Reclamation

Writey and Typey and Reclaimy

Last night, after all our guests had gone home, we were lucky that the cleaning was essentially limited to putting dishes in the dishwasher. We’ll be taking down the Christmas decorations tomorrow and Saturday, because I like them to linger a little bit.

There’s a fine line, though, with seasonal decor. Take it down too soon, and you regret it, feeling like you’ve sacrificed part of your celebration. Wait too long, though, and once-magical ornaments and fairy lights feel more like a pushy bellboy angling for a larger tip.

Still, we’ve taken one important step: for the first time since before Thanksgiving, we’ve removed the leaf from the kitchen table, shrinking it from a generous oval to an intimate round breakfast table once again.

Part of me misses the extra space – many mornings we all had our laptops strewn across the larger surface – but mostly I’m glad to have the space AROUND the table back, because it means the dogs aren’t quite so on top of each other as they move in and out of the back door.

It’s a first step toward reclamation, but an important one. The second step, begun this morning, was the cessation of the use of Christmas mugs. In truth, some are more ‘winter’ than truly Christmas, but it’s almost time to bring forth the Valentine’s Day mugs, and overlapping is tacky.

In other news: I’ve been really tired, and really writey, and I don’t mind the tiredness because it’s induced by the writeyness.

Happy 2014, indeed.

In the Starbucks Doorway

Rainy Morning

My friend Debra invited me to Medium last month, but it took me til late last night to write anything there, and then, I waited til this morning to take it live.

Here’s an excerpt:


The pattern of this visit was similar to most others: I bantered with my barista, who commented on the color of my hair that week, asked how my writing was going, mentioned she’d bought tickets to my improv troupe’s show the next week. I spent a few minutes people-watching (a father and his teen daughter were both absorbed with their cell phones, two teens were on a very awkward first date, a table of young women was engaged in animated conversation), and then, drink in hand, I made my way to the door.

~ Melissa A. Bartell, “In the Starbucks Doorway”

Read the rest here: “In the Starbucks Doorway” at Medium.com

Thursday 13: Beau Melange

No theme, just miscellany.

1) This quotation about the recipe for coffee, according to Talleyrand, always makes me grin:

Black as the devil, hot as hell, pure as an angel, sweet as love.

2) All day yesterday the word anamnesis was caught in my brain. It’s used liturgically to refer to a memorial act – the Holy Communion in high church. In English, we say “remembrance.” – Do this in remembrance of me – but anamnesis is a deeper memorial. Not just witnessing, but participating in the memory AND the mystery.

3) I watched MSNBC’s coverage of the introduction of the new pope yesterday. My favorite quote, from one of the commentators:

I love that he’s a Jesuit. This means he has a brain.

Sadly, I don’t remember the name of the person who said it.

4) Since the beginning of the year, I’ve reduced my coffee intake to one cup a day, but I’m spending the time to make really amazing coffee. Most recently, I’ve been using a tiny Bialetti moka pot. I love it to bits.

5) Last month, I splurged on tea from Teasim. They make an organic Earl Grey that is so fragrant, it makes me want to take a bath in it, but today I was drinking an herbal blend of peppermint, licorice root and cloves. It made my head feel better.

6) According to Henry Fielding:

Love and scandal are the best sweeteners of tea.

7) I haven’t been blogging a lot because I’ve been in a serious reading mood. Specifically I’ve been reading a lot of Star Trek fiction because I feel like I need to escape.

8) Fuzzy and I saw Oz the Great and Powerful last week. It was good, but I couldn’t help contrasting it with the 2010 version of Alice in Wonderland. Both fantasy lands are interesting, but I think I prefer the darker, gritter Wonderland.

9) My favorite version of Oz is the SyFy miniseries Tin Man. This has nothing whatsoever to do with my undying love for actor Neal McDonough. Or rather, for his work.

10) The rules of Rock Scissors Paper Lizard Spock, as explained by Sheldon Cooper (Jim Parsons) on The Big Bang Theory:

1. Scissors cuts Paper

2. Paper covers Rock

3. Rock crushes Lizard

4. Lizard poisons Spock

5. Spock smashes Scissors

6. Scissors decapitates Lizard

7. Lizard eats Paper

8. Paper disproves Spock

9. Spock vaporizes Rock

10. Rock crushes Scissors

11) As I write this, at a bit after 2 in the morning, there are five dogs sleeping in my room. Dog number four is Aztec, our current foster. The most Zen chihuahua in the world.

