Monthly Archives: January 2013

The Tremendous Power of Friendship

Charlottes-Web

Come back every Tuesday for “The Bees Knees”, where I post the best quotes from my favorite movies, TV shows, songs, and books.

Leave a comment

Filed under quotes

14 Tips for Brewing Tea and Coffee

If you’re going to take the time out of your day to enjoy a nice cup of tea or coffee, make sure you keep these helpful suggestions in mind so you can brew up the perfect cup of whatever you like to drink!

drinking coffee

Tea Brewing Tips:

When using loose tea leaves, it’s important to keep a few things in mind. Everything from the water you use to the steep time will effect the taste of your drink, so use these guidelines to create a beverage that suites you “to a tea”!

Start with fresh, cold water: The best tea is only as good as the water with which it is prepared. Try using filtered or bottled spring water with a natural mineral content. The freshness of the water is important as fresh water contains more oxygen, which enhances the taste of the tea. Never use hot tap water or water that has already boiled for a long time as this will result in a flat and dull tasting tea with little aroma.

Preheat the teapot: It is important to preheat the pot or cup in which the tea will be steeped. If hot water is poured into a cold vessel, the temperature of the water will drop too quickly and the full flavor of the tea will not be extracted. To preheat the pot: pour a little of the boiling water from the kettle into the pot and then pour this water off into the drinking cups to warm them.

Measure the appropriate amount of dry leaves: Ideally, 3 grams of dry leaves should be used for every 6 ounces of water. If you don’t have a scale, try starting with one rounded teaspoon of dry leaves for each 6-ounce cup. With lighter weight teas such as large, wiry oolongs and whites, try 2 teaspoons per 6 oz cup.

Select the right water temperature: Black, Dark Oolong, and Herbal Teas are best prepared with water that has come to near boiling. Don’t let the water boil too long or the oxygen content will be reduced and the tea will taste flat. Green, White, Green Oolong teas should not be prepared with boiling water as this will cook the leaves and destroy their flavor. Japanese greens tend to taste best with water at 170-180º F. China green teas tend to taste best with water at 185º F. Generally, the finer the green tea, the lower the water temperature should be.

Steep time: The time it takes for tea to brew depends on the leaf size. The smaller the leaf, the faster the tea infuses. When you’re experimenting with new teas, let your leaves steep for 2 minutes, then taste your tea. When the tea tastes right, serve or pour off all the liquid to avoid oversteeping. Here are some general guidelines:

Japanese Green Teas: 1-2 minutes
Chinese Green Teas: 2-3 minutes
White Teas: 2-5 minutes
Green Oolong Teas: 2-3 minutes
Dark Oolong Teas: 3-5 minutes
Black Teas: 3-5 minutes
Herbal Infusions: 5-10 minutes

When your tea is done steeping, immediately remove the loose tea from the strainer or the tea bag and lightly stir. Then serve while fresh and hot. If your tea gets too cool, it is best to enjoy it over ice verses re-heating the brew.

Coffee Brewing Tips:

Similar to tea, the perfect cup of coffee begins with using clean water and proper water to coffee ratio.

Start with good water: Like tea, the best coffee comes from mineral content water. The absence of some minerals can lead to bitter tasting coffee, so avoid using distilled water when you brew.

Good quality coffee: Obviously the quality of the coffee you’re using matters when brewing the perfect cup of joe. Also, make sure you store your coffee properly. Oxygen is one of coffee’s biggest adversaries, so keep your beans in an air-tight container to ensure freshness.

The size of the grind: A finer grind means more surface area of the bean is exposed to the water. For a brew method that uses a longer dwell time such as French Press, a coarser grind is necessary. An even grind of any size is ideal, so follow the directions on your grinder.

Use clean equipment: Old sediments easily make for rancid flavors in your coffee. A good rule of thumb is to clean your equipment if you notice or smell any odor. If you can’t remember the last time you cleaned it, it’s probably time to clean it again.

Portion control: The official recommended proportion is 2 tablespoons for every 6 oz of water. If this ratio to strong for you palate you could back it off to 2 tablespoons for every 8 oz of water but any less than this puts you at significant risk for under extracted, watery and thin coffee.

