Bzzzzzz

I’m a BzzAgent. What’s that? I signed up here, filled out surveys and now get stuff free in the mail to try out. The products I get are based on the surveys I take, so they are catered to my tastes. I then review the products on the BzzAgent website and Bzz about it on Facebook and Twitter. It’s pretty fun! I’ve only been a part of a few “campaigns”, but so far, I’ve had a blast. To Bzz about the latest campaigns I’m in, I’m writing a blog post to share two cool products I’ve had the privilege of trying out.

Do you like candy? I do. I love M&Ms with peanuts and Snickers bars.

Do you like artificial coloring, hydrogenated stuff, corn syrup, preservatives and GMOs? Me neither.

Good news! There is a company that doesn’t have any of that junk, but tastes just like the top candies available at CVS and other major stores! Incredibly, this company doesn’t use artificial food coloring in their products. Check out the color wheel they have provided on their website. It compares where they get their colors from verses where other candy companies get their colors from. Fascinating!

You can always get “healthy” candy at health food stores, but now this wonderful option is available at places like Walgreens, CVS, etc. Want to know where you can buy it near you, click here.

I’m really thankful for Unreal. Junk is just not necessary. So their taking it out.

So here is their promise to you:

GET THE WORD OUT ABOUT UNREAL AND WE’LL KEEP UNJUNKING YOUR FAVORITE JUNK FOODS.

Thanks Unreal!

Campaign #2: Glade.

I bought two oil diffusers from Target (for free with coupons provided by BzzAgent) and put one in the reception area at my office and in my bathroom at home. The office now smells like sweet apple pie and I am constantly hungry. From the moment I put the air freshener out, I’ve received non-stop comments about how good it smells in the office now. I’m not much of an air freshener person. I was raised by a woman that can’t stand perfume. But, these scents are actually very genuine and refreshing. I don’t get a headache with these. :) I have two huge books of coupons to try these for free, so if you are interested, leave a comment.

Like I said, we love joe.

Phillip and I have decided to take our love of  joe to the next level.

We bought a roaster from Sweet Marias. OK, so it’s nothing major, but we dropped a little dough and bought this little toy to try our hand at home roasting. We purchased a sampler of green beans with it. Friends and family, if you are interested in “testing” our new roasts, leave a comment. ;)

First, a note about home roasting and the value of Sweet Maria’s website. It is an exceptional site full of information for home roasters! I mean, just look at this menu!

Pretty cool, huh?

Sweet Maria’s guides you through all the ins and outs of coffee roasting. After some roasting, I looked into how to make coffee blends, because it seems like that’s what every coffee roaster does. Here’s what I discovered (long quote, but worth it):

“Blending is done for several reasons. Presumably, the goal is to make a coffee that is higher in cup quality than any of the ingredients individually. But high quality arabica coffee should be able to stand alone; it should have good clean flavor, good aromatics, body and aftertaste. So one reason coffees are blended in the commercial world might be the use of lower-quality coffee in the blend. Another reason might be to create a proprietary or signature blend that leads consumers to equate a particular coffee profile with a particular brand image; consumers don’t often call Starbucks by the origin names used in the coffee but simply as “a cup of Starbucks” as if the dark carbony roast tastes were somehow exclusive to that brand. Coffees are also blended to attain consistency from month to month and crop year to year. This is done with major brands that do not want to be dependent on any specific origin flavor so they can source coffee from various (or the least expensive) sources and attain a consistent flavor. Such blends generally reduce all the coffees included to the lowest common denominator.”

So, I don’t think our goal is to create coffee blends at all, just to stick with learning how to roast single origin coffee the best we can.

Want to try your hand at roasting, but don’t want to drop the dough? Try a Whirleypop on your stovetop! Here’s a pdf of directions from Sweet Marias.

We purchased the Fresh Roast SR500. It’s small, similar in size to a coffee pot or a popcorn maker. In fact, it functions just like a popcorn maker, using hot air to roast the beans. Larger, more industrial style coffee roasters are often gas powered and now even using infrared technology to roast the beans.

