Geeking Out over Coffee


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?

Thursday 13: In the Pink


I know Valentine’s Day was last week, but I’m in a distinctly PINK mood today, so I’m celebrating a color I used to detest, and now can’t get enough of, with this week’s late-ish entry for Thursday 13:

  1. Beet juice, when it stains the sink and cutting board, seeping into the cracks in the ancient enamel.
  2. Gerbera daisies, especially when they’re in salvaged glass bottle-turned-vase.
  3. Raspberries, the perfect sweet-tart explosion on your tongue.
  4. The blush of a new romance, just as it begins to take form.
  5. The tender kisses you still share almost twenty years later.
  6. The sky when the sun is at just the right angle against the clouds, at dusk or dawn.
  7. Cherry blossoms against a chilly gray sky on a damp day.
  8. Roses cut from the back yard bush – watch out for thorns!
  9. A fresh coat of OPI “Dutch Tulips” nail polish.
  10. A strawberry and vanilla breakfast smoothie made with unsweetened almond milk.
  11. Grocery store carnations that your husband brings home because he knows you love to fill the house with flowers.
  12. The soft, warm belly of a wriggling dog asking for attention and affection.
  13. The hint of color that makes watermelon tourmaline your favorite semi-precious stone.

Meet Samwise

Samwise sitting

Meet Samwise.

Samwise was being called Koda when he was at the shelter, but when we asked for him as our next foster-dog, our coordinator asked us to rename him. Since he’s an Aussie/Border Collie mix, I wanted him to have a strong name that reflected the love and loyalty that both his breeds are known for. “Besides,” I explained. “If he gets non-geeky adopters, they can just call him Sam.”

Sam has been with us for a week now, and while he was very shy and skittish at first (even engaging in submissive urination), he’s quickly become a happy, plucky dog. He loves to wrestle with our four-year-old pointer, Maximus, and enjoys chasing tennis balls. A ball with a squeaker inside is his Very Most Favorite Toy, and he would spend all day batting it around the back yard if we allowed it.

He’s trained, sleeping in it and hanging out in it when I can’t supervise him. (He’s still a puppy – under nine months old – and has puppyish tendencies to swipe any object not nailed down, especially socks and slippers.) He loves rawhide chewies and never turns down treats or food. (We feed Blue.)

Samwise learned to answer to his new name very quickly. He hasn’t quite grasped “Sit” yet, but is learning. His leash skills, on the other hand, will require patience and time.

While Sam is extremely active, he’s also a great companion dog. He loves to run and play, but is equally content to sit with his head in your lap. He gives kisses, if you let him, and likes to be able to “check in” with his people. Secretly, he wants to be a cuddle muffin.

At roughly 40 pounds, Samwise is compact enough to live almost anywhere, but apartment dwellers should be prepared to take him on long romps every day.

Samwise is available for adoption through Shelter2Rescue, and can be seen at the PetCo near 1-20 & Green Oaks in Arlington, TX Saturdays from 1-6 PM.

(Of course, you can always contact me, as well.)


Valentine’s Day: It Is Here, by Harold Pinter


Every Valentine’s Day since I discovered John Fuller’s wonderfully earthy poem, “Valentine,” I’ve posted it in my blog. Personally I think it’s THE BEST LOVE POEM EVER, because it’s real and honest and a bit mischievous.

I posted it on my Facebook page this morning, and right now, I’m sharing another poem here on my blog. It’s also very real, but it’s much more innocent, and yet, it has a whole different kind of impact.

It Is Here
(for A)

What sound was that?

I turn away, into the shaking room.

What was that sound that came on in the dark?
What is this maze of life it leaves us in?
What is this stance we take,
to turn away, and then turn back?
What did we hear?

It was the breath we took when we first met.

It is here.

~ Harold Pinter

The Return of Sunday Brunch


After roughly six weeks of being dark (mostly because of technical issues) All Things Girl resumed operation roughly a week ago (slightly longer), and yesterday was the first of my Sunday Brunch columns of the year.

Yesterday’s link is here.

Look for more Sunday Brunch every other Sunday, unless otherwise noted.

The song I wrote about is embedded below, courtesy of YouTube.

What I Didn’t Do Today

Most years, I spend Candlemas in a personal bubble. I light candles, even if it’s bright out, just because I like the scent of melted wax and faint smoke. I write notes to friends. I sing along with my favorite music. I soak in a bubble bath while listening to NPR.

Today, I didn’t do any of that.

Not that it was an unproductive day.

We slept late, partly because I took a muscle relaxant before bed (my back is still hurting), and partly because the dogs actually let us.

We brought Ace the Foster-Chihuahua to PetCo, where he met his new owner, and was taken to his new home.

We went to the comic book store, where we spent a ridiculous amount of money ($91) because we hadn’t picked up subscriptions in two months.

We went to brunch at Cracker Barrel, because I really wanted French toast.

We did the second half of our grocery shopping (the first half was done on Thursday night, when we went to CostCo).

We then came home, where I had planned to sip a latte and then either watch a skating show I’d DVR’d or take a nap, but since my last 1099 had arrived, I did the taxes instead. (I don’t typically have them done this early, and it seems odd to not have them hanging over my head for another ten weeks.) We don’t owe anything, and we’re getting money back.

I baked a batch of chocolate chip bar cookies, because I felt the need to mark the fact that the taxes were done.

At that point I was about to settle down with a book, when I remembered that the first Sunday Brunch posting of 2013 is supposed to go live in the morning, which meant I had to write it RIGHT NOW. It’s now finished.

And it’s almost midnight.
And my back is stiff and sore.
And I feel like whining a little.

Done now.



Last year, a family friend who is really an affectionate aunt, even though I’ve only ever addressed her by her first name (as far as I remember), sent me a hand-made fabric bowl (decorative, it sits on the side table in my living room) and a bracelet of prayer beads from Nepal.

I wear the bracelet a lot, sometimes because it fits my mood, sometimes because it fits my outfit, and sometimes because I want a connection, however tenuous, to the person who sent it. She’s a person who, often without knowing it, has provided me with a lot of guidance during my life, a person who (to borrow a phrase oft-used by Aaron Sorkin, who, I’m certain, found it elsewhere as well) causes me to pay more attention to the better angels of my nature.

I don’t generally sleep in it, but the other day I had company and was wearing it when they were here, and then I took it off and left it on the bathroom counter, where it doesn’t belong. Then, yesterday, I picked it up, intending to put it in my jewelry chest, but instead, I put it back on, and went about the rest of my day, eventually falling asleep.

Today was a day of no work (I should have been writing, but hormonal lethargy meant I had NO BRAIN), and much rest (with resultant weird dreams, but that’s another story) partly because of the horrific cramps I always get on Day One, and partly because the lateral muscle I strained was bothersome (I slept wrong last night, I think). When I woke up the first time, I noticed that the markings on the beads had imprinted themselves into the flesh of my wrist, much like the lines I used to get from cable-knit knee-socks when I was a little girl.

There’s nothing strange or unusual about this, of course, except that I’m reading Anne Lamott’s Help, Thanks, Wow right now – intentionally slowly – and so I’m thinking about what prayer is.

I find the notion of having prayers imprinted on my flesh oddly comforting, but I also like the fact that these are not indelible, but will fade within moments of the bracelet being removed for any length of time, or, you know, within five seconds of applying lotion.