mocha each morning.


The thing is I've always loved the way coffee smells but not so much the way it tastes. That is until, just like dessert wines, I finally figured out the very specific way I could enjoy it. It has to be very strong (I only like espresso beans), with just 3 TBS of milk or soy milk, and just under 1 TBS of Torani chocolate sauce added to it.


The first few times I made coffee I swiped some of Fred's paper filters for his Melitta pour-over system, plopped one in my kitchen funnel and gave it a go. Once I figured out the type of beans I liked I was ready to take the plunge and get some kind of single cup coffee maker. I didn't want anything that was breakable or had to be plugged in because I wanted to be able to take it traveling in The Glampette with me. I finally decided on a French press so that I wouldn't need to use disposable filters each day.

The Espro press pictured with my mug and a bowl of freshly ground coffee.

After a lot of online research I decided The Espro Press was the way to go. By all accounts it is outstanding and the first press that has a double micro-filtration system so no grounds make it through to make your coffee gritty. It comes in three sizes (8 oz, 18 oz, and 32 oz). I got the 8 oz as it would be my one cup per day which I figured would help keep me from becoming a raging coffeeholic.


Speaking of coffee, while reading about the different types and how to prepare them I learned you can buy raw beans and roast them at home. I ordered some from Mojo Roast online and was quite excited to roast them in my cast iron fry pan on my camping stove out on the back deck when they arrived. I learned to use a whisk to stir with and do it outside for sure because it's a very smoky process.


It's like making risotto. You continuously stir the beans for just over 15 minutes. I wish I'd saved the links to the articles I read (maybe these 1, 2) and the video I watched but I didn't and it was practically a year ago so I don't recall exactly which ones I used when I looked at Google just now. You can also you an air-pop popcorn popper to do the job. But I didn't have one so I stuck used the cast iron pan I did have.

Funny thing was, while roasting them out on the back deck I was attacked by black flies trying to bite my ears. I'd fling my arm up to brush them away and in the process a bean or two would fly out of the pan in the whisk and end up on the deck. As I collected them up after I was done I realized I had a perfect color chart to show the stages of roasting.


But here's the tricky thing. Even though you can find article after article that says drinking 5 cups a day is the magic number, none say how much ground coffee you use or to what ratio of water. This is something I noticed right off the bat because Fred uses less ground coffee than I do but then ends up using probably close to 7 cups of water and drinks weak, black coffee all day long. . .


Where as I like my coffee STRONG! I use 3 TBS of ground coffee to 8 oz of water. That's it. One cup a day but it's rich and tasty.


My new habit has also given me a reason to use the beautiful curlew mugs I found on Etsy years ago.

The bad thing? Oddly I still haven't gotten into the routine of being a daily coffee drinker. There have been a few instances where I forgot to drink my morning coffee and didn't realize, until a few hours later when I was lying around the house like a slug in a brain fog around noon, what was amiss (usually after Fred pointed it out). LOL


I even had a go at making cold-pressed coffee. I'll probably do more of that next summer.


It would go great with the breakfast affogatos (cofee + ice cream) I make from time to time :) See what I did there? Instead of chocolate sauce I add ice cream!


I even took my Espro to the Tearjerkers CRA Teardrop Trailer Rally last summer. Because it's small it was easy to pack and travel with. It's also gone into my carry on luggage when I've flown home to visit my family.

So, after many failed attempts over the years to learn to like and drink coffee, I finally do! Well, except for the days I forget. LOL


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