The next most important tool, so I’ve read, but not actually tested the difference yet, is your grinder. I’ve written about the importance of using  a burr grinder in an earlier post.

Phillip and I are both avid coffee drinkers, but for some reason neither of us has ever learned the difference between coffee origins (like Guatamala versus Sumatra) and the different roasts (French and Italian).  I used to scan the selection of beans from Trader Joes and not know what I was looking for, other than a coffee that was dark and full of flavor. I’d imagine it’s easy to go your whole life without ever knowing the differences.

Our love affair with coffee, fed by the fact that it is a common interest between the two of us, has bloomed into an ever increasing search for knowledge about the second largest traded commodity in the world next to oil. It’s been encouraged along the way by things like the Chemex, to which I was introduced by a good friend and single origin coffee, thanks to Ritual and Four Barrel in San Francisco, two local roasters we visited in San Francisco on our honeymoon. Slowly but surely we’ve gotten here, to buying our own home roaster and seeking to understand all there is to know about coffee. Along with our roaster, we also got a variety pack of green beans from Sweet Marias. We’ve been making our way through the different beans, roasting to different lengths and looking for flavors.

Below is a picture of a peaberry. Normally a coffee berry has two beans inside, but once in a while only one will develop into a bulb shaped single bean with no flat side. This is a peaberry.

When I make a pot of coffee with my Chemex, this is how it makes me feel.

Like brewing beer or drinking fine wine, there are always gadgets and gizmos galore! How much you want to geek out about coffee is up to you. Phillip and I have definitely chosen the coffee geek path. We have a number of other coffee purchases on the horizon. One being Chemex’s new best friend, the Kone. Only, it’s $60! What? Did I just say $60? OK, it will be a while before we are able to buy this…

Kone Stainless Steel Conical Filter

Another great product is the Clever Coffee Dripper. Might I say, a much more affordable product too.

“It differs from a normal filtercone by way of a stopper added to the bottom: water only drains once the filtercone is placed onto a cup. This design features more durable plastic, and is easy to disassemble for cleaning. In essence, the Clever Coffee Dripper combines the best features of French press and filter drip brewing, eliminating the drawbacks of each. With French press brewing, you have control over steeping time, but heat loss and sediment in the cup can be a problem. Brewing with a paper filter is easy and convenient; the problem is lack of control over steeping time (i.e. the coffee begins to drain immediately). By adding a stopper to the filtercone, the Clever Coffee Dripper combines control over steeping time with a sediment-free cup. We call this a “full immersion brewing” method.”

Clever Coffee Dripper - LARGE

It seems that coffee culture is blooming, pun intended, and I’m really excited that Starbucks is finally taking a back seat. It will always sell a ton of coffee, but now really great freshly roasted coffee is soon to be had everywhere! Similar to the home-brewing movement, knowledgeable consumers will seek out good cups of coffee.

Kickstand Coffee from Dear Coffee, I Love You. on Vimeo.

We didn’t know about this farmers market when in San Fransisco, but this would definitely be worth the stop. Pour over coffee and everything! http://jessgibbsphotography.com/2008/cities/ferry-plaza-farmers-market-san-francisco/

A Love Affair with Mason Jars.

I love mason jars. Who doesn’t? No really, I want to know, do people exist out there that don’t love mason jars?? Ever since we used them as our glassware for our wedding reception, I’ve tried to use the leftovers for everything possible. I’ve begun storing all of my beans, rice, oatmeal, coffee and everything else in my kitchen in these well sealed, quaint little jars. Most recently my husband and I started roasting our own coffee in small batches and we store the roasted coffee in mason jars. Problem was, we couldn’t figure out a way to mark them so we knew what they contained. Recently, a blog I follow offered really cute labels to print, cut out and glue to the lids. So I printed them out, bought spray glue and went to town. Unfortunately, the paper ripped and the ink faded within a week. Bummer. Also, for the more temporary roasted coffee, the labels need to constantly change.

