Sunday, July 31, 2011

Coffee break!

Friday I mentioned that I'd share how to make a perfect espresso and some twists on the traditional cappuccino. I know I'm late on this but maybe you'll be able to start your Monday morning with a great cup of coffee.

Warning- we take our coffee very seriously! What can I say, we love coffee.

The key to a good coffee is a good espresso and the key to a good espresso is (1) fresh coffee beans, (2) the right ground, and (3) the right amount of tamping pressure.

Coffee 1: Espresso
Espresso means rapid in Italian, it's a coffee you drink on the fly!

I have to be honest, I never opt for this but Tony loves a shot of espresso in the middle of the day.

The espresso is the basis for all the coffees to follow.

Instructions for espresso machine:
1. Fill your machine’s water reservoir with cold water. Bottled water is recommended if your tap water is very hard.
2. For each cup of espresso, measure one generous teaspoon of ground coffee. Grind your beans to a fine-grind. If you coffee comes out to watery, your ground is likely too thick. If the extraction takes too long, the ground might be too fine.
3. Place the coffee in the filter and firmly tamp the coffee. It should be evenly distributed and compact.
4. Brew for 20-25 seconds. A properly prepared espresso will fill half the espresso cup and will have caramel-colored crema covering the top.

Check out this video to help you recognize the perfect espresso.

*** If you are using a stove top (moka pot) espresso maker you'll need to have your coffee ground finer than for an espresso machine. Also, you do not tamp the coffee.

***After about one week of being exposed to air, the taste of coffee beans will change. If you purchase large quantities of coffee beans, try to store them in vacuum packed bags or containers.

Here's Tony makings our Saturday morning coffee. He's tamping the coffee.
Your espresso should have a top layer of crema.
Coffee 2: Cappuccino
1. Make a perfect espresso
2. Froth some milk and pour into the espresso (about 1/3 espresso 2/3 milk)
Frothing the milk
Sprinkle some yummy coco powder and enjoy!

Coffee 3: Nutella-cino
Add a teaspoon of Nutella to the cup before you make the espresso. The hot espresso will melt the Nutella and then add your warm milk. It's delicious!



Coffee 4: Whippet Surprise
Currently my favorite morning (and afternoon, and evening) coffee.
Make a cappuccino and drop in a whippet. My fav is the 70% chocolate whippets but they all work well. The beauty of this is that the chocolate and marshmallow begin to melt into the coffee. At the end scoop up the remaining whippet with a spoon.

Sooooooooo goooooood!

Coffee 5: Summer Time Cap
Scoop one very generous table spoon of vanilla frozen yogurt in a large coffee mug and then pour your espresso shot on top. Allow the frozen yogurt to melt and then add cold milk. It should be 1/3 frozen yogurt, 1/3 espresso, and 1/3 milk.  My favorite is Chapman's Madagascar Vanilla Bean frozen yogurt. Sprinkle with coco powder.

Perfect on a hot summer day

Enjoy your coffee!

Let me know if you try any of these. 


Linking to:

Friday, July 29, 2011

Coffee Bar

Hello, I'm Nancy- you're barista. Cappuccino?

Yesterday I revealed the living room renovation. In our living room we have a coffee bar and I'd like to share more about this space and it's transformation. So join me on a tour.

A little reminder-our bar looked like this:

 and then like this:

and now like this:

A few close ups behind the scenes:
The bar is from the Hooker Furniture collection

We built this section to accommodate a sink,a refrigerator and to add some storage. That's our cat Fonzi waiting for his milk.

We removed the fake brick and mirrors in the original shelving and lined the entire enclave with maple veneered wood. We the framed it out with moldings. We stained the entire enclave a similar color as our cherry wood floors. I initially intended to line it with drywall and paint it the same color as the wall but my husband really liked the wood look, so I gave in. 

Hope you enjoyed the tour!

Check back tomorrow and I'll let you in on our coffee secrets: how to make a perfect cappuccino as well as a few creative twists on your morning coffee.


Thursday, July 28, 2011

Living room renovation complete- the reveal

Hello, hello, hello! Hope everyone is enjoying the beautiful summer weather.

At the start of the week I posted about our living room renovation. It was the second project we undertook and, with everything we had going on in our lives at the time (wedding plans, working on my Ph.D and, of course, work) it was probably one of the most challenging projects. Because it was a total gut of a large room in the home and we were new to the renovation world, we found ourselves overwhelmed! All the renovators out there know that little complication always show up, that time lines have no real significance, that budgets are meant to be thrown out the window, etc. But when your new at it, it's frustrating! 
At this stage in the renovation game (4 years in), I'm much better with all the challenges that appear along the way. One thing I keep in mind is that in the long run, it's always worth it. Also, all the little things that caused you to break out in tears or screams will actually make for good comedy once the project is over.

