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Coffee-aholics Unite! April 8, 2011

Hi! I am Gr8ChefMB and I am a coffee-aholic! Yeah, I am one of THOSE people. I LOVE, LOVE, LOVE coffee in all its forms. I have cultivated this love affair over many years. It didn’t start out to be that way, though. As a kid, we couldn’t drink coffee – it was a beverage only for grown-ups. At that particular time, my only vice was iced tea, until decaffeinated tea bags came out…LOL! I could drink gallons of tea, and probably still could if I didn’t enjoy my coffee and plain water so much…LOL!

When I got into high school, I tried coffee a few times, but it was more like, “Have some coffee with your milk and sugar!” I just couldn’t drink it black, or even muddy brown. It just HAD to be loaded with lots of cream and sugar until it was almost white. When I think about that kind of coffee, I think, “What was the point of that???!!!” Talk about a waste of coffee… I remember one of my best friends’ mom literally drank coffee from sun up to sundown. I did think that was a little strange…silly me!

After I got out of high school and dabbled with college, I started working full time. My first ‘real’ job was as the front-desk receptionist for an independent insurance adjusting firm. I sometimes carpooled with my mom and a friend. We would stop at Denny’s for morning coffee. I would still doctor it the same way. Because the company breakroom was stocked with free coffee, I started drinking more coffee. Of course, being a front desk receptionist, I didn’t have freedom to move about the office. I got two breaks and a lunch hour. If I needed to attend to other needs, I had to get someone to relieve me. I discovered it was easier to just pour and run; hence, learning how to appreciate coffee without a bunch of additives became my game. I grew to appreciate my coffee black. I started discovering that there were other varieties other than basic Folgers/Maxwell House/etc.

——The coffee angels start singing here: aaahhhhhh!—— 🙂

When I got pregnant with my son, all the medical pundits said that caffeine was bad for pregnant women and fetuses.  AAaaaarrrggghhhhh! I had to give up my beloved coffee……I can’t tell how freaking hard that was! Instant coffee at that particular time was crap…weak and bad flavor…didn’t taste at all like coffee. Folgers came out with instant coffee bags similar to teabags in a decaffeinated variety. I was absolutely so desperate for a cup, that I used those, but they really were quite awful. Still, it was better than nothing… Nowadays, apparently 1-2 cups are okay to drink during pregnancy. I wish they had come to that conclusion 18 years ago.

My love and appreciation for that caffeinated delight grew and grew. It got to the point where I was a coffee junkie…couldn’t function without that brew, especially first thing in the morning! Eventually, it got to the point where I was drinking a 12-cup pot (or more) by MYSELF! When I went for a physical one year, my doctor asked my about caffeine intake. Of course, I didn’t lie (probably should have, though!) and told him exactly how much coffee I was drinking at the time. My doctor is fairly easy going and nothing really seems to phase him, except for this bit of news. He absolutely BLEW A GASKET! I can’t recall ever seeing him that angry. He read me the riot act, especially because my cholesterol and blood pressure was fairly elevated around that time, hence the physical. I had to cut down on my coffee intake or I would die – his exact words. That kind of put the scare into me…for about three or four months… I did cut down to only 4-6 cups a day. Yeah, I know…that wasn’t quite what he had in mind, but, hey, at least I did cut down some.

When my son was attending Sunday school at church, they were desperate for volunteers. I decided to volunteer since I had to go there anyway to drop him off and I wouldn’t have to pay for tuition. Of course, those weren’t the only reasons…I really do LOVE to volunteer for various things. It’s a nice change of pace, something to do and I love to meet different people and learn new things. As I became more active in my church – I was born and raised Catholic – I started to adhere more to my religion, which means making some sort of sacrifice at Lent. I know you are probably thinking, “She really didn’t do it!” Yes, indeedy…that was my sacrifice. I gave up my caffeine for 40 days and 40 nights. My family and friends were incredulous and didn’t think I would make it all the way through Lent to Easter. My students were placing bets as to when I would crack…no pun intended. That was even more difficult than giving it up during my pregnancy, because this was VOLUNTARY! I allowed myself two cups of hot tea every day, but they were herbal teas, and I drank a lot of water and decaff iced tea. Whaddayouwant…at that time, caffeine was my only vice and thus, the only real sacrifice I could make. I couldn’t very well give up working…. 🙂 I actually did make it to Easter Sunday, but I had to wait until after Easter Mass for my first cup. Golly, Mass seemed to drag on for 3-4 hours…actually, not really; it just seemed that way. After we got home, I headed for that magical machine that puts forth that magical devil’s brew. However, my mother stopped me and said wait a minute… She gave a pretty new coffee mug in which to enjoy my first cup. It was kind of egg-shaped in a periwinkle blue with a cute little design painted all over it in a lighter color. (I still have that mug, too. The inside is cracked, so I can’t drink from it anymore.) That was such a sweet thing for her to do. I can’t tell you how much I enjoyed and savored that first cup….aaaahhhhhhh! BTW, I had a checkup after that Easter, and my cholesterol had gone down drastically, so I guess my doctor was right. I hate it when that happens! I did give up caffeine every Lent after that and made it through 4-5 years until my brother-in-law passed away rather suddenly. That was such a shock, and it still is, even five years later. When we went for the viewing, I got such a severe headache from crying so hard and trying to comfort his family and my family…I ended up breaking my Lenten sacrifice. I feel pretty sure that God understood why…the grief we all felt was so overpowering. He was my youngest sister’s husband identical twin. It was such a waste because he was so funny and musically talented, but he had a problem he just couldn’t seem to overcome, no matter how he tried. I miss him, still… After that year, I did still make my annual Lenten sacrifice and made it for a couple more years, until another bad year…