12) Dog number five is our new puppy, Teddy (he came with the name, and we think it suits him). This is his picture:
Teddy

13) A Facebook friend shared this video with me the other day. It’s called “God Made a Dog,” and it’s awesome. Enjoy:

Geeking Out over Coffee

sightglass-is-here

Last week, over at All Things Girl, I admitted that when I was at Barnes and Noble shopping for Christmas gifts, I realized that I hadn’t renewed my membership card there, and worse, that I hadn’t even noticed that it hadn’t been renewed.

Today it’s time for another confession: I may not be able to maintain my gold card status at Starbucks this year.

For those of you who know me, this will be a shock. After all, I’m the queen of frou-frou coffee, and have been known to mark time by the appearance of the red cups each fall.

The thing is, Starbucks is popular, not because they make great coffee (we all know they tend to burn their beans), but because they turn out a consistent product and are conveniently located throughout, not just the country, but most of the world. So ubiquitous have they become that we actually make comments like, “The nearest Starbucks is more than 50 miles away,” in order to demonstrate how rural (or backwards) a place is.

So why am I not drinking at Starbucks? Well, I’m not boycotting them, or anything. I mean, for a safe warm place to write, with free wifi and clean bathrooms, they rock. I love their “protein plate” and if I’m out and about (and hungry) will happily nibble on one while reading. As well, I recognize that for a major corporation they’re not politically horrible, actually offering healthcare even to part-time employees, and such.

A few years ago I bought a Keurig machine. It was nice, because I’m usually the only coffee-drinker in my house, and I was finding myself brewing whole pots of coffee, having one cup, and forgetting the rest was there. (Also Keurig offers pods from Caribou coffee, which is so much tastier (and not burnt) than Starbucks. Really.) So the one-cup Keurig gave me instant gratification, and saved me the cost of all those wasted pots of coffee.

But I wanted espresso.

I did some research and determined that in order to replace the Keurig, I would need a machine that could make both regular coffee and decent shots of espresso, and I bought a mid-range CBTL machine. I love it to pieces. I make shots in the antique demitasse cups my parents brought from Mexico for me at Christmas, or in the less-than-antique Starbucks demitasse that Fuzzy brought me from Hong Kong (the city cups), or sometimes in the cups from the Japanese tea set we received as a gift from some really good friends several years ago. (JULIA, I MEAN YOU.)

I even spent the extra $50 for a frothing pitcher, so I can have lovely cappuccino without ever leaving my kitchen…or, for that matter, putting on a bra.

I love my CBTL. I keep my Keurig upstairs to make cocoa or tea with (since neither requires me to add milk) when I’m working upstairs. But sometimes I want the pleasure, the romance, the heady aroma, of grinding real beans and listening to the water churn and pouring out the deep brown fluid that is the elixir of my life, if not everyone’s.

I especially like trying new kinds of coffee. Not flavored, because I think flavored coffees pretty much uniformly suck – especially hazelnut – but blends, varieties, roasts. A friend of ours from the UU church introduced me to his fair trade coffees – they make some of the best organic decaf on the planet, and then, last November, my friend Clay brought some Sightglass coffee with him when he came from San Francisco.

I was hooked almost instantly, and not just because of the name, invoking pirates along the Barbary coast, and tall ships appearing out of the fog.

We made the espresso in a regular pot, and it was awesome. We made the regular coffee as well and agreed it was likely the best non-espresso either of us had ever tasted.

Yesterday my order of more arrived. A bag each of Indonesia Sulawesi and Blueboon blend. Roasted on Tuesday.

And today, late this afternoon, I will be receiving a three-cup stovetop espresso machine, a Bialetti Moka Express, that’s basically the modern version of the antique copper coffee pot gracing the top of the hutch in my kitchen.

Three cups is just enough to have two really good mugs of coffee, without wasting an entire pot, and since I can grind most any bean espresso-fine, I don’t need to worry about having a specific blend. (Espresso refers to the method of brewing, NOT the roast of the bean – any dark roast can be used – if you’re a Starbucks fan try their Verona.)

And so, as I enter into a weekend that will see Fuzzy heading to Orem, UT for work on Sunday afternoon, I will at least face it with excellent coffee.

Care for a cup?

Pay No Attention to the Chipped Nail Polish

coffee cup ring Pay no attention to the chipped nail polish evident on my pinky. Instead, pay attention to the ring. My ring. My wonderful, silver, steaming-coffee ring.

