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Holiday Hot Cocoa

First the quick way, then the “real” way.

Basic but nice:

  1. Hot chocolate mix and hot water
  2. Tea spoon of decaf instant coffee
  3. Cream or half n half or almond milk to bring it down to drinking temperature
  4. 2 drops peppermint extract OR two shakes ground nutmeg
  5. Stir gently and thoroughly
  6. Whipped cream topping and sprinkles

Fancy way:

  1. 2 spoons baking cocoa with just enough boiling water to dissolve it
  2. Confectioners sugar to taste, gently stirred in
  3. 2-3 spoons brewed decaf coffee
  4. Cool milk or cream added to desired drinking temp
  5. (Optional: Stir in using a milk frother for more of a latte texture)
  6. Peppermint extract 2-4 drops, OR 1/2 teaspoon of 1:1:1 mixture nutmeg, ginger, and all spice (Not everyone likes the added flavor, though)
  7. Pure heavy cream, beaten until you have God’s greatest creation, homemade whipped cream
  8. Top with whipped cream and either sprinkles or nutmeg

A few afterthoughts:

  • You can leave out the coffee if you can’t stand coffee flavor no matter how slight. Most people will not even taste it, but rather it will potentiate the chocolate flavor.
  • When I say spoons I mean the ordinary eating utensil. Our cutlery set has larger and smaller spoons and we use the smaller ones 99% of the time. Ultimately those measurements are to taste and the size of the mug used will affect this, too.
  • I am experimenting with salted caramel and maple syrup versions.
  • Chocolate syrup drizzle could be a nice addition.
  • In the quantities listed, you could use regular coffee and the caffeine would still be negligible for most people.
  • For plain hot chocolate without added flavors, I’d recommend a pinch of sea salt on top. This is also a good hack for coffee that is too bitter whether from over-brewing or imperfect beans.

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One Minute Latte

Photo by Vova Krasilnikov

This is the easiest way to make a one minute latte in the comfort of your own home. Under the assumption that you do not already have a full coffee shop set up in your kitchen. Yes, I did a stint as a barista at two different establishments back in the day.

Save glass jars with lids. I like Mason jars. I have a good supply of them and the deer decimated our tomato crop so I am not expecting to do a whole lot of canning any time soon.

Photo by Brett Sayles

Microwave milk. This is very important: WITHOUT THE LID. Do not microwave metal unless your intent is to ruin your microwave and start a fire in one fell swoop.

Shake jar. This is also very important: WITH THE LID.

Obviously, if you want to buy another kitchen gadget, the “real” way to froth the milk, is with a milk frother.

Add coffee or espresso or cocoa or tea and maple syrup or agave or cinnamon or nutmeg or other flavorings to taste. Drink hot or pour over a generous amount of ice. If you are going to pour over ice, you want to make your coffee/espresso/cocoa/tea at least twice as concentrated.

Photo by Jess Bailey Designs

I think this would work with any milk substitute with a decently high fat content. I like it with regular milk, coconut milk, or cashew milk. Skim milk or almond milk works and will taste fine, but is not going to froth nearly as well.

Fresh whipped cream is an ideal topping. Pure heavy whipping cream in a jar WITH THE LID ON and shake until it is whipped. Set aside and then top the latte. Any extra will go perfectly with some fresh berries. Easy.

So nice. I hope you enjoy the one minute latte and find your best personal combination.

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Haircuts at Home

A step towards minimalism, inspired by necessity and the pandemic… Haircuts.

My husband has been cutting his own hair for years. We already had clippers. I bought a new pair of hair cutting scissors. I wanted a new, sharp pair.

My hair is quite long. I had not had a haircut in at least 6 months. In that time, I had started to trim the ends myself. Then my bangs. But overall, I was feeling more and more shaggy. My hair tangled easily and the ends were pretty damaged.

Photo by Bennie Lukas Bester on Pexels.com

I watched YouTube videos and started gathering my courage. Finally, I convinced myself that my hair was long enough that if I completely botched it, I would still have some hair left, and could pay someone else to fix it.

As a side note, one benefit of the departure from normal routines is the chance to revamp our routines. Damaged, colored, highlighted, and heat-styled hair. Natural color and texture emerges. Of course, for many of us this reminded us why we have our usual routines.

Personally, I decided to grow out my hair. I found the best list with simple, good advice for anyone wanting to grow their hair longer here.

In the end, I discovered a new respect for stylists who give haircuts professionally.

I ended up following the video from Pick Up Limes here. It took a while, and my arms got tired, but I am very happy with the result!

Verdict: go for it!

Photo by Spencer Selover on Pexels.com
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Berries in the Backyard

Food berries: Raspberry and Blackberry.

Both raspberries and blackberries are hardy and productive. In the wild these berries create large brambles. They can be susceptible to viral diseases, especially if they receive too much moisture. I have seen conflicting advice regarding applying mulch.

The biggest thing I have found helpful: Know your varieties. Many plants produce a primicane, or first year cane, that just grows the first year, then becomes the productive cane the second year.

The deer ate the top off of the primicane last year, which led it to send out a bunch of lateral branches. The lateral branches are the ones that bear fruit, so this year, it is now covered with bunches of green berries. I may throw some bird netting over it. Last year our total harvest–after the birds and squirrels were done–totaled about two handfuls of berries. They taste amazing.

Native berries:

Cranberry (highbush).

Several of these have been growing since last summer. They produce white lacy flowers in the spring, and now have green berries. These will eventually turn red. Over the winter, the birds really like the dried berries. I have noticed the stems are reddish, and the leaves are also reddish when young.

Deer eat what they can reach, so there are usually some red-edged leaves.

Elderberry.

These have also been growing since last year. The cranberry and elderberry bushes are about 4 feet tall, although I think this may have more to do with the deer eating anything that gets taller than the cages.

Elderberry is famously used in syrups and wines. Supposedly, it boosts immune function.

The berries are extremely tart. The birds harvest ours diligently, and will continue to until the shrubs get much bigger and more established. We enjoy trying to identify the various wild birds that like these for both berries and habitat.

Happy growing!

I hope you enjoyed reading about our backyard blackberries and their friends. Try growing berries of some kind. They are fun plants. Native species can help increase biodiversity too. They really do bring all the birds to the yard and with little to no effort.