Beans are best: Always purchase whole bean coffee (never pre-ground), and grind just prior to use. Yes, this is an inconvenience compared to buying pre-ground, but it is an absolute must if you want to end up with a tasty cup. Home coffee grinders are very inexpensive and can be found at most department and kitchen/home stores.

Every Monday is a “Reci-bee” post, where I share my favorite recipes, recipe collections, and cooking and baking hints and tips. 

2 Comments

Filed under drink recipes

Celebrate with Pippa Middleton Book Review

Pippa+Middleton's+book,+Celebrate

The Middleton family has quite the success story.  Mother Carole Middleton found and created her own party supply company, Party Pieces.  Kate Middleton, well, we all know her success story, and Kate’s younger sister, Pippa, recently published her first book, Celebrate: A Year of Festivities for Family and Friends.  While this book has received not-so-royal reviews, I found it to be a beautiful book filled with great suggestions for easy projects and recipes for nearly every occasion.

Organized by season, Celebrate is filled with easy ideas for major holidays like Halloween and Christmas, as well as fun celebrations, such as birthday parties, garden parties, tea parties, and even Pancake Day.  The book itself is beautiful to look at, filled with hundreds of photos, tutorials, and recipes that are simple to make.

Throughout the book, Pippa does have a habit of stating obvious facts (“ice goes great with drinks” and “a turkey at Christmas time is good for large gatherings”)…however even the crafting goddess herself, Martha Stewart, falls back on factual slogans to help prove a point.  What Pippa does in Celebrate, and what I found most enduring about this book, is that she incorporates youth into her designs.  Her decorations, recipes, and party games are simple and budget-friendly, giving us 20 and 30 somethings more fashionable ideas for parties and gatherings.  While seasoned Martha Lovers may look at this book as an armature’s guide to cooking and crafting, I look at it as a great go-to guide for easy, doable, non-stressful party ideas and suggestions.

With Celebrate, Pippa Middleton is not reinventing the wheel for entertaining, rather she’s finding a way–fashionable as always–to reinterpret it.

Looking for a new book to read? Check in every Friday for a “Bee Happy” post, where I share reviews of books I’ve read or other book-themed lists.

Leave a comment

Filed under book reviews

9 Clever Uses for the Dishwasher

Baseball hats, sponges, toys, flip flops, and potatoes all have one thing in common…they can all be cleaned with a dishwasher!

This standard kitchen appliance isn’t just for dishes anymore. With a little creativity, you can use your dishwasher to clean everything from hats to food.

As someone who has tried several of these ideas, I don’t recommend mixing any of these things in with a load of dishes, since food particles can get on the fabric of a baseball hat. If you’re going to wash shoes, toys, or other kitchen equipment in the dishwasher, gather up as much as you can to give yourself a good sized load. Do the dishes separately to ensure that nothing gets damaged in the process.

Also I recommend letting anything you wash in the dishwasher (that isn’t dishes) air dry. The heat setting on the machine can melt plastic and warp certain materials, so simply wash your products and let them air dry in the racks with the door open to allow for air flow.

Dishwasher

Clean Baseball Hats: Perhaps the most well-known odd use for a dishwasher is to use it to clean dirty baseball hats. Rather than putting them through the vigorous washing machine, place dirty hats on the top rack of the dishwasher and they’ll come out stink free. This trick also works well for shin guards and knee pads.

Properly Clean Kitchen Sponges: Sponges are notorious for absorbing odors, so if you find yourself with a smelly sponge, simply throw them into your dishwasher to extend their use.

Clean Kids and Dog Toys: From LEGOS to tug of war toys, the dishwasher can handle all the germs that kids and pets seem to attract. Doing this around flu season can help limit your chances of having to deal with runny noses and upset tummies.

Get New Life from Flip Flops, Jellies, and Crocs: Rubber shoes aren’t made to last forever, but you can get good use out of them if you wash them occasionally. Rubber also absorbs foot odor, so these summer staples tend to smell…so remember to wash them once in a while to keep your toes (and your home) smelling fresh. You could also run the dishwasher with a little baking soda to help clean the shoes and your dishwasher at the same time.