I’d seen it on Facebook months ago, as had my mother, but had no idea where to get one. Imagine my surprise when my mother, grinning in that gushy way that only mothers can, presented me with a wrapped box on Christmas morning. “What does the card say?” she prompted, unbridled glee evident on her face.

“‘To my favorite coffee companion,’” I read aloud. Coffee has been a ‘thing’ for my mother and me ever since she would spoon a couple of teaspoons of her coffee into my milk on special mornings. These days our coffee dates are mostly virtual, because of geographical limitations, but no less special.

I opened the box, as I always do, with efficient ripping of paper. I will never be one of those people who saves every precious piece of tissue. (Except, well, this year I did make people return their tissue, since I had to throw away all the old tissue I’d used to wrap my ornaments after the horrifying mildew incident.) I believe wrapping paper is meant to be ripped. It’s even better when you get to hear that satisfying tearing of the paper – tissue doesn’t make that sound half as well as sturdier paper.

Inside a bag, inside the box, was this ring. A ring I’ve secretly coveted for months. A ring I never expected to find on Christmas morning.

“I love it,” I told my mother. “Where did you find it?”

“I saw it on Facebook,” she said. “And a friend knew a jewelry maker, who made copies.”

“Isn’t that illegal?” I asked, not that I had any intention of returning the ring.

“Actually,” my mother said, “it’s not. You can’t copyright design.”

So, pay no attention to my hands that were badly in need of moisturizer and a warm mug to hold, and look instead at the awesome gift I got, one among several awesome, special gifts, of which the greatest was sharing the holiday with family.

Pay no attention to the chipped nail polish either (I haven’t had TIME to get a mani-pedi in forever.)

Instead, pour a mug of something warm and tasty, and join me in toasting the people you love.

NOT another Manic Monday

drink coffee

I did not wake up at 6:00 this morning, but stayed in bed til 9:30 waiting for the pool guy to come and go, because if I stay in bed the dogs do, too.

Not that I ever wake up at six in the morning, unless there’s a compelling reason.

However, even though I really didn’t start my day til after eleven (there were distractions), I managed to write one press release, seven articles for various work blogs, three letters (which actually made it INTO THE MAIL) took a swim, cleaned the kitchen, made dinner, ate dinner with Fuzzy (while watching Warehouse 13, I do so love Brent Spiner as the big bad), and had a great conversation with a friend.

As days go, it was pretty good.

I’m sure the double espresso I had with breakfast made all the difference.

Kitchen Tables

Some of the best moments of my life have taken place with a mug of coffee or tea in my hand and my elbows propped on a kitchen table. The table I remember most vividly from childhood is my grandmother’s. I think I was twenty-one before I ever saw it without some kind of table cloth on it, but I remember that it seemed huge, even when the expansion leaves weren’t in place, and that no matter the number of people who showed up, there was never “not enough room.”

DrinkingCoffee400 from iStockPhoto.com

Summers of my childhood included so many gatherings around that table – breakfast served by my grandfather, who made the perfect poached eggs, the best cream of wheat, and used to sing “Sweet Adeline” while he cooked. Afternoons were punctuated by my grandmother’s need for “a little something,” often an Entenmann’s coffee cake, but sometimes just a Stella D’oro anisette toast cookie (like a sponge biscotti, laced with anise). That’s when cousins would drop by – my grandmother’s niece Ginny, born 31 years before me on the same day (she called me her birthday girl til the day she died), or her daughter, my cousin Cathy, who is the closest thing I ever had to an older sister.

Evenings would involve grilled burgers, slices of Jersey tomatoes, corn on the cob, and baked potatoes wrapped in foil. Sometimes there would be cousins, sometimes the friends who are really non-biological family – they know who they are. Conversation would rise and fall, kids would share the bench from the foyer, jammed into the far corner of the room, at the curve of the table, or sit on the piano stool (and be forbidden to spin it, though we all wanted to).

But that was years ago.

This morning, the kitchen table around which people gathered was mine, and instead of cousins and friends who’ve known me since before I was born, it was newer friends – two women who are part of my chosen family here in Texas, and one of their mothers. I served strong Caribou Obsidian blend coffee, and homemade banana nut bread and we spent a pleasant morning talking and laughing.

At one point, early in the visit, one of my friends said, “Sitting here at this table with a cup of coffee is like coming home.”

It’s the greatest compliment I’ve ever been paid.