Growing tired of less than sticky post-it notes and writing with permanent markers on less than sticky plastic wrap, I devised a solution. Paint the lids with chalkboard paint!

Whether you have a ton of empty mason jars readily on hand or have to go buy some (they are super cheap at any grocery store, feed store, walmart, etc. or try craigslist!),  these jars are a great way to get organized or keep stuff fresh. Now you have an efficient way of labeling your jars too!

We had some chalkboard paint leftover from another project, but you can buy it at any home improvement store. While you’re there, pick up a can of spray primer. In fact, I’d buy the spray paint version of the chalkboard paint and spray primer. Spray works easier because just imagine painting these little lids with somewhat sticky, heavy paint with a paint brush. They slide all over the place and whatever paint you got on the surface you’re painting on beneath the lid, will get on the underside of the lid (although, if you use a piece of tape on the other side, it should help). No bueno, but not a huge deal.

Let the paint dry and color the whole painted side of the lid with chalk. Rub the chalk all over and you’re done! You have to do this step to “primer” the chalk board surface.

Now I have neatly labeled coffee jars. If I really wanted to get fancy, I could write on them with chalk markers…

Because I store everything in mason jars, I spread the love around the whole kitchen. I sure wish my handwriting was cooler.

The possibilities are endless! Let me know what you come up with: oururbanfrontier@gmail.com.

Enjoy!! <3

Being a good wife.

I’m not very good at remembering birthdays and neither is Phillip. All that’s about to change. Now that we are married adults, it’s high time we get with the program and start sending gifts/cards for birthdays and anniversaries. I only regret that it’s taken me 7 months to get on the ball. Wanna know what I did to solve this dilemma?

I finally created a perpetual wall calendar! Have you ever traveled in Europe and seen one of these in someone’s restroom? Kind of strange place for them to be I know, but a good place to have reminders posted. Perpetual birthday calendars are calenders of just the days of the month, without the days of the week. Write someone’s name on the date and presto, a birthday calender that never has to be thrown away! Well, that is until it starts turning yellow and ripping… then you might want to replace it.

I’ve shopped around for years and I’ve tried to create one in the past, but have never completed it. The options online just aren’t very appealing, because they are either too girly or too bulky. So I decided to just do a really simple one and maybe play with the design in the future. Most likely I’ll have to update it every so often, so it will be nice to have it in a word document that can be updated easily or reprinted.

Here’s what it looks like:

For those of you who are trying, like me (key word: trying), to be frugal and responsible, I’ve created a pdf that you can print and either staple or just pin to a cork board. There are many crafty things that can be done with this, but I’ll leave that up to you. I’ll share with you my end product and hope to see how crafty you can get with this too! Shoot me an email with a picture of your final project: tunaranjamedia@gmail.com.

Click for your new Perpetual Birthday Calendar!

Enjoy!

Viva España!

It’s the question, the question you always get asked after a trip and aren’t sure where to start: “How was your trip?”

For starters, Phillip and I made it safely to and from Spain with a brief trip (5 days) to Morocco. We spent some good quality time with Philip’s sister Amy and her new husband Gabriel. Gabriel is from Spain and they were recently married last August. They put us up in their swanky Europad (I’m not kidding, it look like an IKEA catalog! Amy you’ve done a wonderful job!). Phillip and I started our trip off on the right foot, circling Madrid in our rental car a few times before figuring out which freeway to take to go south. In Spain, the freeways don’t use cardinal directions, instead they use major cities, e.g. if Barcelona is on the same road that your destination is on, then you look for Barcelona on the signs. The problem is that you have to know that vital information before setting off on your road trip or have your trusty co-pilot tell you. Unless of course your trusty co-pilot a) can’t pronounce Spanish towns so you can understand or b) you have to look at the map to help her find the cities so much that you might as well not have a co-pilot. That pretty much sums up the driving portion of our trip, which was quite a bit.

One of our first stops. The Windmills of Don Quixote!