And after my rant, here are the after pictures of our living room:
We love the way the floors turned out. The color variations in cherry wood are just beautiful. The couches were hand-me downs from my brother. I'd prefer a darker color, but when its free you don't complain. You'll also notice from the before pictures below that the fireplace insert was spay painted black. If you plan on doing this, you must use spray paint made for fireplaces. The paint has to be able to withstand high heat. The light fixtures above the fireplace are the originals. I also sprayed them black (I know, I'm obsessed with spraying things black!) but I can't decide if I like them or not. I keep looking for alternatives but haven't yet found any I love.

The wall art is a reproduction of an Illustrated London News image from 1933. You can also see the train-station clock hanging on the wall.
View into the living room from the old kitchen. I am on the hunt for an area rug, but can't seem to decide on a style

View of our coffee bar. This is where we sit and have coffee every morning before work. I love this spot.

The bar, again.

Even our 17 year old cat Fonzi hangs out at the bar. He just waits to be served his milk. Cats can be so demanding!

Now, here are some reminders of what the room looked like before the renovation:

The fireplace remained more or less the same. The stone is stunning so I wanted to keep it. Everything else had to go.

View into the living room.

Entrance into the old kitchen

The bar
Let me know what you think. It still needs some decor so any ideas are appreciated.

Enjoy the beautiful day!


See other posts about the living room transformation:
The before and the demolition  
Getting it done and choices 

I'm attending:

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Coud de coeur of the week

Here are a few, among the many, things I've loved in blog land this past week:

These Moroccan poufs- sooo comfy looking! I want one...or two:) See more inspiring Moroccan decor ideas at Conspicuous Style Interior Design

In my dreams, this is my backyard. I love everything about it: the pool, the tiled fountain, the seating, etc. Stunning! Check out the Design Chic post on beautiful pools.

And to end of the post, I invite you to check out this video about the dangers of housework. It had Tony and I laughing for hours. I found this on the Hooked on Houses Facebook page and it was originally posted on The Inspired Room.

Hope this made you laugh:)


Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Living room renovation: getting it done and choices

Because this was our second large DIY renovation project (after the basement bathroom) we needed some help along the way. We were still new to the game. Luckily my father was still willing to help and teach us along the way. The project took a full 6 months to complete. This was because Tony and I were both working full-time, I was working on my Ph.D, and we were also planning out big Italian/Portuguese wedding. We were busy, busy bees!

My daddy and I hard at work! The first step was to put up the ceiling. 2"x4"s were used to help hold up the gyp. This isn't the smartest of ideas since the gyp was heavy! But, we were new to this. We used 5/8" gyp for both the ceiling and the walls.

We then installed the gyp on the walls. Even at this primitive point in the renovation I think the room looks better than the original. One thing I must say is that we didn't insulate the walls in this room. You can see in the previous image that there was some, although very inadequate, insulation. We were tight with the budget. Also, we figured that since many older homes in our area didn't have insulation, we didn't have to add it. This is one of our biggest regrets because the room is much colder in the winter than the other rooms we did insulate. Live and learn! 

You can see that there is a gap above the fireplace. This is where we removed the boxes hiding the old water heater pipes. We had to create a decorative molding to mask this gap.

My daddy working hard!

My daddy working hard again! I also enrolled my sister as a volunteer renovator. How nice of her to participate! Funny, both my father and sister stopped calling and coming over. I wonder why? Just kidding:)

The biggest impact in the room was the installation of wood floors. We choose a 2 1/4 inch wide American cherry. I know that large planks are in style but we loved the look of the very thin planks reminiscent of wood floors in older homes.

The arrival of tons of wood!

Installing the wood floors. We had such a hard time getting a company to install the floors. Because the planks are so thin, there was much more work involved. Some companies just refused while others wanted up to $5000 for the installation! Crazy! We called Montreal Parquetery, the store where we purchase the floors, requesting to return the floors. They recommended a company that gave us a great price and service. We are happy we didn't return it because the end result is gorgeous.

You can see how small the pieces are.
Installation complete! This is before the floors were varnished, which changes the color significantly.

We installed large 5 1/4 inch crown molding. Makes a big difference in the room.

The decorative items:

We wanted to keep a coffee bar area in the room so we purchased this bar from Hooker Furniture.

The coffee table and console are the Pavillion collection from Bombay Company

I purchased this clock years before we bought the house and just kept it in the box. It's large so you need tall ceilings but it's definitely a show stopper.

That's it for now!
Later in the week I'll show off the final product. Check back soon:)


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