Give Your Car a New Set of Wheels: Stubborn road grime can be hard to remove from metal hubcaps and wheel covers, but a run through the dishwasher on the pots and pans cycle ought to give your hub caps a sparkly shine.

Garden and Construction Tools: Rusty outdoor tools can do with a good cleaning every so often. Freshen up garden tools, hammers, screwdrivers, and wrenches by tossing them into the dishwasher.

Get a Fresh Look with Clean Hair Accessories and Makeup Brushes: Hairspray, products, and oily tresses can gunk up your favorite hair pieces…so run your combs, brushes, ties, barrettes, and hairpins through the dishwasher to help extend their use. You can also use the dishwasher to clean the oils and residue from your makeup brushes. This will not only extend the life of your brushes, but will help prevent acne from forming, since plenty of bacteria reside on your brushes (Hairbrushes and combs made of plastic can take a spin, but not wood or natural boar-bristle brushes. Be sure to remove all the hair first to protect the drain).

Stubborn Kitchen Shelves, Grates, and Stovetops: Spills and burns can make refrigerator shelves, oven shelves, and stovetop grates near impossible to clean by hand, but the mighty dishwasher can help clean those tough spots in no time.

Soapy Suds: Okay, don’t add soap, but the dishwasher can help you clean off a whole bunch of potatoes if you’re cooking for a crowd.

Knowledge is power!  Learn fun facts, hints and tips, and creative ways to use every day items with “The Buzz” posts on Thursday.

Leave a comment

Filed under clever uses

How to Turn Christmas Cards into Bookmarks

I don’t know about you, but I really don’t like throwing away cards that people send me.  A few years ago I did a purge of all the cards I had saved over the years and I gave each one a kiss before placing it in the recycling bin.

In some cases, I was able to reuse the card by cutting it up and using pieces for scrapbook embellishments or even to make new cards.  For the cards that I got for the holidays, I decided to create simple bookmarks (or gift tags) to be used in the years to come.  This is an easy way to reuse cards for all occasions and a collection of these cute bookmarks would make a great stocking stuffer come next Christmas.

Recycle Cards1

You could even use up leftover Christmas bows and ribbons to embellish your bookmarks.  Remember that these will be holding a place in a book, so don’t add too many embellishments because it can warp the book pages.  I left my bookmarks as is, but if you’re using an old card as a gift tag, feel free to add stickers, sentiments, ribbons…whatever your little heart desires!

Recycle Cards2

Recycled Christmas Cards Bookmarks and Tags

Materials:

  • Cards
  • Scissors
  • Ruler
  • Pencil
  • Ribbons
  • Embellishments (optional)

s

Instructions:

  1. Lay your cards out and use a ruler and a pencil to create lines where you want to cut your bookmark out.  Cut along the lines.  If a card is a bit flimsy, you can glue a piece of cardboard to the back or use the backing from the back of the card to thicken your bookmark.
  2. Embellish your bookmarks with ribbons, stickers, glitter, etc.  Remember you want your bookmarks to be flat so they don’t warp pages of a book.

Recycle Cards3

dRecycle Cards4

dRecycle Cards5

dRecycle Cards6

Celebrate creativity every Wednesday with a “Creativi-bee” post, where I share easy craft tutorials, project ideas, and craft collections.

3 Comments

Filed under christmas

A Wolf, Tame and Gentile…

Little-Red-Riding-Hood-Quote

Come back every Tuesday for “The Bees Knees”, where I post the best quotes from my favorite movies, TV shows, songs, and books.

Leave a comment

Filed under quotes

Full Service Book Review

full-service

Hollywood has always been a town full of dirty secrets. The blood of the town is fueled with lies, deceit,  bargains,  dirty deals, and selfish villains.  As is true with the movies it produces, nothing is really as it seems in this land of stars and dreams.