We spent the first couple of days with his sister and her husband, enjoying traditional Spanish dishes prepared daily by Gabriel’s mother. At 2 every day we were served a multi-course meal, always with bread. We tried everything from Paella to lentil soup. It was amazing! In Spain, the main meal of the day is lunch, Comida. Everyone stops what they are doing and heads home to eat or heads to a local restaurant to enjoy the Menu del Dia. The Menu del Dia is set menu at a discounted price. Then it’s siesta time, which mostly consists of hanging out at home for a bit, then slipping off to work again. Then it’s a snack and dinner is at 9 or 10 PM. Nothing much, just a light meal. Tapas, wine and beer are often enjoyed in the evening with friends. We gathered with Phillip’s friends around several tapas and glasses of wine. In fact, I’m not sure if I could count how many glasses of wine or beer we drank.

Tapas y churro con chocolate!

Another thing we did a lot of was drink coffee. 3 times a day was our goal. Yes, we had a goal of how much coffee we wanted to drink. Not just any coffee… cafe con leche and cortados. We even visited a small local coffee roaster, which is not very common in Spain. Most of the coffee industry is dominated by larger roasters. Not many people drink drip coffee, mostly just espresso.

Cafe on Leche, Cortado (espresso ‘cut’ with milk), and Cafe Solo (no milk), the top three coffee bevs in Spain.

ValdCafe coffee roaster! Viva cafe!

Completely unmarked. Just a guy who loves roasting coffee and doing his thing.

After hanging out in Valdepenas, we headed south to Granada and Sevilla.  The southern state of Spain, Andalusia, is the home of heavy lisps and Flamenco. Rather than catch a dinner show for tourists, though I’m sure they are great too, we walked the streets late at night hoping to get invited into a gypsy cave for a show. We had no such luck, but were invited by some climbing friends to a local bar outside of Granada for a small show being put on by one of their friends. It was amazing! Flamenco is such an emotional dance and song, originally from the gypsies of Spain. The Mezquita of Cordoba and the Alhambra of Granada, both remnants of the Moors who dominated Spain for almost 1,000 years, wet our appetites for our Moroccan leg of the journey.

All of the colors and textures of these buildings were amazing! Granada was a beautiful old city and was by far my favorite! Picturesque and bustling with food and dance! I’ll post a video and pictures of the Flamenco show later.

Next post: Moroccan adventures! Get your mint tea ready! Need a tutorial? I’ll post one of those too!

Spain, Morocco, and Portugal

Planning a trip is always a mix of stress and excitement. I actually enjoy the process of learning all about the place I’m about to visit, long before I ever get there. If I visit other countries, I try to make an effort to learn basic conversational vocabulary and history. It helps me dive into the place rather than just glance at it through a window, as it were, as I pass by. Guide books, maps, and blogs are especially helpful to become acquainted with your destination. I rely heavily upon TripAdvisor for hotel and restaurant recommendations, because the plethora of reviews that are provided are very thorough. Blogs serve as a journal entry of an individual’s journey and give a first hand account of their experience. You can get a better sense of what an average day of travel is like in that particular place and what sort of atmosphere to expect.

All that to say, I haven’t done any of that for our quickly approaching trip to Spain. We are leaving on Monday, 5 days from today. I’ve pretty much left all the planning up to Phillip, because he’s so knowledgeable of Spain having lived there for a couple years. Problem is, he hadn’t really started planning until this week. This is our first major trip together, so we are learning. As soon as I realized just how loose his plans were earlier this week, I warned him that I might panic at least twice during our trip. He promptly bought a calling card to call Amy, his sister who lives in Spain. He wrote up a rough itinerary (which was bouncing around in his head, but he just hadn’t really hashed it all out) and got to work. The problem is that he knows the country so well that he doesn’t think we have to do much research until we are there. This makes me nervous, so I am going to do research along the lines of his rough itinerary. My first task was looking into side trips.