After being overcome by my own problems last August, I was put on some medication that reacts badly when I imbibe too much caffeine. These days, I am pretty much limited to no more than two cups a day. It’s probably better that way, because my intake was starting to creep back up to ungodly levels again. Because of that, it is more diffficult to make that sacrifice. I do love my coffee and will drink it hot or iced. Sometimes, I do add a bit of cream; it depends on what variety of coffee I am drinking and what time of day. If I had unlimited funds, I would probably go to Starbucks every day. As it is, that is a once-in-awhile treat. My fave brand at home has to be Folger’s. They have really branched out and come up with some delicious flavors, including their Black Silk. In fact, Folgers has a give-away opportunity to win a prize package including coffee, a singnature red coffee mug, black silk robe, and biscotti. Visit http://www.themommy-files.com/2011/04/folgers-wake-up-with-black-silk-giveaway/ to sign up to win.

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A ticket to Alaska and a Hot Dog Cart July 19, 2010

Here is a short story written based on a prompt found at http://blog.writersdigest.com/promptly/. It was kind of fun exercising that lump separating my ears! Hope you enjoy it…

“Hey, Joe! Have you got a reindeer sausage left? If so, lemme have one with spicy mustard and kraut on it! Can I get a grilled pretzel bun with that, too, please?”

 

“Sure thing, Eddie! How’s the family doing?”

 

“Oh, they’re doing fine. They would be here with me today, but little Jenny has the sniffles and Marg decided it wouldn’t be a good idea. She is sure that the other two will get sick, too. You know how it is – bugs get passed around….hahaha!”

 

“Here’s your dog! Thanks for the business. You are my last customer of the season. I’m getting ready to fly south for a few months. I hope Jenny feels better real soon….”

 

Flashback to three years earlier…

 

Today was the final straw for Joe Murphy. It started out badly when he overslept and was late to an important meeting to discuss a new buyout of an ailing company. It got worse during the meeting because the client wouldn’t budge on a couple of contract options. After lunch, his soon-to-be-ex-wife called after lunch screaming about some minor catastrophe that she blamed on him. “Yeah, sure! All that is my fault? Guess again! This is why we can’t stay together, Cathy. You are driving me crazy!!! It was a short put, anyway. Pull yourself together and get over it. Don’t call me at work again.” Click.

 

To top it off, today marked 45 years that Joe had been walking this planet; no one, not even his ex, remembered or mentioned it.

 

To console himself, he stopped at his favorite watering hole, a dive called the Blue Goose. He propped himself up at the bar and ordered a tequila shot and a Negra Modelo. The bartender placed a steaming basket of chips and hot sauce in front of Joe as a welcome gesture. Joe slugged the shot down, and then took a sip of beer. Joe ordered the evening enchilada special along with another shot. The bartender just shook his head, and asked, “What’s up, Joe? You usually don’t drink tequila.”

 

“It’s my birthday, and I have had a lousy day. You really don’t want to hear about it, trust me! I think I’m going to cash everything in, move to Alaska and buy a hot dog cart.”

 

“I’m sorry to hear about your lousy day. Happy birthday; this one’s on the house. Alaska, huh? You could sell reindeer sausage along with those hot dogs. You’d probably make a killing during the Iditarod. Hahahahaha! What a crazy idea! Good luck with that one!”

 

He’s having a midlife crisis. Only instead of a sports car, he buys … a ticket to Alaska and a hot dog cart.

 

Flashback to present day…

 

“Yeah, thanks to you, Joe! I hope you enjoy your trip, you crazy SOB. I wish I had thought of this myself. I can work 12-hours days for two or three months straight just to get the next nine to ten months free. So, whatta you gonna do with all that free time?”

 

“I think I’m going to go to culinary school, maybe in Paris, maybe in Italy. All that time I was stuck in the office dealing with all that shit, I kept thinking about how all I wanted to do was cook, and maybe open a little restaurant someday. Well, some day is here, and I have some cash saved up. Next year, I’ll have some great new sausages to showcase.”