Even in its hey day, Hollywood was home to thousands of stars who would stop at nothing to keep their personal secrets behind closed doors. Stars behind and in front of the camera would do just about anything to give the illusion of a happy marriage, a loving family, or a swinging bachelor lifestyle. Gay men and women would marry for the sake of convenience and were forbidden from embracing their true sexuality at the risk of ruining studio reputations.  Many stars, therefore, including Cary Grant, Vincent Price, Edith Piaf, Spencer Tracy, Kathrine Hepburn, and even the Duke of Windsor had to rely on someone to help them achieve in private what they couldn’t achieve in public.

This casinova of sorts, by the name of Scotty Bowers, would arrange sexual escapades for some of Hollywood’s brightest and biggest stars. Working out of a gas station on Hollywood Blvd., Bowers became everyone’s go-to guy for arranging “tricks” with people of all sexual orientations. Now in his 80’s, Bowers looks back on his life as a sexual matchmaker in his tell-all book, Full Service, and doesn’t hold back when it comes to naming names and giving full details of his sexual exploits.

I for one was in a complete state of shock from beginning to end. While this book isn’t exceptionally well-written (it reads more like a diary), the stories in Full Service are engrossing…so much so that, by the end, I was questioning whether this account was actually true.  Several well-known stars work their way in and out of Bowers’s life, and nothing is off limits when it comes to discussing what these celebrities enjoyed between the sheets.

In the long run, whether these sexual tales actually happened or not is irrelevant,  since many of the celebrities in discussion are no longer alive to attest to these shenanigans…but Full Service is a good trashy read that will give gossip lovers a complete and often crude look into the private lives of some of the most well-loved and highly respected of the Hollywood glitterati.

Looking for a new book to read? Check in every Friday for a “Bee Happy” post, where I share reviews of books I’ve read or other book-themed lists.

Leave a comment

Filed under book reviews

8 Clever Uses for Vanilla Extract

Vanilla extract has been used by chefs and bakers alike for hundreds of years. Whether you’re more prone to the imitation vanilla or the real deal, this well-loved extract is a powerful “flavor potentiator”, meaning it enhances our ability to taste other foods, including chocolate, coffee, fruit, and nuts. It also boosts our perception of sweetness.

But vanilla extract has several other uses, both for personal use and use around your home. As in baking, a little goes a long way, so better to use less than too much (remember, you can always add more if needed).

Here are a few cool and clever ways to use vanilla extract!

For most of these, imitation vanilla will work just fine…so save the good stuff for baking and use up the imitation vanilla extract on these ideas.

vanilla

  • Add a fresh scent to your fridge by soaking a cotton ball or a piece of sponge with vanilla extract and leaving it in the refrigerator. You can also wipe down the fridge with vanilla, but I think that might be a little overpowering, not to mention a waste of good extract!
  • You can also use vanilla to get that nasty smell out of your microwave. Pour a little vanilla extract into a bowl and microwave on high for one minute to help get rid of the smell.
  • Trying to sell your home? Dab a little vanilla extract on a light bulb, turn on the light, and your house will be filled with the smell of baked goods!
  • Spending some time outdoors? Ward off pesky mosquitoes by applying a mixture of 1 tablespoon vanilla extract and 1 cup of water on your skin.
  • Vanilla extract is great to have on hand for those horrible kitchen burns. The evaporation of the alcohol in the extract will help cool the burn, giving you quick relief.
  • Rub some vanilla extract on your wrists for an instant perfume!
  • Add vanilla to a basket of pine cones for an instant potpourri display. The scent of vanilla can help calm your nerves and keep you relaxed.
  • Most bakers use vanilla extract on a pretty constant basis, but you can use it in several other recipes as well. Try it on ice cream, fruit, cereal, oatmeal, and even seafood.

Knowledge is power!  Learn fun facts, hints and tips, and creative ways to use every day items with “The Buzz” posts on Thursday.

Leave a comment

Filed under clever uses

May we Make Port in a Good Harbor

New-Years-Quote

Come back every Tuesday for “The Bees Knees”, where I post the best quotes from my favorite movies, TV shows, songs, and books.

Leave a comment

Filed under quotes