First side trip: Morocco. Morocco is a hop, skip and a jump from Spain via ferry or plane. A short Rian Air flight from Sevilla to Marrakech, Morocco for two was about $160. There are three main cities in Morocco that get the most air time: Casablanca, Fes and Marrakech. From what I read, Marrakech sounds like an exciting city full of shopping and food! The Medina, the city center, is a giant street market called a Souk. This is what Wiki had to say:

Marrakech has the largest traditional market (souk) in Morocco and also has one of the busiest squares in Africa and the world, Djemaa el Fna.[4] The square bustles with acrobats, story-tellers, water sellers, dancers and musicians. By night food stalls open in the square turning it into a huge busy open-air restaurant.

This time of year Marrakech is about 88° F, so it’s gonna be hot. My priority is finding a hotel that has a decent pool and is near the city center. TripAdvisor had a listing of around 350 hotels in Marrakech, so I read through the reviews of the top hotels and narrowed my search down a little based on price. So far, the only way to book the hotel is to send your inquiry to the hotel on their website and then hope they get back to you. That or call Morocco. Whoa. That just sounds crazy. I’ll probably confirm arrangements before we head out. It seems that the best thing to do in Marrakech is soak in the surroundings of the busy square. The shops that line the streets look amazing with all the Moroccan style lanterns, brightly colored fabric and spices! I’m going to need to exercise some shopping restraint, but I’m going to take pictures to my hearts content! So far my impression is that Marrakech is safe for tourists and is a frequented spot by Brits and the French, so my initial fear is gone. I’m super excited to visit Morocco.

Second side trip that I’m looking into is Porta, Portugal. We were planning on cutting through the top portion of Portugal to get to the north of Spain to visit a friend and guess what happens to be in the north of Portugal? Port wine! Apparently there is a valley of wine in the north that is a must see and a new destination for wine lovers. This region has steadily grown in popularity over the past 10-20 years. I’m going to have to exercise some shopping restraint, yet again.

So these are my two projects for now. I’ll probably look into more Spanish destinations as we drive around Spain. We’ll have lots of car time as we are driving from Madrid toValdepeñas, a town 1 hour south of Madrid where Phillip’s sister lives, to Granada, a few hours south of there. Then from Granada to Sevilla (insert side trip to Morocco) and on to the white hill towns of the south. This will include a trip to Jerez de la Frontera, the home of Sherry! According to Spanish law, it must come from this region to be called Sherry. From there, we’ll drive back up toward Madrid and head West to Portugal, hitting up towns along the way. From the north of Spain we’ll head East toward the Pyrenees mountains and the border to France. We’ll make our way to Barcelona where we are arranging for a photography session in the city. Then finally we’ll head back to Madrid.

As we plan out our trip, a month now doesn’t seem long enough. The crazy thing is that Phillip’s aunt and uncle did this same trip in two weeks! So it’s possible. We’ll be climbing along the way and visiting with friends. We’ll be hanging out with Phillip’s sister and brother-in-law for the first week, which is going to be great! I’m looking forward to practicing my Spanish. :)

I can’t wait for the endless coffees, food and the sights of Spain! I’ll be sure to post pictures via Instagram and Facebook along the way. If you’d like to follow along, follow me on Instagram @TuMediaNaranja.

Vamos a Espana!

Where the heck have I been?! I know, I am guilty of blog neglect.

Between Phillip finishing up tax season and all of our house projects, life has just gotten in the way. The plus side is I have a lot of things to write about and share with you! Unfortunately, I need to carve out some time to do that and I’m not sure when that will be. My goal is to update the blog with pictures and project progress before we leave for Spain.

Yes, Spain! We will be taking off to Spain for the month of June. We will be visiting Phillip’s sister Amy and her husband Gabriel. Also, climbing is huge there so we’ll be climbing like crazy. We plan to split the trip up between sangria, tapas, the sights and climbing. Boy am I gonna have some fun stuff to blog about when I get back! :D So, hang in there and I’ll be posting again soon. Thanks for following our blog, we love sharing about our lives and our experiences here on the ranch (and abroad!).

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