 

Ghost Rider – Travels on the Healing Road by Neil Peart June 28, 2010

In honour of an award-winning documentary having been released as well as a celebration of their nearly 40 years of seriously, awesomely cool music, I recommend this book to everyone. Written by the talented drummer/lyricist of legendary Canadian rock band RUSH, Neil Peart underwent a series of unspeakable tragedies-the loss of his daughter in a tragic car accident and then the death of his wife due to cancer and a broken heart almost a year later. He was left to contemplate whether or not he was interested in continuing to live, and if so, what that life would be like. I cannot even begin to imagine trying to come back from something like that, but Mr. Peart did find a way. Due to circumstances, the band was on a five-year hiatus. This memoir details those tragedies as well the way he found to cope. He hopped on his trusty BMW motorcycle and traveled over 55,000 miles from Quebec to Alaska to the Antarctic Circle down through the western parts of Canada and the United States into Mexico and further down into Central America. During his travels, he slowly came back to humanity and eventually found the photographer who was to become his second wife. He did return to continue his work with RUSH bandmates Alex Lifeson and Geddy Lee, releasing ‘Vapor Trails’ which featured several songs about his sojourn. The band returned to the road and ended that tour with three amazingly successful dates in Brazil, including one show performed for the largest audience ever in the band’s history.

Even if you don’t love this band and their music, you will love this book. Mr. Peart’s writing style is somewhat wry, but it is extremely descriptive and full of humour. As private a person as he is, he lets the reader into his psyche as he stuggles to cope with the events of his life. That storyline alone will touch the reader to the core. This book will also appeal to armchair travellers as well as motorcycle enthusiasts all over. Mr. Peart also has an insatiable interest in the world around him and constantly reads. He also recommends various books throughout this narrative-sort of like a book review within a book review. A plus is that he includes lyrics he has written and the band has recorded, some of which seem extremely applicable to his life even though they were written well before the tragedies. If you are a fan of this band, it is almost like a playlist in your head as you read the lyrical snippets. He also indirectly gives clues for areas to visit that are off the beaten track.

No one could ever completely get over the pain of losing one loved one, let alone two. However, he has managed to find a way to survive and even thrive. He and his new wife celebrated the birth of their daughter in August 2009. The band continues to record and tour. Neil, Alex and Geddy have continued to be honored and their strong friendship is evident in everything they do together. The life-affirming outcome alone is so worth reading this book.

 

Getting Older (or How I Learned to Love Dramamine!) June 2, 2010

Growing up as the oldest of six kids, I used to love car trips. Since we were such a large family, our vehicle of choice was usually a full-sized station wagon. One of the wagons my parents owned had a ‘secret seat’ in the back andmy siblings and I would fight over who got to sit there. Usually, my sister Felicia and I won because we were the oldest two. Traveling by car was totally fun, and I never had to worry about motion sickness. I used to be able to read in the car for hours…LOL! I suffered no ill effects whatsoever. 🙂

Unfortunately, that has changed dramatically over the past ten years or so. I find it difficult to travel by car, especially if I am in the back seat. I start looking like Mr. Spock (minus the pointy ears) and my stomach feels like it has spent several weeks in space walk training. I used to just tough it out and pray that we would stop often. When that that didn’t work, I started using that popular motion sickness remedy Dramamine. Dramamine works like a charm, but I think it works so well because it makes me drowsy as hell and I end up sleeping through the trip…what a bummer!

I just saw a giveaway promotion on milkandcuddles.com [http://milkandcuddles.com/2010/06/30-itunes-certificate-psi-bands-giveaway/] that I am so excited about! The giveaway includes a set of Psi bands as well as a $30 iTunes card.

According to their website: Psi Bands are drug-free wrist bands for the relief of nausea most commonly caused by morning sickness (pregnancy), motion sickness/travel, chemotherapy, and anesthesia. And as you can see…they are also super cute!

As you can see from the picture, they are super cute! I would love to have a set so I can enjoy car trips. The iTunes card doesn’t hurt, either. Studies have shown that music can have a positive influence over your mood, physical well being, etc. That card could buy a fair amount of happiness in the form of my fave artists and songs. [Might I offer the following recommendations: RUSH (These 3 super-talented guys have a couple of new songs out and they are my all-time faves!); HEM (they did that song in the Liberty Mutual insurance commercials-great band!); Nick Drake (His songs were featured on Serendipity and Garden State soundtracks. LOVE this guy!); Noisettes (saw them featured on Sundance Channel’s Live From Abbey Road program-very cool sound! Very cool program, too! Check it out at www.sundancechannel.com!); and David Gray. Oh, and I think Texas guitar whiz kid Eric Johnson is supposed to have new release, too. Actually, I could make a lot of recommendations, but I guess I will leave that for another blog entry…LOL! My iTunes has some truly eclectic selecions. :-)] That goes along way in relieving motion sickness, too…LOL!

Yeah, getting older really sucks sometimes, BUT the perks are sometimes worth it, especially if you happen to win something for your pains! Now, if I could only win RUSH tix for their tour this summer…hhhmmmmmmm…

Psi anti-nausea bands